Looking for this World Cup’s ‘Group of Death’? It doesn’t exist anymore. Here’s why…

Whenever the World Cup draw is completed, the most important task is to find out which is the “group of death”.

But the boring answer is none these days. Changes to the structure of the tournament mean that it is unlikely that the four true contenders will be brought together.

But this World Cup is a bit of an exception. To explain why, here’s a brief history of how the death squad slowly disappeared.

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Three factors contribute to this. The first factor is the expansion of competition.

The term “Group of Death” was first coined in 1970 when there were only 16 teams in the competition. (There will be 24 teams from 1982, 32 teams from 1998, and 48 teams from 2026.)

As a result, the quality has weakened. For this tournament, when the concept of “group of death” was first defined, 50 percent of the teams could not even qualify for the tournament.

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Each World Cup will likely have the same number of competitors; 8-10 sides with a real chance of winning the tournament. At one time it was divided into four parts, then six, and now eight. The probability of having two or even three people in one group is steadily decreasing.

The second factor is to increase the distribution in different associations. It’s not just about expanding competition.

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Historically, the true contenders for the World Cup have been drawn almost exclusively from European and South American countries.

No African country has ever reached the semi-finals. No team from Oceania has ever made it to the quarterfinals. Only one Asian team has reached the semifinals, which was in South Korea in 2002, while the only North American team, the United States, reached the semifinals in 1930.

Bobby Charlton


England’s Bobby Charlton fights Brazil’s Clodoaldo in Group of Death in 1970 (Photo: Syndication/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

While the South American national team for each tournament has expanded roughly in line with the number of countries, the European quota has not.

UEFA countries are participating in the World Cup

Competition UEFA countries

1930

31%

1934

75%

1938

87%

1950

62%

1954

75%

1958

69%

1962

63%

1966

63%

1970

56%

1974

56%

1978

62%

1982

58%

1986

58%

1990

58%

1994

54%

1998

47%

2002

47%

2006

44%

2010

41%

2014

41%

2018

44%

The year 2022

41%

FIFA values ​​regional representation over direct quality. After all, it’s a The world Cup. But that also means the overall quality is weak; This means that while Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are tied, Italy is not. It’s entirely fair, but it’s also fair to say that the European champions would be the more obvious candidates for a potential group of death.

In fact, the group with the most deaths at a major tournament came not at the World Cup, but at Euro 96. It included Germany (ranked second in the world), Russia (ranked third), Italy (seventh) and the Czech Republic (ranked 10th), producing two finalists.

The third factor, perhaps the most relevant, is the seed system.

Let’s go back to the first death group in 1970. It was no coincidence that the 1970 World Cup had a group of death rather than 1962 or 1966. The draw was drawn for both competitions. But before 1970, no agreement could be reached on the cultivation process, so the lottery was opened.

The result? The last two winners of the tournament, England and Brazil, were drawn in the same group as 1962 runners-up Czechoslovakia. Romania won against Czechoslovakia and lost to England and Brazil by only one goal, but there was no threat to their reputation. FIFA decided it would never allow that to happen again, and all draws since then have been drawn.

The seedings took various forms, but the system we’re used to has placed the strongest sides in Pot 1 according to the world rankings (plus a mark), and everyone else in a purely geographical pot (instead of further ranking).

So a group could have the top team, plus a European powerhouse, a South American powerhouse, and an African powerhouse, but they were all in the top 16 of the tournament.

That system was used until 2014. Everything has changed since 2018. Now, the entire draw has taken place and pots are determined by world ranking rather than geography.

This means that the group most likely to die during the 2018 World Cup is much smaller than in previous years. In fact, according to the world rankings, the third strongest team in the most likely to die group has been weaker than the fourth strongest team in most likely to die groups in previous tournaments.

Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4

1998

Germany (1)

England (6)

Colombia (9)

Mexico (11)

2002

Spain (1)

Mexico (9)

England (10)

Paraguay (14)

2006

Brazil (1)

USA (9)

Netherlands (10)

Paraguay (15)

2010

Brazil (1)

France (9)

USA (10)

Cameroon (14)

2014

Spain (1)

Netherlands (8)

Chile (12)

USA (13)

2018

Germany (1)

Spain (8)

Costa Rica (22)

Nigeria (41)

The year 2022

Brazil (1)

Mexico (9)

Senegal (20)

Wales (18*)

Another complication associated with the 2022 World Cup is identified by this star.

Some qualifiers have been postponed due to the pandemic – and the war has delayed Ukraine’s play-offs against Scotland and Wales, so the draw for the 2022 World Cup has sent us away before we know the three teams who didn’t make the play-offs. matches. Therefore, those playoff teams are included in Pot 4 regardless of their ranking.

It was especially important for Wales, who secured their place with a win over Ukraine. Had the play-offs taken place before the draw, Wales’ 18th place finish would have put them in Pot 3 (and Pot 2 if 51st-placed Qatar had not been automatically drawn into Pot 1). Instead, they were in cauldron 4.

So Wales’ inclusion in any team will be tougher than FIFA might have imagined. They qualified alongside England (fifth place), USA (15th) and Iran (21st). It may not be as deadly as it was in 1970, for example, but it was much stronger than anything four years earlier, and that doesn’t take into account the rivalry between England and Wales and tensions between the United States and Iran.

Do you think group death is a matter of opinion? But it’s likely to be deadlier than the World Cup we’ll see again, with a 48-team World Cup starting in 2026 and increased geographic spread.

FIFA 48 intends to acclimate to the competition with 16 teams consisting of three teams and two teams qualifying for the knockout stages. This has two effects on the potentially lethal group.

First, the tournament features 48 of the world’s highest-ranked teams, and assuming (very unlikely) a draw, each group will include teams ranked 33rd or lower. Once the quotas from each confederation are calculated, it seems more likely that the average ranking of Pot 3 sides will be in the 50s and 60s.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, when two of the three factions from each group progress, not everything is fatal. A 67 percent chance of growth is not too dangerous. By 2026, the concept of death group will be completely dead.

(Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)



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