Sunday, November 29, 2009

How Will Draw Work? Fifa's Secret

How teams are distributed in the World Cup draw is of utmost importance.

If your country gets into a group with three teams it has trouble matching up with ... well, figure on a short stay in South Africa.

So, you bet, there is great interest in the Finals Draw, which will be held Friday in Cape Town.

But here's the kicker: Fifa still hasn't announced how it will divide up the 32 teams into four pots (groups) of eight. And it won't announce the procedures until Wednesday.

A delay which is almost inconceivable, in the world of 21st century sports. So, we are left to guess.

And here we go.

This is an educated guess.

Pot 1 (top-seeded teams and the host): Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Spain.

Pot 2 (the rest of Europe): Denmark, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland.

Pot 3 (Africa and Concacaf): Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria, United States.

Pot 4 (Asia, Oceania, South America): Australia, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, North Korea, Paraguay, South Korea, Uruguay.

This is actually almost tidy.

Remember: Teams from the same continents are not supposed to be in the same group -- aside from the five groups that will have two European teams

Some possible permutations:

1. Argentina doesn't get seeded, Netherlands does ... and that leaves only seven in Pot 2. Easily solved by sticking Argentina in with the seven Euros. A little weird to separate it from the other three South American teams, but in terms of "what it has done in the past" it makes more sense to put Argentina in with seven Euros than, say, the other orphan team, New Zealand.

2. The five African teams that aren't the host are put in the same pot with the three South Americans who aren't Brazil and Argentina. Which means the final pot would be Concacaf, Asia and New Zealand.

In theory, then, when the draw is made, which teams get pulled from the three non-seeded pots is completely random. But with Fifa, you always worry about how legit it is -- though the organization makes a point of insisting it is random. Well.

The group to be in will be Group A -- the one with South Africa in it. Host countries always always always play better than expected, but South Africa is truly weak. And if that's your seeded team ... well, the three who end up in the SA group will be feeling fairly comfy.

On Wednesday, we find out, presumably, who is seeded ... and which confederations are in which pots ... and then we wait for the names to be drawn.

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