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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.

AT HALF: Lukaku, Lingard have Man Utd up at West Brom (video)

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Romelu Lukaku didn’t celebrate much more than a fist pump following his match-opening goal against former teammates West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com).

No one said anything about celebrating teammates’ goals, though.

Lukaku scored to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead, then watched as Jesse Lingard‘s deflected lash left Ben Foster high and dry as United cruised into the break up two goals.

It’s 10th PL goal of the season for Lukaku, who has 15 in all competitions. For Lingard, it’s four and seven.

Here’s Lingard’s marker:

Celtic’s record unbeaten run ends at 69 matches

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Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run has ended at 69 matches, and it ended with a thud.

Tynecastle Park was the scene for a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Hearts, a defeat started by a 16-year-old’s first Scottish Premiership goal.

[ REPORT: Luiz done at Chelsea? ]

Harry Cochrane’s his name, and his 26th minute goal gave Hearts the lead, and it was 2-0 by halftime through Kyle Lafferty, the ex-Burnley and Norwich player.

David Milinkovic scored three minutes after halftime, as the wake-up call didn’t arrive at the break, and added a penalty kick late in the match.

Celtic has a two-point lead on second-place Aberdeen with a match-in-hand. Rangers sit five-points back.

Sixty-nine games! Remarkable in any league. Here’s what Rodgers had to say:

“But I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and this to be their first defeat; of course it’s a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.”

WATCH LIVE: West Brom vs. Manchester United

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The Hawthorns is the scene as Manchester United attempts to pull back into sole possession of second place on the Premier League table with a visit to West Bromwich Albion (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Baggies have several regular starters on the bench, with Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, and Gareth McAuley (Allllll the Gareths!) getting a rest.

United will hand starts to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, with Anthony Martial on the bench with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Yacob, Livermore, Burke, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Myhill, Robson-Kanu, Brunt, Barry, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Ibrahimovic, Martial.

Report: Luiz done at Chelsea, perhaps as soon as January

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A report out of England says Chelsea defender David Luiz could be out the door in January.

Luiz, 30, has a knee injury and has played in just one match for Chelsea since a Halloween loss to Roma in the Champions League, one that supposedly culminated in a blow-up between the defender and manager Antonio Conte.

He was sold once before by Chelsea, shipped to Paris Saint-Germain for $66 million in 2014 before returning to Stamford Bridge in 2016 for $45 million.

[ MAN CITY-SPURS: 3 things |  Studs and duds ]

Luiz has made just one appearance, a Nov. 22 match in Qarabag, since that Roma loss. He returned to the bench against Liverpool before being diagnosed with a knee injury.

The report says Juventus is a possible destination for Luiz, though the Champions League could be a problem for both sides. Luiz is Cup-tied to Chelsea, and Juventus remains in the UCL as well.

And Chelsea would need reinforcements at the back. It’s back three has operated with Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Gary Cahill. Other options are Antonio Rudiger and 20-year-old Jake Clarke-Salter, which would be fine were Chelsea not alive in four competitions (The League Cup quarterfinals have the Blues hosting Bournemouth on Wednesday).

The power seems a bit more in Luiz’s hands thanks to some of Conte’s sanctioned loans. Kurt Zouma has arguably been Stoke City’s most consistent performer in an under siege unit, one of 10 backs on season-long loans. The most sense is to find reconciliation, presuming the dust-up is real, and move on in the summer if necessary.