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As it happened: The 2018 World Cup draw

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With the 2018 World Cup draw taking place in Moscow on Friday, we will guide you through all of the news, reaction and analysis as the 32 teams are drawn into eight groups.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Below you will find our running live blog of witty banter, wistful USMNT chat and, most importantly, the group stage draw as it happened in Russia.

Join myself, Joe Prince-Wright, and Nick Mendola (NM).

11:05 a.m. ET: That’s a wrap for the World Cup draw. Thanks for joining us! Here you can find more details on the groups, plus the full schedule for the tournament and more. Just over six months to go.

11 a.m. ET: Some reaction coming through via BBC in Moscow at the draw. Belgium’s coach Roberto Martinez reacts to drawing England.

“I lived for 21 years in England so it is very special. It’s the World Cup, we have a challenging draw, lots of travelling. We are looking forward to it. We have a really good group of players, 25 players are now in the British game so are very well known. They have important roles in important teams and they enjoy playing for their country,” Martinez said.

On the opposite side, England boss Gareth Southgate summed up what the World Cup draw was like for a manager who also represented the Three Lions in his playing career.

 “There’s a bit of travelling, but having the six-day break between games might help any injuries clear up. You’re always grateful for as much prep as possible. Travel wise, the way tournaments are now you’ve got to be adaptable, but our kick-off times are decent as well,” Southgate said.

“It’s been great today to mix with more experienced coaches. It’s nice to have a fresh challenge. When you’re trying to qualify, you don’t think about days like today but that’s the beauty of the World Cup. When you look at old videos and goals it takes you back to the pureness of football. Now, the country knows what’s coming and they can get excited. I was proud to play for my country, and to lead my country is beyond that. I’m really looking forward to it.”

10:57 a.m. ET: So that does it! Here are your groups

Lots to break down, and we’ll be doing it over the next few hours, but England and Russia will appreciate their draws while Mexico has plenty of work to do with Germany, South Korea, and Sweden.

If Portugal and Argentina win their groups or both finish second, there’s a potential quarterfinal date between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. – NM

10:51 a.m. ET: Russia is going to love the draw it demanded the totally random draw that dropped Saudi Arabia, untested Egypt, and Uruguay in its group. Totally random. Toe-tull-ee. – NM

10:48 a.m. ET: This just in — Iran hates its life. It’ll get to watch its men play Portugal and Spain. One more team could will be named here. -NM

10:45 a.m ET: Lovely, lovely stuff. We are rocking and rolling and here’s how things look after two teams are drawn out for each group.

Groups B, D and F look particularly tasty…

Group A: Russia, Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain
Group C: France, Denmark, Peru
Group D: Argentina, Croatia
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland
Group F: Germany, Mexico
Group G: Belgium, England
Group H: Poland, Colombia

10:39 a.m. ET: Wow, here we go. Things are getting very lively in Moscow!

Uruguay are drawn with the hosts Russia in Group A, while Spain join their Iberian neighbors Portugal in Group B and they play one another in the opening group game. Mexico have Germany. England have Belgium. Argentina and Croatia are also paired up.

10:36 a.m. ET: The top seeds have all be drawn into groups now. Here’s how it stands:

10:32 a.m. ET: Russia have been drawn as A1! We knew that already, but we have a ball out of the glass bowl. I repeat. We have tiny bits of paper being unscrewed.

10:30 a.m. ET: Bang on schedule, Lineker and Komandnaya appear on stage and the glass bowls are full of plastic balls and we just minutes away here folks. Here we go!

10:26 a.m. ET: Here we go! The draw is starting (finally) and we have a Diego Maradona sighting! He’s out, along with other legendary players from World Cup winning teams in the past. Cafu, Laurent Blanc, Gordon Banks, Diego Forlan, Carlos Puyol and Co. are led out by individuals dressed as, well, sort of Christmas decorations shaped like cones. Seriously.

10:24 a.m. ET: We are now treated to a montage of legendary clips from World Cups gone by. Pele. Eusebio. Maradona. Messi. Ronaldo. Baggio. My word. Lump in the throat moment.

10:20 a.m. ET: To give you an update on what’s going on from the Kremlin, we have yet to see the glass bowls and plastic balls. We now have a Russian folk dance on stage to entertain us. Lovely stuff.

