Simulating the World Cup Draw

Peru has just defeated New Zealand, and the lineup of the 32 teams going to Russia is complete. Now, preparation for the big stage officially begins for all sides. With the World Cup draw just 15 days away, I decided to run five simulations (small sample size) of the World Cup draw and see if there’s a feasible way out of any of these ten groups.

A couple of notes:

FIFA has decided that the Pots will be sorted by October FIFA ranking, which, theoretically, disadvantages Korea in some way as it will prevent us from getting “easier” teams like Panama, Morocco and Serbia. Korea will be in Pot 4 for the draw.

We’ll have some more fun breaking down the pots later in the week, but for now, let’s get to the simulation!

Simulation 1

Korea gets: Group D, with Germany, Peru and Denmark

Group of Death: Hard to tell. Group E has a good shout, and Group H has got 3 traditional powerhouses.

Easiest Group: Group A is a cakewalk for Spain, Group D has two playoff winners along with ourselves.

Potential Round of 16 opponent: France, who though disjointed at times, just have so much quality.

Tim-octopus projects: 4 points if lucky. Germany are beyond our level. Peru are a good side, but don’t have boundless talents and it will be their first World Cup experience, while Denmark relies heavily on Christian Eriksen. A win against one and a draw against the other would be do-able. I’ll say we qualify on 4 points.


Simulation 2

Korea gets: Group C, with France, England and Senegal

Group of Death: If you define said group as being one with two powerhouses, Group G fits the bill.

Easiest Group: Group H will have a very happy runner-up, while Group A is a crapshoot.

Potential Round of 16 opponent: Poland or Croatia. Would take an upset. (In a strange world, we could play Japan.)

Tim-octopus projects: 1 point, maybe 3 if lucky. France will steamroll us with their menacing pace, England might choke and give us a window, while Senegal is no Togo – these guys are seriously good. We don’t make it out and get yeot-showered.


Simulation 3

Korea gets: Group H, with Belgium, Peru and Iceland.

Group of Death: If you define said group as being one with two powerhouses, Group G fits the bill. Otherwise F is rather tough.

Easiest Group: Group H and A both have one dominant side who you’d expect to top the group, and then it’s a shrug for the rest.

Potential Round of 16 opponent: Spain or France again, god dammit.

Tim-octopus projects: 4 points may be do-able? Never underestimate your opponents, but you have got two World Cup debutants in the same group. If Korea gets their act together this is a group that on quality and on experience they can compete in.


Simulation 4

Korea gets: Group G, with France, Colombia and Sweden.

Group of Death: Group E in my view. Two winners of their confederation, an Iranian side that is the best in Asia and a Moroccan side that mean business.

Easiest Group: Hahaha. Group A. Did someone rig it for the hosts again?

Potential Round of 16 opponent: Belgium or England. Yikes.

Tim-octopus projects: 3 points if fortunate, 1 if we’re rational, 4 if we’re optimistic. Again, we’re not getting anything out of France. We may have just beaten Colombia but even if we do replicate that, I don’t quite know how we break down an Swedish defense that blocked Italy for 180 minutes. We’re probably out of this one.


Simulation 5

Korea gets: Group F, with Germany, Peru and Egypt.

Group of Death: No consensus, though Group H is no fun for the bottom two sides.

Easiest Group: Group A has a good shout, though that’s harsh on Iran or Morocco.

Potential Round of 16 opponent: Portugal, most probably.

Tim-octopus projects: 4 points is possible again, but not likely, since I feel that the Egyptians style is not conducive to Korea’s strengths… I think we’re seeing a trend. Unless it’s Russia, we won’t beat the top side, and the next two are beatable if we play it cool, but we’ll be underdogs nonetheless.


