Russia was placed in the easiest World Cup group by far and people are raising their eyebrows

  • Russia was placed in a remarkably easy World Cup group that also includes Uruguay, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
  • People from around the game raised eyebrows at Russia's good fortune.
  • In the World Cup, the host country is automatically placed in Pot 1 with the top seeds, so the system is actually designed to favor a team like Russia from the start.

 

The draw for the 2018 World Cup has been completed, and one of the eight groups appears to be significantly easier than the others: Group A.

Group A will feature Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Russia, the host country. With an average FIFA World Ranking of 43.75, it's the lowest-ranked cohort of the tournament by a wide margin.

Of course, some of this is by design. While Russia happens to be the lowest-ranked team in the entire field, their host status landed them a spot in Pot 1, ensuring that they would not have to play any of the world's top seven teams in the group stage. But they also got a favorable draw from the other pots — Uruguay was the second-lowest team in Pot 2, Egypt the third-lowest in Pot 3, and Saudi Arabia on the bottom in Pot 4.

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2018 World Cup draw results
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2018 World Cup draw results
A monitor displays group A during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A monitor displays group B during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A monitor displays group C during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A monitor displays group D during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A monitor displays group E during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A monitor displays group F during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A monitor displays group G during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A monitor displays group H during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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Russia and Saudi Arabia, the bottom two in the entire tournament, will play each other in the first match of the World Cup. It will be a strange way to set the tone.

"The opening game is against Saudi Arabia for the Russians," said the ESPN host Dan Thomas. "If it was a proper team that could really thrash [Russia], they could just ruin the whole World Cup for them."

Russia's good fortune was enough to raise eyebrows around the sport. The retired American soccer star and current Fox Sports analyst Landon Donovan was among those who expressed surprise, saying it is a group with "no clear favorite."

"I'm trying to figure out how on Earth did Russia get such an easy [draw]? I just don't know how this could happen," he said sarcastically. "But I think Uruguay probably ends up topping the group. After that ... it's a crapshoot. Russia are ecstatic right now."

Some fans took it a step beyond that, with a number of Twitter users insisting that the draw was fixed to benefit the host country.

World Cup fix tweet@__The_Seeker__/Twitter

World Cup fix tweet@PaulPBaguette/Twitter

There's no evidence that Russia influenced the results in any way — and besides, their probability of drawing one of the three lowest-ranked teams from each pot was just over 5%, making it unlikely but far from impossible. It just goes to show that there's nothing like a little World Cup drama to bring out the sensational side in sports fans.

The World Cup is set to begin on June 14, when Russia and Saudi Arabia will get things started at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

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Inside the 2018 World Cup draw
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Inside the 2018 World Cup draw
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 1, 2017: Draw assistant, Russian Football Union Vice President Nikita Simonyan holds a slip reading Russia at the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the State Kremlin Palace. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
A boy plays with the official ball Telstar 18 at the end of the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15, 2018 in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA DECEMBER 1, 2017: FIFA President Gianni Infantino (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend the Final Draw for 2018 FIFA World Cup at the State Kremlin Palace. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Nikolsky\TASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 01: Russian President Vladimir Putin (left), former Russian football player Nikita Simonyan (center) and Brazil football player Pele (right) before the draw ceremony on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 1, 2017: Retired Brazilian football star Pele ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup final draw at the State Kremlin Palace. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Nikolsky\TASS via Getty Images)
National team coaches pose on stage after the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows the pots ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15, 2018 in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Yuri KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 01: The final draw of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 in the Concert Hall of Kremlin Palace on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Dmitry Lebedev/Kommersant via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) toasts with football legends, draw assistants and other attendees ahead of the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 01, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Alexey NIKOLSKY (Photo credit should read ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 01: A general view during the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Russian singer Alsou performs during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15, 2018 in 11 Russian cities. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 01: The World Cup trophy is seen during the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
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