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World Cup 2018: What you need to know about Friday’s draw

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03:00 - Source: CNN
The 2018 FIFA World Cup Draw in Russia

Story highlights

Draw takes place Dec 1 in Moscow

32 teams divided into four pots

Draw co-hosted by former England great Gary Lineker

CNN —  

Yes, after roughly three years of qualifying, involving 871 games around the globe, the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar – not to mention millions of football fans around the world – will be holding their breath on Friday.

LIVE: World Cup draw

Who could play whom? Will there be a much-dreaded “Group of Death?” Who are the favorites? Here’s the lowdown on Friday’s extravaganza at Moscow’s State Kremlin Palace.

READ: World Cup 2018 – Who are the favorites?

READ: Argentina scrapes through

READ: Iceland becomes smallest nation to qualify for World Cup

Lineker, Maradona and Cafu form a glittering cast

The draw will take place at 3pm GMT (10:00 ET, 18:00 local) but, if you are pressed for time, tune in about half an hour later. That’s when the actual draw should start.

Former England striker Gary Lineker and Russian football reporter Maria Komandnaya will host the draw and they’ll be assisted by superstars from each of the eight nations that have won the World Cup.

It is a glittering cast: Diego Maradona (Argentina), Cafu (Brazil), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Carles Puyol (Spain), Gordon Banks (England), Laurent Blanc (France), Diego Forlan (Uruguay) and Miroslav Klose (Germany, trophy bearer).

The draw assistant from the host country is 91-year-old former Spartak Moscow striker Russia Nikita Simonyan.

03:54 - Source: Copa90
Copa90 on Maradona, Messi and Argentina

The format, the teams

The 32 countries are divided into four pots of eight.

Unlike years past, only FIFA’s world rankings determines which country goes into which pot and, for this draw, the sport’s world governing body has based the seedings on October’s world rankings.

So, for example, the seven top-ranked teams that qualified, plus Russia, are in pot 1 and the next highest-ranked eight are in pot 2 and so forth, ending with the lowest ranked eight in pot four.

Germany are the reigning world champions.
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images South America/Getty Images
Germany are the reigning world champions.

Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France

Pot 2: Spain, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia, Peru

Pot 3: Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran, Denmark

Pot 4: Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Serbia

As host Russia was placed in pot 1, a boost for them since Stanislav Cherchesov’s men – based on those October rankings – are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament at No. 65, two places behind Saudi Arabia.

Among others in the elite tier are defending champions Germany, record five-time winners Brazil, European champions Portugal and 2014 World Cup runners-up Argentina.

The end result will be eight groups of four teams. There is one last caveat – no group is allowed to feature more than one team from the same confederation, apart from members of European football’s governing body UEFA, which, with 14 teams, provided the highest number of qualifiers.

No more than two UEFA countries are allowed in a group.