Germany and Spain will meet at this year’s World Cup after Friday’s draw in Doha placed the two previous winners in the same group, while geopolitical rivals USA and Iran were also drawn together. Four-time World Cup winners Germany were in pot two, making them the obvious team to avoid for the top seeders in the draw in Qatar’s capital. They were knocked out of the 2018 tournament in Russia in the group stage. Germany and Spain will be joined by Japan in Group E, which will be completed by the winner of an intercontinental final in June between Costa Rica and New Zealand.
Iran and the USA last met at the 1998 World Cup in France when the Iranians won the politically charged match 2-1 in Lyon.
England also ended up in Group B and will face Iran in their opening match on the first day of the tournament, November 21.
Gareth Southgate’s team, semi-finalists in Russia four years ago and second in the 2020 European Championships, could also face neighbors Wales or Scotland, although Ukraine could also take last place in the European finals, which will be decided in June.
Hosts Qatar, who will appear in their first World Cup, will face Ecuador in the World Cup opening match at Al Bayt Stadium with 60,000 seats in Al Khor, 35 kilometers northeast of Doha.
Qatar will also take on African champions Senegal and the Netherlands, who return to the World Cup after missing 2018, in Group A.
Reigning champions France are likely to be happy to be alongside well-known enemies Denmark as well as Tunisia in Group D, which will be followed by the winners of the second intercontinental final, Australia, Peru or the United Arab Emirates.
Record five-time winners Brazil will play Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G, while two-time champions Argentina beat Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Robert Lewandowski’s Poland in Group C.
Last chance for Messi and Ronaldo?
It could be Lionel Messi’s last chance to win a World Cup as he turns 35 before the tournament.
The same goes for Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be almost 38 when Portugal meets Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H.
Croatia, second in 2018, was drawn with Belgium and Morocco in Group F, which is complemented by the fact that a Canadian side returns to the World Cup for the first time in 26 years.
Thursday’s event in Doha was attended by 2,000 guests and featured former World Cup winners Cafu and Lothar Matthaeus among the draw assistants.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, was among those present.
“We will see Qatar as promised”
“I feel proud and happy that the world will see Qatar as we promised. We will provide an exceptional World Cup in our Arab world,” he said in a short speech.
The build-up to Qatar 2022 has been dominated by off-field issues surrounding the allotment of the tournament.
It is the most controversial World Cup in history, with Qatar stubborn ever since it was named host in 2010 by accusations of vote-buying – which was strongly denied – and questions about the country’s suitability.
It will be the first world championship to be held in November and December, a move from the usual time of June and July is necessary due to the extreme heat in the Gulf region at that time of year.
Concerns remain over the treatment of homosexuals and transgender people who come to a country where homosexuality is illegal, as well as over the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the country, including those who have built arenas.
At Thursday’s FIFA congress in Doha, Lise Klaveness, head of the Norwegian Football Association, spoke out, saying that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had been handed out “in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences”.
“Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football did not exist in the starting eleven until many years later,” she said.
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