The seedings for the 2018 World Cup finals draw can now be confirmed after Peru booked the 32nd and last place at next summer’s tournament in Russia.
FIFA is using its World Ranking which was published last month to seed all four pots for the draw, a departure from recent tournaments when only the top eight nations were seeded with other pots grouped by confederation.
The draw will take place on Friday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. local time in Moscow (3 p.m. GMT / 10 a.m. ET).
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
One team from each pot is drawn into a group, making eight groups of four nations. There can be no more than two teams from Europe in any one pot, and no more than one nation from any other confederation.
The nations in pot 1 were already set last month, while Croatia were the beneficiaries of Italy being the only seeded team not to make it through the European playoffs, bumped up to pot 2 as a result.
The decision to seed all four pots by FIFA Ranking is of great benefit to Mexico. In most recent tournaments, Mexico were grouped with fellow CONCACAF nations and Asia teams (as well as New Zealand in 2010). That meant they were guaranteed to be drawn against a seeded nation and at least one European team.
In 2010, Mexico were drawn against both Uruguay and France as well as hosts South Africa, and in 2014 they were once again handed the host nation, Brazil, along with Croatia and Cameroon. They advanced from the group stage both times, but they could expect a kinder draw this time. While they will still have to face one of the seeds, it is far more likely that they will avoid being drawn against a strong European team (in addition to one they could get from Pot 1).
But the reverse is true for Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Serbia, who now face being dealt a tougher group with teams from the top two pots, compared to when the draw was split by confederation.
There would have been very little difference to the draw pots if FIFA had used its upcoming November ranking, with only France & Spain and Denmark & Uruguay swapping pots.