Hardest Group for Korea:

Germany – Spain – Egypt/Costa Rica – Korea

Easiest Group for Korea:

Russia – Colombia/Peru – Denmark/Iceland  – Korea


All in all:

This was probably one of the laziest posts I’ve done, but I think the consensus is this: we are going to be underdogs nevertheless, given that we may have been the most fortunate qualifiers in the tournament. But some of the Pot 3 teams are within reach, and we can maybe scrape a draw out of one of the Pot 2 teams. That result would be a road-map to the Round of 16, in which the future is indeed bleak.


If you want to play around with the simulator, this is what I used:

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The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?


  1. Since KNT is expected to be one of the weaker teams in the WC, every group seems like the Group of Death from our perspective. Just win baby!

  2. (correction: that first picture is wrong- Italy didn’t make it; Croatia moves to Pot 2 and Sweden goes to Pot 3)

    Honestly, I don’t see Korea qualifying out of any of your simulations if I’m being realistic. I just don’t see the confidence, passion, or general team unity (yet) in our side. Maybe I’ll change my mind later.

    I figure if Korea gets Poland or Russia as the Pot 1 team, they can count their lucky stars because I really think those are the only two teams from Pot 1 or 2 that Korea can beat. I think Poland is overrated and obviously Russia won’t do anything.

    Even though Peru/Iceland are debutants, they are on fire right now. Not saying they will go far, but I think they can burn Korea especially if we think our “experience” will give us an advantage. Those players will not suffer from a lack of confidence.

    My simulation:
    Poland, Spain, Tunisia, Korea

    Well, hey! Somehow I can see Korea qualifying here haha.

    Dream draw for Korea: Russia/Poland, Switzerland/England, Senegal, SK

  3. FIFA rankings clearly aren’t perfect, but it’s never a good sign when you are the second worst team going into the tournament; Russia excluded here since they enjoy the privilege of being the host and getting thrown in Pot A.

    I was curious what the implications of the new World Cup seeding system are so I took a look at the last 3 World Cups (note: FIFA has used both numbers and letters to label its pots, and they’ve switched it around over time. For consistency, I just use the letters even though that WC could’ve been naming them Pot 1, Pot 2, etc.).

    2006 Germany: Pot A (seeded teams based on a combination of FIFA rank and past WC performance), Pot B (South America, Africa, Oceania), Pot C (Europe), Pot D (Asia, CONCACAF). This was actually the closest Korea has ever come to being in Pot A (outside of hosting) given their strong 2002 performance and the subsequent ranking boost (11th seed, just behind 9 USA, 10 Netherlands).

    Korea ended up with France (A), Togo (B), Switzerland (C). Memorably, Korea won its first WC match overseas, drew the eventual runners up, and lost to Switzerland, a team that did not concede a single goal. Korea was also the only team to accumulate 4 points and NOT make the knockout stage. Unlucky break there… I’ll always remember that JS Park goal that equalized against France (a team that had both Henry AND Zidane).

    If you institute today’s system of basing the pots based on the recent FIFA ranking, Korea would’ve been in Pot C along with Switzerland. Togo was in Pot D and France in Pot A. So 2006 is a situation where they actually fared better in the drawing under the system that existed then versus the 2018 system (by avoiding a hypothetical Pot B team).

    2010 South Africa: Pot A (host + top 7), Pot B (Asia, North America, Oceania), Pot C (Africa, South America), Pot D (Europe).

    Korea was drawn with Argentina (A), Nigeria (C), Greece (D). This was famously the first time the KNT ever qualified for the knockout stages outside of Korea! Finished with 4 points again after a 2-0 win over Greece, 1-4 rout against Argentina, and a 2-2 draw versus Nigeria (what a free kick from Park Chu Young in the rain).

    If you applied today’s system to 2010: Korea would’ve been in Pot D, Nigeria in C, Greece in B, Argentina in A. So this is an example of how if you structured the pots by geography you could end up with the same results as if you did it by FIFA ranking. At the same time, you could argue that this was an ideal drawing for Korea since Greece was the 6th best team in this hypothetical Pot B and Nigeria was the 8th best team in Pot C, so they got paired with some of the lowest ranked sides from each hypothetical pot.

