On Friday, after an interminable procession of songs, skits, speeches, and interviews, FIFA's 2022 World Cup draw ceremony finally did the only thing anyone actually cared about. At last, each of the 32 teams have been sorted into their respective groups ahead of next fall's event. Here's where the balls landed:
There's a lot to pick at here. Group E looks absolutely miserable, as Spain is excellent and Germany will probably bounce back after two straight tournament disappointments. The United States got a favorable enough group, though Wales coming out of the UEFA playoff could make things considerably more difficult. The Netherlands won the Pot 2 "who will get Qatar?" sweepstakes and should advance easily. Also, Group F looks wide open under Belgium; Canada could very well make the knockout round in its first World Cup since 1986.
As a reminder, unlike normal times, the World Cup is not right around the corner thanks to the decision to move the competition to the end of the year, in order to avoid Qatar's summertime heat. While that does lead to some fun matches during Thanksgiving weekend in the States—the USMNT will take on England on Black Friday—it sucks that this summer will not have a World Cup. I am not looking forward to packing into a crowded soccer bar in 27-degree weather in order to watch the games without going into isolation.
Regardless, the long wait for the World Cup is almost over, and now there are about seven months of speculating about who will move forward into the knockout stage. At the very least, if the World Cup brings fans as much joy as saying "Belgium!" did for Brazilian legend Cafu, it will be a good one.