By Matt Engler ’18
On Dec. 1, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) released the groups for the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup. The presentation was held in Russia, the location of the tournament, and all 32 teams were assigned a group. This draw attracted millions of fans around to world all tuning in to find out what group their country ended up in.
The draw is a way to randomly, yet fairly, assign teams to groups to compete in “group stage” matches at the beginning of the tournament. There are four pots, each signifying FIFA’s rankings of the teams in the tournament. Pot one signifies the best eight teams, pot two signifies teams ranked from 8-16, and so on. The teams are randomly selected in a lottery ball system. The balls were picked out of the bowls by former World Cup winners. Some of those historic players included Diego Forlan, Diego Maradona and Cafu.
As each group starts to form the media and fans start to decide which groups would be considered a “group of death.” The name refers to the extreme competitiveness of the group. While FIFA does its best to even out each group the random draw creates certain groups which are very competitive. This one group stands out amongst the rest. Group F in many journalists opinions is the group of death at this upcoming World Cup. The group contains Germany, Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea.
“With a young team it’s going to be difficult to get results in a foreign country. Drawing Sweden and Germany wasn’t ideal. However, I have faith in the team,” Mexico fan Pato Perez Elorza ’20 said.
Germany is the favorite to win the group, being the reigning world champions, while Mexico is always a fierce opponent making its way to the round of 16 in the last World Cup.
What makes the group truly interesting is the underdogs. Sweden and South Korea both possess talented players such as Heung Min Son, and Andreas Granqvist. The draw however did feel a bit empty without certain teams in attendance.
There were several notable countries that failed to qualify this year. In many ways they can form their own group. Some of those countries were Italy, United States, Chile and the Netherlands. “Italy has failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, but the result may not come as a surprise to those who have been watching the Azzurri in recent years.” Jonathan Wilson of Sports Illustrated said.
The World Cup kicks off Thursday, June 14, in Moscow. The tournament will be played over a month long period with the final taking place on Sunday, July 15. The tournament, while under heavy speculation due to its location, is the biggest sporting event in the world and brings billions together to enjoy the beautiful game.