So today FIFA (finally) anounced how they are going to distribute the 32 participants over the four ‘pots’*. Now we have two full days to speculate on all the possibilities before the actual draw is made. Here are the pots:
Pot 1 (favorites)
Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina and England and South Africa (hosts are always seeded).
Pot 2 (Asia, CONCACAF and Oceania)
Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Honduras, Mexico, USA and New Zealand
Pot 3 (Agrica and South America)
Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay
Pot 4 (Europe)
Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland
As is customary, the first pot consists of the host nation and the powerhouses of football and pots 2 through 4 are based on region.
The big talking point is - of course - which countries have been seeded. This is extra interesting since FIFA have adopted a different approach from previous world cups. In previous tournaments they looked at countries’ performances at the last two world cups and their current position on the world ranking; this time around they have only looked at countries’ position on the world ranking in october 2009 (they look at october because some teams still had to play play-off matches in november and including those results would benefit the teams that were actually doing quite poorly in comparison with the teams that have qualified some time ago). The result of this is that France (runners-up in the last world cup) are not seeded and the Netherlands are.
I’ve already seen (on the BBC website) that this decision has spawned a lot of debate. I for one am really happy about this (since I’m dutch**), but I can understand that some french may feel agrieved. I’ve also heard claims that this is all a ‘punishment’ for ‘the handball’ that got France to the tournament in the first place. Whatever the reason is, I feel the desicion is justified - considering how the dutch (but also the English, who might otherwise have lost out to the Portugese) cruised through qualifying, and also given the spanking we gave the frogs at EURO 2008:D - and it seems to be one of the few times the FIFA has made a decision that seems to be thought through.
I do concede however, that it would have been a lot better and transparent if they’d said all this before the qualifiers started instead of afterwards when they know exactly who is in what position.
So, what are the groups going to be like? And who are going to get to the knock out stages?
*For those of you that are unfamiliar with the procedure: the world cup starts with eight groups of four teams that play a round robin competition and the best two go through to the knock out phase. To get these groups of four, the teams are split up into four ‘pots’ and each group will have one team from each pot.
**I’m quite sure I’ve jinxed everything by saying this and we will end up in a group with Cote d’Ivoir, Portugal and Australia…:rolleyes: