Russia is lowest-ranked team in draw for its home World Cup
ZURICH (AP) — Russia will be the lowest-ranked team in the draw for the World Cup it is hosting after Peru sealed the last qualifying spot.
FIFA uses its October rankings for the Dec. 1 draw in Moscow, which means No. 65 Russia is two places below Saudi Arabia, which will be lowest-ranked nation in the pot of fourth-seeded teams.
Despite the rankings, Russia will be the top seed in Group A — the status FIFA gives all World Cup host nations.
The No. 10-ranked Peru clinched the last place in the 32-team tournament when it beat No. 122 New Zealand in an intercontinental playoff late Wednesday in Lima.
Peru’s win pushed No. 38 Serbia down into the fourth-seeded pot as a dangerous outlier. Serbia is likely to be drawn in a tough group with Brazil or Argentina, the only top-seeded teams from outside Europe.
FIFA limits each of the four-team groups to a maximum of two European teams. No two teams from any other continental confederation can be drawn together
Potentially tough draws could group Brazil, Spain, Egypt and Serbia, and Germany with England, Costa Rica and Nigeria.
FIFA has changed how it allocates teams in the draw and now uses rankings alone for all four pots. At previous World Cups, only pot 1 was for seeded teams, and the other three pots were decided by a geographical spread.
Russia will play the tournament opener on June 14. The 2018 World Cup final will be held on July 15. Both showpiece games are at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
World Cup draw seedings (FIFA ranking in October):
Pot 1: Russia (65), Germany (1), Brazil (2), Portugal (3), Argentina (4), Belgium (5), Poland (6), France (7).
Pot 2: Spain (8), Peru (10), Switzerland (11), England (12), Colombia (13), Mexico (16), Uruguay (17), Croatia (18).
Pot 3: Denmark (19), Iceland (21), Costa Rica (22), Sweden (25), Tunisia (28), Egypt (30), Senegal (32), Iran (34).
Pot 4: Serbia (38), Nigeria (41), Australia (43), Japan (44), Morocco (48), Panama (49), South Korea (62), Saudi Arabia (63).