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Sports

All eyes on Moscow for World Cup draw

media Argetina's Lionel Messi will be one of the star players expected to feature at the 2018 World Cup. Fuente: Reuters/Henry Romero

World football's most glittering stars as well as the less exalted will find out their first round opponents on Friday at the draw in Moscow for the 2018 World Cup.

"The draw is a historic event, an emotional stage of the preparations for the World Cup," said Vitaly Mutko, Russia's deputy prime minister and chairman of the World Cup organising committee.

The 32 teams involved in the draw will be placed into eight groups of four during a gala ceremony inside the State Kremlin Palace.

Germany, Brazil and Argentina are all in the first pot along with France, Portugal, Belgium, Poland and Russia.

Spain, the 2010 winners, who advanced from a group containing Italy, will be in pot two along with England, Peru, Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said: "Whatever happens we will accept it gladly and sportingly. I don't waste energy thinking about who I prefer and who I don't."

Iceland, who have qualified for the tournament for the first time, will be in pot three with fellow Scandanavians Denmark and Sweden. Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal and Iran are also in the pot.

Debutants Panama are in pot four with Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Fifa, which organises the competition, will keep apart sides from the same continent with the exception of Europe, which has 14 teams.

Most groups will therefore contain two European nations, raising the prospect of England or Spain meeting Germany or France in heavyweight contests right away.

"Our mindset has to be that every opponent at this tournament is a team that can beat you. Equally, every opponent is a team we can beat," said England manager Gareth Southgate.

"Before the draw, there is nothing you can do. You just wait. You need some luck to win the World Cup and it begins here with the draw," added former France player and coach Laurent Blanc.

Blanc, who guided France to the last eight of the 2012 European championships, is in Moscow to act as an assistant at the draw ceremony, along with fellow former trophy winners such as England's Gordon Banks, Italy's Fabio Cannavaro, Spain's Carles Puyol and Diego Maradona from Argentina.

Germany's Miroslav Klose, the leading scorer in tournament history, will bring out the trophy, while former England striker-turned TV presenter Gary Lineker will conduct the ceremony along with the Russian journalist Maria Komandnaya.

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