After the qualifiers: If the 2018 World Cup started today

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Here’s a peek at where we stand with 20 months to go before the World Cup in Russia, as well as a fun and borderline crazy predictive exercise done solely in the name of entertainment.

What if the World Cup started today? Who would be qualify?

The only side guaranteed a spot right now is Russia, who will be drawn in Group A. Then the following seven qualifiers with the highest FIFA ranking would also earn Pot 1 status.

[ MORE: All World Cup qualifying news ]

You know what? Let’s get nuts and play out the entire tournament to see who wins World Cup 2018.


QUALIFICATION

We’ll use actual qualification, as flawed and early as it is in some confederations, to be predict our combatants

Asia (4 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Australia
PLAYOFF: Japan vs. South Korea

Projection: This is a tough one, as Japan and South Korea have a storied history. South Korea has won 40 of the 77 all-time meetings, but hasn’t claimed a win since May 2010 (five meetings, with two draws). So we’ll use Japan for the fifth bid, and a playoff bid against the fourth place team in CONCACAF.

Africa (1 of 6 qualifiers played)
IN: DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt

CONCACAF (No Hex games played, based on last round)
IN: Mexico, Costa Rica, United States
PLAYOFF: Trinidad and Tobago

South America (10 of 18 qualifiers played)
IN: Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia
PLAYOFF: Argentina

Oceania (0 third round qualifiers played, based on last round)
PLAYOFF: New Zealand

Europe (3 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: France, Switzerland, Germany, Serbia, Montenegro, England, Spain, Belgium, Croatia
UEFA PLAYOFFS: Italy, Iceland, Greece, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Portugal

PROJECTION: We’re using a random draw (honestly, we used Random.org)
Greece vs. Sweden — Greece wins
Italy vs. Ireland — Italy wins
Azerbaijan vs. Iceland — Iceland wins
Portugal vs. Poland — Portugal wins

Intercontinental playoffs:

Japan vs. Trinidad and Tobago — Japan wins
Argentina vs. New Zealand — Argentina wins


FIELD (FIFA Rankings)

  1. Russia (host, 38)
  2. Argentina (1)
  3. Belgium (2)
  4. Germany (3)
  5. Colombia (T-4)
  6. Brazil (T-4)
  7. Portugal (7)
  8. France (8)
  9. Uruguay (9)
  10. Spain (11)
  11. England (12)
  12. Italy (13)
  13. Croatia (14)
  14. Mexico (15)
  15. Switzerland (16)
  16. Costa Rica (18)
  17. Ecuador (19)
  18. USA (22)
  19. Iceland (27)
  20. Ivory Coast (34)
  21. Iran (37)
  22. Senegal (39)
  23. Australia (45)
  24. Greece (48)
  25. Uzbekistan (49)
  26. Serbia (50)
  27. DR Congo (51)
  28. Saudi Arabia (52)
  29. Egypt (53)
  30. Japan (56)
  31. Nigeria (64)
  32. Montenegro (105)

THE POTS

Like last cycle, the nine European qualifiers mean one will have to join Pot 2. Our random selection was… England. Wow.

Pot 1 (seeds): Russia, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Colombia, Brazil, Portugal, France
Pot 2 (CAF & SA): England, DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt, Uruguay, Ecuador
Pot 3 (AFC & CONCACAF): Japan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, USA, Mexico, Cosa Rica
Pot 4 (Europe): Italy, Greece, Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia, Montenegro, England, Spain, Croatia


THE DRAW

Group A: Russia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Australia
Group B: Brazil, Greece, Ecuador, Uzbekistan
Group C: Colombia, Spain, Serbia, Saudi Arabia
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Senegal, Japan
Group E: France, Switzerland, DR Congo, Mexico
Group F: Belgium, Montenegro, Uruguay, Iran
Group G: Germany, England, USA, Egypt
Group H: Portugal, Iceland, Nigeria, Costa Rica

Holy smoke! That is a next level group of death for the USMNT!

Should we go on? Okay. We’ll try to throw in some upsets and not just go with the chalk. We’re also going to do this once, favor the Yanks, and not look back.

Great news! The U.S. escapes thanks to Harry Redknapp demanding to use 81-times capped Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar for England despite FIFA telling him he would forfeit the tournament. Egypt gets a case of the measles a la the Panthers in “The Mighty Ducks”, since we’re playing out a cinematic string here for our home country. USA advances!

Round of 16
Spain def. Japan
Italy def. Greece
Brazil def. Russia
Argentina def. Colombia
France def. Uruguay
Germany def. Nigeria
Mexico def. Belgium
USA def. Portugal*

Quarterfinals
Italy def. Spain
Brazil def. Argentina
Germany def. France
USA def. Mexico*

Semifinals
Brazil def. Italy
Germany def. USA

Final
Germany def. Brazil

*Allow us this daydream. Thanks.