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Arsenal's best ever north London derbies against Tottenham: ranked 

The main criteria used were importance of the match, entertainment value, and margin of victory. Let the debates ensue... 10. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, April 2001 An FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford made this a particularly spicy encounter, as 60,000 supporters made the journey up the M6 to watch the two rivals compete for a place in the Cardiff final. Twice in the previous 10 years the teams had faced each other in FA Cup semi-finals, with a win apiece, and they had met in a league match just a week before, which Arsenal won 2-0. Patrick Vieira celebrates making it 1-1 against Spurs in April 2001  In Manchester it was Spurs who made the stronger start and went ahead through Gary Doherty’s 14th-minute header, but not for the first or last time against Arsenal they could not hold onto their lead. Patrick Vieira headed an equaliser in the 33rd minute before Robert Pires secured the win with a second-half tap in. The match was also significant because it was the last played by Sol Campbell for Tottenham before his acrimonious move across the Seven Sisters divide three months later.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Silvinho, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord (Cole), Henry 9. Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004 The highest-scoring north London derby ever was a ding-dong affair at White Hart Lane that featured nine different goalscorers. Tottenham went ahead through Noureddine Naybet, but Thierry Henry equalised on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal went ahead through a Lauren penalty in the 55th minute. The two teams then shared six goals, with Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires all scoring, as the visitors eventually clung on to win a hugely entertaining match. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires), Bergkamp (Van Persie), Henry Lauren celebrates scoring a penalty at Spurs in 2004 wit Thierry Henry  8. Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0, April 1993 Having suffered the trauma of being beaten by Spurs two years earlier in the FA Cup semi-final, this was a huge win and test of nerve for Arsenal. It was also a classic of the George Graham genre, with chances few and far between at Wembley before Tony Adams trotted forward unnoticed and nodded home Paul Merson’s free-kick in the 80th minute. Adams Spurs pushed for the equaliser and Arsenal were up against it when Lee Dixon was sent off late on, but they held on for the win and went on to lift the Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. The following season they won the new defunct European Cup Winners Cup, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became the supporters’ war cry.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Hillier, Merson, Parlour (Smith), Selley, Campbell (Morrow), Wright 7. Arsenal 3 Tottenham 0, November 2002 A comprehensive win for Arsenal, and a match that featured one of the most iconic north London derby goals ever. There appeared to be little danger when Thierry Henry picked the ball up deep in his own half, but 11 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, as the striker flew past Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr and Ledley King, and buried a finish past Kasey Keller. The statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates commemorates his celebration after scoring against Spurs in 2002 Henry celebrated the goal with an almost as long sprint towards the Tottenham fans, and faced towards them as bile poured down from the stands. Henry revealed years later that he has a framed photo of the Spurs’ fans faces contorted in anger and despair as he had slid on his knees in front of them. After Henry’s 13th-minute goal, the match was effectively over as a contest when Simon Davies was harshly sent off 14 minutes later. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord added second-half goals, but the match will always be remembered for Henry’s extraordinary effort. Almost as remarkable though is that he was replaced in the 75th minute by Francis Jeffers. Talk about rubbing salt in the Tottenham wounds.  Arsenal team: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira (Van Bronckhorst), Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Pires), Henry (Jeffers) 6. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, November 2012 Arsenal’s second 5-2 win against Tottenham of 2012was almost as bonkers as the first, and helped by a mindless Emmanuel Adebayor red card for a flying lunge at Santi Cazorla in the 18th minute. Up until then Spurs had looked by far the better team and lead through an Adebayor goal, but the sending off proved to be a huge turning point as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1 to the hosts. Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal in Arsenal's 5-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium Gareth Bale pulled one back, before Theo Walcott scored in stoppage time to ensure that Arsenal had improbably recorded a second 5-2 win over their loathed rivals in the same calander year. “It’s happened again, it’s happened again” sang the gleeful Arsenal supporters, as they revelled in another sensational derby victory. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere (Ramsey), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Podolski (Santos) 5. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012 The first of two 5-2 wins over Tottenham in the space of nine months was the marginally more extraordinary. Spurs arrived at the Emirates with a 10-point lead over their north London rivals, with the two teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Harry Redknapp’s team quickly established a 2-0 lead, as Louis Saha scored via a deflection and then former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor kept his cool from the penalty spot. Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Spurs in 2012 Arsenal, who had been hammered 4-0 by Milan and knocked out of the FA Cup by Sunderland in their previous two matches, looked down and out. But goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie just before the break, followed by a Tomas Rosicky tap-in and a Theo Walcott double in the space of 17 breathless second-half minutes completely turned the match on its head. Arsenal went on to finish above Tottenham by a single point to claim the final Champions League spot. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Song, Walcott, (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Benayoun (Gervinho), Van Persie 4. Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2, March 1987 After the sides could not be separated by two legs, this League Cup semi-final went to a replay at White Hart Lane (the venue was decided by a coin toss). Tottenham went 1-0 up - they had led 2-0 on aggregate in the second leg, and reportedly the stadium announcer gave information over the public address system about ticket details for the final - but again failed to hold onto their lead.     Rocastle Charlie Nicholas was forced off through injury, and his replacement Ian Allinson came on to score an 82nd minute equaliser with an excellent turn and near-post finish. David Rocastle then scored from close range at the death, and Arsenal were in the final, which they improbably won 2-1 against Liverpool. Arsenal team: Lukic, Anderson, Sansom, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Davis, Quinn, Nicholas (Allinson), Hayes 3. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2, April 2004 Not a win but this match had to be included given its significance. After Chelsea lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, Arsenal needed just a point to be crowned champions at White Hart Lane for the second time in their history. En route to an undefeated league season, Arsenal flew into a first-half lead with sumptuous goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires. Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane Jamie Redknapp’s excellent long-range strike and a late Robbie Keane penalty ensured Spurs avoided defeat, but it was not enough to prevent their bitter rivals claiming the title and maintaining their unbeaten run. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Parlour (Edu), Vieira, Silva, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Reyes) 2. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5, December 1978 Arsenal’s biggest post-War win over Spurs came just two days before Christmas and was an ideal early present for the away fans at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won promotion to the top flight the previous season but were a decent side and would go on to finish mid-table with a team featuring the Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. But on this occasion they were no match for an unstoppable Arsenal, who romped to a 5-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alan Sunderland (who would go on to score the winner in the FA Cup final the following May) and goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady. John Motson was in raptures at Brady’s wonderful swerving shot from the edge of the box, and memorably shouted "Look at that. Oh, look at that," as the Northern Irishman applied the coup de grace to a superlative individual performance. Arsenal team: Jennings, Rice, Walford, Price, O'Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix 1. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1, May 1971  It doesn’t get much better than beating your fiercest rivals in their own backyard to claim the title, and that’s exactly what Arsenal did 45 years ago. Bertie Mee's side travelled to White Hart Lane needing a win or a 0-0 draw to win their first championship in 18 years, knowing that a score draw would hand the title to Leeds on goal average. Arsenal On a nerve-shredding night in north London, Arsenal eventually scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute through Ray Kennedy's superb header. Five days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final to claim their first ever double. Arsenal team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George Arsenal v Tottenham widget

