Qualifying play for Euro 2016 still isn't finished yet, and it still seems like the 2014 World Cup was just wrapping up a few weeks ago, but things are already getting underway for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. On July 25th, UEFA officially announced the 2018 World Cup qualifying stage draw for all of its teams, separating 52 countries into nine lettered groups.
The qualifiers won't begin for over a year still-the earliest date of any of the fixtures is September 4, 2016. It will also be more than two years before the World Cup qualification rounds officially wrap up, on November 14, 2017. Still, while there are a lot of events on the soccer circuit that will happen before these qualifiers get started, that doesn't mean it's too early to look at some of UEFA's top soccer teams and see who they'll be facing as they take their first steps toward Russia in 2018.
Recent Cup Victors and Contenders
The German national football team will be playing the role of defending champions at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If they win the tournament, they will tie Brazil's current record of five titles at the venerated FIFA tournament.
Needless to say, the stakes are high for Germany, but they aren't likely to face many substantial challenges in the qualifying rounds. They've been drawn into Group C, alongside the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, and San Marino-all teams that didn't reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Czechs are the most likely challengers.
The Netherlands, UEFA's next-highest finisher at the 2014 World Cup (third place), will play in Group A, alongside France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, and Luxembourg. Of those teams, the Dutch are the highest on FIFA's most recent