Wales will find out their 2022 World Cup group stage opponents this afternoon – if they qualify for the tournament.
Rob Page’s men beat Austria in their World Cup play-off semi-final tie last week to set up a final clash with either Scotland or Ukraine in June. All three teams will be in the hat for the draw, which will take place on Friday afternoon in host country Qatar.
Ahead of the draw, we take a look at the best and worst case scenarios Wales could face, with anticipation of a tournament the Red Dragons haven’t played since 1958. Wales are in the pot four, alongside Cameroon, Canada, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Scotland/Ukraine, Costa Rica/New Zealand, Australia/UAE/Peru.
READ MORE: How the World Cup draw works and why Wales are in pot four
A drawn ball that includes Wales will also include Ukraine and Scotland, as one of the three teams is always able to qualify for the tournament. With FIFA unable to determine the official ranking of teams in the play-offs, all teams still in contention to qualify were placed in pot four. The delay was caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The draw takes place in Doha today, from 5pm UK time. Read more about how the draw works here.
Qatar, Brazil, Belgium, France, Argentina, England, Spain, Portugal.
Mexico, United States, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Uruguay, Switzerland, Croatia.
Senegal, Iran, Japan, Morocco, Serbia, Poland, South Korea, Tunisia.
Canada, Cameroon, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Scotland/Ukraine/Wales, Australia/UAE/Peru, Costa Rica/New Zealand.
Eight groups of four will be drawn from these pots.
How do jars work?
The first pot consists of the seven highest ranked teams, plus Qatar which is automatically placed in this group due to host privileges. The tournament’s eight groups will have at least one European team, with five groups having two. Pots are ranked by seed, so pot one represents the highest ranked seeds, up to pot four. Teams seeded 8-15 are in Pot 2, 16-23 are in Pot 3, and Pot 4 includes the teams that qualified in positions 24-28, as well as the other play-off contenders.
Wales would have been included in pot three solely based on their FIFA ranking of 18th, however, they are placed in pot four as they are still in the play-offs.
The best scenario
Qatar (ranking: 51st)
An evidence. Compared to the seven other top-ranked teams in this pot, drawing against Qatar would be an incredible chance for Wales. One of the lowest-ranked teams in the competition, Qatar are 51st according to FIFA, but qualify automatically due to host privileges in the first pot.
Head coach Felix Sanchez started his coaching career with Barcelona’s youth teams, then rose through the ranks in Qatar’s U19s and 23s before taking charge of the first team. With a squad of players mainly playing their national football in Qatar, there aren’t really many household names there. Abdelkarim Hassan has over 100 caps for the Qatar national team and won the Asian Footballer of the Year award in 2018.
United States (ranking: 15th)
From pot two, we think the United States is Wales’ best bet. Ranked 15th, they will be no mean feat, but they are the best Wales can hope for. Despite a loss to Costa Rica, further results on Wednesday meant the United States had enough to qualify.
The team had been teased after celebrating a game too early on Sunday following their 5-1 win over Panama. The players unveiled a ‘QUALIFIED’ banner, although their place in Qatar has yet to be confirmed. Manager Gregg Berhalter coached Columbus Crew and was an assistant at LA Galaxy before taking the national team job. He has led the team since 2018.
Christian Pulisic is the first name to stand out on an American squad sheet as the Chelsea man has been dubbed ‘Captain America’ by fans and players alike.
Tunisia (ranking: 35th)
After drawing Mali 0-0 at home on Tuesday, Tunisia secured their place in the competition. The team qualified for the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in January, but were eliminated after losing 1-0 to Burkina Faso.
Head coach Jalel Kadri has not lacked clubs in 20 years of management. He oversaw 24 different teams, including the Tunisia Under-20s and a stint as assistant manager of the men’s team. One of the most notable names for EFL fans would be Mohamed Drager, a Nottingham Forest right-back currently on loan at Swiss club Luzern.
The worst case scenario
Brazil (ranking: 1st)
Kicking off the nightmare scenario this afternoon, who better to start than the top-ranked team in the competition? Alisson, Telles, Fabinho, Richarlison, Coutinho. Yeah, that wouldn’t be an easy game. Manager Tite has been in charge of Brazil since 2016, after two six-year spells with Brazilian side Corinthians. Notably, England is also in this pot. What a draw that would be.
Netherlands (ranking: 10th)
Pot two could necessarily result in some nightmarish draws for Wales, the worst of which could be the Netherlands. Under former Manchester United head coach Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands topped their qualifying group, ahead of second-placed Turkey.
None other than arguably the best centre-back in the world, Virgil Van Dijk, is the team’s captain. He is joined by other big names such as Daley Blind, Memphis Depay and Matthijs de Ligt. So maybe that’s the one to try to avoid.
Senegal (ranking: 20th)
Finally, from the lowest of the three pots Wales will be drawn against, we have chosen Senegal as the worst-case draw. After drawing 0-0 with Mo Salah’s Egypt in the AFCON final, Senegal won the tournament after winning 4-2 on penalties.
The first name that comes to mind when you think of Senegal will probably be Sadio Mane. However, they are far from a one-man team. Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, Leicester’s Nampalys Mendy, Bayern Munich’s Bouna Sarr and Olympiacos’ Pape Abou Cisse aren’t exactly names to miss on a squad roster either. Former Portsmouth defender Aliou Cisse has been in charge of the Senegalese national team since 2015.
Join our live blog today to find out who Wales will actually be drawing and comment below on who you want to see come out of the hat.