Arsenal's best ever north London derbies against Tottenham: ranked 

The main criteria used were importance of the match, entertainment value, and margin of victory. Let the debates ensue... 10. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, April 2001 An FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford made this a particularly spicy encounter, as 60,000 supporters made the journey up the M6 to watch the two rivals compete for a place in the Cardiff final. Twice in the previous 10 years the teams had faced each other in FA Cup semi-finals, with a win apiece, and they had met in a league match just a week before, which Arsenal won 2-0. Patrick Vieira celebrates making it 1-1 against Spurs in April 2001  In Manchester it was Spurs who made the stronger start and went ahead through Gary Doherty’s 14th-minute header, but not for the first or last time against Arsenal they could not hold onto their lead. Patrick Vieira headed an equaliser in the 33rd minute before Robert Pires secured the win with a second-half tap in. The match was also significant because it was the last played by Sol Campbell for Tottenham before his acrimonious move across the Seven Sisters divide three months later.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Silvinho, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord (Cole), Henry 9. Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004 The highest-scoring north London derby ever was a ding-dong affair at White Hart Lane that featured nine different goalscorers. Tottenham went ahead through Noureddine Naybet, but Thierry Henry equalised on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal went ahead through a Lauren penalty in the 55th minute. The two teams then shared six goals, with Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires all scoring, as the visitors eventually clung on to win a hugely entertaining match. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires), Bergkamp (Van Persie), Henry Lauren celebrates scoring a penalty at Spurs in 2004 wit Thierry Henry  8. Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0, April 1993 Having suffered the trauma of being beaten by Spurs two years earlier in the FA Cup semi-final, this was a huge win and test of nerve for Arsenal. It was also a classic of the George Graham genre, with chances few and far between at Wembley before Tony Adams trotted forward unnoticed and nodded home Paul Merson’s free-kick in the 80th minute. Adams Spurs pushed for the equaliser and Arsenal were up against it when Lee Dixon was sent off late on, but they held on for the win and went on to lift the Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. The following season they won the new defunct European Cup Winners Cup, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became the supporters’ war cry.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Hillier, Merson, Parlour (Smith), Selley, Campbell (Morrow), Wright 7. Arsenal 3 Tottenham 0, November 2002 A comprehensive win for Arsenal, and a match that featured one of the most iconic north London derby goals ever. There appeared to be little danger when Thierry Henry picked the ball up deep in his own half, but 11 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, as the striker flew past Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr and Ledley King, and buried a finish past Kasey Keller. The statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates commemorates his celebration after scoring against Spurs in 2002 Henry celebrated the goal with an almost as long sprint towards the Tottenham fans, and faced towards them as bile poured down from the stands. Henry revealed years later that he has a framed photo of the Spurs’ fans faces contorted in anger and despair as he had slid on his knees in front of them. After Henry’s 13th-minute goal, the match was effectively over as a contest when Simon Davies was harshly sent off 14 minutes later. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord added second-half goals, but the match will always be remembered for Henry’s extraordinary effort. Almost as remarkable though is that he was replaced in the 75th minute by Francis Jeffers. Talk about rubbing salt in the Tottenham wounds.  Arsenal team: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira (Van Bronckhorst), Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Pires), Henry (Jeffers) 6. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, November 2012 Arsenal’s second 5-2 win against Tottenham of 2012was almost as bonkers as the first, and helped by a mindless Emmanuel Adebayor red card for a flying lunge at Santi Cazorla in the 18th minute. Up until then Spurs had looked by far the better team and lead through an Adebayor goal, but the sending off proved to be a huge turning point as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1 to the hosts. Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal in Arsenal's 5-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium Gareth Bale pulled one back, before Theo Walcott scored in stoppage time to ensure that Arsenal had improbably recorded a second 5-2 win over their loathed rivals in the same calander year. “It’s happened again, it’s happened again” sang the gleeful Arsenal supporters, as they revelled in another sensational derby victory. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere (Ramsey), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Podolski (Santos) 5. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012 The first of two 5-2 wins over Tottenham in the space of nine months was the marginally more extraordinary. Spurs arrived at the Emirates with a 10-point lead over their north London rivals, with the two teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Harry Redknapp’s team quickly established a 2-0 lead, as Louis Saha scored via a deflection and then former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor kept his cool from the penalty spot. Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Spurs in 2012 Arsenal, who had been hammered 4-0 by Milan and knocked out of the FA Cup by Sunderland in their previous two matches, looked down and out. But goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie just before the break, followed by a Tomas Rosicky tap-in and a Theo Walcott double in the space of 17 breathless second-half minutes completely turned the match on its head. Arsenal went on to finish above Tottenham by a single point to claim the final Champions League spot. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Song, Walcott, (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Benayoun (Gervinho), Van Persie 4. Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2, March 1987 After the sides could not be separated by two legs, this League Cup semi-final went to a replay at White Hart Lane (the venue was decided by a coin toss). Tottenham went 1-0 up - they had led 2-0 on aggregate in the second leg, and reportedly the stadium announcer gave information over the public address system about ticket details for the final - but again failed to hold onto their lead.     Rocastle Charlie Nicholas was forced off through injury, and his replacement Ian Allinson came on to score an 82nd minute equaliser with an excellent turn and near-post finish. David Rocastle then scored from close range at the death, and Arsenal were in the final, which they improbably won 2-1 against Liverpool. Arsenal team: Lukic, Anderson, Sansom, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Davis, Quinn, Nicholas (Allinson), Hayes 3. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2, April 2004 Not a win but this match had to be included given its significance. After Chelsea lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, Arsenal needed just a point to be crowned champions at White Hart Lane for the second time in their history. En route to an undefeated league season, Arsenal flew into a first-half lead with sumptuous goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires. Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane Jamie Redknapp’s excellent long-range strike and a late Robbie Keane penalty ensured Spurs avoided defeat, but it was not enough to prevent their bitter rivals claiming the title and maintaining their unbeaten run. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Parlour (Edu), Vieira, Silva, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Reyes) 2. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5, December 1978 Arsenal’s biggest post-War win over Spurs came just two days before Christmas and was an ideal early present for the away fans at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won promotion to the top flight the previous season but were a decent side and would go on to finish mid-table with a team featuring the Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. But on this occasion they were no match for an unstoppable Arsenal, who romped to a 5-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alan Sunderland (who would go on to score the winner in the FA Cup final the following May) and goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady. John Motson was in raptures at Brady’s wonderful swerving shot from the edge of the box, and memorably shouted "Look at that. Oh, look at that," as the Northern Irishman applied the coup de grace to a superlative individual performance. Arsenal team: Jennings, Rice, Walford, Price, O'Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix 1. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1, May 1971  It doesn’t get much better than beating your fiercest rivals in their own backyard to claim the title, and that’s exactly what Arsenal did 45 years ago. Bertie Mee's side travelled to White Hart Lane needing a win or a 0-0 draw to win their first championship in 18 years, knowing that a score draw would hand the title to Leeds on goal average. Arsenal On a nerve-shredding night in north London, Arsenal eventually scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute through Ray Kennedy's superb header. Five days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final to claim their first ever double. Arsenal team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George Arsenal v Tottenham widget

