MOSCOW, Dec 2, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – The World Cup draw in Moscow on Friday threw up some tantalising group-stage encounters for next year’s finals, including 2010 winners Spain’s clash against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the best reaction from the countries bidding for World Cup glory in Russia.
The World Cup big guns
“Portugal have won an important title and, moreover, very recently. They are the champions of Europe… We are talking about the highest level.”
— Spain coach Julen Lopetegui on the prospect of his side taking on the European champions in Sochi.
“Spain are the natural favourites.”
— Portugal boss Fernando Santos talks up their Iberian neighbours ahead of the Group B showdown.
“Other groups are tougher, ours is more straightforward. (Coach) Tite has to be preparing his strategy.”
— Brazil’s 2002 World Cup hero Ronaldo to Brazilian TV after the five-time champions drew Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E.
“It’s a pretty good draw compared to other groups, we have the status of favourites to assume.”
— France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to Canal+ Sport after the 1998 winners were pitted against Australia, Peru and Denmark.
“I’m certainly not scared.”
— Germany coach Joachim Loew to ZDF. His reigning champions face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
“Beyond having the best player in the world, we need to have a team that functions well.”
— Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli hopes his side don’t rely on Lionel Messi after being handed a tough draw against Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland. “I go back to the last two tournaments. We really have to be focused, make sure nothing is taken for granted.”
— England manager Gareth Southgate looks for his team to learn lessons from previous failures. They’ll play Belgium, Tunisia and Panama.
The dark horses
“Uruguay is a small country with a lot of history and it deserves to be known by everyone.”
— Uruguay assistant coach Celso Otero, after the South Americans drew hosts Russia.
“It’s a tough group, but I can’t wait to get started, we want to be at our best.”
— Croatia’s Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic after their tricky draw in Group D.
“Playing the group’s first game against Brazil is a childhood dream.”
— Switzerland midfielder Gelson Fernandes.
“But we also played without Victor Moses.”
— Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr doesn’t think the absence of Messi was such a key factor in the Super Eagles’ recent 4-2 friendly win over Argentina.
“We’re thinking of getting to the final, that’s the ambition of this group.”
— Senegal’s West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate. The Africans take on Poland, Colombia and Japan as they look to beat their 2002 run to the quarter-finals.
“The only dangerous player is Messi!”
— Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez when asked if the debutants fear any of England’s players.
“The ball is round. If we can prepare hard to improve, I think our tears at the 2014 World Cup can turn into smiles.”
— South Korea’s Tottenham forward Son Heung-Min speaking to Yonhap News Agency.
“Starting with three points (against Denmark) will bring us peace of mind. Winning will be the key before playing France.”
— Former Peru midfielder Nolberto Solano as his country prepares for a first World Cup since 1982.
“I think that this is a perfect — even ideal — group.”
— Former Russia coach Valery Gazzayev speaking to R-Sport after the hosts’ draw with Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
“We just didn’t want to get Spain from pot two.”
— The relieved current Russian boss, Stanislav Cherchesov.