image source: independent.co.uk
The World Cup 2018 draw has concluded. We’re going to take a look at how things wound up, as well as preview every group and team still in qualification. This is a long article, so strap in!
The AFC was not part of the World Cup 2018 draw in any way, shape, or form. They did their own thing and have already progressed to the 2nd round of qualification. Those matches began back in June. To get you up to speed, here are a couple screenshots of current standings, projections and evolution of odds.
All projections are based on our original WGF Rankings. Additionally, you can download the Excel spreadsheets that create the standings and projections. DOWNLOAD HERE <——. You can enter results yourself, and automatically standings and projections will update. You can also run simulations to calculate each team’s odds. That’s pretty cool.
Anyway, here’s how things look in AFC at the moment.
We’ll shuffle through some of the groups pretty quickly here.
Group A: Appears to be the UAE’s to lose. Projected to finish with around 20 points, which would be a very respectable outing. Saudi Arabia is currently even with them, but we lean towards the UAE. Saudi Arabia has a reasonable chance to advance as one of the best 2nd place teams at 25%. We don’t see Palestine, Timor-Leste, or Malaysia as threats to the top.
Group B: Repeat above, just replace UAE with Australia. Australia is projected at 22.2 points, which is the highest of any team in Asian qualifying. Jordan is their biggest threat, but we see Australia as the clear favorite here. We’ll see if Jordan can make some noise and end up at the top of the 2nd place table.
Group C: Hong Kong has come out firing out of the gates. They’re on 6 points through two matches, having beaten Maldives and Bhutan. We still think this is a 2-horse race between China and Qatar, but Hong Kong has to at least be in the conversation now. We think that both China and Qatar advance, regardless who finishes atop the group. We give each an over 75% chance to advance.
Group D: Iran has already dropped points, and Guam is on 6 points, so Group D has certainly opened up more than expected. Iran is still considered the favorite to win the group, but their margin for error is much slimmer. Turkmenistan and India are basically out of it already, so it remains to be seen how Guam handles the added expectations. Oman is a middle of the pack team that probably will be right on the cut line for advancing.
Group E: Likewise, Japan has dropped points, but they have a much stronger threat in their group in Syria. We only project a narrow 3 point difference between the two. That still equates to about an 82% chance for Japan to top the group, but it’s not set in stone. Syria is a good team, and we think they have about a 2/3 chance to move on. Singapore is also no pushover in the group. Quality group here.
Group F: Iraq has yet to kick off, and they’re already 6 points in the whole. Due to Indonesia’s suspension, only two matches have been played in this group. They’ve both been won by Thailand. That’s huge, as we now have Thailand with a 76% chance to move on. We still fancy Iraq to top the group, but it’s tough starting with a big deficit like that. Vietnam and Chinese Taipei look like they’re in a world of hurt after just one match each.
Group G: This looks like all South Korea’s to lose. After Australia, we don’t have another team with higher odds to advance than the Koreans. Kuwait and Lebanon should put up a reasonable fight, but we really can’t see either topping the group. It’s going to be tough for Lebanon to advance but Kuwait has a shot. Myanmar and Laos appear to be just along for the ride.
Group H: This group is out of control. Korea DPR and Philippines both sit on 6 points. No other team has any points, including Uzbekistan and Bahrain, our projected initial top two following the World Cup 2018 draw in this group. There’s good news and bad news here. Good: this is the most competitive group as expected and anyone (sans Yemen) really has a shot to win it. The bad news is that the best 2nd place team is unlikely to come from this group. We don’t give a single team in this group greater than a 40% chance of advancing.
World Cup 2018 Draw Round 1
The teams in Pot 4 are much better than the teams in Pot 5 on the whole. We actually only project one Pot 5 team to advance, and that’s Chad over Sierra Leone.
Namibia v. Gambia appears to be a virtual toss-up. Also Comoros-Lesotho, Liberia-Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome-Ethiopia, the aforementioned Sierra Leone-Chad, and Tanzania-Malawi look like they can go either way.
It would be a complete shock to see Niger, Swaziland, Burundi, or Botswana not advance. They got the best draws.
World Cup 2018 Draw Round 2
14 teams were in Pots 2 and 3. These teams are all close in quality and will create some great matchups. The winners will go directly to the group stage.
Zambia and Rwanda made out best here. Libya and Sudan are clearly the teams you wanted to draw, and some of the best teams in Pot 2 wound up with them. We’re also projecting these as if all teams play home matches truly at home. If Libya does not host in Libya, Rwanda’s odds of advancing go up.
