After much intense speculation we now know which teams are in which pots for tomorrow’s World Cup finals draw. As suggested here on November 24th the French have paid for Thierry Henry’s juggling act in the play off against Ireland with demotion to a non-seed pot. While FIFA obviously won’t admit it, the French are being punished. Wasn’t it obvious once news broke of the intention to use the October rather than the more traditional November rankings? Now if we can just put the whole sorry episode behind us and all move on.
Hmmmm, that’s not exactly easy now FIFA has kicked the video technology and extra officials debates into Row Z. How did they rationalise this after most commentators expected some movement on both issues in the wake of recent events? More committees, INTERPOL and an investigation into Thierry Henry’s bid to become captain of the 2012 French Handball Team, that’s how. So it was all hot air after all.
One: Argentina, Brazil, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain
Two: Australia, Honduras, Japan, Korea DPR, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, USA
Three: Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Paraguay, Uruguay
Four: Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
No two teams from the same confederation will be drawn in the same group. The exception is UEFA. Because there are 13 teams in this geographical area it would be impossible to impose a maximum of just one per group.
On this basis, here is what we know. Argentina and Brazil cannot play Chile, Paraguay or Uruguay but MUST play an African side from Pot 3.
This theoretically increases England’s chances of avoiding the Ivory Coast and Ghana, two dangerous sides boasting players with significant Premiership experience.
However, South Africa cannot play an African team in the group stages, so the prospects of England avoiding a top African side because of the South American factor are only slightly less than might have been hoped.
That said, the official FIFA document says the first two African teams drawn WILL go into Brazil and Argentina’s group. So if Ivory Coast and Ghana come out early these potential troublemakers will be annoying the South Americans instead. Good.
What can we hope for? England, New Zealand, Paraguay and Switzerland (lots of pundits are going for Slovenia as European whipping boys – I don’t buy that. They saw off Russia, as anyone who casually wrote off their play off chances will tell you through gritted teeth).
And the worst case scenario? England, USA, Ivory Coast and Portugal. It could happen.
Because the real news comes after 5pm British time I won’t be producing a draw day World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 e-mail unless something unexpected and newsworthy happens such as footage emerging of Michael Platini taking coke in the company of Thai ladyboys [footage which obviously doesn’t exist] or the appearance of a Daily Mail article which doesn’t predict World War Three on the streets of South Africa next summer [which will never be written].
Talking of the media, here’s a quick look at their reaction to the World Cup seedings news and FIFA’s extraordinary meeting:
“I don't think we can be afraid of anyone,” Steven Gerrard told Talksport as Fabio Capello loitered in the shadows like a twenty-first century Dr Mesmer.
World Cup teams are hiring security firms from Iraq to protect them, says the Independent.
The Times leads with a scary picture of Diego Maradona before finally deciding we’ve been traumatised enough and talking about the footy.
And “France have called FIFA’S decision not to include them as one of the seeds for the World Cup 2010 draw an ‘injustice’”. How ironic, the Telegraph doesn’t say.
The French are furious, laughs the Daily Mirror, and goes on to demonstrate its sympathy by leading with a picture of Henry and the words “Pleased to cheat you”.
And the Daily Mail has David Beckham leading the charm offensive despite the death of his grandfather.
The official World Cup match schedule and other information should appear on the site after 7pm tomorrow night. Have a great weekend.