Thursday, December 01, 2005

How will the World Cup draw work?

I wrote this post before FIFA annouced the pots on Dec 6. For an update, click here.

With just 8 days to go before we all find out who will play whom and where, there are still some questions about how the draw will work. However, the only thing we know for sure are what 32 teams will be in the draw and that it will happen on Friday, December 9th, in Leipzig, Germany, at 8:15pm local time (2:15pm EST). I guess we also know that they will draw 8 groups of 4.

We do not know who will be seeded nor we do not know how other non-seeded pots will be made up. FIFA could wait to announce this till the start of the actual draw. However, we can look back on the draw for the 2002 World Cup in Japan & Korea. Since that draw was very similar to the 1998 draw in France (the first time 32 teams competed), it is a great guide for what to expect next week.

In 2002, there were four pots. The first pot was made up of the seeded teams. These teams were France (previous WC champ), Japan (host), South Korea (host), Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany & Spain.

The second pot was made up of the 11 remaining European teams.

The third pot was made up of the 2 remaining Asian and 3 remaining South American teams.

The fourth pot was made up of the 5 African and 3 CONCACAF teams.

For the group draw (Groups A-H), France was placed in Group A as the returning champion. South Korea and Japan were placed in groups that would play in their home countries. The other five spots were random draws.

Once all the top spots in the groups were filled, they turned to the second pot. A team was drawn at random for each of the eight groups. The three remaining European teams were then drawn into one of the four groups that did not already have two European teams (these were the groups with Japan, S. Korea, Argentina and Brazil). I seem to recall that they used FIFA rankings to decided which of these three groups would get a second European team, but I could be wrong with that. All I know is that Brazil was the only team of the four that did not have a second European team in their group.

So after the second pot 5 groups had 2 teams while 3 groups had 3 teams. They then drew the five teams from the third pot into the 5 groups that only had 2 teams. However, since Brazil was one of these groups, they could not draw a South American team (only Europe can have two teams from their confederation in a group). This required one of the two Asian teams to draw into Brazil's group.

With the third pot done, all 8 groups now had 3 teams.

Since no African or CONCACAF teams were seeded, they were able to do a blind draw without restrictions from the fourth pot.

This finished out the draw.

So if they use a similar model for 2006, it would look a bit like this.

First pot - eight seeded teams. If they use the same formula for the seeding, the first pot will be Germany (host), Brazil, Spain, Argentina, England, France, Mexico & Italy. Note that the returning champs no longer get an automatic seed.

Second pot - remaining 9 European teams
Ukraine, Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia and Montenegro, Switzerland, Czech Republic

Third pot - 4 Asian teams, 2 remaining South American teams and, I'm guessing, the only Oceania team.
Japan, Iran, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Australia

Fourth pot - 5 African teams and 3 remaining CONCACAF teams.
Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Ghana, Tunisia, USA, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago

Germany is going to be the top seed in Group A and it is rumored that Brazil will end up on top of Group F (these two spots play their three group matches in the largest stadiums). The top spots in the other six groups will be random draw.

Each group should then get a European team from the second pot. The remaining team will be placed in one of the three groups with non-European top spots (Brazil, Argentina or Mexico). If they use FIFA rankings, Mexico will get the second European team.

With the second pot over, 7 groups would have 2 teams while 1 (Mexico) would have 3 teams.

The third pot would draw into those 7 remaining groups, but neither the Brazil nor Argentina group could get one of the South American teams. That means they will have an Asian team in their group.

With the third pot over, all 8 groups would have 3 teams.

The fourth pot would draw into the final spot in each group, but Mexico's group could not get one of the 3 CONCACAF teams.

So if this formula is used, what does that mean for the USA? It means that they will be in a group with 2 European sides unless they are in the group with Brazil or Argentina (same can be said about Costa Rica or Trinidad and Tobago).

FIFA might decide to use some draw model that looks nothing like this. They could also choose to use a different seeding method, thus changing the makeup of the first pot. However, I think the odds of that are slim. They would have to spend time explaining why they made the changes and any team that did not get a seed that would have under the old system would be a bit upset.

Still, I could see them changing the dynamics of the third and fourth pots. I could see the third pot being made up of the Asian and remaining CONCACAF sides while the fourth pot got Africa, Oceania and the remaining South Americans, but even that seems unlikely.



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