Euro 2012 whet your appetite for the gallantry and infamy of World Football. There's the Olympic competition in August, but most football fanatics will really only be biding their time until World Cup 2014.
Destination: Brazil. A country where many of its citizens sincerely believe the cup rightfully belongs, permanently. That sense of entitlement comes from the Selecao's capturing of the trophy a record five times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002).
The Pentacampeones will be one of the tournament's odds-on favorites and will qualify automatically, but there are 31 additional slots that are sure to be hotly contested in the build-up.
Before 2002, cup holders also received an automatic bid, but these days Spain will have to earn their way in as well (their U-17 team might be able to do the trick).
As of press time July 2012, there were 128 national teams competing for the remaining 31 spots. Six confederations feed the field with various competition formats and criteria for qualifying. Here's the confederation breakdown for the uninitiated:
UEFA (13 qualifers)
CONMEBOL (4 or 5 qualifers)
CAF (5 qualifiers)
AFC (4 or 5 qualifiers)
CONCACAF (3 or 4 qualifiers)
OFC (0 or 1 qualifer)
The final two spots are granted via two-legged Inter-Confederation playoffs:
AFC 5th Place vs. CONMEBOL 5th Place
OFC 1st Place vs. CONCACAF 4th Place
In the spirit of digital soothsaying, we've summoned the football gods in an attempt to predict the field. Dammit Jim! We're writers, not mathematicians. However, we went ahead and developed a simple grade-school coefficient for our predictions anyway. The good old-fashioned 100 percent grading scale. Step aside, Stephen J. Hawking.
Let's commence with the educated guessing, starting with UEFA...