Group A Netherlands
Group A sees Netherlands come up against the 2022 African Nations Champions Senegal, Ecuador and the host nation Qatar. The opening game of the tournament is Netherlands v Senegal and it is an absolute cracker of a game to look forward to and get the World Cup started. The result of this match can go a long way to shaping the outcome of Group A.
Louis Van Gaal the Netherlands coach is quoted as saying:
"Those are opponents we know nothing about. At least, I don't and I assume our analysts don't either so they have a lot of work to do in the coming period”.
"In 2014 we ended up in the toughest group, with world champions Spain, Chile, which was the number three in South America at the time, and Australia's fighting team”.
"The duel with Australia (a 3-2 Dutch win) ended up being our most difficult match. Compared to then, this draw is more favourable, even if this time we have to play against the champions of Africa”.
Netherlands have been runners-up on three occasions and despite not qualifying in 2018 the Dutch coach appears quietly confident and satisfied with the Group A draw, acknowledging it is better than the one they had at the 2014 World Cup, when they finished in third-place.
Group B England
A rare match against Iran and another meeting with USA whom England have never beaten at the World Cup. The final group place will be filled by Ukraine, Scotland or Wales determined by ongoing play-offs.
Gareth Southgate the England manager has spoken out after the draw took place stating “The first two teams (USA and Iran) we’ve not played for quite a while. The third (Wales or the winner of Scotland-Ukraine) is a total unknown but throws up a possible British derby. We know what they’re all about!”
Southgate is quite right in his observation and British derby or not, if the Ukrainians qualify, they will certainly be wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Southgate went on to acknowledge USA saying “They’ve got some very good players and we know what they could be capable of as a nation.”
With Iran currently having a ranking of 21, England never beating USA in the World Cup and one of three playoff teams that will not lie down, this group is more interesting than it looks at face value. England will not have an easy ride through to the knockout phases.
Group C Argentina
Quite nearly qualifies as the group of death with Argentina being joined by Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia. Lionel Scaloni the Argentinian coach knows he is in for a rough ride during the group stage but may have some comfort that they can get off to a good start against Saudi Arabia. Scaloni commented “We can’t complain about the draw but neither can we be content”, confirming he knows it is a tough group. He went on to admit “it’s a difficult group, but I say to people, be calm and enjoy the World Cup. I hope it ends with Argentina in the final”
This is certainly one of the groups to keep a close eye on during the opening stages of the World Cup!
Group D France
Group D may appear one of the easier groups to the eye, in particular to the supporters of the reigning world champions France. They are joined by Denmark, Tunisia and the winner of the playoff for the final spot that will be decided between UAE, Peru and Australia.
For the French coach Didier Descamps there may have been an element of relief or perhaps an air of arrogance claiming “You can’t really get carried away after a draw”. With Denmark appearing on paper as the toughest test, Deschamps went on to say “We are world champions but that was four years ago, don’t feel any pressure, there’s only joy. Of course, this brings more expectations from the crowd, but I’m still calm and serene. There’s no pressure, just adrenaline and excitement for what this World Cup represents”.
It is a group many will expect France to ease their way through but for sure they will not be able to take the foot off the gas.
Group E Spain
Another contender for the group of death as 2010 winners Spain were drawn against Germany, one of the nations all the seeded teams will have been hoping to avoid. To complete Group E Japan and the winner of the playoff between Costa Rica and New Zealand will fill the final place.
Knocked out in the round of sixteen during the last World Cup by Russia, the Spain manager appreciates it is not a straightforward group but believes in the strength and ethics of his team. When asked about the draw Luis Enrique said “It’s a strong group if you take into consideration Germany, but we are the top seeds because of our merits and the work we have been doing in recent years”. Notably Enrique is aware of the threat the Germans possess but does seem to be worried about the rest of the draw. Confident in his team he was quoted as saying “We’re not going to change how we play whether it’s the World Cup or a friendly. Our style is very clear and it will be very difficult to play against us”.
A group Spain will be expecting to navigate relatively easily, the match against the Germans is a mouth-watering group stage game.
Group F Belgium
Second in the rankings, Belgium have been drawn in a group that may see them as clear favourites having some of the best players in the world at their disposal. However, with the other teams consisting of Croatia, Morocco and Canada it might not be so easy.
The Belgium coach Roberto Matinez will not want his squad to become complacent. This was mirrored in his post draw analysis commenting “Canada played a strong qualifying campaign, so that promises to be a good match and Croatia we know well, they didn’t become runners-up in 2018 for nothing”.
Group G Brazil
Currently the world’s number one ranked team by , Brazil will have to live up to their rich history to go and win for a record breaking sixth time. The group teams that will be gunning to create an upset are Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon.
With the teams set to play each other for a place in the round of 16 Brazil coach Tite was wary stating “It is neither (the group of) death nor of life” and also “We’re talking about Switzerland and Serbia, the teams who stopped Italy and Portugal”.
Group H Portugal
A team that in recent years has performed well in major tournaments, they will have to be at their best to overcome a group containing Ghana, Uruguay and Korea Republic.
Having been present at the draw in Doha, Fernando Santos the Portugal coach must be reasonably happy with the draw. He went on to say “It’s like the glass is half full and half empty” and “we must not forget Ghana and South Korea, who have strong players”.
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