Thursday, December 3, 2009

World Cup Draw

Tomorrow sees the 2010 World Cup draw whereby the 32 teams are divided into 8 groups for the tournament. There are 4 pots of 8 teams each and one team is drawn from one pot for each group. This way, no group can have more than one team from the same continent, except Europe, which has a maximum of 2 teams per group.

Here are the pots along with the FIFA rankings for each team, effective November 20th (just after the final qualifying games were completed). It should be noted that FIFA actually seeded the teams based on their October rankings, which is why England is seeded rather than Portugal or France.

Pot 1              Pot 2            Pot 3               Pot 4
Spain 1 USA 14 Cameroon 11 Portugal 5
Brazil 2 Mexico 15 Côte d'Ivoire 16 France 7
Netherlands 3 Australia 21 Chile 17 Greece 12
Italy 4 Honduras 38 Uruguay 19 Switzerland 18
Germany 6 Japan 43 Nigeria 22 Serbia 20
Argentina 8 South Korea 52 Algeria 28 Denmark 26
England 9 New Zealand 77 Paraguay 30 Slovenia 33
South Africa 86 North Korea 84 Ghana 37 Slovakia 34

There are eight seeded teams in Pot 1, but one of those is host South Africa, which is the worst ranked country in the competition. Pot 4 is the unseeded Europeans, Pot 3 has the African and South American teams while Pot 2 has the Asian and North American teams plus New Zealand. The losers here are the Yanks and Mexicans, who miss a chance to play the relatively easier Asian teams.

As far as I know, teams from Pot 1 will be drawn into slot one in their group, Pot 2 into slot 2 etc. As the schedule is already decided, this means that each group will end with Team 1 playing Team 4, so there could be some great battles for first or second place in some groups.

As mentioned, England and Argentina are seeded in front of both Portugal and France, so it is possible that a couple of groups could have two of the best 7 teams in the world. It be a tough draw for the other countries if two of their opponents were Brazil and Portugal for example.

Because South Africa are in group A, those drawn into Group B might have an easier road to the Quarter Finals. Imagine that group A also includes North Korea, Paraguay, and Denmark – none of those teams would frighten a top team in the round of 16. Another interesting point is that many of the games are at a higher altitude. This could be beneficial for Mexico or Chile for example, who are more used to playing at these heights. There’s really no end of potential storylines.

You can run your own mock draws, as I’m sure many people are doing. For Japan, they’ll be the worst ranked team in their group (unless they are drawn into Group A) so their hopes would be to get two of the weaker teams from Pots 3 and 4. A draw of Spain, Cameroon, and Portgual would likely mean a quick end to Okada’s dreams of a semi-final berth. On the other hand, a draw of Greece, Algeria, and South Africa may spark celebrations.

To me, this is a pretty exciting event that starts fans dreaming of next summer. It will be televised live at 1:30 am Saturday in Japan (11:30 am Friday on the East Coast). I’ll be staying up for it and hoping for England and Japan to be drawn in the same group!



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