The FIFA World Cup draw was held today in the State Kremlin Palace inside the Moscow Kremlin with the groups drawn by Gary Lineker with Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya.
The former England international and Russian journalist were assisted by Nikita Simonyan, Diego Forlan, Diego Maradona, Laurent Blanc, Miraslov Klose, Gordon Banks, Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro and Carles Puyol.
The top seeds in Pot 1 included Russia, the host country, and the highest-ranked teams as of October 2017: Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France.
POT 2 was made up of Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia.
POT 3 included Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Egypt, Senegal and Iran.
POT 4 included Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Notable amongst those who failed to qualify are Italy, the USA and the Netherlands.
Arguably the biggest successes in qualifying were recorded by Iceland, who will be the only nation in the finals who have a population of less than one million people and Panama who are at their first World Cup finals after effectively denying the USA a place with a late winner against Costa Rica.
Eight groups were drawn with no group containing more than one team from each pot. Other rules included no teams from the same confederation being in the same pot, with the exception of UEFA which will have a maximum of two teams in each group.
The final groups are as follows
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru and Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England,
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan
The “Group of Death” is Group B whilst England can consider themselves fortunate to be in a “Group of Life.”
Before the draw was made the odds of winning the World Cup Trophy had Germany and Brazil as joint favourites at 5/1 Spain on 7/1, Argentina at 8/1 Belgium at 12/1 and England at 20/1. Following the draw the odds moved a little in Englands direction with them down to 16/1.
England manager Gareth Southgate said that he would gauge success by his team’s performances, rather than how far they go in the tournament.
Obvious commercial beneficiaries of the World Cup include the major World Cup sponsors and football media but the whole sports betting and gambling industry is looking forward to the tournament. Cross promotions will even see of casino companies partnering with football web sites with a representative of Mr Big of Best Online Casino telling 11v11;
“Online media , sports betting and online casinos will all benefit from the World Cup, enabling all these industries to develop new ways to enhance fans enjoyment of the world’s biggest sports tournament .”