The draw for the preliminary stages of the 2018 World Cup has been taken and some interesting fixtures have expectedly stemmed out. France landed Netherlands while Spain have been placed in the same group with Italy. England also find themselves in the same group with Scotland.
Germany will start defending their World Cup title in a six-team UEFA pool where the Czech Republic seems the biggest barrier to advancing as group winners.
Perhaps the toughest European group puts the Netherlands with France and Sweden, whose star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has perhaps his last chance to play again on football’s biggest stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal got a more favourable draw with Switzerland their highest-ranked rival.
Opening the draw, FIFA paired four continents whose teams take part in two-leg playoffs in November 2017 that will complete the World Cup lineup. A CONCACAF team will face an Asian team, and Oceania’s best will play a South American team.
A total of 141 of FIFA’s 209 member federations were involved in the draw, including top-ranked Argentina, joint No. 207-ranked Djibouti and Cook Islands, plus South Sudan on their World Cup debut.