Revealed! The best- and worst-case World Cup draws for England at World Cup 2018

The Three Lions will be picked from Pot 2 for the draw that will take place on December 1 – but what does that actually mean in reality? 

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World Cup draws haven’t always been kind to England.

At the last tournament in Brazil, the Three Lions were again unseeded and placed in a group with Italy, Uruguay and surprise package Costa Rica; in 2002, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side had to battle past Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria to reach the knockout stage.

Not that a kind draw always produces desired results, mind: England were unable to take full advantage of some favourable ball-picking in 2010 when they finished second after struggling against the USA, Slovenia and Algeria.

England have been placed in Pot 2 alongside Spain, Peru, Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico Uruguay and Croatia

For Russia 2018, England have been placed in Pot 2 alongside Spain, Peru, Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico Uruguay and Croatia – meaning they can’t face any of those sides until the knockouts.

Please note: Nations from the same confederation cannot be drawn in a group together (except UEFA – up to two teams). This tournament’s pots are different to previous years; previously, teams outside of Pot 1 were grouped together geographically, rather than by FIFA ranking.  

Best-case scenario...

Pot 1: Russia

Other teams in pot: Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France

The hosts are clearly the weakest team in Pot 1, simply because they aren’t there on merit.

Despite drawing with England, Russia were one of the weakest teams at Euro 2016 and finished bottom of a group that also featured Slovakia and Wales. It hasn’t gone much better since: for the 2017 Confederations Cup they hosted, Mexico and Portugal advanced to the knockout stage ahead of them.

Ageing defenders Sergei Ignashevich and Vasily Berezutsky have moved on, but Russia’s lack of competitive football could leave them undercooked for next summer’s tournament. They did, however, claim a creditable 3-3 draw against Spain in their latest outing. 

Pot 3: Iran

Other teams in pot: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal

Iran are the lowest-ranked team in Pot 3 after qualifying for their fifth World Cup finals.

Coached by former Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz, Team Melli made it to Russia without losing a game – albeit against somewhat lowly opposition in the form of South Korea, Syria, Uzbekistan, China and Qatar.

Four of Iran’s 10 qualifiers ended in a draw, with three finishing goalless, and a lack of firepower up front will make it tough for them to reach the knockout stage for the first time.

Pot 4: Panama

Other teams in pot: Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, South Korea, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia are the lowest-ranked team in the hat right now, but wouldn’t be able to be drawn alongside Iran in this hypothetical situation. For the same reasons, neither could the next-lowest nation, South Korea.

Panama, then, would represent the best-case scenario for England here after squeaking through CONCACAF qualifying to claim the last automatic spot behind Mexico and Costa Rica.

Los Canaleros did just enough to make their first ever World Cup, going through the campaign unbeaten at home but winning only one of their five away matches – something which doesn’t bode particularly well for a tournament in Russia.

Worst-case scenario...