World Cup Qualifying Draw – Who You Want – UEFA

With the World Cup Qualifying draw just a few days away, we wanted to take a look at the World Cup Qualifying pots and who teams should be hoping to be paired with. The basis for these projections of course are our original We Global Football rankings.

As a background, Russia has already qualified for the final tournament as hosts. The other 52 eligible teams in UEFA will be broken into 7 groups of 6 and 2 groups of 5. UEFA has also requested from FIFA that Germany, Netherlands, England, Spain, Italy and France be placed into groups with 6 teams. Surely this is for revenue purposes.

The pots are as follows:

Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4 Pot 5 Pot 6
Germany Italy Poland Turkey Cyprus Kazakhstan
Belgium Slovakia Ukraine Slovenia Latvia Luxembourg
Netherlands Austria Scotland Israel Armenia Liechtenstein
Romania Switzerland Hungary Republic of Ireland Finland Georgia
England Czech Republic Sweden Norway Belarus Malta
Wales France Albania Bulgaria FYR Macedonia San Marino
Portugal Iceland Northern Ireland Faroe Islands Azerbaijan Andorra
Spain Denmark Serbia Montenegro Lithuania
Croatia Bosnia-Herzegovina Greece Estonia Moldova

 

 

Pot 1

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Team FIFA Rank WGF Rank WGF Predictor
Germany 2 1 99.73
Belgium 3 3 99.70
Netherlands 5 11 98.92
Romania 8 10 98.93
England 9 20 98.41
Wales 10 7 99.08
Portugal 7 15 98.62
Spain 12 19 98.43
Croatia 14 17 98.57

It’s important to keep things in context in terms of rankings. While a team may be higher or lower in the rankings, the Predictor value is what you really want to keep your eye on. We rank Wales 3rd highest in this group, but their predictor value is virtually even with Romania and the Netherlands, and not much above the other 4 teams in this pot. Germany and Belgium appear to be the two best, and these are the two teams you really want to avoid.

Just a quick note about our rankings: we don’t count friendlies any different than other competitions, so because Romania and Wales haven’t played friendlies and been boosted in the FIFA Rankings, that’s not the case here. All we care about is who did you beat, where was the game, and how badly did you beat them. In our opinion, those teams are deserving of those rankings. You can read more here.

We actually rank England lowest in this pot, which is quite humorous. They’re probably a little underrated, as are Portugal.

For my money, here’s the team you want to draw:

spainwgf

Spain has been in a free fall for awhile, and since we only keep 18 months of matches, they’re really starting to feel the effects of recent poor performance. They’re vulnerable for sure.

 

Pot 2

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Team FIFA Rank WGF Rank WGF Predictor
Italy 17 31 97.81
Slovakia 15 39 97.53
Austria 15 13 98.7
Switzerland 18 22 98.34
Czech Republic 20 32 97.8
France 22 6 99.38
Iceland 23 16 98.62
Denmark 24 26 98.01
Bosnia-Herzegovina 26 34 97.66

France to us is clearly the best team in Pot 2. We have them almost a full goal ahead of anyone else, and if you’re in Pot 1, that’s who you want to avoid. Unfortunately for Germany, England, Netherlands and Spain, the odds of drawing France went up from 1/9 to 1/7 by the UEFA mandate. That’s good news for the other teams in Pot 1. After France, we rank Austria, Iceland, and Switzerland highest. Austria has been on a tear, and is destroying a EURO qualifying group with Sweden and Russia. Iceland, likewise has had to contend with other strong teams in EURO qualifying and is doing extremely well.

We never seem to be as high on Italy as others, and that’s fine. In our opinion, they’re definitely beatable. But you have to be looking at either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Slovakia as the team you’re hoping to get from Pot 2.

bosniawgf

 

Nothing against Bosnia, who is a solid team, but in comparison to the others in this group, you’ve got to like your odds better if you pull them. Conversely, Bosnia even being in Pot 2 ensures that their qualifying group is easier than expected.

 

Pot 3

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Team FIFA Rank WGF Rank WGF Predictor
Poland 30 8 99.01
Ukraine 27 48 97.1
Scotland 29 14 98.67
Hungary 31 36 97.64
Sweden 33 25 98.11
Albania 36 24 98.19
Northern Ireland 37 27 97.99
Serbia 43 29 97.86
Greece 44 68 96.19

Pots 3 and 4 are really where the quality of the group is going to be determined. There’s a pretty big gap between the best team here and the worst team. This is largely due to just piss poor scheduling by Poland and a failure by Scotland to beat Ireland and seize a Pot 2 spot. Poland and Scotland look very dangerous to us, and at this point look much better than the other teams in this group. We have Poland a full goal better than all but Scotland, Albania, and Sweden.

At the bottom, Greece should feel extremely lucky to be in Pot 3, but they’re currently a disaster, while Albania and Northern Ireland are going in complete opposite directions. Who would you want to play?

greecewgf

 

Greece is a full goal worse in our rankings than the 2nd worst team, Ukraine. They’re 2.5-3 goals worse than Scotland and Poland. If the Faroe Islands can take out Greece twice, what would Poland or Scotland do to them? If you’re in Pot 1 or 2 and draw one of the bottom teams here, your odds of going to the World Cup go way, way up.

