World Cup 2014: Projecting the Group of Death, Teams to Avoid and More
With the latest spate of FIFA World Rankings arriving on October 17, we can begin to forecast possible World Cup 2014 group stage draws.
Twenty-one teams have already qualified, two more from Africa look strong bets to make it, and we're into the playoff rounds in all remaining regions.
As per Infostrada Sports, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Switzerland, Colombia and Uruguay (should they qualify) will be seeded for the tournament and placed in Pot 1 for the group stage draw:
If Oscar Tabarez's troops slip up against Jordan in the playoffs, Netherlands will take the final seeded spot.
The rest of the pots will be split up between continents, with Europe dominating one due to the sheer number of teams (15) they send to the event.
In the past, FIFA have combined South America and Africa into a third pot, while Central America and Asia populate the fourth and final pot. There's no guarantee that will be the case this time around, but the history and logistics of the scheme make it an easy choice.
With this in mind, we look at what sort of permutations could occur in mocking the draw and what your nation needs to avoid.
The Top Seed Everyone Wants
Switzerland, on account of their unbeaten record in the qualifying process and consistent presence at major international tournaments, have managed to find their way into Pot 1.
That means they avoid the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany early on and can maximise their chances of getting out of their group.
Just how strong an outfit Ottmar Hitzfeld's troops are, though, remains in question, as a rather easy qualifying group went a long way toward them progressing with seven wins and three draws.
They're the top seed everyone wants to land with in the draw, as despite an emerging crop of good players and a brilliant coach at the helm, they don't pose the threat many of the elite teams in Pot 1 can.
If you miss Switzerland, you're going to want Belgium. As promising as they look, they've no major international tournament experience of note and could be a little spooked by both the occasion and the pressure.
Ties to Avoid
Three unlucky teams will be placed in a group with hosts Brazil, fresh from winning the 2013 Confederations Cup and raring to get going in front of a raucous home crowd.
Three more unlucky teams will land with Argentina, three with Colombia, three with Uruguay, and even if you avoid those, Chile and Ecuador may be lying in wait later in the draw.
South American teams are strong on their home continent, and the World Cup has never been won by a non-Americas side when held in either the South or Central regions.
If you pick up a group containing Belgium, Chile and South Korea, it's still a tough draw considering you could have landed Ghana or Honduras (depending on the pots) instead of La Roja on their home continent.
Areas to Avoid
Certain areas of Brazil are tougher to play in than others, as the world's fifth-largest country boasts a plethora of different terrains, humidity levels and working conditions.
Most stadiums are located along the east coast of Brazil, with a couple of exceptions—Cuiaba and Brasilia—venturing a little further inland. Humidity can reach 98 percent in these areas, but it's a consistent feature in a hot country and teams will have to get used to it.
Salvador and Recife, located approximately 1,500 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro, will be extremely hot locations to play in, and teams will be praying for matches taking place in southern regions of the country. Porto Alegre is the dream venue for that reason.
The one area every team will hope to avoid in its entirety is Manaus, a northern city that borders the Amazon rain forest and boasts one stadium—the Arena da Amazonia—that will host a total of four games.
If you avoid Groups A, D, E and G, you're certain to avoid this nightmare scenario.
Group of Death?
With the pots (largely) predictable, you can begin to forecast a potential "Group of Death" scenario, which incorporates four of the strongest teams that can feasibly be drawn together.
Brazil, as hosts, could head a group that contains Italy, France (should they win their playoff encounter on November) and Mexico (should they qualify).
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Argentina could feasibly be paired up with the Netherlands, the Ivory Coast and Japan.
At the other end of the scale, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso and Australia could all be drawn together, making for a nip-and-tuck scenario between all four sides.
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