The draw for the 2019 World Cup took place in Paris, France on Saturday, and the results are in.
The United States finds itself in Group F, along with Thailand, Chile, and Sweden. All things considered, it’s a fairly easy draw for the US. I consider Sweden to be one of the two weakest Pot B teams, despite their world ranking of ninth. Neither Thailand, despite having been entertaining at the 2015 World Cup, nor Chile, who will be playing in their first World Cup, should prevent the Americans from advancing. Beyond Group F, there is still much to talk about.
Hardest Overall Group
It’s easy to try to force the label of Group of Death upon the hardest group, but I don’t think it’s necessary with this tournament. For one thing, four third place teams will qualify for the knockout stage, so finishing third isn’t a death knell. Groups A, B, and C feature three teams that could realistically finish first or second, while the remaining groups have a clear separation between the top and bottom two. I think the hardest group, from top to bottom, is Group B. Germany, China, and Spain are all good enough to advance, and it’s entirely likely that they will because you just have to be one of the four best third place teams to do so. Sorry, South Africa.
Easiest Overall Group
Group F, hands down. Group D is second here, but I think it’s a distant second.
Surprise Group Winner
I think the Dutch are going to win Group E. Canada, despite scoring a bundle of goals in World Cup qualifying, they were underwhelming against Costa Rica and Jamaica, and they’re ripe for an upset, especially when considering that both Canada and the Netherlands could have already qualified when they play each other in the final group stage match. The Dutch may have needed a playoff to get out of UEFA qualifying, but do not underestimate the Euro 2017 winners.
The Matches to Watch
England/Scotland jumps out immediately as one to see, and Canada/Netherlands does too. I’m also looking forward to Germany/Spain and I think Australia/Italy could be a lot of fun. Looking ahead in the tournament, there are a couple more...
Potential Tantalizing Knockout Matches
Assuming the US wins Group F, they are likely to play one of Spain or China in the first knockout stage game. The one of Canada or the Netherlands that wins Group E would go on to face the second place team in group D, likely to be England or Japan.
So now that the teams have all been drawn, what group do you think is the hardest? Who’s going to unexpectedly go home early? Who’s going to win? Tell me in the comments.