World Cup 2018: Group-by-group analysis A-D

With the draw for the World Cup complete, we have analysed Groups A-D with the help of Opta data.

Alvaro Morata (top left), Cristiano Ronaldo (top right), Antoine Griezmann (bottom left) and Luis Suarez (bottom right)   -  Getty Images

The countdown to the 21st World Cup can now well and truly begin following Friday's group-stage draw in Moscow.

All 32 teams learned their fate for next year's finals in Russia, and one from those nations will enter football history on July 15 when the final will be contested at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Before we get that far, though, the pool stages must be contested and – with the help of Opta data – we have analysed groups A-D.

 

Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

Russia could hardly have asked for a better group as it aims to avoid being just the second host nation to exit at the group stage (South Africa being the other). However, as an independent nation, Russia – currently the lowest-ranked team of the 32 – has never reached the knockout stages and has lost its last five games at the tournament, but Uruguay is its highest-ranked opponent (21st). Uruguay, whose boss Oscar Tabarez is making a fourth World Cup appearance, won the tournament on its first two outings in 1930 and 1950, and its only loss in its past eight group-stage games came against Costa Rica four years ago. Edinson Cavani will spearhead the attack having scored 10 goals in qualifying, while Luis Suarez has been involved in seven of Uruguay's last 13 World Cup strikes. Saudi Arabia is playing its fifth World Cup and first since 2006, but it does not have a win since 1994 (1-0 versus Belgium). Incredibly, this is Egypt's first World Cup since 1990 and Mohamed Salah's penalty that secured qualification sparked mass celebrations. Boss Hector Cuper manages at a World Cup for the first time, while Egypt is yet to win a match at the finals.


Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

With the lack of a true "Group of Death", this pool is among the toughest of the eight, with European champion Portugal hosting Spain in the group's opener. The last two World Cup winners, which includes Spain, have been knocked out in the group stages at the following tournament. Spain is at its 11th straight World Cup and will be desperate to bounce back from the ignominy of being eliminated before the knockout stages last time out. Spain came up against Portugal en route to winning the 2010 edition, David Villa scoring the only goal in 1-0 win. Portugal, boosted by its not-so-secret weapon Cristiano Ronaldo, who was involved in more goals than any other player in European qualifiers (18), won its first major tournament at Euro 2016 and will aim to become the fourth nation to win the European Championship and World Cup back to back. Morocco will appear at the finals for the first time in 20 years and has history against Portugal having beaten it 3-1 in 1986. Iran has qualified for successive World Cups for the first time and head-coach Carlos Queiroz will come up against the country of his birth Portugal. Iran has just one World Cup victory, a famous 2-1 triumph over the United States in 1998.

Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark

France is among the favourites to triumph in Russia, and with the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe in its ranks it is not hard to see why. Les Bleus has reached the last two finals in Europe, triumphing on home soil in 1998 and losing to Italy on penalties in 2006. Didier Deschamps is heading into a third major tournament as boss, leading France to the last eight four years ago and the final of Euro 2016, where it lost to Portugal on its own turf. Denmark was beaten by France at World Cup '98, but gained revenge four years later when Les Bleus were knocked out in the group stage. Christian Eriksen will be the Danes' dangerman having been involved in 56 per cent of the team's goals in qualifying. Australia toiled in qualifying and needed an inter-confederation play-off to progress, though it is currently without a manager following Ange Postecoglou's resignation. The Socceroos have only two World Cup wins to their name, but veteran Tim Cahill has a fine personal record, scoring five of his countries goals at the global showpiece. Peru is returning to the world stage for the first time since 1982, the biggest gap of years (36) between participations of any of the 32 teams.


Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

Argentina will face familiar foe in the form of Nigeria. The Super Eagles will be taking on Argentina for the fifth time in six World Cup appearances and have lost all four of their previous matches against it. Argentina is two-time winner, but was beaten in the final by Germany four years ago. Jorge Sampaoli's men almost missed out on the tournament altogether before talismanic skipper Lionel Messi, scorer of seven goals in CONMEBOL qualifying, saved them with a hat-trick against Ecuador in a win-or-bust encounter. Expect to see Argentina in the knockout stages - it has gone past round one in 11 of its last 12 appearances. At the other end of the scale, Iceland is one of two tournament debutants. With just 334,000 inhabitants (at the time of qualifying) it is the smallest nation to reach a finals and will look for more memorable moments having knocked England out of Euro 2016. Croatia needed a play-off against Greece to reach a fifth World Cup and has lost its opening fixture at the past three editions of the competition. Croatia is aiming to channel the class of '98, when it finished third on its first appearance.

Also Read: WORLD CUP 2018: Group-by-group analysis E-H

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