The World Cup draw was made on Friday and as usual there were some interesting group matchups which many football enthusiasts will be looking forward to seeing come next summer. In Group A, hosts Russia will be hoping to avoid the fate which befell South Africa in 2010 when they became the first World Cup host nation not to progress out of the group stage. The Russians don't have history on their side though because they are yet to make it out of the group stage of a World Cup in the post-Soviet era. Still, a somewhat "favourable" draw which placed them in a group which includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay leaves them with a "fairly good chance" of making it to the round of sixteen and anything achieved after that will be considered an added bonus.
Other teams though are considered to be among the favourites to triumph in Russia next year. This was what their respective coaches had to say about their groups and ultimately their chances in the World Cup next year:
Jorge Sampaoli, Argentine national coach whose team was placed in Group D along with debutantes Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria:
"I am glad that we are playing a debutante team first in our opening match. We should get three points from that encounter against Iceland just like we did in Brazil four years ago when we defeated another debutante team in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It's always great to start your World Cup out with a win. Croatia and Nigeria should be much tougher opposition. That said, we have never lost to them at the World Cup so in that regard we have history on our side. However, history also shows that whenever we are grouped with West African opposition, it is usually a bad omen for us and just like Maradona in 1990 and 1994, there is only so much that Messi can do."
Julen Lopetegui, Spanish national coach whose team was placed in Group B along with Portugal, Morocco and Iran:
"Hmm...another tricky opener awaits us. We haven't gotten any points from our opening game at the last two World Cups. It would be embarrassing for us if we lose our opening World Cup game for a third straight tournament. We must try our utmost to ensure that doesn't happen again. That said however, the Portuguese are hardly any more impressive themselves in their opening games. They haven't scored in their opening game in the last two World Cups despite having arguably the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo on their team. But at least we can draw solace from the fact that the last time we played them in a World Cup we defeated them and went on to win the whole thing. Hopefully history will repeat itself. On the other hand however, the last time we were placed in Group B in Brazil 2014 we lost 5-1 to the Dutch in our opening game and never recovered. I guess depending on the results we get this time around, "B" could stand for either "Best" or "Bad". "
Didier Deschamps, French national coach whose team was placed in Group C together with Peru, Denmark and Australia:
"History has a way of repeating itself at World Cups and I am quite optimistic that it would happen in Russia next year. Twenty years ago when we won the World Cup on home soil we were also placed in Group C alongside Denmark. On paper they should be the so-called hardest team in the group because I don't think that Peru and Australia are much competition. We have a world class team with a deep talent-pool and similar to 1998, it is quite obvious why we were placed in Group C, to be ultimately crowned CHAMPIONS of the world. It looks like I am destined to follow in the footsteps of the likes of the Brazilian Mario Zagallo and the German Franz Beckenbauer."