Search icon


30th Nov 2017

The best and worst World Cup draws England could face

One draw would be a nightmare

Robert Redmond

The 2018 World Cup draw takes place on Friday in Moscow.

England are one of 32 teams in the hat for next summer’s tournament in Russia, and will be in Pot 2 for the draw, which will be conducted by Gary Lineker, a high-profile critic of Fifa. But the question for England fans ahead of the draw is, will they be knocked-out in the last-16 or the quarter finals?

We’ve taken a look at some of the groups Gareth Southgate’s team could get, but first here are the 32 countries to have qualified for the competition, and the different pots they’ll be in.

Pot One: Russia (hosts), Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France.

Pot Two: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Uruguay, Mexico, Croatia.

Pot Three: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran.

Pot Four: Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea, Saudi Arabia.

There are four pots of eight countries, which have been divided on the basis of world ranking, and will be drawn into eight groups of four teams.

Hosts Russia are in Pot One along with the seven highest-ranked teams to have qualified for the tournament. Spain have dropped into Pot Two, because of Russia’s place in the top pot, along with England. Denmark’s reward for hammering the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup play-off is a place in Pot Three, and Serbia are the highest ranked team in Pot Four.

European teams can only play one other country from the continent in the group stage, and there can’t be more than one team from the other confederations in the same group.

So, for example, if England were to draw Germany, they would not play another European team in the group stages.

While two Asian teams can’t face each other in the group stage, two South American teams can’t play each other in the group stage, two teams from Africa can’t play each other in the group stages and two teams from North America and Central America can’t face each other in the group stages.

Here’s the best draw England can expect on Friday, based on Fifa rankings:

  1. Russia
  2. England
  3. Iran
  4. Panama

Russia crashed out of the European Championships in 2012 and 2016 in the group stages, and exited in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. They also failed to get out of their group in the Confederations Cup last summer, and if they weren’t hosts, it’s highly unlikely that they would have qualified for the tournament. However, after the scenes in Marseille last summer at Euro 2016 when England played Russia, it would be understandable if England wanted to avoid the hosts. Even if this group would give them the best possible chance of advancing.

Here’s another manageable draw for England, if they would rather avoid Russia.

  1. Poland
  2. England
  3. Senegal
  4. Panama

England should make relatively comfortable work of this group. Then again, people thought the same when the draw was made for the 2010 World Cup.

Here’s the worst-case scenario England could face from Friday’s draw, based on Fifa rankings:

  1. Germany
  2. England
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Nigeria

England wouldn’t have to worry about losing on a penalty shoot-out to Germany if this draw happens, and they managed to hold the world champions to a goalless draw earlier this month, but it would be a tough draw. Germany would be expected to win the group, Costa Rica topped England’s group at the 2014 World Cup and Nigeria were the first African team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. England could find it difficult to advance from this group.

Another tough draw for England would be:

  1. Brazil
  2. England
  3. Iceland
  4. Nigeria

Brazil are possibly the most in-form international team in the world and England won’t want to play Iceland again, while Nigeria, along with Serbia, are arguably the pick of Pot Four.

The draw gets underway at 3pm on Friday, and you can watch it live on BBC 2.