Arsenal's best ever north London derbies against Tottenham: ranked 

The main criteria used were importance of the match, entertainment value, and margin of victory. Let the debates ensue... 10. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, April 2001 An FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford made this a particularly spicy encounter, as 60,000 supporters made the journey up the M6 to watch the two rivals compete for a place in the Cardiff final. Twice in the previous 10 years the teams had faced each other in FA Cup semi-finals, with a win apiece, and they had met in a league match just a week before, which Arsenal won 2-0. Patrick Vieira celebrates making it 1-1 against Spurs in April 2001  In Manchester it was Spurs who made the stronger start and went ahead through Gary Doherty’s 14th-minute header, but not for the first or last time against Arsenal they could not hold onto their lead. Patrick Vieira headed an equaliser in the 33rd minute before Robert Pires secured the win with a second-half tap in. The match was also significant because it was the last played by Sol Campbell for Tottenham before his acrimonious move across the Seven Sisters divide three months later.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Silvinho, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord (Cole), Henry 9. Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004 The highest-scoring north London derby ever was a ding-dong affair at White Hart Lane that featured nine different goalscorers. Tottenham went ahead through Noureddine Naybet, but Thierry Henry equalised on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal went ahead through a Lauren penalty in the 55th minute. The two teams then shared six goals, with Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires all scoring, as the visitors eventually clung on to win a hugely entertaining match. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires), Bergkamp (Van Persie), Henry Lauren celebrates scoring a penalty at Spurs in 2004 wit Thierry Henry  8. Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0, April 1993 Having suffered the trauma of being beaten by Spurs two years earlier in the FA Cup semi-final, this was a huge win and test of nerve for Arsenal. It was also a classic of the George Graham genre, with chances few and far between at Wembley before Tony Adams trotted forward unnoticed and nodded home Paul Merson’s free-kick in the 80th minute. Adams Spurs pushed for the equaliser and Arsenal were up against it when Lee Dixon was sent off late on, but they held on for the win and went on to lift the Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. The following season they won the new defunct European Cup Winners Cup, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became the supporters’ war cry.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Hillier, Merson, Parlour (Smith), Selley, Campbell (Morrow), Wright 7. Arsenal 3 Tottenham 0, November 2002 A comprehensive win for Arsenal, and a match that featured one of the most iconic north London derby goals ever. There appeared to be little danger when Thierry Henry picked the ball up deep in his own half, but 11 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, as the striker flew past Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr and Ledley King, and buried a finish past Kasey Keller. The statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates commemorates his celebration after scoring against Spurs in 2002 Henry celebrated the goal with an almost as long sprint towards the Tottenham fans, and faced towards them as bile poured down from the stands. Henry revealed years later that he has a framed photo of the Spurs’ fans faces contorted in anger and despair as he had slid on his knees in front of them. After Henry’s 13th-minute goal, the match was effectively over as a contest when Simon Davies was harshly sent off 14 minutes later. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord added second-half goals, but the match will always be remembered for Henry’s extraordinary effort. Almost as remarkable though is that he was replaced in the 75th minute by Francis Jeffers. Talk about rubbing salt in the Tottenham wounds.  Arsenal team: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira (Van Bronckhorst), Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Pires), Henry (Jeffers) 6. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, November 2012 Arsenal’s second 5-2 win against Tottenham of 2012was almost as bonkers as the first, and helped by a mindless Emmanuel Adebayor red card for a flying lunge at Santi Cazorla in the 18th minute. Up until then Spurs had looked by far the better team and lead through an Adebayor goal, but the sending off proved to be a huge turning point as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1 to the hosts. Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal in Arsenal's 5-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium Gareth Bale pulled one back, before Theo Walcott scored in stoppage time to ensure that Arsenal had improbably recorded a second 5-2 win over their loathed rivals in the same calander year. “It’s happened again, it’s happened again” sang the gleeful Arsenal supporters, as they revelled in another sensational derby victory. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere (Ramsey), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Podolski (Santos) 5. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012 The first of two 5-2 wins over Tottenham in the space of nine months was the marginally more extraordinary. Spurs arrived at the Emirates with a 10-point lead over their north London rivals, with the two teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Harry Redknapp’s team quickly established a 2-0 lead, as Louis Saha scored via a deflection and then former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor kept his cool from the penalty spot. Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Spurs in 2012 Arsenal, who had been hammered 4-0 by Milan and knocked out of the FA Cup by Sunderland in their previous two matches, looked down and out. But goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie just before the break, followed by a Tomas Rosicky tap-in and a Theo Walcott double in the space of 17 breathless second-half minutes completely turned the match on its head. Arsenal went on to finish above Tottenham by a single point to claim the final Champions League spot. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Song, Walcott, (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Benayoun (Gervinho), Van Persie 4. Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2, March 1987 After the sides could not be separated by two legs, this League Cup semi-final went to a replay at White Hart Lane (the venue was decided by a coin toss). Tottenham went 1-0 up - they had led 2-0 on aggregate in the second leg, and reportedly the stadium announcer gave information over the public address system about ticket details for the final - but again failed to hold onto their lead.     Rocastle Charlie Nicholas was forced off through injury, and his replacement Ian Allinson came on to score an 82nd minute equaliser with an excellent turn and near-post finish. David Rocastle then scored from close range at the death, and Arsenal were in the final, which they improbably won 2-1 against Liverpool. Arsenal team: Lukic, Anderson, Sansom, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Davis, Quinn, Nicholas (Allinson), Hayes 3. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2, April 2004 Not a win but this match had to be included given its significance. After Chelsea lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, Arsenal needed just a point to be crowned champions at White Hart Lane for the second time in their history. En route to an undefeated league season, Arsenal flew into a first-half lead with sumptuous goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires. Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane Jamie Redknapp’s excellent long-range strike and a late Robbie Keane penalty ensured Spurs avoided defeat, but it was not enough to prevent their bitter rivals claiming the title and maintaining their unbeaten run. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Parlour (Edu), Vieira, Silva, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Reyes) 2. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5, December 1978 Arsenal’s biggest post-War win over Spurs came just two days before Christmas and was an ideal early present for the away fans at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won promotion to the top flight the previous season but were a decent side and would go on to finish mid-table with a team featuring the Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. But on this occasion they were no match for an unstoppable Arsenal, who romped to a 5-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alan Sunderland (who would go on to score the winner in the FA Cup final the following May) and goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady. John Motson was in raptures at Brady’s wonderful swerving shot from the edge of the box, and memorably shouted "Look at that. Oh, look at that," as the Northern Irishman applied the coup de grace to a superlative individual performance. Arsenal team: Jennings, Rice, Walford, Price, O'Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix 1. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1, May 1971  It doesn’t get much better than beating your fiercest rivals in their own backyard to claim the title, and that’s exactly what Arsenal did 45 years ago. Bertie Mee's side travelled to White Hart Lane needing a win or a 0-0 draw to win their first championship in 18 years, knowing that a score draw would hand the title to Leeds on goal average. Arsenal On a nerve-shredding night in north London, Arsenal eventually scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute through Ray Kennedy's superb header. Five days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final to claim their first ever double. Arsenal team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George Arsenal v Tottenham widget

