Spain and Germany will face off in the headline act of the group stages at the 2022 World Cup after the draw for the tournament was made in Doha on Friday.
Group E is undoubtedly the most intriguing, with the Spanish and Germans joined by Japan and either Costa Rica or New Zealand, with their deciding playoff match scheduled for June 13 or 14.
Germany will certainly be hoping the match will be nothing like the previous meeting between the two nations, as Spain ran riot in a 6-0 victory during the Nations League in 2020.
Host nation Qatar will play Ecuador in the opening day’s third match after their World Cup opener was moved to better suit TV audiences in the South American nation. The two are also joined by the Netherlands and Senegal in Group A.
Qatar has relatively recent experience of playing South American nations after being invited to the 2019 Copa America. The Qataris acquitted themselves well, making Argentina work hard for a 2-0 win and earning a well-deserved pointed against Paraguay.
France, winners of the 2018 and 1998 World Cups, were drawn into Group D with Denmark, Tunisia and the winner of an Intercontinental play-off – either Australia, United Arab Emirates or Peru.
Group B also offers up a number of interesting clashes, with 2018 semifinalists England facing the USA, Iran and one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.
The last time England faced the USA at a World Cup was back in 2010 – and it’s a match that still gives English fans nightmares.
A calamitous error from then goalkeeper Rob Green gifted the Americans an equalizer after Steven Gerrard had opened the scoring for England.
Ghana has also been offered a change of revenge of sorts after being drawn in Group H alongside Uruguay.
In 2010, Luis Suarez infamously used his hands to block Dominic Adiyiah’s goalbound effort on the line in the dying seconds of their quarterfinal.
Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty – resulting in Suarez running down the tunnel in celebration – and Uruguay eventually reached the semifinals after a penalty shootout.
Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo likely appearing at his last World Cup, and South Korea complete Group H in what will perhaps be one of the trickier groups to predict.
Qatar 2022 will also likely be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup for Argentina. Like Ronaldo, the 34-year-old has never won the World Cup but came agonizingly close in 2014, losing out to Germany in the final.
Under Lionel Scaloni, the Argentines are in a considerably better place than they were four years ago in Russia and will certainly be confident of advancing out of group that includes Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
Canada’s reward for qualifying for a first World Cup in 36 years is a showdown against two of European football’s leading protagonists in recent years. Belgium, long-time world No. 1 until recently being dethroned by Brazil, and 2018 finalists Croatia will provide stern tests.
So too will Morocco, who boast talented stars such as Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and PSG’s Achraf Hakimi.
Friday’s ceremony was presented by actor Idris Elba and sports broadcaster Reshmin Chowdhury and was attended by 2,000 guests.
The draw itself was led by former players Carli Lloyd, Jermaine Jenas and international sports presenter Samantha Johnson.
They were helped by a number of football greats, notably Brazil’s Cafu, German Lothar Matthäus, Iran’s Ali Daei, Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria and Australian Tim Cahill.
World Cup draw in full
Wales or Scotland or Ukraine
Peru or United Arab Emirates or Australia
Costa Rica or New Zealand
The World Cup starts on November 21 and is scheduled to conclude on December 18.
Kevin Dotson contributed to this report.