Despite all the drama and controversies surrounding Qatar's hosting of the World Cup this year, the draw went ahead as scheduled. This was one of the bizarre World Cup draws with plenty of match-ups that excite us but no apparent group that can be termed as ‘group of death.’
In fact, all the groups now are tough to predict because, in recent times, the gap between teams has shrunk massively. Therefore, it's difficult to determine which one is the group of death.
When assessing the draws, one thing that is often overlooked is the differences in the ways teams from different continents play. This makes predicting more difficult.
One might rule out the chances of Qatar getting out of the group that contains competent teams like Senegal and the Netherlands. However, they have the home advantage and there's only one instance of the home team heading out from the group stage in the history of the World Cup.
This World Cup is probably more open than one thinks, now that people started counting England as one of the favourites. Gareth Southgate should feel relieved to have avoided stronger teams but the USA, consisting of stars like Giovanni Reyna, and Christian Pulisic, can stage an upset.
Also, a World Cup in a familiar atmosphere should give Iran more confidence about their campaign, while whichever team advances from the playoffs - Wales, Ukraine and Scotland, is more than capable of fighting neck to neck against the Three Lions.
Argentina's group is trickier in the sense that Mexico is a young and hungry team with an Argentine manager in Gerardo Martino who probably knows how to contain Messi and co. And Saudi Arabia's recent form and familiarity with Qatar's hot atmosphere should give them a headache.
While any team that has Lewandowski is already dangerous and he is capable of taking any game away in the blink of an eye, Poland will give tough competition.
Group of D looks pretty straightforward if France and Denmark don’t choke under pressure. Tunisia and UAE or Peru are not expected to test the nerves of big boys.
France vs Denmark, however, is a game of the group stage contender, given how much Denmark evolved as a team and a glimpse of what they displayed in last year's Euro. A Denmark win will potentially change a lot of pre-calculations of the World Cup.
Group E, in many eyes, is the toughest group in this year's World Cup with Germany and Spain leading the line. Japanese boys may give the European giants some tough times. Therefore, it will be a real test for two young teams from Europe. The good thing is, Germany and Spain have two of the best managers in the World Cup in Enrique and Flick.
An ageing Belgium side is not the same as they used to be and their golden generation is way past its prime. However, they are one of the top-ranked teams that can contest any team in the world.
Writing off Canada will be a bad idea; in fact, they have the ability to outpace ageing Croatia and Belgium with the young talents they have. Having finished the qualifier as the No. 1 in the CONCACAF region, they will feel more confident about their chances to advance to the knockout stages.
Apparently, the trickiest group of the World Cup is G where Brazil is a standard above the rest. However, It will not be an easy ride for them because Switzerland are notorious for their tenacity and Serbia's team has some genuine attacking talents including Juventus's Dusan Vlahovic, Ajax's Dusan Tadic and Real Madrid's Luka Jovic, complemented by a well organised Midfield consisting of Kostic and Milinkovic-Savic.
In addition to that, Cameroon seems to be in good form, having finished AFCON on a high with their star man Vincent Aboubakar bagging the highest goal scorer award.
Ghana will be delighted to have been presented with the opportunity to meet Uruguay and Luis Suarez again after the 2010 World Cup controversy. Cristiano Ronaldo is eyeing World Cup glory with Portugal's golden generation and this will not be an easy group stage journey for them as they have to see off three quality teams in Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea.
The writer is a final year student at the Department of Economics, University of Dhaka