Arsenal's best ever north London derbies against Tottenham: ranked 

The main criteria used were importance of the match, entertainment value, and margin of victory. Let the debates ensue... 10. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, April 2001 An FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford made this a particularly spicy encounter, as 60,000 supporters made the journey up the M6 to watch the two rivals compete for a place in the Cardiff final. Twice in the previous 10 years the teams had faced each other in FA Cup semi-finals, with a win apiece, and they had met in a league match just a week before, which Arsenal won 2-0. Patrick Vieira celebrates making it 1-1 against Spurs in April 2001  In Manchester it was Spurs who made the stronger start and went ahead through Gary Doherty’s 14th-minute header, but not for the first or last time against Arsenal they could not hold onto their lead. Patrick Vieira headed an equaliser in the 33rd minute before Robert Pires secured the win with a second-half tap in. The match was also significant because it was the last played by Sol Campbell for Tottenham before his acrimonious move across the Seven Sisters divide three months later.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Silvinho, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord (Cole), Henry 9. Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004 The highest-scoring north London derby ever was a ding-dong affair at White Hart Lane that featured nine different goalscorers. Tottenham went ahead through Noureddine Naybet, but Thierry Henry equalised on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal went ahead through a Lauren penalty in the 55th minute. The two teams then shared six goals, with Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires all scoring, as the visitors eventually clung on to win a hugely entertaining match. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires), Bergkamp (Van Persie), Henry Lauren celebrates scoring a penalty at Spurs in 2004 wit Thierry Henry  8. Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0, April 1993 Having suffered the trauma of being beaten by Spurs two years earlier in the FA Cup semi-final, this was a huge win and test of nerve for Arsenal. It was also a classic of the George Graham genre, with chances few and far between at Wembley before Tony Adams trotted forward unnoticed and nodded home Paul Merson’s free-kick in the 80th minute. Adams Spurs pushed for the equaliser and Arsenal were up against it when Lee Dixon was sent off late on, but they held on for the win and went on to lift the Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. The following season they won the new defunct European Cup Winners Cup, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became the supporters’ war cry.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Hillier, Merson, Parlour (Smith), Selley, Campbell (Morrow), Wright 7. Arsenal 3 Tottenham 0, November 2002 A comprehensive win for Arsenal, and a match that featured one of the most iconic north London derby goals ever. There appeared to be little danger when Thierry Henry picked the ball up deep in his own half, but 11 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, as the striker flew past Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr and Ledley King, and buried a finish past Kasey Keller. The statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates commemorates his celebration after scoring against Spurs in 2002 Henry celebrated the goal with an almost as long sprint towards the Tottenham fans, and faced towards them as bile poured down from the stands. Henry revealed years later that he has a framed photo of the Spurs’ fans faces contorted in anger and despair as he had slid on his knees in front of them. After Henry’s 13th-minute goal, the match was effectively over as a contest when Simon Davies was harshly sent off 14 minutes later. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord added second-half goals, but the match will always be remembered for Henry’s extraordinary effort. Almost as remarkable though is that he was replaced in the 75th minute by Francis Jeffers. Talk about rubbing salt in the Tottenham wounds.  Arsenal team: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira (Van Bronckhorst), Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Pires), Henry (Jeffers) 6. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, November 2012 Arsenal’s second 5-2 win against Tottenham of 2012was almost as bonkers as the first, and helped by a mindless Emmanuel Adebayor red card for a flying lunge at Santi Cazorla in the 18th minute. Up until then Spurs had looked by far the better team and lead through an Adebayor goal, but the sending off proved to be a huge turning point as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1 to the hosts. Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal in Arsenal's 5-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium Gareth Bale pulled one back, before Theo Walcott scored in stoppage time to ensure that Arsenal had improbably recorded a second 5-2 win over their loathed rivals in the same calander year. “It’s happened again, it’s happened again” sang the gleeful Arsenal supporters, as they revelled in another sensational derby victory. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere (Ramsey), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Podolski (Santos) 5. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012 The first of two 5-2 wins over Tottenham in the space of nine months was the marginally more extraordinary. Spurs arrived at the Emirates with a 10-point lead over their north London rivals, with the two teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Harry Redknapp’s team quickly established a 2-0 lead, as Louis Saha scored via a deflection and then former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor kept his cool from the penalty spot. Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Spurs in 2012 Arsenal, who had been hammered 4-0 by Milan and knocked out of the FA Cup by Sunderland in their previous two matches, looked down and out. But goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie just before the break, followed by a Tomas Rosicky tap-in and a Theo Walcott double in the space of 17 breathless second-half minutes completely turned the match on its head. Arsenal went on to finish above Tottenham by a single point to claim the final Champions League spot. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Song, Walcott, (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Benayoun (Gervinho), Van Persie 4. Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2, March 1987 After the sides could not be separated by two legs, this League Cup semi-final went to a replay at White Hart Lane (the venue was decided by a coin toss). Tottenham went 1-0 up - they had led 2-0 on aggregate in the second leg, and reportedly the stadium announcer gave information over the public address system about ticket details for the final - but again failed to hold onto their lead.     Rocastle Charlie Nicholas was forced off through injury, and his replacement Ian Allinson came on to score an 82nd minute equaliser with an excellent turn and near-post finish. David Rocastle then scored from close range at the death, and Arsenal were in the final, which they improbably won 2-1 against Liverpool. Arsenal team: Lukic, Anderson, Sansom, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Davis, Quinn, Nicholas (Allinson), Hayes 3. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2, April 2004 Not a win but this match had to be included given its significance. After Chelsea lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, Arsenal needed just a point to be crowned champions at White Hart Lane for the second time in their history. En route to an undefeated league season, Arsenal flew into a first-half lead with sumptuous goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires. Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane Jamie Redknapp’s excellent long-range strike and a late Robbie Keane penalty ensured Spurs avoided defeat, but it was not enough to prevent their bitter rivals claiming the title and maintaining their unbeaten run. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Parlour (Edu), Vieira, Silva, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Reyes) 2. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5, December 1978 Arsenal’s biggest post-War win over Spurs came just two days before Christmas and was an ideal early present for the away fans at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won promotion to the top flight the previous season but were a decent side and would go on to finish mid-table with a team featuring the Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. But on this occasion they were no match for an unstoppable Arsenal, who romped to a 5-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alan Sunderland (who would go on to score the winner in the FA Cup final the following May) and goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady. John Motson was in raptures at Brady’s wonderful swerving shot from the edge of the box, and memorably shouted "Look at that. Oh, look at that," as the Northern Irishman applied the coup de grace to a superlative individual performance. Arsenal team: Jennings, Rice, Walford, Price, O'Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix 1. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1, May 1971  It doesn’t get much better than beating your fiercest rivals in their own backyard to claim the title, and that’s exactly what Arsenal did 45 years ago. Bertie Mee's side travelled to White Hart Lane needing a win or a 0-0 draw to win their first championship in 18 years, knowing that a score draw would hand the title to Leeds on goal average. Arsenal On a nerve-shredding night in north London, Arsenal eventually scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute through Ray Kennedy's superb header. Five days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final to claim their first ever double. Arsenal team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George Arsenal v Tottenham widget

Arsenal's best ever north London derbies against Tottenham: ranked 

The main criteria used were importance of the match, entertainment value, and margin of victory. Let the debates ensue... 10. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, April 2001 An FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford made this a particularly spicy encounter, as 60,000 supporters made the journey up the M6 to watch the two rivals compete for a place in the Cardiff final. Twice in the previous 10 years the teams had faced each other in FA Cup semi-finals, with a win apiece, and they had met in a league match just a week before, which Arsenal won 2-0. Patrick Vieira celebrates making it 1-1 against Spurs in April 2001  In Manchester it was Spurs who made the stronger start and went ahead through Gary Doherty’s 14th-minute header, but not for the first or last time against Arsenal they could not hold onto their lead. Patrick Vieira headed an equaliser in the 33rd minute before Robert Pires secured the win with a second-half tap in. The match was also significant because it was the last played by Sol Campbell for Tottenham before his acrimonious move across the Seven Sisters divide three months later.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Silvinho, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord (Cole), Henry 9. Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004 The highest-scoring north London derby ever was a ding-dong affair at White Hart Lane that featured nine different goalscorers. Tottenham went ahead through Noureddine Naybet, but Thierry Henry equalised on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal went ahead through a Lauren penalty in the 55th minute. The two teams then shared six goals, with Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires all scoring, as the visitors eventually clung on to win a hugely entertaining match. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires), Bergkamp (Van Persie), Henry Lauren celebrates scoring a penalty at Spurs in 2004 wit Thierry Henry  8. Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0, April 1993 Having suffered the trauma of being beaten by Spurs two years earlier in the FA Cup semi-final, this was a huge win and test of nerve for Arsenal. It was also a classic of the George Graham genre, with chances few and far between at Wembley before Tony Adams trotted forward unnoticed and nodded home Paul Merson’s free-kick in the 80th minute. Adams Spurs pushed for the equaliser and Arsenal were up against it when Lee Dixon was sent off late on, but they held on for the win and went on to lift the Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. The following season they won the new defunct European Cup Winners Cup, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became the supporters’ war cry.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Hillier, Merson, Parlour (Smith), Selley, Campbell (Morrow), Wright 7. Arsenal 3 Tottenham 0, November 2002 A comprehensive win for Arsenal, and a match that featured one of the most iconic north London derby goals ever. There appeared to be little danger when Thierry Henry picked the ball up deep in his own half, but 11 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, as the striker flew past Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr and Ledley King, and buried a finish past Kasey Keller. The statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates commemorates his celebration after scoring against Spurs in 2002 Henry celebrated the goal with an almost as long sprint towards the Tottenham fans, and faced towards them as bile poured down from the stands. Henry revealed years later that he has a framed photo of the Spurs’ fans faces contorted in anger and despair as he had slid on his knees in front of them. After Henry’s 13th-minute goal, the match was effectively over as a contest when Simon Davies was harshly sent off 14 minutes later. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord added second-half goals, but the match will always be remembered for Henry’s extraordinary effort. Almost as remarkable though is that he was replaced in the 75th minute by Francis Jeffers. Talk about rubbing salt in the Tottenham wounds.  Arsenal team: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira (Van Bronckhorst), Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Pires), Henry (Jeffers) 6. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, November 2012 Arsenal’s second 5-2 win against Tottenham of 2012was almost as bonkers as the first, and helped by a mindless Emmanuel Adebayor red card for a flying lunge at Santi Cazorla in the 18th minute. Up until then Spurs had looked by far the better team and lead through an Adebayor goal, but the sending off proved to be a huge turning point as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1 to the hosts. Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal in Arsenal's 5-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium Gareth Bale pulled one back, before Theo Walcott scored in stoppage time to ensure that Arsenal had improbably recorded a second 5-2 win over their loathed rivals in the same calander year. “It’s happened again, it’s happened again” sang the gleeful Arsenal supporters, as they revelled in another sensational derby victory. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere (Ramsey), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Podolski (Santos) 5. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012 The first of two 5-2 wins over Tottenham in the space of nine months was the marginally more extraordinary. Spurs arrived at the Emirates with a 10-point lead over their north London rivals, with the two teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Harry Redknapp’s team quickly established a 2-0 lead, as Louis Saha scored via a deflection and then former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor kept his cool from the penalty spot. Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Spurs in 2012 Arsenal, who had been hammered 4-0 by Milan and knocked out of the FA Cup by Sunderland in their previous two matches, looked down and out. But goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie just before the break, followed by a Tomas Rosicky tap-in and a Theo Walcott double in the space of 17 breathless second-half minutes completely turned the match on its head. Arsenal went on to finish above Tottenham by a single point to claim the final Champions League spot. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Song, Walcott, (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Benayoun (Gervinho), Van Persie 4. Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2, March 1987 After the sides could not be separated by two legs, this League Cup semi-final went to a replay at White Hart Lane (the venue was decided by a coin toss). Tottenham went 1-0 up - they had led 2-0 on aggregate in the second leg, and reportedly the stadium announcer gave information over the public address system about ticket details for the final - but again failed to hold onto their lead.     Rocastle Charlie Nicholas was forced off through injury, and his replacement Ian Allinson came on to score an 82nd minute equaliser with an excellent turn and near-post finish. David Rocastle then scored from close range at the death, and Arsenal were in the final, which they improbably won 2-1 against Liverpool. Arsenal team: Lukic, Anderson, Sansom, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Davis, Quinn, Nicholas (Allinson), Hayes 3. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2, April 2004 Not a win but this match had to be included given its significance. After Chelsea lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, Arsenal needed just a point to be crowned champions at White Hart Lane for the second time in their history. En route to an undefeated league season, Arsenal flew into a first-half lead with sumptuous goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires. Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane Jamie Redknapp’s excellent long-range strike and a late Robbie Keane penalty ensured Spurs avoided defeat, but it was not enough to prevent their bitter rivals claiming the title and maintaining their unbeaten run. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Parlour (Edu), Vieira, Silva, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Reyes) 2. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5, December 1978 Arsenal’s biggest post-War win over Spurs came just two days before Christmas and was an ideal early present for the away fans at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won promotion to the top flight the previous season but were a decent side and would go on to finish mid-table with a team featuring the Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. But on this occasion they were no match for an unstoppable Arsenal, who romped to a 5-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alan Sunderland (who would go on to score the winner in the FA Cup final the following May) and goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady. John Motson was in raptures at Brady’s wonderful swerving shot from the edge of the box, and memorably shouted "Look at that. Oh, look at that," as the Northern Irishman applied the coup de grace to a superlative individual performance. Arsenal team: Jennings, Rice, Walford, Price, O'Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix 1. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1, May 1971  It doesn’t get much better than beating your fiercest rivals in their own backyard to claim the title, and that’s exactly what Arsenal did 45 years ago. Bertie Mee's side travelled to White Hart Lane needing a win or a 0-0 draw to win their first championship in 18 years, knowing that a score draw would hand the title to Leeds on goal average. Arsenal On a nerve-shredding night in north London, Arsenal eventually scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute through Ray Kennedy's superb header. Five days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final to claim their first ever double. Arsenal team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George Arsenal v Tottenham widget

