The FIFA World Cup field is set and the eight groups are finally known. Now comes the fun part: Dissecting each group and figuring out the path to the trophy–and who might surprise us along the way. 

By SI.com Staff
December 01, 2017

The FIFA World Cup field is set and the eight groups are finally known. Now comes the fun part: Dissecting each group and figuring out the path to the trophy. 

Who will go through from each group? Who is set up for a deep run, and who might surprise–both for better and for worse?

Planet Fútbol's panel of Grant Wahl, Brian Straus, Luis Miguel Echegaray and Avi Creditor make some way-too-early picks for the competition, which are surely subject to change as injuries, potential suspensions and other factors impact the tournament as it nears. Until then, this is what we're thinking (in case you need a refresher, here are the full groups from Friday's draw in Moscow):

Who will get out of each group?

WAHL

A: Uruguay, Egypt

B: Spain, Portugal

C: France, Peru

D: Argentina, Nigeria

E: Brazil, Serbia

F: Germany, Mexico

G: Belgium, England

H: Colombia, Senegal

STRAUS

A: Uruguay, Egypt

B: Spain, Portugal

C: France, Denmark

D: Croatia, Argentina

E: Brazil, Switzerland

F: Germany, Sweden

G: Belgium, England

H: Colombia, Poland

ECHEGARAY

A: Uruguay, Egypt

B: Spain, Portugal

C: France, Peru

D: Argentina, Nigeria

E: Brazil, Switzerland

F: Germany, Mexico

G: Belgium, England

H: Colombia, Senegal

CREDITOR

A: Uruguay, Egypt

B: Spain, Portugal

C: France, Peru

D: Argentina, Iceland

E: Brazil, Costa Rica

F: Germany, Mexico

G: Belgium, England

H: Colombia, Senegal

Soccer
No Obvious Group of Death, Host Russia Gets Favorable Path in World Cup Draw

Which lesser-heralded team is poised for a deeper run?

WAHL: Egypt. The Pharaohs drew a relatively easy group with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, and Mohamed Salah is capable of scoring a lot of goals.

STRAUS: Croatia. They’re stocked with quality forwards and midfielders (Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, etc.) who have experience at the highest levels, face a flawed seed in Argentina and—if they win the group—should have a very manageable second-round foe.

ECHEGARAY: Peru. Regardless of whether Paolo Guerrero is cleared to play, this team has one of the best managers in the world in Ricardo Gareca and features plenty of other talent, including Christian Cueva, Edison Flores and Raul Ruidiaz. Facing France may be tough, but Denmark and Australia are both beatable teams. One game at a time…

CREDITOR: It's Iceland. It's always Iceland. Hasn't this group shown enough to ward off the doubters? Plus, it already bested Croatia in their UEFA qualifying group. Senegal is a close second here, as there's plenty to like about the Lions of Teranga aside from the best nickname in the field.


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Which favorite WON'T get out of its group?

WAHL: Poland. Credit to the Poles for gaming the FIFA rankings and nabbing a top seed, but aside from Robert Lewandowski there’s not a lot of talent here, and Colombia and Senegal could be the ones to advance.

STRAUS: Mexico. European teams tend to dominate World Cups in Europe, and poor El Tri faces two good defensive ones in group play. Mexico’s discomfort against Germany (they lost 4-1 last summer at the Confederations Cup) will lead to elimination on goal difference, and the round-of-16 streak will end in the worst way.

ECHEGARAY: Poland is thankful for its FIFA ranking, hence the generous pot allocation, but relying on Lewandowski might not be enough to get the nation out of a group that has a lot of offensive talent.

CREDITOR: Croatia, Switzerland and Poland are all teams in the top two pots who have their work cut out just to get through. Denmark, too, should have its hands full with Peru. The top tier of UEFA is poised to make noise, per usual, but there'll be diversity in the round of 16.

How are host Russia's chances of going through?

WAHL: I don’t predict they’ll advance, but they got one of the best possible opening games against Saudi Arabia.

STRAUS: They’ll win a game! Spasiba, draw overlords, for gifting the hosts an opener against Saudi Arabia.

ECHEGARAY: Russia won’t win a match. Saudi Arabia may not be a powerhouse, but Juan Antonio Pizzi is a good coach (regardless of what Chile may think) and he will have them ready. No way Russia beats Uruguay or Egypt.

CREDITOR: The draw is set up for Russia to go through, but Uruguay is coasting in this group and Egypt is simply a better team.

Which group are you most looking forward to seeing play out?

WAHL: D (Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria). Any of these four teams are good enough to advance in what should be a highly entertaining group.

STRAUS: Has to be D. The delight and drama of Lionel Messi, the enterprise and dynamism of Modric, the wonderful narrative surrounding Iceland and a Nigerian team that could be a threat with Premier Leaguers Alex Iwobi and Ahmed Musa.

ECHEGARAY: H (Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan). There really is no clear favorite here, and that makes this group so fun. We all know what Colombia and Poland can do, but pay attention to Senegal: An extremely talented team with Sadio Mane, Diafra Sakho, Keita Balde and one of the best defenders in the world in Kalidou Koulibaly. Japan can also cause surprises, meaning Group H is for anyone to take.

CREDITOR: Group D is awesome, balanced and is as close to "death" as there is in this field, but I'll say Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea). I expected big things from Mexico this summer, but opening against Germany could set the stage for some nervy last two matches–and a potential date with Brazil in the last 16 would be brutal.

Way-too-early prediction to win it all

WAHL: Spain. This Spain team has been terrific under Julen Lopetegui, but they’re kind of flying under the radar. Not in Russia.

STRAUS: France. They’re practically two-national-teams deep at every position. Depth wins World Cups.

ECHEGARAY: Brazil. After a humiliating 2014 exit, this team, filled with talent everywhere and managed by a great coach in Tite, is ready to win its first World Cup in Europe since 1958.

CREDITOR: Brazil, those plucky underdogs. Presuming Brazil and Germany take care of business and don't meet in the round of 16, the path sets up quite nicely for Neymar & Co. to lift the nation's sixth trophy, 60 years after Pelé lifted Brazil's first.

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