Friday's draw will decide the groups and which battles will decide the next world champions of football Image: AP
The FIFA World Cup 2018 Final Draw on Friday will sound the final countdown to what is possibly the world's biggest sporting spectacle to be held in Russia. With the 32 participants for the upcoming spectacle chosen and dusted, Friday's draw will decide the groups and which battles will decide the next world champions of football.
With the biggest stars in football like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar and others scheduled to feature in the first-ever World Cup in Russia, stakes in the draw will be high. Germany will discover the path to defending the title won in Brazil, while Iceland and Panama will be in the draw for the finals for the first time.
Two teams are returning after long absences: Peru hasn't contested the World Cup since 1982 and Egypt is returning for the first time since 1990. But there is no space for four-time champion Italy, two-time reigning Copa America champion Chile, while the United States is missing for the first time since 1986. To prepare you for the draw, here are all the details.
How does the draw work?
The 32 finalists will be split into eight groups featuring a team from each pot. Only Europe can have two teams in the same group.
The draw will be presided over by former England striker Gary Lineker, who has previously called for FIFA to be disbanded over bribery scandals and questioned Russia's legitimacy to host the World Cup over the doping across sports.
Greats from the eight World Cup-winning nations will serve as draw assistants: Diego Maradona (Argentina), Gordon Banks (England), Laurent Blanc (France), Cafu (Brazil), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Carles Puyol (Spain), and Nikita Simonyan for host Russia.
Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya is the co-presenter.
Which teams are in each pot?
FIFA changed how it allocates teams in the draw and now uses rankings alone for all four pots. At previous World Cups, only Pot 1 was for seeded teams, and the other three pots were decided by a geographical spread.
October FIFA ranking in brackets:
Pot 1: Russia (65), Germany (1), Brazil (2), Portugal (3), Argentina (4), Belgium (5), Poland (6), France (7).
Pot 2: Spain (8), Peru (10), Switzerland (11), England (12), Colombia (13), Mexico (16), Uruguay (17), Croatia (18).
Pot 3: Denmark (19), Iceland (21), Costa Rica (22), Sweden (25), Tunisia (28), Egypt (30), Senegal (32), Iran (34).
Pot 4: Serbia (38), Nigeria (41), Australia (43), Japan (44), Morocco (48), Panama (49), South Korea (62), Saudi Arabia (63).
When does the World Cup start?
Russia will play the tournament opener on June 14, 2018. The World Cup final will be held on July 15. Both showpiece games are at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Games will also be hosted in St. Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Sochi and Rostov-on-Don.
More than 740,000 tickets out of a total of 2.6 million have already been allocated and the next phase of sales starts on December 5 through a ballot.
Where and when to watch the draw LIVE in India?
The draw ceremony starts at 3:00 pm GMT on Friday at the State Kremlin Palace and is set to last for an hour. In India, broadcast will start at 8:30 pm and will be telecast on Sony Ten 1, 1 HD, 2 and 2 HD. The event will also be streamed LIVE on SonyLiv.
(With inputs from AP)