Photo via AS

Yes, they qualified. A 3-1 victory over Ecuador has secured La Selección’s spot in the 2018 World Cup. But while qualifying was considered a big win, it was considered just a step forwards towards the real goal: seeing Lionel Messi lift the cup in Russia next year.

Although only 23 out of the 32 teams have already assured their ticket, the eight top seeded teams, as wells as the conformation of the other pots, have already been established. Therefore, we can now begin to speculate about the different groups Argentina could get, and how easy – at least on paper – their path to the knockout round could be.

This is how the draw works.

The 2018 World Cup draw will take place in Moscow on December 1, 2017. The 32 teams will be divided into four pots, and each group will consist of one team from each pot. The pots will be determined by each team’s October 2017 FIFA World Ranking (the only exception is the host nation, Russia, which automatically gets placed in the first pot).

Despite struggling to qualify, Argentina still maintained a high ranking and thus made it to the first pot, meaning they will avoid powerhouses like Germany, France, and Brasil in the first round.

There is a valid argument to be made for a Spanish team featuring one of the best midfields in the world winning the 2018 World Cup,

However, that doesn’t mean Argentina will have it easy. Spain and Italy – should it end up qualifying – are some European fútbol giants that will be in the second pot and Argentina would like to see in someone else’s group.

England was also placed in the second pot, but they have a tendency to underperform in major international tournaments, making them slightly less-scary than Italy and Spain.

The other teams in the second pot will include Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, and assuming they qualify, Peru and Switzerland. However, it is worth noting that since Latin American teams can’t be on the same group – only some European teams can, and that’s because they get 12 spots in the World Cup and it would be impossible for them not to – Argentina won’t be playing against Peru – should it qualify – Uruguay or Colombia.

Other teams such as Croatia, Iceland, or Denmark could end up in the second pot if Switzerland and Italy do not qualify, but they will likely be drawn from the third pot, along with teams such as Costa Rica and Egypt.

Here are some scenarios that would be more accessible for Argentina, as well as some that would be a bit more complicated Argentina.

Photo via La Nacion.
Photo via La Nacion.

Yes, Iceland defied the odds and went on a historic run to the quarterfinals of the 2016 Euros, but not many expect them to recreate that magic in Russia. Egypt only has five players playing in a major European league, and Saudi Arabia and Panama have none.

Croatia is led by La Liga stars Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and have at their disposal a slew of players from top European leagues. Nigeria may end up in the fourth pot, but players like Victor Moses, who played a crucial role in Chelsea’s Premier League title this past season, and Kelechi Iheanacho, the Leicester City striker, could prove to be difficult for an Argentine defense.

This is the full list of teams that have qualified, teams that have a chance to qualify, and the pots that they will probably end up in.