    2014 Brazil: Pot A (top seeds, including the host which would’ve been in Pot A anyway), Pot B (Africa, South America), Pot C (Asia, North America), Pot 4 (Europe).

    Korea got put in the same group as Belgium (A), Algeria (B), Russia (D). I remember going into the tournament being cautiously optimistic about Korea’s chances of advancing to the knockout stages given that we avoided one of the top contenders from A (though, granted, people thought Belgium was a good darkhorse candidate to win), and both Algeria and Russia were among the lowest ranked sides in their respective pots. All of which is to say, we had avoided once again the tournament’s Group of Death and had a shot. Well, we all know what happened…

    If today’s system existed then: Belgium stays in A, Russia is in C, Algeria and Korea would’ve been in D. Again, another situation in which Korea “lucked out” in the draw given that there would’ve been two sides hypothetically from Pot D based on FIFA rank.

    Conclusion: Korea’s group draws in the past 3 WCs have actually been pretty good! If the 2018 system existed in the past, this is how these groups would’ve looked if the pots were organized by FIFA ranking (asterisk representing Korea):
    2006: A, C, C*, D
    2010: A, B, C, D*
    2014: A, C, D, D*

    So, this year, Korea doesn’t have this luxury. The KNT is guaranteed to get drawn with a team from A, B, and C. It’s actually pretty significant that the system changed for Korea. I know it’s not worth complaining about because what’s done is done and this is the new reality. But, essentially, the KNT is now eligible to be grouped with Mexico or Costa Rica (whereas in the past, Asia got paired with North America in one pot), AND Korea has 0 shot of getting paired with one of the “weaker” sides (based on FIFA rank) from Africa/South America (another pot in the past) like Nigeria or Morocco. Iran very crucially ended up in Pot C, so it will avoid Costa Rica, Sweden, Egypt, Denmark from C, and get placed with one of the following teams from Pot D (since they can’t get placed with another Asian side): Serbia, Nigeria, Morocco, Panama.

    In terms of what’s most probable, I think we should assume the team from A will be a contender to win it all and our match versus that side will yield 0 points (though, we can hope for Russia, and less so Poland). Pot 2 is a real tossup. It could result in Spain. But also a team like Peru. Who knows what type of England side shows up or Colombia. Pot 3 I suppose we hope for Senegal or Tunisia. However, all this wishful thinking might backfire on us. The draw is completely out of our hands, and we’ll just wait and see what happens on December 1. Let’s remember, when we saw Sonny’s Spurs draw Madrid and Dortmund we thought their European aspirations were over and look what happened!

  4. 1. Peru is not a ‘debutant’, but considering they haven’t qualified since 1982…
    2. I know 2014 is still fresh in the minds of many, but host teams do very well,
    3. I don’t think that Poland is over or underrated, I just don’t think anyone sees them in the spotlight.
    4. Comparing to past World Cups can get you in trouble, I doubt Brazil saw the five goals in six minutes coming in 2014…

  5. A post like this is fun, but at the end of the day that’s all it is- fun.

    There’s no way to predict which teams will over or under-perform on the biggest stage.
    Think Costa Rica (NOBODY predicted they would make it out of their group of death) or Algeria (I remember several Korean friends with a cocky grin: “We can beat Algeria, no problem!”) in 2014.
    Or Italy not making it in 2010 or 2014. Hell, even New Zealand not losing a single match in 2010 or the U.S. and not Portugal in 2014.
    South Africa had home advantage and couldn’t make it out of their group. Korea going on an epic run in 2002.
    There is so much unpredictability. Hell, most teams will be licking their chops if they draw a Panama or Egypt, but those teams could make deeper runs than anyone can expect.

    To Korea, I just say this: lots of deserving countries didn’t make it to the World Cup, and you guys barely qualified. Prepare well, and enjoy the ride regardless.

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