THE Socceroos are into the World Cup, but who could they face in Russia?
Australia’s world ranking of 43 means they’ve been placed in pot four for the draw, which could see them face several powerhouse nations.
Here’s how the draw works and the best and worst case scenarios for the Socceroos.
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WHEN IS THE DRAW?
The draw will be conducted on December 1 at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
It is scheduled to start at 6pm local time, 2am AEDT on Saturday in Australia – but usually, there’s a ceremony before any balls are drawn out of pots.
HOW DOES THE DRAW WORK?
The 32 countries have been separated into four pots based on the FIFA world rankings from October, with the exception of hosts Russia.
The first pot contains Russia and the seven top-ranked teams in the tournament.
Pot two will feature the next eight teams, and so on.
At the draw, one nation from each pot will be drawn into each group.
However, countries from the same confederation can’t be drawn against each other. That means Australia can’t face Iran, who are in pot three. This rule doesn’t apply for UEFA, who can have two European nations in each group.
WHO’S IN WHICH POT?
Russia (65) (hosts), Germany (1), Brazil (2), Portugal (3), Argentina (4), Belgium (5), Poland (6), France (7)
Spain (8), Peru (10), Switzerland (11), England (12), Colombia (13), Mexico (16), Uruguay (17), Croatia (18)
Denmark (19), Iceland (21), Costa Rica (22), Sweden (25), Tunisia (28), Egypt (30), Senegal (32), Iran (34)
Serbia (38), Nigeria (41), Australia (43), Japan (44), Morocco (48), Panama (49), South Korea (62), Saudi Arabia (63)
BEST CASE DRAW SCENARIO
Based on world rankings, the best possible draw for the Socceroos would be Russia from pot one, Croatia from pot two and Senegal from pot three (as Australia can’t draw Iran).
Russia is a clear preference for Australia in pot one, but Croatia and Senegal would not be easy opponents to face.
Croatia boast the likes of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic and Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic.
Rather, Australia could have more success against a team like Peru, who’s star players are Lokomotiv Moscow’s Jefferson Farfan, 33, and Watford forward André Carrillo.
But the Socceroos definitely won’t want to draw Senegal from pot three given their host of stars: Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, Monaco’s Keita Baldé Diao, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyaté, and Stoke’s Mame Biram Diouf.
Most of the other teams in pot three are seemingly easier potential opponents, even though they each boast some quality players: Tunisia (Wahbi Khazri), Egypt (Mohamed Salah), Sweden (Sebastian Larsson), Costa Rica (Keylor Navas), Iceland (Gylfi Sigurðsson) and Denmark (Christian Erisken).
WORST CASE DRAW SCENARIO
The worst possible draw (based on world rankings) for the Socceroos would be drawing Germany from pot one, Spain from pot two, and Costa Rica from pot three (as only two UEFA teams can be in one group and pots one and two would be delved out first).
Australia will face a monumental task against any of the teams in pot one (except for Russia), but Spain is the standout powerhouse in pot two. Having said that, every other pot two team would also be the favourite against the Socceroos.
When it comes to pot three, the Socceroos may fancy themselves if they drew Costa Rica, but they certainly wouldn’t want to play Senegal.
DRAW LOOPHOLE TO DISAPPEAR NEXT YEAR – AAP
A loophole that allows national teams to boost their seedings for the World Cup by avoiding friendly matches is likely to disappear after next year’s finals in Russia, with changes due to the international calendar and a FIFA review of their rankings system.
Currently seedings are based on the FIFA world rankings, using a points system which calculates average points for each game and is weighted against friendly matches.
The result has been that some teams, such as Poland and Switzerland, who have played only a small amount of friendlies, have gained an advantage over teams who have played regular friendly games.
Friendly internationals played in November have not counted towards the seeding pots for the World Cup as they are based on last month’s FIFA rankings. But two changes are set to impact the system significantly.
From September 2018, European and CONCACAF region teams will begin playing in Nations League competitions which will be played on the dates in the FIFA calendar traditionally set aside for friendly games.
That means there will be very little space available for friendly matches for the 90 national teams who are FIFA members in those two confederations. That trend could well spread with FIFA confirming recently that they are in talks with confederations about creating a global Nations League structure, which would further reduce the amount of friendly games.
FIFA also said it plans to review the rankings system.
“FIFA is reviewing the FIFA World Ranking system and will take a decision after the completion of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup if any changes are be made to improve the ranking,” the organisation said recently. Asked if those changes would address the issue of nations avoiding friendly matches to improve their rankings and how Nations League games would be factored into the calculation, FIFA said: “The FIFA ranking will be reviewed in the near future. As long as this has not been done, we can’t speculate on future scenarios. The current ranking takes into account all official matches.”
WHEN IS THE RUSSIA 2018 WORLD CUP?
The 2018 World Cup begins on June 14 (June 15 AEDT) and ends on July 15 (July 16 AEDT).
Group Stages: June 14 – June 28
Round of 16: June 30 – July 3
Quarter Finals: July 6 – July 7
Semi Finals: July 10 – July 11
Third place play-off: July 14
Final: July 15
PODCAST: Fox Football journalists David Weiner and Kate Cohen jump on Fox Sports Australia’s The Splash podcast for a full rundown of the Socceroos win over Honduras and the journey to Russia.