After what can only be called a mind numbingly awful draw process in which a number of continents most people don’t give a shit about we finally made it to the European draw. The event contained many highlights like…em…Fat Ronaldo…the axis of evil being on the same stage together…hm… Yes the draw was made for Russia 2018, the World Cup which will probably be in Russia but might actually be in England because of silly little things like racism, anti-homosexual and corruption problems. To be fair what did they really expect when they awarded the hosting to a country which is notorious for racism, anti-homosexual and corruption problems? To be fair to Russia, at least they aren’t as bad as Qatar, who positively make Russia look advanced in their social progression.
Anyway enough politics and onto the draw! Basically this review will contain a ranking of each team from each pot (not based on shity world rankings of course) which will then show how hard said group is and of course I will chip in with who I believe will be the likely team to qualify from each group and so on. If you thought the draw was exciting, then you haven’t seen nothing yet!
Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg are in Group A and they rank out at 5th, 1st, 4th, 6th, 5th and 2nd respectively.
The Dutch will be worrying about this quite profusely, they couldn’t really have asked for much worse. All the top seeds wanted to avoid the French, and no wonder the only reason they themselves aren’t a top seed is because they are hosting Euro 2016 and hence haven’t played a competitive game for a year (something which FIFA needs to fix in their rankings). Luxembourg could get a few points but realistically aren’t finishing top two; the same can be said of Belarus. Bulgaria are still lounging about in mediocrity with memories of the early 90’s becoming a distant memory and Sweden could put in a challenge but they are a team very much in transition with the majority of their main players in the twilight of their careers. With that in mind it will be between the top two and Sweden with a very outside chance of spoiling. Personally I see France topping the group and the Dutch having to settle for the play-offs.
Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, the Faroes, Latvia and Andorra fill this group which ranks out at 7th, 8th, 7th, 9th, 4th, and 7th respectively
One of those stinking groups that always seem to pop up in the Euro qualifiers where a number of poor seeds draw each other, usually with Greece at the top of the pile, however this time it is Portugal’s chance to head the line. Portugal are a one man team and that one man is now in his thirties and will be even older by the time the qualifiers come to an end. The question is how long can they realistically lean totally on Ronaldo? Luckily for them we probably won’t find out because they’ve drawn a group which it is almost impossible for them to not top. In all likelihood this will be Ronaldo’s last chance at performing at a World Cup so everyone who isn’t a sadist will want Portugal to get there. Well that is everyone but the people of their compatriots, naturally. Andorra, Latvia and the Faroes…I’m not sure who the pot 6 team is here because it seems like Group B has three of them, absolute no chancers. Hungary aren’t great but they seem to be putting results together (a la Iceland) but I doubt they will be able to manage it here. Switzerland should be better than they actually are because they do have some good players but they like to underachieve on a consistent basis. Portugal should win the group with the Swiss coming second; however the Swiss have a younger team which in a year’s time could be in a much better position than they are now, so Portugal will have to be very careful.
Group C consists of Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino which ranks out respectively at 1st, 5th, 9th, 2nd, 7th, and 6th.
Germany will be happy with their draw and they will walk the group without any doubt. Azerbaijan is a tough place to go for all the teams but won’t challenge and San Marino will be lucky to score a goal. Northern Ireland were inexplicably a 3rd seed team despite being pretty rubbish and Norway are in what can only be called a transition phase, although for a fourth seed still ultimately dangerous. The Czech’s should get the play-off spot without much trouble as they’ve been given the open goal and only need to tap it in, however sometimes you have Fernando Torres as your striker…things don’t always go to plan.
Wales, Austria, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova and Georgia make up Group D, ranking out at 8th, 3rd, 8th, 4th, 9th and 1st respectively.
