Things do not look quite so straightforward in Group A, where the Netherlands and France face tricky opponents in Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg.
Defending World Cup champion Germany and the Czech Republic are the favorites in Group C, while Wales, Austria and Serbia were inserted in Group D, Romania, Denmark and Poland in Group E, England and Slovakia in Group F, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece in Group H, and Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine and Turkey in Group I.
The United States will initially have to finish in the top two of a group which also includes Trinidad and Tobago to make it to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal shouldn’t be too concerned about Group B, which also features Switzerland, Hungary, the Faeroe Islands, Latvia, and Andorra.
Spain, world champions in 2010, and Italy, who won the last of their four titles in 2006, are favourites to fill the top two slots in Group G after being paired with Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein.
In turn, Putin thanked Blatter for focusing his attentions on the draw despite the corruption scandal enveloping his organisation.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced on Saturday that football’s governing body had passed a resolution offering Russian Federation full support for holding the 2018 World Cup.
“We see what is happening around football, and I know what you think about it”, Putin told Blatter through a translator.
The extra time let FIFA officials relax a little longer after weeks of being rocked by fallout from the May 27 arrest of senior colleagues in Zurich, and unleashing of investigations into alleged racketeering, bribery, and corruption implicating football and marketing officials.
Financial Fair Play rules designed to cut club losses have been eased slightly this month to give clubs more freedom to spend on players within budget.
Manchester City has been spending heavily again, including 49 million pounds ($76 million) on winger Raheem Sterling from Liverpool, now that it is no longer subject to FFP restrictions. Unlike previous qualifying tournaments where the fixtures were pre-determined, the fixtures were determined by draw.
ST PETERSBURG • England manager Roy Hodgson believes his side’s pairing with Scotland for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers will provide clashes of an intensity rarely seen in the preliminary stages.
The playoff draw that determines which confederations face each other for the final spots is scheduled for 6:18 p.m.
Then came the turn of the CONCACAF zone (North and Central America).
Because South America competes as a one 10-nation group, the draw determines merely the schedule.