The 3 matches to really keep your eye on are Mozambique-Gabon, Togo-Uganda, and Morocco-Equatorial Guinea. All 6 of those teams are very good, and 3 will not even make it to the group stage portion of qualifying. That’s crazy.
The 13 winners from Round 1 move on to face the 13 teams in Pot 1 waiting for them. The odds are not good. For any team. It could get pretty ugly. We fully project each of the 13 Pot 1 teams to move on to the group stage. Here’s How we view these 13 matchups.
If you’re looking for an upset, Guinea might be the team that goes down. They haven’t been playing their best, and Namibia and Gambia aren’t too bad. We give Burundi and Botswana the highest odds of getting to the group stage out of all the Pot 4/5 teams. Mali and Congo DR can be beaten. Also don’t overlook Swaziland v. Nigeria. They’ve been playing really well.
And here’s a complete list in order of odds of advancing to the group stage for all 53 teams.
We’ll be back with further odds once the group stage draw is done.
CONCACAF had a mix of both qualifying already, but also being part of the draw. They’re the only confederation to do so. A lot of teams have already been knocked out of the competition. They are: Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Guyana, St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Cuba, and Suriname. Yikes! 17 of CONCACAF’s 35 teams are already out of the competition. The remaining 18 participated in the draw. Here are the results:
World Cup 2018 Draw Round 3
There will be 6 more home-and-away ties to determine the 12 teams that advance directly to the group stage. The teams that came out of Pot 3 have a pretty substantial advantage here, except in the case of Aruba. Not only was Aruba the most overrated team in the initial draw, they were already eliminated! But Barbados used an ineligible player so Aruba is back! Here’s how we see things shaking out:
Canada, Haiti, and Jamaica are HUGE favorites. They should really work over their opposition. It would be a huge upset to see any of those 3 fall short. After that, we like Guatemala and El Salvador (narrowly). We also think St. Vincent and Grenadines move on, if they stay in it. There’s an appeal from Guyana about another ineligible player. If Guyana comes back into the tournament, we’d like them to defeat Aruba and advance to the group stage. For purposes here, we’ll assume everyone stays as is.
World Cup 2018 Draw Round 4
We ran a bunch of simulations to calculate the odds of individual teams advancing to the Hex. Odds are obviously dependent upon who reaches the group stage. We take all of that into account. There are 4 possible combinations of each group. Here are the results of those simulations.
So you must be wondering at this point: how do we interpret these? Well the top two from each group advance to the Hex, so each team’s individual probability of advancing is the sum of their probabilities of advancing in each scenario times the probability of being in that scenario.
Here are the probabilities of each scenario:
Canada and Curacao advance: 32.5%
Canada and El Salvador advance: 61.5%
Belize and El Salvador advance: 3.9%
Belize and Curacao advance: 2.1%
Jamaica and Grenada advance: 7.5%
Jamaica and Haiti advance: 86.5%
Nicaragua and Haiti advance: 5.5%
Nicaragua and Grenada advance: 0.5%
Guatemala and St. Vincent and Grenadines advance: 52.5%
Guatemala and Aruba advance: 24.8%
Antigua and Barbuda and Aruba advance: 7.3%
Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and Grenadines advance: 15.4%
And finally, here are the odds that each of the 18 teams still in play advance to the Hex:
Our 6 teams we project to advance are Mexico and Canada from Group A, Costa Rica and Jamaica from Group B, and USA and Trinidad and Tobago from Group C.
Mexico looks like the far and away favorite in Group A, while the USA looks the same in Group C. To see either of them not reach the Hex would be an absolute shock. Truly one of the biggest of our lifetimes. After them, Trinidad and Canada look like they should be the other two from those groups. There are a few other teams that could make some noise, but those have to be your favorites.
And the World Cup 2018 draw was not kind to Group B. Costa Rica and Panama to start is a lot to ask. Throw Jamaica in there too and an upstart Haiti, and you have a group that could truly go anywhere. No team has even a 70% chance of reaching the hex, and Costa Rica, Panama, and Jamaica are all well above 50%. That’s going to be a wild group.
There are also some stragglers in Grenada, Nicaragua, Aruba and Belize that really look like they’re just along for the ride. We don’t see any of those teams making a ton of noise, but hey. You’re still in it.