 

Pot 4

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Team FIFA Rank WGF Rank WGF Predictor
Turkey 48 23 98.31
Slovenia 49 83 95.8
Israel 51 51 96.91
Republic of Ireland 52 37 97.6
Norway 67 64 96.27
Bulgaria 68 66 96.26
Faroe Islands 74 62 96.4
Montenegro 81 56 96.69
Estonia 82 70 96.08

There’s not a ton of variance in Pot 4, but Republic of Ireland and especially Turkey appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the lot. Turkey is a good team, and they really just had the unfortunate luck of being in a very, very difficult EURO qualifying group. We rank Netherlands, Iceland, Czech Republic and Turkey all in our top 32. Ireland is in the exact same boat, as being drawn with Germany, Poland and Scotland made things very, very difficult for them. Those are the clear two you want to avoid. They’re what we like to call “Pot 4 haymakers”. If Turkey was in Pot 3 and Greece was in Pot 4, things would be far, far more even.

We don’t think the Faroe Islands are anywhere near the pushover they used to be. #62 in the WGF rankings ain’t half bad. Estonia and Slovenia certainly look like the two weakest of this lot. We’re way off of the FIFA rankings when it comes to Slovenia. Since the start of 2014, they have 3 wins and 8 losses. To us, that’s not a top 50 team in the world, especially when two of those wins are over San Marino and Lithuania. Perhaps we’re a little low on them, but they certainly don’t appear to be any more dangerous than the rest. Overall, this is a fair pot, and we’d expect some of these teams to make a serious push for the World Cup playoffs.

Another interesting thing to note is that if we were setting up pots based on the WGF Rankings, only Estonia and Slovenia would fall to Pot 5, with Cyprus and Finland moving up. Overall, the FIFA Rankings seem to have a done a decent job around the middle.

 

Pot 5

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Team FIFA Rank WGF Rank WGF Predictor
Cyprus 85 65 96.26
Latvia 87 75 96.05
Armenia 89 113 94.91
Finland 90 61 96.42
Belarus 100 69 96.11
FYR Macedonia 105 115 94.87
Azerbaijan 108 118 94.61
Lithuania 110 103 95.19
Moldova 124 102 95.2

As we mentioned, we like Finland and Cyprus a decent amount, but Belarus and Latvia aren’t half bad either. We have a pretty substantial dropoff between #4 Latvia and #5 Moldova of about 0.8 goals. We view Moldova, Lithuania, Armenia, FYR Macedonia and Azerbaijan as the teams you’re hoping to draw out of this lot. They’re unlikely to cause much distress, but teams in Pot 5 usually don’t take significant beatings.

It would be a major surprise to us to see any of these teams make a huge splash in qualifying. We don’t think there’s an Iceland scenario like in 2014 qualifying. If you see one of these teams in the Playoffs, it would probably be the biggest surprise of the tournament. And if you do, we’d expect it to be one of Cyprus, Latvia, Finland or Belarus.

 

Pot 6

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Team FIFA Rank WGF Rank WGF Predictor
Luxembourg 146 130 94.36
Kazakhstan 142 92 95.41
Liechtenstein 147 122 94.51
Georgia 153 88 95.49
Malta 158 150 93.76
San Marino 192 170 93.19
Andorra 202 182 92.93

As is frequently the case, teams in Pot 6 appear to mostly be harmless. We rank Georgia and Kazakhstan a fair amount higher than the rest. Malta, San Marino and Andorra have virtually no shot, but there is a decent amount of significance here. With the 3 bottom teams highly likely to finish last, those matches should get thrown out for the playoffs. None of the big teams are going to take less than 6 points against those teams. But if Kazakhstan or Georgia can sneak out a point, it could really harm a team hoping to make the playoffs. Remember, the worst 2nd place team does not advance to the playoffs, so those are much tougher games than necessary.

 

Awards

We’re going to give out some fake potential awards.

Most Difficult Group
Germany
France
Poland
Turkey
Finland
Georgia

Easiest Group
England
Slovakia
Greece
Slovenia
Azerbaijan
Andorra

Most Traveling Group
Spain
Scotland
Sweden
Turkey
Cyprus
San Marino

 

And if we wanted to pick groups that would be the most even, here’s how we would do things:

Group Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4 Pot 5 Pot 6
A Germany Slovakia Poland Slovenia Finland Andorra
B Belgium Bosnia-Herzegovina Scotland Estonia Cyprus San Marino
C Wales Czech Republic Albania Bulgaria Belarus Malta
D Romania Italy Sweden Norway Latvia Luxembourg
E Netherlands Denmark Northern Ireland Faroe Islands Moldova Liechtenstein
F Spain Austria Ukraine Republic of Ireland FYR Macedonia Kazakhstan
G England France Greece Turkey Azerbaijan Georgia
H Portugal Switzerland Serbia Montenegro Lithuania
I Croatia Iceland Hungary Israel Armenia

 

Thanks for reading as always. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @We_Global as we keep you up to date with the latest happenings and projections in international football.

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