The draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup was held at the Kremlin on Friday, and next year’s soccer tournament in Russia looks like it will be a thrilling one.

FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup Final Draw

Here are the eight groups of four teams each that will be competing next summer:

Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia

Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco


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Group C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia

Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama

Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan

Russia appears to have one of the easiest groups of the draw. Only Uruguay can likely pose a real threat to the hosts, who will play their first game — the first game of the tournament — at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14 against Saudi Arabia — the only team ranked lower than the hosts.

European powerhouses France and England also seem to have received favorable group-mates.

Mexico, the reigning CONCACAF champion, will face a great challenge as they were paired with defending World Cup champion Germany and Sweden, which also boasts several strong players.

“None of us wanted an easy group,” Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said. “If you’re playing the World Cup, you want to face the best. And if you want to reach the final, you have to play great matches.”

Five-time World Cup winners Brazil will also probably advance to the second round with little difficulty with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia as their first opponents.

 The United States, Italy, the Netherlands and Ghana are among the countries who have traditionally qualified for the World Cup but who failed to earn a spot for the 2018 tournament. The U.S. failed to qualify for the first time since 1986 after losing  2-0 to Trinidad & Tobago in October. Peru beat New Zealand earlier this month to become the last nation to qualify for Russia 2018, the first time the South American nation has made it to the World Cup since 1982.

 Spain, which eliminated Portugal in the last 16 to eventually win its first World Cup in 2010, will open against the UEFA Euro 2016 champions on June 15 in Sochi.

The only group without a former World Cup champion is Group H (Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan).

Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the draw ceremony at the Kremlin, seven years after the country earned the hosting bid. Russia has recently stirred uproar for racist and violent practices that include Chechnya — a Republic that is part of the Russian Federation — abducting and torturing gay men and imprisoning them in places akin to concentration camps, among other human rights violations.

“We will do everything to make it a major sporting festival,” Putin said, looking forward to a World Cup of “friendship and fair play, values that do not change with time.”

Russia’s government has also been accused of sponsoring doping programs for Olympic athletes in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is the head of the World Cup organizing committee, denied all accusations that he was involved in these doping programs. This investigation is also particularly relevant since the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are scheduled to begin in February.

The International Olympic Committee executive board will decide on Tuesday whether to ban Russia from the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics.

The World Cup will end on July 15.

■ The 32 teams who qualified for the World Cup already have been seeded according to the FIFA rankings and divided into four pots. Here are the breakdowns:

Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France

Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia

Pot 3: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran

Pot 4: Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 01: FIFA President, Gianni Infantino (L) and Vladimir Putin President of Russia (R) speaks to the crowd during the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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