…Easy Groups For France, Brazil, Poland
■ Russia, England and France got favorable draws, but they were not alone in that. Portugal will play its neighbor Spain in Group B, and Argentina drew one of the tougher first-round groups, as it was paired with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria. Mexico, the Concacaf champion, will play Germany, Sweden and South Korea in Group F.
Group A analysis: balance, and two bad teams.
Teams: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
The opening game of the World Cup will be Russia against Saudi Arabia: or, to put it another way, the two worst teams in the tournament, according to the FIFA rankings. The group is quite nicely balanced, though: Uruguay will expect to make the last 16, but both Russia and Egypt will have hopes of joining them.
Not as bad as it might have been for Portugal and Spain. Both will expect to make it through — though Morocco is not to be underestimated — in a group that also includes Iran. Finishing on top here might prove crucial as the tournament’s knockout round takes shape.
Group C analysis: dream group for France.
Teams: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
If France had imagined an ideal group, it would have been this. Peru was among the weakest of the second seeds, Australia does not have a coach, and Denmark should not trouble them too much. Second place could be intriguing, though.
Group D analysis: the most interesting group, for sure.
Teams: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
Probably the most delicately balanced, most interesting, and most competitive of all the groups. Argentina only just qualified, Croatia has an abundance of individual talent, Iceland a tremendous collective strength and Nigeria was, possibly, the worst fourth seed around. Argentina will not be happy at all.
The full draw:
Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
Group C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan