As the 2018 FIFA World Cup draws closer, there have been deliberations about who will emerge victorious from the first round of games, and which teams will overcome their group opponents to reach the knockout stages.
The final FIFA/Coca-Cola World ranking before the finals begin, which was released yesterday, serves as an interesting barometer for the strength of the teams at Russia 2018. Let’s take a closer look at how the groups compare, and who according to the average ranking of each group has the toughest task to progress to the second stages of the greatest show in planet football.
Average Ranking: 49
Saudi Arabia (67)
Due partly to their lack of competitive action in this World Cup cycle, the hosts are the lowest-ranked team at Russia 2018. That fact, and that Uruguay are the highest ranked side in Group A in 14th spot in the latest ranking helps shed some light on why Group A is the lowest ranked pool by average ranking at the 2018 global finals.
Average Ranking: 28
Despite positive moves up the table for Poland and Colombia in the latest ranking, Group H is the second lowest ranked group by average ranking at Russia 2018. Japan, the third lowest ranked side at the tournament, help bring that average down somewhat.
Average Ranking: 24.25
Korea Republic (57)
The holders remain at the head of the latest ranking having occupied top spot for all of 2018 so far but even their lofty position does not raise Group F’s average ranking considerably. The third lowest ranked group in the tournament includes the highest ranked side of two confederations: UEFA (Germany) and CONCACAF (Mexico).
Average Ranking: 23.75
As we reach the median of the average groups, we see a mean looking task for debutants Iceland. Heavy hitters Argentina and Croatia await them, as do continuing World Cup appearance makers Nigeria, who are the lowest ranked African side at Russia 2018.
Average Ranking: 23
IR Iran (37)
Group B is one of only two groups to contain two sides from the top ten, with Portugal and 2010 World Cup winners Spain’s high respective rankings helping to bring up the average in this pool. It is the fourth toughest group by average ranking at Russia 2018.
Average Ranking: 22.75
The second highest ranked side in UEFA (Belgium), the highest ranked side in CAF (Tunisia) and 1966 World Cup winners England make for a challenging debut for Panama in the third toughest group at Russia 2018.
Average Ranking: 16.5
Few will be shocked to see Group C branded as one of the toughest groups at Russia 2018. France, 1998 winners and one of the favorites for this year’s crown, line up alongside strong South American outfit Peru and the highest-ranked Asian side Australia. Denmark’s high ranking position may surprise some, having reached Russia through the playoffs, but the play-making abilities of Christian Eriksen mean they are a force to be reckoned with.
Average Ranking: 16.25
Costa Rica (23)
Just shading Group C by an average ranking of 0.25, Group E is the toughest group at Russia 2018, according to the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. It seems five-time champions Brazil are in for a stern test, with Switzerland who lost just once in qualifying but reached Russia via the playoffs 2014 surprise package Costa Rica and Serbia, who topped their qualifying group, offering their opponents in a challenging pool.