10:16 a.m. ET: Miroslav Klose appears on the stage holding the World Cup trophy. With 16 goals, he’s the all-time leading goalscorer in World Cup history. He seems delighted to be there.

10:12 a.m. ET: For the nerds out there (that includes me) Group B seems to be the one everyone wants to be drawn in. Why? Well, that’s because there isn’t much travel involved for the group games. Come onnnn Group B!

10:07 a.m. ET: More from Putin at the Kremlin –  “Visitors can learn more about Russian culture, and experience our hospitality which is traditional. We know how to host our friends.” He also says that it will be a “major sporting festival” and promises “friendship” and “fair play.”

10:03 a.m. ET: We are off and running for the draw as Russia’s president Vladimir Putin gives a speech to introduce the event. Only a small microphone glitch…

9:50 a.m. ET: Another handy reminder here of the four pots for the draw.

9:40 a.m. ET: ICYMI, former England international Gary Lineker (now a host with the BBC and BT Sport in the UK) will be joined by Russian journalist Maria Komandnaya to host the event.

Not long now!

9:35 a.m. ET: If I could, I suggest you get ready for the draw by looking through our World Cup draw roundtable as our writers discussed the key topics including “Group(s) of Death” scenarios, the dark horses and more. We had a lot of fun. Way too much anti-England banter flying around for my liking though…

9:33 a.m. ET: And “how does this work?” is probably your next question. Right. Stay with me here. Here’s an explainer:

One team will be drawn from each pot to make up the eight groups of four teams. No nations from the same confederations can be drawn with one another in the group stage but there is one exception: two teams from the UEFA (Europe) region can be drawn in the same group.

We all good here? If not, here’s a more detailed look at how the draw will work.

9:30 a.m. ET: “Who is actually in this thing?” Ah, yes, that’s a good question. Here’s a look at the four pots with host Russia in Pot 1 alongside the top seven ranked teams from FIFA’s world rankings in October, then the next eight highest-ranked teams in Pot 2, then the eight highest after them in Pot 3 and the lowest-ranked eight teams in Pot 4.

Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France
Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia
Pot 3: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran
Pot 4: Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea, Saudi Arabia

9:28 a.m. ET: Good morning! This is it. Don’t get scared now. For U.S. national teams fans today is one of those days where the reality of the situation settles in. For the first time since 1986, the U.S. will not be at the World Cup and therefore there will be no “United States” on a piece of paper inside one of those little plastic balls which seem ridiculously tough to unscrew.

To get you ready for the World Cup draw, let’s hope that we get some comedy moments like this from the draw for the 1994 World Cup as Robin Williams met Sepp Blatter. I have a feeling the draw on Friday in Moscow may be a little more subdued than this, but what a legendary performance from Williams.

MLS All-Stars to face Juventus in 2018

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For the first time, Juventus will be taking on Major League Soccer’s best in the MLS All-Star Game.

MLS announced on Thursday that the six-time defending Italian champions will take on the MLS All-Stars in Atlanta United’s Mercedez-Benz Stadium on August 1, 2018. Juventus will be the second Italian club to play in the MLS All-Star Game, following AS Roma’s appearance in 2013.

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Since MLS adapted its all-stars vs. foreign club format in 2002 (with a brief return to the old East vs. West format in 2004), MLS has gone 9-6. Last year the MLS All-Stars lost 4-2 on penalty kicks to Real Madrid in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Klinsmann: “I’m sure I’ll come back” to coaching

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Jurgen Klinsmann hinted that he could return to full-time coaching after the 2018 World Cup.

Klinsmann appears to be enjoying life as a full-time soccer dad after his dismissal from U.S. Soccer in November 2016, having taken home a portion of a $6.2 million buyout from U.S. Soccer for he and his staff. Speaking to Socrates Magazine in Germany, Klinsmann gave his thoughts on the Bundesliga, the German National Team, and whether he’d be back in the hot seat one day.

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“I’m sure I’ll come back,” Klinsmann said. “Right now I’m having a nice break, I enjoy it. I do not know when I’ll take on a coaching job again. I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Russia and then I’ll be back in action.”