There was no draw for CONMEBOL. There’s just one massive group of 10. Here’s how we project the points:
Right off the bat, Bolivia’s point projection seems awful low. They’re not a good team, but taking only 7-8 points from 18 matches seems a little silly. We think the projection is slightly under there, but we expect Bolivia to finish last in this group. Conversely, all the big boys project out to be those to advance. Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay are the five best teams in South America. We expect four of them to qualify directly and the 5th to defeat the team coming from OFC. Ecuador and Peru look like the biggest challengers to that group, but they appear to be a ways back.
Here’s the massive projection matrix, followed by a simpler view.
It’s really hard to trust that there is such a variance between teams. For the bottom 5 to each have at best an 18% chance of reaching the playoffs seems like quite a low number, but how much different would you expect the odds to be? There’s a pretty significant dropoff in quality, so you have to at least expect some kind of split like this.
CONMEBOL Qualifying kicks off this fall, and these matches are always of the highest quality.
We’re not going to say a whole lot about the OFC, as they only even send 1 team to inter-confederation competition. The first round is comprised of Tonga hosting, American Samoa, Samoa, and the Cook Islands. Tonga will host matches between August 31 and September 4. Here are the results of that simulation:
On a side note, this is the first time we’ve run an OFC simulation, and it’s awful exciting to see Vanuatu thrown into the fray 2,500 times.
We expect Tonga, as hosts, to be the one to make it out of the first stage.
World Cup 2018 Draw Round 2
Group A: Tahiti, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Round 1 Winner
Group B: New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu
This is pretty interesting. The host of the 2nd round has not yet been determined, but Tahiti, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand are set to bid for the event. We have no additional information about location, but given Tahiti won the last one and New Zealand has hosted recently, we’re going to go with them as the projected host. The result is giving them an extra 0.55 goals in Home Advantage.
The top 3 in each group progress to the next round. Here’s how we project each group, and the highest odds of advancing to the final round.
Everyone has a real good shot to move on. At this point, New Zealand, Tahiti, and New Caledonia look like the 3 that should fare best. The others all have a good chance to move on with Papua New Guinea being weakest.
The UEFA World Cup 2018 Draw is massive. 52 teams were drawn into 9 groups. There’s nothing else like it. It was obviously saved for last, and we did the same (of course we did it alphabetically). Before we get into each groups, we’re going to leave the point projections and simulations here.
Also, we’ll keep updating these odds throughout qualifying. It likely won’t be in one large post like this, but we will frequently have them. Make sure to check us out on Twitter and here for the latest!
Group A: Sweden got a real tough draw pulling both France and Netherlands. France was our team to avoid in Pot 2, as they truly did not belong. If they had not been host of EURO 2016, surely they’d be in Pot 1. Sweden will really have to work some magic to crack the top two. We’re projecting France to win the group with the Netherlands close behind them. Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg are all not terrible teams, but the quality at the top of this group is such that we don’t give them much of a shot here.
Group B: Again we see a clear top two in Portugal and Switzerland. You probably never thought you’d see Faroe Islands, Latvia, and Andorra all in the same group. This is a perfect storm for the big boys. Even Hungary has to be happy with what they got. Switzerland and Portugal are good, solid teams, but they’re certainly not the best in Europe. All 3 teams have a chance to crack the top two. Keep an eye on Faroe Islands, who have been playing much better recently.
Group C: Nobody in this group should really give Germany much trouble in qualifying. Northern Ireland and Czech Republic are both quality, improving teams. But they’re not Germany. We don’t project any team to finish with higher than Germany’s 26.44 points in qualifying and give them an 89% chance to top the group. After that, Azerbaijan and San Marino shouldn’t do much. So it’s the two aforementioned teams and Norway likely fighting for a spot in the playoffs. We currently give the slightest of margins to Northern Ireland, but would bet on it being them or the Czechs going to the playoffs.
Group D: All of our favorites in one group! Wales and Austria have been WGF Rankings darlings, and unfortunately they wound up the same group. Add to that an Ireland team that was one of the best in Pot 4, and you’ve got a fun group. Again, Georgia and Moldova look like the clear bottom two in this group. We fancy Wales to top the group and qualify directly to the World Cup. We’re not all that high on Serbia anymore, as they’ve really struggled lately. We’ll go with Austria to finish a solid 2nd and move on to the playoffs.
