World Cup 2018 draw: England's best case scenario and the Group of Death they will want to avoid

England will be seeded among the second batch of teams for next summer's tournament in Russia, meaning they could very well be placed into a Group of Death

Luke Brown@lukedbrown
Friday 01 December 2017 13:55
Russia 2018: Which teams have qualified for the World Cup?

The draw for the 2018 Russia World Cup is now a matter of hours away.

The full line-up of nations playing in Russia next summer is now known with England set up in Pot 2 with a number of the tournament heavyweights potentially on the horizon for the Three Lions.

One positive, however, is that it is impossible for Gareth Southgate’s side to be drawn against Spain, Peru, Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia who also reside in the second pot.

Groups are only allowed to contain a maximum of two European countries, which means a pool consisting of Germany, England, Iceland and Serbia – for example – is definitely out of the question.

The pots are structured via the current Fifa World Rankings which are often a hot topic of discussion, meaning it’s eminently possible the Three Lions will end up in a World Cup group of death.

Here we take a look at some of the possible group stage draw permutations.

England's group of death

The good news for England is they are unlikely to draw a group as tough as they did in Brazil four years ago, when they were lumbered with four-time winners Italy, two-time winners Uruguay, and eventual 2014 Group D winners Costa Rica.

Based on FIFA's October rankings, which have been used to seed all four pots, the nightmare group for England is Germany, Costa Rica and Nigeria.

While Denmark are the highest ranked team in pot three, and Serbia the highest ranked in pot four, England cannot be drawn with more than one other European side.

Should England replicate their most recent World Cup result against each of those teams, Gareth Southgate's side would end the 2018 group stage with just two points.

An easier path

England proved at the 2010 World Cup that any group can be tough, scraping through to the knockout stage with two draws and a win against the United States, Algeria and Slovenia respectively.

That said, Southgate will hope for three games that give his team a chance to warm into the tournament.

Pot one also includes hosts Russia, who are 58 places below France in the rankings. Were England to draw Senegal from pot three and Saudi Arabia from pot four, they would have achieved the easiest group possible based on FIFA's rankings.

England's group of goals

Some teams were more potent than others during qualifying - what would be the most threatening draw for England's defence?

Germany and Belgium both scored 43 goals in qualifying - at 4.3 goals per game, that makes them the biggest goal threat England could face.

Tunisia would represent the greatest goal threat from pot three, having scored at just under two goals a game in their final group qualifying stage.

All that would leave England with Japan or Saudi Arabia from pot four, who both scored at 1.7 goals per game in their round three Asia qualifying group.

The group of the grudge

England's World Cup history with Argentina goes way back - the Rattin red card in 1966, the Hand of God 20 years later, the penalty shoot-out defeat in 1998 and David Beckham's redemption in 2002. A meeting with Messi and co in the groups would carry plenty of hype around it. Iceland humiliated England at Euro 2016 and they would relish the chance to do so again in their first World Cup finals, while any sporting encounter between England and Australia always features plenty of needle.

Most entertaining draw

Brazil vs Spain is a match good enough to be the World Cup final, but there's a chance the two international heavyweights will meet in the group stage as Spain have been placed into Pot 2.

Costa Rica are an entertaining side to watch and would push the big boys of the group all the way, while no African side scored more in World Cup qualifying than Nigeria.

And one to avoid

Poland may be one of the highest ranked sides in the world but were boring to watch at Euro 2016, where they failed to score more than one goal in any of their matches.

Switzerland are an incredibly defensive side who also struggle to score, while Morocco didn't concede a single goal in their qualifying group stage. Their game plan will be to defend.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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