Klinsmann has been linked with a number of jobs over the past few years, even before he was fired as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, including with Everton, Sunderland, and Club Tijuana in Liga MX. But instead, Klinsmann has remained in the stands, cheering on his son Jonathan at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup along with the rest of the U.S. parents in their section.

Following the disastrous start of World Cup qualifying and the fact that Klinsmann never took the U.S. to the level he promised, it is hard to see where he will go next, unless it’s a lower level, with lower expectations. Based on his work with the USMNT and Bayern Munich, he has shown that he struggles tactically and is mainly a man-motivator, which is just one part of the coaching package.

The 53-year-old former German coach and player also had a bit of a warning to the Bundesliga, after a particularly tough season in Europe. Three Bundesliga teams (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig) made the UEFA Champions League, but both Dortmund and Leipzig finished third in their groups, dropping down to the Europa League. FC Koln, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all failed to advance to the knockout stages in the Europa League as well.

“The recent development at the European level is not a good sign, it is important that everyone is aware that success is lacking,” Klinsmann said. “Recently, you have lost too much ground.

“It’s a very critical moment. There is a certain amount of satisfaction after winning the World Cup in Brazil and the Bundesliga clubs having done very well in the Champions League.”

Report: Ibrahimovic to sign with MLS next week, LA Galaxy likely landing spot

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It appears Zlatan Ibrahimovic will finally be taking his talents to the United States.

According to a report from ESPN FC, Ibrahimovic has played his last game for Manchester United, with the club ready to let the Swede out of his contract in order for him to sign in Major League Soccer. While it’s not 100 percent clear where Ibrahimovic will end up, the report states the Galaxy are the leading contenders for his services.

[READ: International preview, what to look forward to this week]

Ibrahimovic certainly comes to the U.S. with a rich pedigree, with a trophy room full of league titles and UEFA Champions League titles.

But there are questions hanging over Ibrahimovic. The 36-year-old is coming off a torn ACL and whether he’s healed now, 12 months since the injury, he’s made just five appearances for Man United this season, with four of them coming off the bench.

With many MLS clubs moving towards signing younger, up and coming talents, especially from South America, can Ibrahimovic keep up in a physical league, coming off a major injury and at his age? It’s likely he can make an impact, but considering the kind of money he’s likely to be on, it will be tough for him to be worth it without bringing an MLS Cup.

If he does sign with the LA Galaxy, it would be a massive statement back to their new noisy neighbor in LAFC, after the expansion club made waves signing Carlos Vela as a Designated Player and Bob Bradley as head coach. Ibrahimovic will have to quickly gel with Sigi Schmid’s squad, including with Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos in midfield.

Wilshere could have left Arsenal last August

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It’s hard to imagine an Arsenal team without Jack Wilshere on the books, but it nearly came to be during last summer’s transfer window.

Speaking openly in England’s training camp this week, Wilshere detailed how Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger approached him one day in August and told him the England international wasn’t in Wenger’s plans.

“It was an honest conversation,” Wilshere told The Guardian. “It had been boiling up for a while. Everybody knew I had a year left on my deal and had been out on loan, got injured and wasn’t really in his plans. He just said: ‘At the moment we are not going to be offering you a contract so, if you can get one somewhere else, you can go.’”

Wilshere said that he looked around but ultimately wanted to win his place back in the Arsenal first team, and he did so by November, after mainly playing in the Carabao Cup and UEFA Europa League through the first three months of the season.

This week, Wilshere earned a recall to the England National Team for the first time since the Three Lions’ disastrous defeat in Euro 2016 to Iceland and he’s played 31 appearances this season in all competitions, the most since the 2013-2014 season, showcasing a new-found fitness level.

That being said, Wilshere hasn’t found the form for Arsenal that earned him plaudits in the past from Xavi Hernandez. Wilshere looked off the pace in Arsenal defeats to Tottenham, Ostersunds and Manchester City in February, failing to make an impact in his central midfield role.

Wilshere has three months left on his contract, and while he said it wouldn’t be a distraction, the longer his future is unresolved, surely it will be in the back of his mind.

We had a sneak-peak in 2016-2017 with Wilshere playing on-loan at Bournemouth. Perhaps next season we’ll see Wilshere playing away from the Arsenal colors again. This time, on a permanent basis, unless Wenger changes his mind.