A large part of the FC Barcelona squad now know their path towards the 2018 World Cup following the draw on Saturday for the qualification phase of the tournament that will be played in Russia.
From a Barça point of view, the most notable outcome of the draw came in Group I of the European Zone with Ivan Rakitic’s Croatia set to take on Arda Turan’s Turkey. Both teams will be looking to top the group to book their place in the finals. Iceland, Ukraine and Finland complete the quintet of nations.
The Spanish internationals in the Barça squad will also have to work hard in qualification. The likes of Piqué, Bartra, Alba, Bartra, Sergio, Pedro, Aleix Vidal and Iniesta and co will have to take on Italy in a group that also contains Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein. Everyone will be trying to claim first place with the runners-up spot only good enough for a place in a play-off.
Thomas Vermaelen’s Belgium will face Bosnia, Greece, Estonia and Cyprus, whilst Jérémy Mathieu’s France have been drawn in Group A with the Netherlands, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg. Finally, Ter Stegen – up to now a fixture in the U-21 side - and the German national side are in Group C with the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and San Marino.
The South American qualifying phase has also been announced. Claudio Bravo’s Chile side, recent winners of the Copa América, will begin their progress to Russia with a home game against Neymar and Dani Alves’ Brazil side. Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano start at home for Argentina with a visit from Ecuador. Luis Suárez’s World Cup qualifying campaign with Uruguay will start from the fifth round of matches.