Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thoughts on the World Cup Draw

Finally, and in typically controversial fashion, we have our 32 teams. FIFA have yet to announce what the pots will be for the draw taking place December 4th. Last time around they announced them on December 6th and had the draw December 9th so I don't think we can expect that for a fortnight or so.

I have written before that I believe that the seeded teams will be Brazil, Italy, Spain, England, Germany, Argentina, France and South Africa. This is based on the formula that they used last time. They may change the formula, they threw a wrench into the UEFA playoffs by making the draw seeded shortly before it happened, but my guess is that those will be the seeded teams.

That leaves these teams:


Ivory Coast

North Korea
South Korea

United States

New Zealand


Unless they completely blow up the format they've used for the last several World Cups, two pots will be the seeded teams and the non-seeded UEFA countries. For the other two, they have a few different ways to go and they've done them all before. They could go:
Pot 3: Africa and North America
Pot 4: Asia, South America and New Zealand

Pot 3: Asia, North America and New Zealand
Pot 4: Africa and South America

Pot 3: North America, South America, New Zealand
Pot 4: Africa and Asia

That last option creates uneven pots, but that can be dealt with in the draw and has happened before. In my view, the toughest group of countries by far when you take out the seeded teams and Europe, both of which have their own pots, is those from Africa. I think that's often true anyway, but even more so with the finals taking place in South Africa. So if you are a fan of one of the above countries then you want whatever configuration puts Africa in your country's pot. It may be possible to draw a team from your pot because of the rule that two countries from the same confederation can't be in the same group, but you are more likely to draw one from the other.

Getting back to the seeded teams, I personally put them into 4 groups. That's a big number since there are 8 of them but here's how I rate them:

Favorites: Brazil and Spain
2nd Tier: Germany, Italy, England
Your Guess Is as Good as Mine: France, Argentina
Please: South Africa

I have them sorted best to worst within. The first two groups are pretty self explanatory. For the third group, I think both of those countries are in an interesting situation where they have the talent to be up there, but due to bad management or something else they are playing far enough below their potential that they are not very good right now. The World Cup is still over 200 days away (and Hiddink is available!) so a lot can happen. If France and Argentina played to their potential I would put them up there with Germany, perhaps those three in the 2nd tier and drop England and Italy to their own. I may get heat from English supporters and possibly be underrating them, but I feel they lack the quality and especially the depth of the six other big teams that are likely to be seeded. I would put them ahead of France and Argentina right now, obviously. You will hear shouts of joy from the unseeded countries if they get drawn with South Africa who challenge the United States in '94 for worst host ever.

Looking at the unseeded teams, the countries to avoid are the Netherlands, Portugal and Ivory Coast. I think that these teams have by far the best chance of the unseeded teams to win it, as good or better a shot than England. Other than that, the teams to avoid depend on what the pots are. Along with those three, Mexico, the United States and South Korea are all likely teams to be in the group of death simply because they are likely to be better than the other teams in their pot. Again this depends on the format of the draw; it's especially true if the North American and/or Asian teams are put into a different pot as the African teams. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean they'll get a tougher draw. For example, Honduras is quite unlikely to be in the group of death because they aren't very good. However, the US and Mexico have the same chance of drawing any given 3 opponents as Honduras.

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