There promises to be a lot of drama at the 2018 World Cup in Russia as the 2010 World Cup winners Spain have been placed in the same group as Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.
Football greats Peter Schmeichel and Stan Collymore discuss the results of the draw with RT.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who teamed up with RT for the 2018 World Cup Draw coverage, said that Group B is going to be a “kicker” at the event in Russia. The legendary Dane had to overcome a heavy blizzard to deliver his analysis of the Friday draw as he was broadcasting live from the rooftop of a Moscow hotel overlooking the Kremlin.
“We’ve got Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran. Iran has done really well in their qualifications. Morocco is a great team as well. But this Portugal v. Spain game, that’s one of the games really to look forward to,” Schmeichel said. Spain is among the favorites of any tournament they appear in, but Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, “a player who can do anything even if the team isn’t playing well,” he added.
Another member of the RT crew with a rich footballing background, ex-Liverpool star Stan Collymore, focused on the World Cup’s opening match, in which hosts Russia will take on Saudi Arabia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. The encounter is a “fascinating one on so many levels – not just the footballing level, but political level. Of course, there’s loads of stuff going on in the Middle East at the moment,” he said.
With the two teams being the lowest ranked among the 32 participants, “from Russia’s perspective it’s a fantastic opportunity to get the Russian public behind you; to get some confidence for the team; to win the game and start the tournament on the front foot,” Collymore said.
Another quartet that stands out after the draw is Group G, with Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England.
“There’s lot that we need to find out about,” England manager Gareth Southgate told RT after learning the names of his opponents. “We’ve never played Panama before in our history. That’s an exciting game. And, obviously, Tunisia have come up through African qualifying, which is very, very tough. But we have to say we haven’t seen as much of those teams as we have Belgium,” he said. Southgate described Belgium as “hugely impressive team,” saying that the match against them “will capture everybody’s imagination at home. But the other two games are the one that we’ve got to get right to have a chance of getting through.”
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez told RT that it was “difficult to find some words” after the World Cup draw. “I’ve spent 21 years in England; in the British game. I’ve worked with some of the players that they have in the England camp,” he said. With most of the Belgian roster also playing for English clubs, “it’s going to be a lot of chemistry; a lot of banter in the Premier League dressing rooms between Belgian players and English players,” he said.
According to Martinez, Belgium’s game against England would be “a really good opportunity to see two generations with a lot of quality and a lot technical ability; to see how we adapt at the World Cup and what level we can give.”
Even seemingly simple things come with hazards. Schmeichel described what can go wrong and turn into an international scandal at the draw, even despite the ceremony looking to be quite easy. “I was hosting the Champions League draw. And we had a rehearsal. One of the balls popped up and went inside the table.”
“You can’t redo the draw,” Schmeichel said, talking about the draw ceremony. “You know you’re live on TV.”