Group E: This is a real tough group to call. We don’t give any team more than a 51% chance to top the group. Poland is our new crush, as they’re criminally underrated by FIFA. They schedule friendlies poorly, but wound up getting a pretty good draw. Romania and Denmark are also quality sides that have a chance to top the group or make the playoffs. Even Montenegro isn’t half bad. Ultimately, we believe Poland and Romania are a cut above the rest. We look for Poland to win the group and Romania to finish a narrow 2nd.
Group F: Surely, we’re about to stir the pot. England must feel thrilled drawing Slovakia, Scotland, and Slovenia. It seems like this should be a runaway for England. But our rankings don’t think so. Not only do they not think it’ll be a runaway, they like Scotland to come out and top the group! And at 55%! Now this is an awful ambitious prediction, but it’s certainly feasible. We give England an 81% chance to finish top 2 in the group, but still, to not project them at the top is quite the move. Slovakia and Slovenia to us were among the weakest in their respective pots, so it’s not a surprise to see these results.
Group G: The last of the 6 team groups, we’re going to continue to stir the pot here. We like Spain to top the group, which is fine. But after that, we like Albania to unseat Italy for the 2nd spot in this group. Not only do we not project Italy to top the group, we don’t even think they make the playoffs! Now surely this seems irrational given history, but Albania is a very, very good team. They’ve beaten some of the top teams in the world over the past year, and they look very strong. They lost 1-0 at Italy recently, so it’s not crazy to think they’re pretty even on a neutral ground. Israel and Macedonia got a tough draw here, and anything more than 4th place would be a little surprising. But don’t sleep on Albania.
Group H: Belgium made out like bandits at the draw. They got Bosnia, who was the weakest team in Pot 2. They got Greece, who was the weakest team in Pot 3. And they got Estonia, among the weakest in Pot 4. Belgium is one of the best teams in the world, and we give them an over 96% chance to top the group. We really expect them to clean house, and didn’t run a single simulation where they finished worse than 2nd. This is bad news for the other teams in the group, as failing to take any points against Belgium will really hurt qualifying for the playoffs. We expect the team that misses the playoffs to come from this group.
Group I: This is going to be an extremely tough group. Iceland, Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Finland is solid top to bottom. Turkey must be ecstatic with this draw coming from Pot 4, as they’ve managed to avoid all the big boys. This group is wide open, and we think Iceland, Croatia and Turkey all make a run for the top two spots. We project Iceland to top the group by the narrowest of margins, as they’re right there with Croatia in terms of quality. Don’t expect this group to be settled early on.
Our Final 32
Host Russia has already qualified. (1)
From AFC, we like the 4 teams that have consistently been among the best to make it: Iran (2), Japan (3), Korea Republic (4), and Australia (5) are those teams. We like Qatar to advance to the playoff against CONCACAF, but don’t think they make it.
CAF has a lot of good teams, and it ultimately is going to come down to how the draw for the group stage plays out. Our top 5, however, that we project to reach the finals are Algeria (6), Tunisia (7), Senegal (8), Ghana (9), and Ivory Coast (10).
CONCACAF is going to be very interesting, and similar to CAF, the teams that reach the Hex will ultimately decide who makes it. We really like Mexico (11) and the USA (12) to reach the finals. After that, we’re high on Costa Rica (13), but they have a really tough group at the group stage. They need to make it out first. Ultimately we like Jamaica (14) to finish 4th in the Hex, advance to the playoffs, and beat Qatar.
CONMEBOL has a lot of big teams that we favor. Argentina (15), Colombia (16), and Brazil (17) all definitely should be there. We like Chile (18) to finish 4th and grab the last automatic spot. We also think Uruguay (19) destroys whoever they meet in the playoffs against OFC.
And the last 13 teams will come from UEFA. Our 9 group winners are France (20), Portugal (21), Germany (22), Wales (23), Poland (24), Scotland (25), Spain (26), Belgium (27), and Iceland (28).
The final 4 will come from the playoffs. We project the 8 in the playoffs to be Netherlands, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Austria, Romania, England, Albania and Croatia. The last 4 that we’ll take are Netherlands (29), Romania (30), Austria (31), and England (32). It all depends on the draw for the playoffs.
We hope you enjoyed reading. Feel free to leave comments below about how Scotland can’t win their group or Albania would never finish above Italy. Also, comments are welcome about the literally thousands of other predictions featured in this article.
As always, thanks for reading and supporting We Global Football. World Cup Qualifying is fun, and we’re glad to get the conversation started with some predictions. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @We_Global as we keep things going throughout qualifying.