Arsenal's best ever north London derbies against Tottenham: ranked 

The main criteria used were importance of the match, entertainment value, and margin of victory. Let the debates ensue... 10. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, April 2001 An FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford made this a particularly spicy encounter, as 60,000 supporters made the journey up the M6 to watch the two rivals compete for a place in the Cardiff final. Twice in the previous 10 years the teams had faced each other in FA Cup semi-finals, with a win apiece, and they had met in a league match just a week before, which Arsenal won 2-0. Patrick Vieira celebrates making it 1-1 against Spurs in April 2001  In Manchester it was Spurs who made the stronger start and went ahead through Gary Doherty’s 14th-minute header, but not for the first or last time against Arsenal they could not hold onto their lead. Patrick Vieira headed an equaliser in the 33rd minute before Robert Pires secured the win with a second-half tap in. The match was also significant because it was the last played by Sol Campbell for Tottenham before his acrimonious move across the Seven Sisters divide three months later.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Silvinho, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord (Cole), Henry 9. Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004 The highest-scoring north London derby ever was a ding-dong affair at White Hart Lane that featured nine different goalscorers. Tottenham went ahead through Noureddine Naybet, but Thierry Henry equalised on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal went ahead through a Lauren penalty in the 55th minute. The two teams then shared six goals, with Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires all scoring, as the visitors eventually clung on to win a hugely entertaining match. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires), Bergkamp (Van Persie), Henry Lauren celebrates scoring a penalty at Spurs in 2004 wit Thierry Henry  8. Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0, April 1993 Having suffered the trauma of being beaten by Spurs two years earlier in the FA Cup semi-final, this was a huge win and test of nerve for Arsenal. It was also a classic of the George Graham genre, with chances few and far between at Wembley before Tony Adams trotted forward unnoticed and nodded home Paul Merson’s free-kick in the 80th minute. Adams Spurs pushed for the equaliser and Arsenal were up against it when Lee Dixon was sent off late on, but they held on for the win and went on to lift the Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. The following season they won the new defunct European Cup Winners Cup, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became the supporters’ war cry.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Hillier, Merson, Parlour (Smith), Selley, Campbell (Morrow), Wright 7. Arsenal 3 Tottenham 0, November 2002 A comprehensive win for Arsenal, and a match that featured one of the most iconic north London derby goals ever. There appeared to be little danger when Thierry Henry picked the ball up deep in his own half, but 11 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, as the striker flew past Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr and Ledley King, and buried a finish past Kasey Keller. The statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates commemorates his celebration after scoring against Spurs in 2002 Henry celebrated the goal with an almost as long sprint towards the Tottenham fans, and faced towards them as bile poured down from the stands. Henry revealed years later that he has a framed photo of the Spurs’ fans faces contorted in anger and despair as he had slid on his knees in front of them. After Henry’s 13th-minute goal, the match was effectively over as a contest when Simon Davies was harshly sent off 14 minutes later. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord added second-half goals, but the match will always be remembered for Henry’s extraordinary effort. Almost as remarkable though is that he was replaced in the 75th minute by Francis Jeffers. Talk about rubbing salt in the Tottenham wounds.  Arsenal team: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira (Van Bronckhorst), Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Pires), Henry (Jeffers) 6. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, November 2012 Arsenal’s second 5-2 win against Tottenham of 2012was almost as bonkers as the first, and helped by a mindless Emmanuel Adebayor red card for a flying lunge at Santi Cazorla in the 18th minute. Up until then Spurs had looked by far the better team and lead through an Adebayor goal, but the sending off proved to be a huge turning point as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1 to the hosts. Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal in Arsenal's 5-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium Gareth Bale pulled one back, before Theo Walcott scored in stoppage time to ensure that Arsenal had improbably recorded a second 5-2 win over their loathed rivals in the same calander year. “It’s happened again, it’s happened again” sang the gleeful Arsenal supporters, as they revelled in another sensational derby victory. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere (Ramsey), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Podolski (Santos) 5. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012 The first of two 5-2 wins over Tottenham in the space of nine months was the marginally more extraordinary. Spurs arrived at the Emirates with a 10-point lead over their north London rivals, with the two teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Harry Redknapp’s team quickly established a 2-0 lead, as Louis Saha scored via a deflection and then former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor kept his cool from the penalty spot. Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Spurs in 2012 Arsenal, who had been hammered 4-0 by Milan and knocked out of the FA Cup by Sunderland in their previous two matches, looked down and out. But goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie just before the break, followed by a Tomas Rosicky tap-in and a Theo Walcott double in the space of 17 breathless second-half minutes completely turned the match on its head. Arsenal went on to finish above Tottenham by a single point to claim the final Champions League spot. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Song, Walcott, (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Benayoun (Gervinho), Van Persie 4. Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2, March 1987 After the sides could not be separated by two legs, this League Cup semi-final went to a replay at White Hart Lane (the venue was decided by a coin toss). Tottenham went 1-0 up - they had led 2-0 on aggregate in the second leg, and reportedly the stadium announcer gave information over the public address system about ticket details for the final - but again failed to hold onto their lead.     Rocastle Charlie Nicholas was forced off through injury, and his replacement Ian Allinson came on to score an 82nd minute equaliser with an excellent turn and near-post finish. David Rocastle then scored from close range at the death, and Arsenal were in the final, which they improbably won 2-1 against Liverpool. Arsenal team: Lukic, Anderson, Sansom, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Davis, Quinn, Nicholas (Allinson), Hayes 3. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2, April 2004 Not a win but this match had to be included given its significance. After Chelsea lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, Arsenal needed just a point to be crowned champions at White Hart Lane for the second time in their history. En route to an undefeated league season, Arsenal flew into a first-half lead with sumptuous goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires. Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane Jamie Redknapp’s excellent long-range strike and a late Robbie Keane penalty ensured Spurs avoided defeat, but it was not enough to prevent their bitter rivals claiming the title and maintaining their unbeaten run. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Parlour (Edu), Vieira, Silva, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Reyes) 2. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5, December 1978 Arsenal’s biggest post-War win over Spurs came just two days before Christmas and was an ideal early present for the away fans at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won promotion to the top flight the previous season but were a decent side and would go on to finish mid-table with a team featuring the Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. But on this occasion they were no match for an unstoppable Arsenal, who romped to a 5-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alan Sunderland (who would go on to score the winner in the FA Cup final the following May) and goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady. John Motson was in raptures at Brady’s wonderful swerving shot from the edge of the box, and memorably shouted "Look at that. Oh, look at that," as the Northern Irishman applied the coup de grace to a superlative individual performance. Arsenal team: Jennings, Rice, Walford, Price, O'Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix 1. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1, May 1971  It doesn’t get much better than beating your fiercest rivals in their own backyard to claim the title, and that’s exactly what Arsenal did 45 years ago. Bertie Mee's side travelled to White Hart Lane needing a win or a 0-0 draw to win their first championship in 18 years, knowing that a score draw would hand the title to Leeds on goal average. Arsenal On a nerve-shredding night in north London, Arsenal eventually scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute through Ray Kennedy's superb header. Five days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final to claim their first ever double. Arsenal team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George Arsenal v Tottenham widget

