With the main draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup around the corner, we take a look at the possible group permutations which could come to fruition. The draw ceremony will be held on Friday in Doha, 234 days before the 22nd edition of the tournament kicks off on November 21.
29 of the 32 participating nations have been confirmed following the latest round of qualifiers which saw a handful of teams punch their tickets to Qatar. The latest FIFA rankings reflect recent results and teams are placed into one of four pots based on their world ranking (with the exception of Pot 4). The eight groups will all contain one team from each of the Pots 1-4.
As tournament hosts, Qatar are placed in Pot 1 together with heavy-hitters Brazil, France and Spain. The likes of Argentina, Belgium, England, and Portugal also feature in the top pot. The World Cup has been won a combined 11 times (out of 21 tournaments) by countries that are in Pot 1 for Friday’s draw.
Pot 2 boasts the best of the rest including four-time winners Germany, 2018 runners-up Croatia, and three-time runners-up Netherlands. The remainder of Pot 2 is filled by Denmark, Mexico, Switzerland, Uruguay (winners of the first-ever World Cup), and USA.
Pot 3 is spearheaded by reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal together with fellow African nations Morocco and Tunisia, as well as the trio of Iran, Japan and South Korea from Asia, and Poland and Serbia of Europe.
The fourth and final Pot houses the lowest-ranked of the participants in addition to the three countries yet to confirm their berths to the tournament. Cameroon, Canada, Ecuador, Ghana, and Saudi Arabia are confirmed members of Pot 4, and they are joined by the three winners of the remaining playoffs to be contested in June.
Wales will take on either Scotland or Ukraine for the final European slot at the World Cup, whilst New Zealand battle Costa Rica in an intercontinental playoff. Peru face off with one of Australia or United Arab Emirates for the final spot at the showpiece event.
Each country in Pot 1 will be designated a group (A-H) before the same procedure is followed for Pot 2 and so forth. The primary rule for the draw ceremony is that no two teams from the same confederation may be grouped together, with the exception of Europe (UEFA) which accounts for 40 per cent of all teams involved at the tournament. Every group can play host to a maximum of two teams from Europe.
There are several possibilities as to what the famed 'Group of Death' may look like. There is a chance for 2010 winners to be paired with fellow finalists Netherlands, meanwhile 2014 runners-up Argentina could be pitted against their victors Germany. The addition of Wales and/or Senegal (ranked 18th and 20th, respectively) to any particular group would make for a frantic affair. Qatar will want to avoid the likes of Germany, Netherlands and Denmark in order to maximize the host nation's chances of progressing past the group stages.
Eight participating teams (may rise to ten) were not a part of the 2018 World Cup. Netherlands – 2010 runners-up and 2014 bronze medalists – make a return to the grand stage after failing to qualify last time out. United States were not present in Russia four years ago after playing at each of the last seven events prior to 2018. Cameroon, Ecuador and Ghana missed the 2018 tournament but all took part in the previous edition in Brazil. Hosts Qatar partake in the event for the first time in history, while Canada are set to make a first World Cup appearance since 1986.
Prospective qualifiers New Zealand have not featured at the finals since 2010 in South Africa whilst the remaining European qualifier is certain to be a newcomer to the World Cup, regardless of their identity. Ukraine last played at the World Cup in 2006, Scotland in 1998, and Wales back in 1958. Russia, Colombia, Egypt, Iceland, Nigeria, Panama, and Sweden were all at the last World Cup but failed to qualify this time around.
Four-time winners of the World Cup and current European champions Italy previously missed out on Russia 2018 and will again be absent in Qatar after the Azzurri were stunned by North Macedonia in the playoffs. By the time of the 2026 World Cup, it will have been 20 years since Italy last won a knockout game at the World Cup.
The main draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held on Friday, April 1 in Doha at 19h00 local time (16h00 GMT). The tournament is scheduled to kick off November 21 with the Final at the Lusail Stadium on December 18.