The picture continues to become clearer.
With only continental and intercontinental playoffs remaining in World Cup qualifying, 21 teams have already booked their trip to Brazil in 2014, while a few teams (Uruguay, Mexico and Ghana) seem all but assured of advancing.
With the latest FIFA rankings announced, we now know who the seeded teams will be for the 2014 tournament. Let's take a comprehensive look at how the World Cup landscape looks with just playoff games remaining.
|Top 30 in FIFA Rankings as of October 17|
World Cup 2014 Seeded Teams
As per The Telegraph, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Switzerland and Uruguay (note that Uruguay still has to beat Jordan in a playoff to reach the World Cup. Should they to fail to do so, the Netherlands would become a seeded team).
Current World Cup 2014 Unseeded Teams
Japan, Australia, South Korea, Iran, Netherlands, England, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia, Costa Rica, United States, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador.
European Playoff Seedings
Seeded teams: Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Ukraine
Unseeded teams: France, Sweden, Romania, Iceland
Ghana lead Egypt, 6-1
Burkina Faso lead Algeria, 3-2
Ivory Coast lead Senegal, 3-1
Nigeria lead Ethiopia, 2-1
Tunisia and Cameroon level, 0-0
Uruguay vs. Jordan
Mexico vs. New Zealand
Yes, Switzerland are currently ranked the No. 7 team in the world. If ever there was a time to brush up on how the FIFA ranking points are tallied, now would be it.
But it's a good bet Switzerland have skyrocketed up the rankings due to their play in World Cup qualification, where they remained unbeaten, winning seven games and drawing three. Switzerland deserve credit for handling their business, but they did so in a group composed of Iceland, Slovenia, Norway, Albania and Cyprus.
The only other team in that group ranked in the top 30 is Slovenia, at No. 30. Seeing as Europe has 19 of the top 30 teams in the rankings, it's safe to say Switzerland used a pretty easy group to jump right into a seeded spot at the 2014 World Cup.
Meanwhile, France aren't even a seeded team in the playoff round. Something about this scenario just seems a bit backwards, no?
It seems a safe bet that Uruguay will win their playoff and mark their place as a seeded team in the World Cup, while Mexico are almost assuredly heading to Brazil as well. In Africa, Ghana and the Ivory Coast seem like locks to advance.
There aren't too many surprises in the seeded ranks, outside of the Netherlands and Italy not making the cut. Brazil are an automatic qualifier as the host, while Spain, Argentina, Germany and Colombia aren't surprises.
One team that may surprise a few folks, however, and will surely turn heads in Brazil is Belgium. This young Belgian side are loaded with talent and could really make some noise this summer.
Just look at some of the players projected to be on this roster—Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Christian Benteke, Kevin Mirallas, Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen, Dries Mertens, Thomas Vermaelen, Moussa Dembele, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet.
That's a stacked core.
It's important to remember that after the seeded teams, the remainder of the tournament is broken down geographically where possible. From ESPN:
Only the top pot is seeded for the December 6 draw in Bahia, with the remaining pools based purely on a geographical basis to ensure a spread of nations in each group.
There can be no more than one team from each confederation in each group, with the exception of Europe which will have two nations in four or five groups.
If Uruguay win their play-off, then the geographical draw pots will likely be similar to that of 2006. One pot may contain eight European nations, another should have the four Asian countries and four from CONCACAF (or New Zealand), with a final pot of Chile, Ecuador and the five African qualifiers.
That would leave a separate pot for the lowest-ranked UEFA side, who would be drawn against a non-European team from the seeded pot—Brazil, Argentina, Colombia or possibly Uruguay, to ensure no more than two European teams are in one group.
Whew—got all that?
In other words, it remains pretty impossible to know what the United States' draw will look like, beyond the fact that the USMNT will definitely face one European squad (possibly two), more than likely a South American side and possibly an African side.