Germany not among top seeds

With the competition approaching, excitement has built around the draw.

As well as France, Pot One will be comprised of all the top seven qualified nations in the FIFA rankings as well as debutants Qatar, at 51st one of the lowest-ranked teams at the World Cup but with privileged status as hosts.

Brazil, Belgium, Lionel Messi's Argentina, England, Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal are the other top seeds, with the latter benefiting from European champions Italy's absence.

"We've definitely got respectability and I think we will be a team other teams wouldn't look forward to playing," said England manager Gareth Southgate of his side, who were semi-finalists four years ago in Russia.

Germany are the biggest name in Pot Two, which also contains the Netherlands and Croatia, runners-up in 2018

African champions Senegal, Japan and Robert Lewandowski's Poland are among the names in the third pot, and Canada will be in the fourth pot in their first appearance since 1986.

Three places still to be decided

However, three qualifying spots have still to be decided in the last 32-team World Cup before it expands to 48 teams in 2026.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine led to Ukraine's qualifying play-off semi-final against Scotland being postponed until June, with the winner of that match facing Wales for a place in Qatar.

There are also two intercontinental play-offs to come in Qatar in June, with either Australia or the United Arab Emirates facing Peru for one berth and Costa Rica playing New Zealand for the other.

Teams from the same continent will be kept apart except for those from Europe. Five groups will feature two European sides.

Qatar, a tiny Gulf state of under three million people, stunned the world when it was awarded the hosting rights.

Seven of its eight venues have been newly built, while Doha also opened a new metro system in preparation for an influx of fans from around the world. However the city remains a building site in many places.

Over 800,000 tickets have already been snapped up, and by the time the matches get underway construction should be finished on the promenade on Doha's Corniche.

'Unacceptable consequences'

Concerns remain over the treatment of gay and transgender supporters coming to a country where homosexuality is illegal, as well as over the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers in the country, including those who built stadiums.

At Thursday's FIFA Congress in Doha, Lise Klaveness, head of the Norwegian Football Federation, spoke out to say that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had been awarded "in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences".

"Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football were not in the starting XI until many years later," she said.

Her comments followed an open letter from global players' union FIFPro this week, which said: "Remember, we owe the migrant workers. It was they who toiled in scorching heat to build the infrastructure and stadiums."

The chief executive of Qatar's World Cup Supreme Committee, Hassan al-Thawadi, insisted the first World Cup in the Middle East would leave "truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies".

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