Looking for this World Cup’s ‘Group of Death’? It doesn’t exist anymore. Here’s why…

Every time it is drawn for the World Cup, the immediate task begins to be who is the “ball of death”.

But it’s boring because it’s almost non-existent these days. Changes to the tournament structure mean the four genuine competitors are less likely to join together.

However, this World Cup is a slight exception. As to why, here is a brief history of how the group of death gradually disappeared.

There are three in the game. The first element is expansion into the tournament.

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The term “group of death” was first coined in 1970, when there were only 16 teams in the tournament. (From 1982 there were 24 Parties, from 1998 there were 32, and from 2026 there will be 48.).

So what kind of water is it? For this tournament, 50 percent of the sides would not even have qualified for the tournament if the concept of “group of death” had been defined in the first place.

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There are perhaps as many contenders for each World Cup; about eight to 10 parties with a real chance of winning the competition. They were once divided into four parts, then into six, and now into eight. The probability of two — or even three — in the same group has steadily decreased.

The second importance is increased by the various confederations spread. This is not the same as the mere expansion of competition.

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Historically, genuine World Cup competitors have been drawn almost exclusively from Europe and South America.

No African nation has ever reached the semi-finals. No team from Oceania has ever reached the quarter-finals. Only one Asian side has ever reached the semi-finals – South Korea on home soil in 2002. And only one North American team has ever reached the semi-finals, the USA back in 1830.

Bobby Charlton


England’s Bobby Charlton battles Brazil’s Clodoaldo in the original “Group of Death” in 1970 (Photo: Syndication/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

And while the South American contingent for each tournament is roughly expanded in line with the higher nations, it does not have a European quota.

UEFA nations in the World Cup

Tournament UEFA nations

1930

31%

1934

75%

1938

87%

1950

62%

1954

75%

1958

69%

1962

63%

1966

63%

1970

56%

1974

56%

1978

62%

1982

58%

1986

58%

1990

58%

1994

54%

1998

47%

2002

47%

2006

44%

2010

41%

2014

41%

2018

44%

2022

41%

FIFA regional representation is totally superior in terms of quality. This is, however, a The world A cup But this also means that the higher quality is weaker; It means Italy don’t qualify when Saudi Arabia and Tunisia do. It’s fair enough, but it’s also reasonable to say that the reigning champions of Europe would be the most obvious candidate for any potential group of death.

In fact, the most immortal group in a major tournament came not to the World Cup, but to Euro ’96. It ranked Germany (second in the world), Russia (third), Italy (seventh) and the Czech Republic (10th), and also produced two eventual finalists.

Third, and perhaps most relevant, is the seed system.

Let’s go back to that first death group in 1970. It is no coincidence that the 1970 World Cup produced that group of death, rather than 1962 or 1966. For these two tournaments, the draw was seeded. But after no agreement could be reached on the seeding process before 1970, the leadership was open.

The result? The two most recent winners of the competition, England and Brazil, were drawn in the same group along with the runners-up from 1962, Czechoslovakia. Romania’s reports were less intimidating, although they beat Czechoslovakia and lost to England and Brazil by one goal, so they’re barely away. FIFA decided never to let this happen again and everything was pulled when it was sown.

The seeds took different forms, but the system we cut into pot 1 included the strongest sides according to world order (more hosts), and everyone else in purely geographical cups (rather than seeded further according to rankings).

Therefore, it was possible for one group to contain the top seed, plus a strong European side, a strong South American side and a strong African side, even if all the top 16 nations in the tournament were numbered.

That system was used until 2014. As of 2018, things have changed. But the pull is sown throughout, and the pots are determined according to the order of the world rather than according to geography.

This meant that the possible Immortal group for the 2018 World Cup was significantly less lethal than in previous years. In fact, the third strongest team in the immortal-possible group was weaker than the fourth-strongest team from the immortal-possible groups in previous tournaments, according to the world ranking.

Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4

1998

Germany (1)

England (6)

Colombia (9)

Mexico (11)

2002

Spain (1)

Mexico (9)

England (10)

Paraguay (14)

2006

Brazil (1)

USA (9)

Dutch (10)

Paraguay (15)

2010

Brazil (1)

France (9)

USA (10)

Cameroon (14)

2014

Spain (1)

Dutch (8)

Chile (12)

USA (13)

2018

Germany (1)

of Spain (8).

Costa Rica (22).

Nigeria (41)

2022

Brazil (1)

Mexico (9)

Senegal (20)

Wales (18*)

A further complication with the 2022 World Cup is still indicated by that asterisk.

Because some matches were absolutely postponed due to the pandemic – and the war in Ukraine postponed the away games against Scotland and Wales – the leadership of the 2022 World Cup took place before knowing the identity of the three teams when they did not play off. equal Therefore, those parts of the story are placed in Aulularia, regardless of their level.

This is particularly relevant in the case of Wales, who defeated Ukraine to secure the place. If the play-off had taken place before the draw, the order of Wales 18 18 would have made them a pot 3 side (and indeed a pot 2 side if not the 51st-ranked army of Qatar made in Pot 1). But they were in Aulularia IV.

So which group Wales would be drawn in would be tougher than FIFA anticipated. Outside England (ranked fifth), the USA (15th), and Iran (21st) were ranked. That cannot be compared too fatally with 1970, for example, but it is actually much stronger than four years ago, and that without taking into account the rivalry between England and Wales and the tension between the USA and Iran.

Whether you’re looking at a group of death. But it’s likely deadlier than any World Cup group we’ll see again because of the expansion to 48 World Cup teams by 2026, combined with increased geographic spread.

FIFA intends to accommodate the 48-team tournament using 16 groups of three, with two sides advancing to the podium stage. That has two implications for powerful death groups.

First, on the (highly unlikely) assumption that a tournament that includes the top 48 sides in the world and the draw is seeded all the way through each side at 33 or below. Probably, once you account for the quotas of each confederation, it seems more likely that the average pot rank of 3 sides would be in the 50s or 60s.

Second, and perhaps more significantly, when two-thirds of each gender is advancing, things are less bleak. A 67 percent chance of development simply doesn’t feel very risky. By 2026 the concept of group death will be definitively dead.

(Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)



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