Hype

 

Underdogs and Overachievers: Breaking Down the 2018 World Cup Draw

 

 

Fabio Cannavaro holds up Australia ticket in 2018 World Cup DrawImage Credit: Lars Baron / FIFA / Getty Images 


The results are in, but what does it mean for your country? Australia will face off against France, Denmark and Peru in Group C. But the Socceroos aren’t the only underdogs to watch in 2018. Let’s break down each of the 8 groups and look at which underdogs you need to be watching for the 2018 World Cup.


Group A is a real mixed bag


Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay make up Group A. You'd have to think the tournament hosts and perennial World Cup presence Uruguay would fancy their chances against the less experienced Saudi Arabia and Egypt. However they'll be less happy about what lies beyond in Group B, with likely showdowns against Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

Underdog to watch


Aussie football fans will know Saudi Arabia are no push-overs. If anyone is going to shake up Group A it will be the Falcons, particularly if Al-Nassr can find his mark.



Iberian neighbours in Group B


Spain and Portugal will be licking their lips as they prepare for their first Group B clash. But will the Iberian neighbours look to settle old scores or be content with a share of the points as they eye off Iran and the unfancied Morocco, who enter their first World Cup tournament in two decades.

Underdog to watch


While it's hard to see Morocco getting much out of this group, Iran might be an outside chance to make something happen. They were the first team to qualify in Asia, and star player Sardar Azmoun already has 22 international goals to match his 22 years of age.



Socceroos to mix it up in Group C


After 2014’s Group of Death, Socceroos fans can breathe at least a half sigh of relief. Sure, France are right up there in terms of tournament favourites, but Denmark and Peru will offer exciting clashes where the Aussies will hopefully be encouraged to play a more attacking style of football.

Australia will play France first. Though the match takes place in Kazan, Australia’s home base in Russia, French footballing legend Marcel Desailly doesn’t think it’s going to give us much of an advantage.



Underdog to watch


Make no mistake about it, Australia has taken the long road to the World Cup, and while that journey may have made us resilient, we’re still tournament underdogs. So much hinges on who replaces exiting coach Postecoglou and whether talisman Tim Cahill takes the field.



Group D delights


Argentina might have been underwhelming so far this campaign, but it’s a foolish team that underestimates the Albiceleste. Croatia and Nigeria will both consider themselves second spot material, but it’s the presence of Iceland that makes Group D one to watch. If the Socceroos make it through the group stage, they’ll be matching up with someone from this group.

Underdog to watch


Led by coach Heimir Hallgrimsson (who was a dentist in another life) Iceland is the fairytale story of the 2018 World Cup so far. Their fearless tactics have neutrals crossing their fingers that the tiny Scandinavian nation can continue to beat the odds through the goal scoring prowess of striker Gylfi Sigurdsson and leadership of Captain Aron Gunnarsson.


Image Credit: Haraldur Gudjonsson / AFP / Getty Images

Johann Berg Gudmundsson skips past Bernard Berisha in Iceland’s 2-0 win over Kosovo


Group E favours the Americas


Brazil and Costa Rica will look to put Switzerland and Serbia to task in a group that will meet the winners of Group F. Last World Cup Costa Rica won a group that included England, Italy and Uruguay, but Brazil are always tournament favourites. Perhaps the main mark against the Brazilians is that though they’re based out of Sochi, they won’t play any games there.

Underdog to watch


Serbia qualified easily for the World Cup this time around, besting lesser lights Austria, Wales and Ireland with a massive 20 goals throughout the campaign. It’s been 8 years since we’ve seen the Eagles at the World Cup. Currently without a coach, it’s going to fall to veteran Captain Branislav Ivanovic to marshal the defense against the free flowing football of the American nations.



Group F should be a cracker


Germany progressing out of the group stages is largely a given, but they’ll have to contend with Mexico and South Korea, as well as Sweden, all of who will think they’re in with a chance for the second spot. Expectations will be tempered somewhat by the knowledge that second place will most likely take on Brazil.

Underdog to watch


South Korea has been in every World Cup since 1986. This time around they’ll be relying on Premier League experience of Ki Sung-yeung (Swansea), Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace) and the prolific Son Heung-min (Tottenham). Son has scored more goals than any other Asian national in Premier League history. The Taeguk Warriors will need some of his magic if they hope to progress out of Group F.



Group G is good for England


At the end of Friday’s draw there was probably no happier nation than England. On paper, Tunisia and Panama are easy beats , so Belgium will be the major challenge for Gareth Southgate’s side. They’ll also have one eye on Group H, where a relatively even grouping means England will feel more confident than ever about progressing through to the final 8, though England’s manager was typically measured in his analysis.



Underdog to watch


Panama has their work cut out for them if they’ve going to muscle out either Belgium or England for second place. However we can’t completely write them off, they did finish ahead of the USA in the group stages, and there’s plenty to play for if they can grab second spot. Keep an eye on Youssef Msakni. The striker is in great form, scoring a hat trick in a key qualification match against Guinea.



Group H is wide open


Japan, Poland, Colombia and Senegal will all be feeling good about themselves. There's probably no clear cut underdog though you'll have to think Japan will be looking to take maximum points. All four teams in Group H are capable of exciting football, so expect some real crackers when things kick off in Russia next year.

Underdog to watch


Group H is wide open, with every team no doubt fancying their chances. Senegal will look to impress. We haven't seen them in a World Cup since their exciting debut back in 2002, where they ousted France to become only the second African team to recharge the quarterfinals. With his incredible speed, Liverpool's Sadio Mane will lead the charge for the Lions.