It’s all suddenly a lot more real. World Cup 2018 in Russia is actually happening. Anyone who is anyone in the world of football administration is currently in Moscow. The draw for the Finals stage of the tournament is taking place today at 3PM GMT. That is when England will discover their group stage opponents; that is when the entire country’s mood will either be raised to unfeasible highs of optimism if we find ourselves drawn in an ‘easy group’, or sunk into uncharted sloughs of pessimism if we end up in a ‘group of death’.
The term ‘group of death’ or ‘grupo de la muerte’ was first coined at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico to describe Group 3, which contained England, Brazil, Czechoslovakia and Romania.
At this stage in proceedings, all we know is that we are in Pot 2. That means we will be matched with one of the favourites from Pot 1, and two of the so-called ‘minnows’ from Pots 3 and 4. We will face one other team from Europe and two from the other football confederations.
So, what would constitute a good draw? Russia, perhaps––although host nations usually raise their game, cheered on by partisan home support––Iran and Panama. I’d take that. And a group of death? Brazil, Sweden and Nigeria maybe? Actually, a very similar line-up to what England faced at the 2002 World Cup, when we escaped in second place from a Group F, which contained Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria. Although, again, I’d take that, too.
That is my problem, and the problem for most other football fans, too: I always approach each new tournament with the belief that England will win; a belief undimmed by the fact that I have never yet seen them win once (I wasn’t born in 1966, before you ask).
Perhaps that is what makes football such a popular worldwide phenomenon. As well as sharing a common language, football supporters share a common optimism. Dreamers from Rochdale to Riyadh will all be believing that their team will win in Russia in the summer of 2018. Dreaming right up until the point when the trophy is handed to the realists from Recklinghausen.
Fate decides which ball,
Drawn from a chance pot, lands you
In a group of death.
© Donnie Blake
Donnie Blake is excited about the World Cup draw.
What better time to pick up a copy of my new book Artie Yard and a Very English Pickle (World Cup Detective series #1) now available in paperback from Amazon.