Germany World Cup 2014
Defending world champions Germany will know how difficult or easy their path in qualifying will beReuters

It might still be three years away, but the preliminary draw for the 2018 Fifa World Cup will take place in St. Petersburg, Russia on Saturday, with all the bigwigs, including holders Germany finding out just who they will face in qualifying.

How easy or difficult the groups are can have a big bearing on being able to qualify for the World Cup finals, and the big teams will hope that most of their opponents in qualifying are reasonably easy.

The most interesting aspect of the draw will be the European one, with nine groups set to be drawn. Seven of those groups will have six teams involved in qualifying, while the other two will have five sides.

Germany, England, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands and even teams like Belgium and Wales – considering their march up the Fifa rankings -- will hope to qualify top of their group as it assures them a straight passage into the World Cup finals, while the eight best runners-up from the nine groups will be forced into a playoff with each other.

The draw ceremony will hopefully go without too much of a hitch, as Russia are seen as controversial hosts for the 2018 World Cup.

Racism continues to rear its ugly head in the country, with former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong the latest alleged victim, while Zenit St. Petersburg striker Hulk said he faces racism in pretty much every match.

Hulk was supposed to be one of the assistants for the 2018 FIFA World Cup draw, but the Brazilian has pulled out, leaving former Chelsea midfielder Alexey Smertin to take his place.

Other high-profile draw assistants include Brazilian legend Ronaldo, former World Cup winner for Italy Fabio Cannavaro, Uruguayan great Diego Forlan and Cameroon goalscoring machine Samuel Eto'o.

One man hoping for a kind draw is Scotland manager Gordon Strachan. "There is no doubt qualifying for a World Cup finals is harder than ever," Strachan told the Scottish FA's official website.

"There are so many good national teams across the continent vying for a limited number of places. It is certainly changed days from my time as an international player and I think we lose sight of that fact when we analyse recent disappointments.

"I've never been one for hoping that we avoid this team or wishing that we draw that team. It's disrespectful to the other nations and it's also pointless -- you can't control names that come out of a glass bowl.

"What I would say is that, given the draws in recent campaigns we are due a favourable one."

Where to Watch Live

Get the full Group and Match List HERE

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw is set to begin at 5 pm local time (8.30 pm IST, 4 pm BST, 11 am ET). There is no live coverage on TV in India.

UK viewers can watch the draw live on BBC Red Button and Sky Sports News, with the live streaming option on Sky Sports News Online.

Audience in the US can watch how the 2018 FIFA World Cup draw unfold on Fox Sports, Telemundo and NBC Deportes, with the live stream option on FoxSportsGo. Viewers in Canada can watch the draw live on TSN, while the picking of the lots can also be live streamed on TSN TV.

Viewers from around the world, including India, can follow the draw the draw on

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