Arsenal's best ever north London derbies against Tottenham: ranked 

The main criteria used were importance of the match, entertainment value, and margin of victory. Let the debates ensue... 10. Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, April 2001 An FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford made this a particularly spicy encounter, as 60,000 supporters made the journey up the M6 to watch the two rivals compete for a place in the Cardiff final. Twice in the previous 10 years the teams had faced each other in FA Cup semi-finals, with a win apiece, and they had met in a league match just a week before, which Arsenal won 2-0. Patrick Vieira celebrates making it 1-1 against Spurs in April 2001  In Manchester it was Spurs who made the stronger start and went ahead through Gary Doherty’s 14th-minute header, but not for the first or last time against Arsenal they could not hold onto their lead. Patrick Vieira headed an equaliser in the 33rd minute before Robert Pires secured the win with a second-half tap in. The match was also significant because it was the last played by Sol Campbell for Tottenham before his acrimonious move across the Seven Sisters divide three months later.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Silvinho, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Pires, Wiltord (Cole), Henry 9. Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004 The highest-scoring north London derby ever was a ding-dong affair at White Hart Lane that featured nine different goalscorers. Tottenham went ahead through Noureddine Naybet, but Thierry Henry equalised on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal went ahead through a Lauren penalty in the 55th minute. The two teams then shared six goals, with Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires all scoring, as the visitors eventually clung on to win a hugely entertaining match. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires), Bergkamp (Van Persie), Henry Lauren celebrates scoring a penalty at Spurs in 2004 wit Thierry Henry  8. Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0, April 1993 Having suffered the trauma of being beaten by Spurs two years earlier in the FA Cup semi-final, this was a huge win and test of nerve for Arsenal. It was also a classic of the George Graham genre, with chances few and far between at Wembley before Tony Adams trotted forward unnoticed and nodded home Paul Merson’s free-kick in the 80th minute. Adams Spurs pushed for the equaliser and Arsenal were up against it when Lee Dixon was sent off late on, but they held on for the win and went on to lift the Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. The following season they won the new defunct European Cup Winners Cup, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became the supporters’ war cry.  Arsenal team: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Hillier, Merson, Parlour (Smith), Selley, Campbell (Morrow), Wright 7. Arsenal 3 Tottenham 0, November 2002 A comprehensive win for Arsenal, and a match that featured one of the most iconic north London derby goals ever. There appeared to be little danger when Thierry Henry picked the ball up deep in his own half, but 11 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, as the striker flew past Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr and Ledley King, and buried a finish past Kasey Keller. The statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates commemorates his celebration after scoring against Spurs in 2002 Henry celebrated the goal with an almost as long sprint towards the Tottenham fans, and faced towards them as bile poured down from the stands. Henry revealed years later that he has a framed photo of the Spurs’ fans faces contorted in anger and despair as he had slid on his knees in front of them. After Henry’s 13th-minute goal, the match was effectively over as a contest when Simon Davies was harshly sent off 14 minutes later. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord added second-half goals, but the match will always be remembered for Henry’s extraordinary effort. Almost as remarkable though is that he was replaced in the 75th minute by Francis Jeffers. Talk about rubbing salt in the Tottenham wounds.  Arsenal team: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Wiltord, Silva, Vieira (Van Bronckhorst), Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Pires), Henry (Jeffers) 6. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, November 2012 Arsenal’s second 5-2 win against Tottenham of 2012was almost as bonkers as the first, and helped by a mindless Emmanuel Adebayor red card for a flying lunge at Santi Cazorla in the 18th minute. Up until then Spurs had looked by far the better team and lead through an Adebayor goal, but the sending off proved to be a huge turning point as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1 to the hosts. Santi Cazorla celebrates his goal in Arsenal's 5-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium Gareth Bale pulled one back, before Theo Walcott scored in stoppage time to ensure that Arsenal had improbably recorded a second 5-2 win over their loathed rivals in the same calander year. “It’s happened again, it’s happened again” sang the gleeful Arsenal supporters, as they revelled in another sensational derby victory. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere (Ramsey), Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Podolski (Santos) 5. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012 The first of two 5-2 wins over Tottenham in the space of nine months was the marginally more extraordinary. Spurs arrived at the Emirates with a 10-point lead over their north London rivals, with the two teams battling it out for Champions League qualification. Harry Redknapp’s team quickly established a 2-0 lead, as Louis Saha scored via a deflection and then former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor kept his cool from the penalty spot. Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Spurs in 2012 Arsenal, who had been hammered 4-0 by Milan and knocked out of the FA Cup by Sunderland in their previous two matches, looked down and out. But goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie just before the break, followed by a Tomas Rosicky tap-in and a Theo Walcott double in the space of 17 breathless second-half minutes completely turned the match on its head. Arsenal went on to finish above Tottenham by a single point to claim the final Champions League spot. Arsenal team: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Song, Walcott, (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Benayoun (Gervinho), Van Persie 4. Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2, March 1987 After the sides could not be separated by two legs, this League Cup semi-final went to a replay at White Hart Lane (the venue was decided by a coin toss). Tottenham went 1-0 up - they had led 2-0 on aggregate in the second leg, and reportedly the stadium announcer gave information over the public address system about ticket details for the final - but again failed to hold onto their lead.     Rocastle Charlie Nicholas was forced off through injury, and his replacement Ian Allinson came on to score an 82nd minute equaliser with an excellent turn and near-post finish. David Rocastle then scored from close range at the death, and Arsenal were in the final, which they improbably won 2-1 against Liverpool. Arsenal team: Lukic, Anderson, Sansom, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Davis, Quinn, Nicholas (Allinson), Hayes 3. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2, April 2004 Not a win but this match had to be included given its significance. After Chelsea lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, Arsenal needed just a point to be crowned champions at White Hart Lane for the second time in their history. En route to an undefeated league season, Arsenal flew into a first-half lead with sumptuous goals from Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires. Arsenal celebrate winning the league at White Hart Lane Jamie Redknapp’s excellent long-range strike and a late Robbie Keane penalty ensured Spurs avoided defeat, but it was not enough to prevent their bitter rivals claiming the title and maintaining their unbeaten run. Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Parlour (Edu), Vieira, Silva, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Reyes) 2. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5, December 1978 Arsenal’s biggest post-War win over Spurs came just two days before Christmas and was an ideal early present for the away fans at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won promotion to the top flight the previous season but were a decent side and would go on to finish mid-table with a team featuring the Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. But on this occasion they were no match for an unstoppable Arsenal, who romped to a 5-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Alan Sunderland (who would go on to score the winner in the FA Cup final the following May) and goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady. John Motson was in raptures at Brady’s wonderful swerving shot from the edge of the box, and memorably shouted "Look at that. Oh, look at that," as the Northern Irishman applied the coup de grace to a superlative individual performance. Arsenal team: Jennings, Rice, Walford, Price, O'Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Gatting, Rix 1. Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1, May 1971  It doesn’t get much better than beating your fiercest rivals in their own backyard to claim the title, and that’s exactly what Arsenal did 45 years ago. Bertie Mee's side travelled to White Hart Lane needing a win or a 0-0 draw to win their first championship in 18 years, knowing that a score draw would hand the title to Leeds on goal average. Arsenal On a nerve-shredding night in north London, Arsenal eventually scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute through Ray Kennedy's superb header. Five days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final to claim their first ever double. Arsenal team: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Simpson, Armstrong, Graham, Radford, Kennedy, George Arsenal v Tottenham widget

Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (R) celebrates with teammates at the end of their Italian Serie A match against AC Milan, at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, on October 28, 2017

Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (R) celebrates with teammates at the end of their Italian Serie A match against AC Milan, at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, on October 28, 2017

Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (R) celebrates with teammates at the end of their Italian Serie A match against AC Milan, at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, on October 28, 2017 (AFP Photo/MARCO BERTORELLO)

Milan Full-Back Andrea Conti Reveals He Was a Diehard Juve Fan & Named His Dog After Arturo Vidal

idal AC Milan right-back Andrea Conti has revealed that he comes from a family which supports Juventus; so much so, they even named his dog after one of their former players. According to quotes retrieved from Gazzetta dello Sport through ​Gianlucadimarzio.com, Conti, who joined Milan in the summer, has a dog named after Arturo Vidal. Whether or not that should be taken as a compliment by Vidal is up for debate. But dog lovers will have you know that there is no bigger honour. Conti left...

Milan Full-Back Andrea Conti Reveals He Was a Diehard Juve Fan & Named His Dog After Arturo Vidal

idal AC Milan right-back Andrea Conti has revealed that he comes from a family which supports Juventus; so much so, they even named his dog after one of their former players. According to quotes retrieved from Gazzetta dello Sport through ​Gianlucadimarzio.com, Conti, who joined Milan in the summer, has a dog named after Arturo Vidal. Whether or not that should be taken as a compliment by Vidal is up for debate. But dog lovers will have you know that there is no bigger honour. Conti left...

Milan Full-Back Andrea Conti Reveals He Was a Diehard Juve Fan & Named His Dog After Arturo Vidal

idal AC Milan right-back Andrea Conti has revealed that he comes from a family which supports Juventus; so much so, they even named his dog after one of their former players. According to quotes retrieved from Gazzetta dello Sport through ​Gianlucadimarzio.com, Conti, who joined Milan in the summer, has a dog named after Arturo Vidal. Whether or not that should be taken as a compliment by Vidal is up for debate. But dog lovers will have you know that there is no bigger honour. Conti left...

Milan Full-Back Andrea Conti Reveals He Was a Diehard Juve Fan & Named His Dog After Arturo Vidal

idal AC Milan right-back Andrea Conti has revealed that he comes from a family which supports Juventus; so much so, they even named his dog after one of their former players. According to quotes retrieved from Gazzetta dello Sport through ​Gianlucadimarzio.com, Conti, who joined Milan in the summer, has a dog named after Arturo Vidal. Whether or not that should be taken as a compliment by Vidal is up for debate. But dog lovers will have you know that there is no bigger honour. Conti left...

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Fun With World Cup Pots: The Many Group Draw Scenarios, Intriguing Combinations in Play

After 32 months and 872 games contested by 210 nations across six continents—not to mention Chile filing a protest that ultimately led to its elimination, some last-gasp hat-trick magic from Lionel Messi, Italy’s historic impotence in Milan, terrible tactics by the USA and, on Wednesday evening, the end of Peru’s long wait—we have our 2018 World Cup field. Thirty-two teams have booked their place in Russia next summer. They now await the draw on December 1 in Moscow.

There will be two debutants, Panama and Iceland, and Italy is the only former champion that failed to qualify. Peru’s 36-year drought is the longest, followed by Egypt’s wait of 28 years. Four of the six reigning continental champs—USA, Chile, Cameroon and New Zealand—will miss out. So will the Netherlands, the 2010 silver and 2014 bronze medalists.

The survivors will be placed into four pots based on their FIFA ranking. They’ll be drawn into eight groups of four teams, comprising one nation from each pot. Only European sides can be drawn with a confederation rival.

Russia is seeded because it’s the host, and that knocks 2010 winner Spain down to pot 2. There’s a 50/50 chance we’ll see Spain play Germany, France, Argentina or Brazil in the first round, and something close to a zero percent chance the other two teams in that potential quartet will be staying in Russia beyond the group stage.

The permutations obviously are almost endless, but it’s fun to pick through a few of the possibilities. Here are several.

The FIFA ranking group of death

At first glance it looks like the toughest potential group based only on the FIFA ranking would include No. 2 Brazil and No. 8 Spain, and then either No. 19 Denmark and No. 41 Nigeria or No. 22 Costa Rica and No. 38 Serbia, which ranks above only Russia among European participants.

Brazil and Spain met in the 2013 Confederations Cup final—a 3-0 win for the Seleção—and have played each other at five World Cups. The most recent meeting was back in 1986. The group-stage opener ended 1-0 in favor of Brazil.

A real group of death

Argentina is a talented and flawed team. We saw both sides during its qualification run. A genuine group of death needs big names, but no certainties. Argentina fits the bill as the top seed.

Joining them are the top teams in each of the next two spots, Spain and Denmark. Spain, as we’ve seen over the past seven years, can win it all or be the first team eliminated. Denmark’s potential was on display in this week’s demolition of Ireland. Rounding it out is Nigeria, which has players at many of the top European leagues and just beat Argentina on Tuesday.

This is a real group of death. Any team could advance, and any team could stumble and go home.

The bottom of the barrel group

And here’s the worst possible foursome according to the rankings. Russia is the seed everyone else will hope to draw. The hosts are ranked No. 65 in the world. They conceivably could be joined by No. 18 Croatia, No. 32 Senegal and No. 63 Saudi Arabia in a group that won’t excite many neutrals (and that Croatia would win in a walk).

The continental crown group

Germany has won the European Championship a record-tying three times and has appeared in a tournament-high six finals. Pot 2 teams Uruguay (15) and Mexico (10) lead the all-time title race on their respective continents. Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations crowns (seven) and Japan leads Asia with four championships.

Uruguay edges Mexico on the tiebreaker, so this Confederations Cup tribute group comprises Die Mannschaft, La Celeste, the Pharaohs and the Samurai Blue.

The golden boot group

Robert Lewandowski (16), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (16), Edinson Cavani (10) and Mohamed Salah (5) each led their respective continents in World Cup qualifying goals (Salah and Al-Sahlawi tied for top spot). And they could lead their teams into the same group next summer.

