The FCB stars’ roads to Russia
Germany celebrated their World Cup triumph in Brazil little more than a year ago, but the reigning world champions already know which nations they will have to beat if they are to earn the chance of defending their crown three years from now. And in the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup Russia, held on Saturday afternoon at Constantine Palace in St Petersburg, the Germans were handed a manageable qualifying group. fcbayern.de examines the Bayern stars' roads to the finals.
In the race for the 13 starting berths, 52 teams were drawn into seven groups of six nations and two groups of five. The nine group winners qualify automatically for the 2018 tournament, with the best eight runners-up contesting play-offs in November 2017 for the four remaining places. Hosts Russia automatically claim the 14th European place. The group stage matches commence in September 2016.
Germany and their four FCB men Manuel Neuer , Jérôme Boateng , Mario Götze and Thomas Müller can be very satisfied with the draw. The world champions are the seeds in Group C and will play the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino. By contrast, Arjen Robben and the Netherlands face a daunting challenge in Group A against France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg.
Group D with David Alaba and Austria also looks tricky as the Munich man will face Wales, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova and Georgia. Group E features a head-to-head between Bayern stars as Robert Lewandowski and Poland go up against Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Denmark. The other hopefuls in the section areMontenegro, Armenia and Kazakhstan.
FC Bayern's Spanish contingent Juan Bernat , Thiago and Javi Martínez will need to be on their guard in Group G as they must overcome four-time world champions Italy as well as Albania, Israel, Macedonia and minnows Liechtenstein.
Following the normal practice in South America, all ten nations play each other home and away in a league system. The top four qualify directly for Russia, with the nation in fifth contesting a play-off against the best qualifier from Oceania. Brazil's Douglas Costa and imminent Bayern signing Arturo Vidal from Copa America winners Chile open their qualifying campaigns later this year in September.
November 2015 marks the start of qualifying for Mehdi Benatia as Morocco go in search of one of Africa's five qualifying places. In a preliminary elimination round a field of 40 will be reduced to 20, who then contest five groups of four with the winners progressing to the finals. To reach the group stage, the Moroccans must beat Equatorial Guinea in a home-and-away tie.