World Cup 2022 group ranking draw, winners and losers
The World Cup draw, which took place in Doha on Friday in embarrassed glitz and glamor, inevitably leads to a frantic search for the ‘group of death’. It’s the name given throughout decades of World Cup history to the group of four from which every pairing could emerge. It’s the group from which competitors will crash and burn, ultimately nullified by the devastating randomness of the draw.
But in 2022 there is none.
There is no death group.
Instead, there is a Group of Life that has skewed the draw and defined its winners and losers.
To identify it, we took the average Elo rating of the four teams in each group (an objective measure) and the average power ranking of the four teams (our subjective measure). A comparison of the eight groups based roughly on these two metrics found that no single pod out of four teams outperformed the others. The top four average Elo ratings were within eight points of each other on a scale of approximately 2,000 points.
But both metrics, like conventional wisdom, suggest that Group A is the weakest of the eight.
World Cup groups sorted by difficulty
(Leaderboards assume stronger teams will win the three playoffs in June. Higher Elo rating is better. Lower Power ranking is better.)
1. Group G (Elo: 1887.75 | Powerrank: 13.75)
2. Group E (Elo: 1886 | Performance Rank: 16)
3. Group B (Elo: 1880.5 | Power Rank: 15.25)
4. Group F (Elo: 1865 | Performance Rank: 16.75)
5. Group D (Elo: 1880 | Performance Rank: 15)
6. Group C (Elo: 1847.25 | Power Rank: 17.5)
7. Group H (Elo: 1812 | Performance Rank: 18)
8. Group A (Elo: 1792 | Power Rank: 19.75)
Group A and their round of 16 partner, Group B, therefore bring life to the biggest winners of Friday’s draw.
Winner of the World Cup draw
England (Group B: USA, Iran, Wales/Scotland/Ukraine)
England has the best of all worlds: Incredible narrative (a former colony and possibly a compatriot), no clear contender for his throne at the head of the group, and a possible walk in the park to the quarterfinals.
The group as a whole is not weak. It has no pushover. The US is dangerous. Iran, the best team from Asia, will be difficult. But England should rise to the top of the group, and that’s where his real prize awaits: a round of 16 match against the runners-up in a group whose top two teams are the Netherlands and Senegal. Even if the Three Lions slip to second place, their position against Group A will be valuable.
Netherlands (Group A: Qatar, Senegal, Ecuador)
Any pot 2 team that drew Qatar from pot 1 would inevitably be a winner. The Dutch are that team. The rest of their draw wasn’t so friendly – Senegal are the second-strongest team in Pot 3, and Ecuador are one of the tougher challengers from Pot 4. But the Netherlands, second-seeded, may be favored to lead the group in preparation for one Sergiño Dest Derby vs USA in Round of 16.
Argentina (Group C: Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia)
Argentina almost reached their dream draw: arguably the weakest team from Pot 2, arguably the weakest European team (each group had to have at least one) and definitely the weakest team from Pot 4.
Neither the Mexico game nor the Poland game will be a luxurious cruise, but Lionel Messi and company should win this group with relative ease. And as long as France don’t fail in Group D, there will be no landmines in the round of 16.
World Cup draw losers
Belgium (Group F: Croatia, Morocco, Canada)
If there’s a non-Qatar leaders who might be stuck, it’s probably Belgium – aging, a bit on the surface and now with a tricky group.
Some of these adjectives apply to Croatia, but the 2018 finalists are still going strong. Morocco is the second best African team. Canada were the best in North and Central America, at least in qualifying – and have speed and firepower at the top that will cause problems for Belgium.
Brazil (Group G: Switzerland, Serbia, Cameroon)
Brazil is the best team in the world. Group G should win, no problem. But if there were any Likelihood of a shock, that’s the kind of draw it could cause. Switzerland defeated Italy in European qualifiers. Serbia has overtaken Portugal. In singles games, a win against Brazil is unlikely, but not unthinkable.
Cameroon (Group G: Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia)
Cameroon’s reward for the most dramatic qualifying clincher this cycle?
The best team in the world and the best team from Pot 3.
Cameroon is the real loser of the Group G minefield.
Japan (Group E: Spain, Germany, Costa Rica)
Spain is not a real loser even if drawn alongside Germany as the two European giants should still be comfortably moving forward. The loser is Japan, who must defeat at least one of the two – and Costa Rica, who have 19 points from their last seven qualifiers, if Los Tico win their playoffs against New Zealand.