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FIFA WORLD CUP: How the draw will work for the 32 fortunate finalists

by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

MOSCOW, November 30, 2017 - World football federation FIFA used its world ranking as the yardstick by which the contestants of the 2018 World Cup were placed in eight-team pots ahead of tomorrow’s draw in the Kremlin Conference Palace.

The pots, from which Groups A-H will be drawn, are as follows:

Pot one: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France

Pot two: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia

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

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

Notable absentees include Italy, Holland, South American champions Chile, African champions Cameroon and the United States.

With the exception of hosts Russia, who will be in pot one and guaranteed slot A1 in the draw, the qualifiers will be placed into pots in descending order based on their October FIFA world ranking. The highest-ranked teams will therefore be in pot one.

Both England and Spain failed to gain a top seeding and so will be in pot two. They could therefore be drawn in the same group as any of the teams in pot one – including Brazil and holders Germany.

No team from the same confederation (with the exception of UEFA) will be drawn into the same group. Two European teams can be drawn in one group but not three.

The finals will begin on Thursday June 14, with the hosts taking part in the opening game. The final is set for Sunday July 15.

Both the opener and the final will take place at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, which has just been refurbished and its capacity increased to 81,000. It is one of two venues in the capital, the other being Spartak Moscow’s Otkrytiye Arena which will be known as Spartak Stadium during the tournament.

Luzhniki, one of world sport’s classic old venues, will also stage one of the semi-finals with the other in St Petersburg – the only other ground with a capacity of more than 50,000.

There are 12 stadia being used in total, the others being in Ekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, Sochi and Volgograd.

While the qualifiers will not have to head to the far east of the country, the venues are still scattered across four different time zones. That has resulted in matches being given a variety of different kick-off times, the earliest of which will be 1200 CET and the latest 2100 CET. The most popular kick-off time is 2000 CET (25 of the 64 games will start then), but the final is scheduled for 1700 BST. Other matches will start at 1400, 1500, 1600 or 1800 CET.

Since no World Cup is complete without a mascot the 2018 ‘individual’ will be Zabivaka the wolf, selected from a choice of three (ahead of a tiger and a cat) by the Russian public.

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