What can only be called a very interesting group, Wales shouldn’t be anywhere near the first seed pot and the fact that they are shows how broken the ranking system is (ranked above Spain, the defending European champions…). In my mind easily the best team in this group is Austria who have been given the gift of a lifetime and I’m sure will embrace it with both arms open. Moldova are not going to do anything, Georgia is a nightmare of a sixth seed team and although they may not do anything it will be a tough place to go and for a sixth seed team they are way too good This leaves us with Serbia, Ireland and Wales battling it out for the play-off spot, Serbia are a total anomaly as they currently sit bottom out of everyone in the Euro qualifying with -2 points, however they do have a promising number of prospects coming up and they have some solid players already in the team, they could be very tricky. Ireland are very much on a down currently and having watched them against Scotland a couple of time this year I have to say it is panic time for the Irish. You know when you go in to a game against Scotland and your tactic is to kick Scotland off the pitch then you have serious problems. There are some good players but the tactics are awful and ultimately the squad is piss poor, the fact that Jonathan Walters is a mainstay says everything. Walters is essentially where Ireland are right now, lots of effort and very little ability. That leaves us with Wales who were one of the top seeds everyone was wanting to get and luckily for them they have fallen in what is a fairly easy group. If Bale and Ramsey are able to stay fit then I’m sure they will finish second and maybe even push for first if they’re lucky. Ultimately Austria will win the group and Wales will likely finish second but it is dependent on what Serbia shows up, because if the Serbs show up looking to play then Wales could be in very serious trouble.
Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia and Kazakhstan are the members of Group E and they rank at 9th, 7th, 1st, 7th, 1st, and 3rd respectively.
What can you really say? Group E is up there with Group B as the worst group of the draw, it really isn’t a pretty thing to look at. I have no idea why Romania are a first seed and Denmark are ok but not great as far as second seeds go. Group E does have some of the better fifth and sixth seeds but in all reality Armenia and Kazakhstan aren’t likely to really do anything, although to be fair to Armenia they did almost qualify for the last World Cup but have been awful ever since. Montenegro blow incredibly hot and cold to the extent that they were a second seed not too long ago but the bottom has now fallen out. That leaves us with Poland who seem too good to be a third pot team and also seem to be the best team in the group. The one major positive I can see about this group is that it should be really competitive, I don’t see much at all between Poland, Denmark and Romania and Armenia and Montenegro have in the recent past been very effective so very well could rekindle that past form. The teams may not be great but this group could legitimately be a five team shootout with the Kazakh’s playing spoiler with their horrible away leg tie. I see Poland winning the group with Romania taking second.
England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta make up Group F which ranks at 6th, 9th, 2nd, 3rd, 8th and 5th respectively.
England always seem to get really easy groups and once again they have managed the incredible feat, doesn’t seem fair does it? Slovakia have no right being a second seed team (even odder when you consider that they were the top ranked second seed team) which very much opens the door for both Scotland and Slovenia to challenge for the play-off spot in a super battle of the S’s where only one S will be left standing! Being Scottish I am naturally very happy with this group, in all likelihood we won’t win the group because England are a class above the rest but if you were to handpick which team you wanted the most with your heart it would be the English. There is nothing I would like more than to win this group over them and crush their shite talking about 19fucking66, although back in reality I really wanted Romania and we’ll almost certainly jizz our pants if we manage one point out of six. The other teams aren’t really important in this group, this one’s personal! It’s a grudge match between the two oldest footballing countries; the country which invented the game against the country where a bunch of posh boys wrote the rules down and then claimed they invented the game, it doesn’t get much better. Stuff your Argentina Brazil! Stuff your Germany Holland! This is international footballs real rivalry! Ironically I’m sure most English people will probably want Scotland to finish second and qualify whereas in contrast most Scottish people will want England to finish bottom and not qualify. In all seriousness Scotland have a great chance to at least make the play-offs here, Slovakia and Slovenia aren’t up to much and Lithuania and Malta should be rolled over by most of the top four teams. England will win the group naturally and Scotland should finish second.
Group G has the privilege of hosting Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein which ranks at 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 4th respectively
The good old fashioned group of death! Duh duh duh (scary organ)!!! This is what happens when you demand that the big markets get put in big groups, you force a situation where it is much more likely that they draw each other. The weird thing is that many will think that this is merely a shootout between Spain and Italy but in reality Albania are a sneakily good team and Israel are no mugs either. Macedonia and Liechtenstein aren’t relevant to the group and will only be a nuisance. I have no doubt that the top two will be Italy and Spain, however both have tendencies to be lacklustre in qualification (especially Italy) and I don’t think the room for error is massive here. This is a very interesting group indeed. With all that said Spain will still win the group and Italy will take second.