The golden boot group features Lewandowski’s Poland, Cavani’s Uruguay, Salah’s Egypt and Al-Sahlawi’s Saudi Arabia.

It’s worth noting that none of the top 10 CONCACAF scorers will play in the World Cup. That unfortunate list includes Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood. No one on Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama scored more than four goals in qualifying.

The drought's over group

A group comprising teams that have had the longest combined wait to play in a World Cup would be topped by Poland, which hasn’t qualified since 2006 and is the only seeded team ending a long wait. They’d be joined by Peru (first since 1982), Iceland and Panama. The latter two are making their maiden appearances.

The Real Madrid group

Members of the current club world champs (and they’ll be favored to repeat in December and hold the crown next summer) can reunite at a World Cup in Russia. It starts, obviously, with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric’s Croatia, Keylor Navas’s Costa Rica and defender Achraf Hakimi’s Morocco round out the foursome.

The Seattle Sounders group

We have to cheat a bit, but a group representing the current (and possible repeat) MLS champs is possible as well. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panama’s Román Torres all should see time in Russia. Toss in Germany—the native land of former coach Sigi Schmid and the ancestral homeland of current manager Brian Schmetzer—and you have an entertaining Cascadian quartet.

The build on Brazil group

Here’s a group featuring the team in each pot that had the best World Cup performance four years ago. They’ll be hoping for similar next summer. There’s the champion, Germany (pot 1), followed by quarterfinalist Colombia (pot 2), Cinderella quarterfinalist Costa Rica (pot 3) and round-of-16 loser Nigeria (pot 4).

The demographic overachievers group

It’s not about population. The top five most crowded countries in the world have a total of one World Cup semifinal appearance combined, and that was the USA’s run back in 1930 (Brazil ranks sixth, and they’ve done quite well. But the point stands).

Here’s a group with four smaller nations punching above their weight. It starts with Portugal, the European champion, two-time World Cup semifinalist and home to the reigning world player of the year that’s accomplished all that despite having just over 10 million people. Uruguay has won two World Cups and is a consistent producer of top talent with only 3.5 million. Iceland, with just 350,000 inhabitants, now is the least populous team to qualify for a World Cup. And Panama which has made great strides in recent years and become a CONCACAF contender, is the smallest pot 4 nation at around 4 million.

Memorable World Cup hosts group

Twelve countries traveling to Russia will have had the privilege of hosting a previous World Cup, and there are a bunch of ways those 12 could form a group next summer. So to narrow it down, we’ll go with tournaments that are remembered for transcendent individual performances and personalities.

Despite its industrial-strength talent production, France has won only one World Cup. And that title was inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane and came on home soil in 1998. Twelve years earlier, Diego Maradona staked his claim as the sport’s top player with his mesmerizing play in Mexico.

Sweden ’58 served as the planet’s introduction to Pelé. The 17-year-old scored six goals, including two in the final outside Stockholm. And although Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, it was in Yokohama that Ronaldo escaped the shadow of his 1998 failure and struck twice to lift Brazil to a record fifth title.

American rivals group

The USA won’t be at the World Cup, but there still be rivals to root against if you’re so inclined. The hosts are an obvious choice as the seeded team. Joining the Russians are Mexico—the USA’s great soccer rival—as well long-time geopolitical nemesis and 1998 World Cup foe Iran, and 2026 World Cup bid counterpart Morocco.

Why Franck Kessie snubbed Chelsea, Napoli to join AC Milan

Why Franck Kessie snubbed Chelsea, Napoli to join AC Milan

Why Franck Kessie snubbed Chelsea, Napoli to join AC Milan

Why Franck Kessie snubbed Chelsea, Napoli to join AC Milan

Why Franck Kessie snubbed Chelsea, Napoli to join AC Milan

The 20-year-old was a hot target in the summer but opted for the San Siro outfit despite courting interests from top European clubs

Why Franck Kessie snubbed Chelsea, Napoli to join AC Milan

The 20-year-old was a hot target in the summer but opted for the San Siro outfit despite courting interests from top European clubs

5 things you need to know... Milan to put an end to their Napoli woes?

Napoli's unbeaten run against Milan and Juventus' hold over Sampdoria - here are 5 things you need to know about this weekend's Serie A action.

5 things you need to know... Milan to put an end to their Napoli woes?

Napoli's unbeaten run against Milan and Juventus' hold over Sampdoria - here are 5 things you need to know about this weekend's Serie A action.

5 things you need to know... Milan to put an end to their Napoli woes?

Napoli's unbeaten run against Milan and Juventus' hold over Sampdoria - here are 5 things you need to know about this weekend's Serie A action.

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 file photo, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is comforted by Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura, right, at the end of the World Cup qualifying play-off second leg soccer match between Italy and Sweden, at the Milan San Siro stadium, Italy. Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has been fired Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 following the Azzurri's failure to qualify for the World Cup. Ventura leaves in disgrace, widely criticized for his tactical decisions that left Italy out of football's biggest competition for the first time in six decades. A football federation statement says Ventura is "no longer coach of the national team." (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 file photo, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is comforted by Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura, right, at the end of the World Cup qualifying play-off second leg soccer match between Italy and Sweden, at the Milan San Siro stadium, Italy. Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has been fired Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 following the Azzurri's failure to qualify for the World Cup. Ventura leaves in disgrace, widely criticized for his tactical decisions that left Italy out of football's biggest competition for the first time in six decades. A football federation statement says Ventura is "no longer coach of the national team." (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 file photo, Lazio's Ciro Immobile celebrates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and AC Milan, at the Rome Olympic stadium. The first derby since longtime Roma captain Francesco Totti retired is the most anticipated meeting between the capital's two clubs in years. Both Lazio and Roma have had strong starts to the season and sit fourth and fifth, respectively, in the standings with only one point separating them. It will be a matchup between last season's Serie A scoring leader, Roma's Edin Dzeko (29 goals in 37 matches), and this season's scoring leader, Lazio's Ciro Immobile (14 goals in 11 matches). (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 file photo, Lazio's Ciro Immobile celebrates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and AC Milan, at the Rome Olympic stadium. The first derby since longtime Roma captain Francesco Totti retired is the most anticipated meeting between the capital's two clubs in years. Both Lazio and Roma have had strong starts to the season and sit fourth and fifth, respectively, in the standings with only one point separating them. It will be a matchup between last season's Serie A scoring leader, Roma's Edin Dzeko (29 goals in 37 matches), and this season's scoring leader, Lazio's Ciro Immobile (14 goals in 11 matches). (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

Ex-Man City, Real Madrid & Milan Star Robinho Names Toughest Opponent He Ever Faced

aced ​Ex-Manchester City, Real Madrid and Milan star Robinho has faced some of the best defenders in the world over the course of his long career and has now lifted the lid on exactly which opponent it was that he found the toughest to play against. It was during Robinho's time in the Premier League with Manchester City, and it was Rio Ferdinand in Manchester derby clashes. "Rio Ferdinand is the hardest opponent I have faced - strong and quick," Robinho, now 33 years of age and back home in...

Ex-Man City, Real Madrid & Milan Star Robinho Names Toughest Opponent He Ever Faced

aced ​Ex-Manchester City, Real Madrid and Milan star Robinho has faced some of the best defenders in the world over the course of his long career and has now lifted the lid on exactly which opponent it was that he found the toughest to play against. It was during Robinho's time in the Premier League with Manchester City, and it was Rio Ferdinand in Manchester derby clashes. "Rio Ferdinand is the hardest opponent I have faced - strong and quick," Robinho, now 33 years of age and back home in...

Ex-Man City, Real Madrid & Milan Star Robinho Names Toughest Opponent He Ever Faced

aced ​Ex-Manchester City, Real Madrid and Milan star Robinho has faced some of the best defenders in the world over the course of his long career and has now lifted the lid on exactly which opponent it was that he found the toughest to play against. It was during Robinho's time in the Premier League with Manchester City, and it was Rio Ferdinand in Manchester derby clashes. "Rio Ferdinand is the hardest opponent I have faced - strong and quick," Robinho, now 33 years of age and back home in...

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