Champion Germany, Brazil and Argentina in the same potDecember 1, 2017
Germany will find out who stands between it and a successful defence of the FIFA World Cup as the draw for the 2018 Finals in Russia is held in a glitzy ceremony within the Kremlin in Moscow on Friday.
After beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final at the Maracana in Rio to lift the World Cup in 2014, the aim for Joachim Low’s side now is to become the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy.
Having already won the Confederations Cup in Russia earlier this year with a fringe squad, the Germans are leading favourites for glory in 2018, a status that Low himself has said there is no avoiding.
Certainly, the Germans can expect stiff competition from the Brazil of Neymar — revitalised after their nightmare 7-1 loss to the Germans on home soil — and Spain in particular.
The first step, though, is discovering who they will meet in the group stage as the focus turns to the State Kremlin Palace, where the snow and freezing temperatures of a Russian winter will greet the footballing world for the ceremony.
Germany, Brazil and Argentina are all in the first pot along with France, European champion Portugal, Belgium, Poland and the host.
But if those nations are certain of avoiding each other, danger lurks in pot two, where the Spanish — rebuilt into a formidable force by Julen Lopetegui after poor showings in 2014 and at Euro 2016 — lie along with England.
This will be the penultimate 32-nation tournament before FIFA’s grand plan for 48 teams comes into effect for 2026 and world football’s governing body will keep apart sides from the same continent with the exception of Europe, which has 14 representatives to go into the eight groups.
Quarterfinalists at the Euros, Iceland joins Central American outsider Panama in making their World Cup debut in Russia. Also eagerly awaiting the draw will be Peru, in the Finals for the first time since 1982, and Egypt, back after a 28-year absence.
Those sides will add something new to a tournament that will be deprived, amongst others, of Italy for the first time since 1958, 2014 semifinalists the Netherlands, and the United States.