Belgium, Bosnia, Greece, Estonia and Cyprus make up the small Group G, which ranks at 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 2nd respectively.
Another interesting group we have here. Belgium should be happy with the draw because they avoided the real danger, however Bosnia are very much a team on the up and despite a mediocre Euro qualifying so far will be very dangerous indeed. Cyprus are a fairly tricky fifth seed team and will be good for a few shocks although ultimately will not do anything, the same can be said of Estonia. Greece are an odd one because they were perennial qualifiers up until the Euro qualifiers where they have found themselves inexplicably beaten by the Faroe Islands not once but twice. In all reality the uneasy political situation in Greece will be affecting the player’s concentration because as we all know, football players love nothing more than a bit of politics and it is very worrying indeed, probably…but don’t ask me, ask one of them, they know the ins and outs. Arguably it is a toss-up between Bosnia and Belgium for the top spot with Belgium in all likelihood coming out on top, with Bosnia having to settle for the play-offs, Greece could throw a spanner in the works if they start churning out their traditional 1-0’s which sets the heart racing like two old men mutually masturbating, but they’ll probably lose twice to Cyprus and Estonia and finish bottom of the table.
Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey and Finland make up our final group, ranking at 4th, 6th, 5th, 1st and 3rd respectively.
The final group and probably the most competitive. You could make a decent argument for why each team in this group will finish top and in all likelihood people wouldn’t be able to deny your logic. Croatia have a good team and paly some silky stuff but have been underachieving lately by drawing Nazi symbols and being big meanies, Iceland are a team on fire making it very lucky that they live so far north, however on paper their team really isn’t anything special, Ukraine and Turkey are easily the two biggest nations and also the two biggest underachievers, both are in transition and have border issues but both will be happy at the teams drawn above them and finally we have Finland who probably don’t have a chance unless Kimi Raikonnen decides to screw Formula 1 and become the world’s greatest football player, like we’ve all been wanting for a long long time. It’s boring but Croatia will more than likely win the group and I think Iceland will take second, but in the end it will be between these two teams. The first tie isn’t for over a year so you never know, a lot of things can change in a year and maybe Ukraine and Turkey will come along quite substantially, if they do make those strides then they have a very good chance of outdoing their seeding.
So that’s all nine groups, with all the teams I expect to go through and how each group ranks out. I have France, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium and Croatia winning their groups and Holland, Switzerland, Czech, Wales, Romania, Scotland, Italy, Bosnia and Iceland making the play-offs, well that is eight of them will and the other will be cast off like a dirty napkin, how quaint.
Speaking of World Cup qualifying, did you know that there are 23 European teams in the World’s top 32? I know, it’s quite impressive, however did you also know that Europe only gets 13 places (plus Russia to make 14) at the World Cup? Somehow that doesn’t feel fair, sorry let me rephrase that, it is not fair. Europe has been punished for years for being the hub of football as Sepp Blatter buys votes from around the world by offering extra spots in footballs biggest showpiece. I agree that there needs to be teams from all around the world, but Europe is being unfairly punished for having too many good teams, when in contrast South America isn’t being punished at all, basically getting five places for ten teams. I actually wrote about this prior to the last World Cup which you can read simply by clicking this link, I think it’s a good read but I wrote it so obviously I’m biased.
The draw has thrown up a number of really good groups, with a nice mix of equally matched teams and juggernaut ties in almost every single one. Whether the World Cup is in Russia in 2018 or not is probably going to be irrelevant because at the end of the day this is the greatest spectacle in sport and all the bitching and moaning will stop when the first game kicks off.
It’s a fairly long post and all the groups have been covered, so leave a comment about what you thought of the review or alternatively tell me how you think your country will cope. Naturally I’m looking forward to the World Cup (and the Euro’s as well) because as every other football fan knows non-football summers are the worst.
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