Allies Greece and Cyprus will become rivals after being drawn in the same qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Last Saturday’s draw in St Petersburg pitted the neighbours together in Group H, along with Belgium, Bosnia and Estonia.
Whilst Belgium and Bosnia both impressed at the 2014 World Cup finals and are probably the early favourites to progress, both Greece and Cyprus will be relieved they didn’t draw one or more of the powerhouse teams of Europe.
France and the Netherlands have to face off in Group A, whilst Spain and Italy go head to head in Group G. Meanwhile, old rivalries will be revived when England and Scotland meet in Group F.
The team finishing top of each group automatically qualifies for the 2018 finals, whilst the runner-up will have to advance through a home and away playoff. Qualifying rounds begin in September 2016.
Hellenic Football Federation president Giorgos Girtzikis attended the draw but both national team manager Sergio Markarian and team director Giorgos Karagounis were absent.
Last Tuesday, Markarian resigned from his post but Girtzikis refused to accept his resignation. Markarian has made statements suggesting he was having difficulties working alongside Karagounis. It appears increasingly likely that Greece will go into the qualifiers without these two at the helm.
UEFA World Cup 2018 qualifying draw
Group A: Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg
Group B: Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra
Group C: Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino
Group D: Wales, Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova, Georgia
Group E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan
Group F: England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta
Group G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, FYROM, Liechtenstein
Group H: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus
Group I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland