A World Cup without Zlatan—that is now, unfortunately, a world that we must live in.
While the fact that Sweden and its delightfully entertaining superstar won't be in Brazil is enough to send anyone into a crippling spiral of depression, at least teams such as Portugal and France were able to qualify for Brazil on Tuesday.
That means Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery competing on the world's biggest stage, which is always a good thing.
Along with Portugal and France, it was Greece and Croatia punching their tickets for the World Cup and taking us one step closer to a complete field for Brazil.
All that's left now is for Mexico and Uruguay not to suffer what would be collapses of gargantuan proportions in their second-leg matches, and we'll be set for the crucial draw.
Let's get you ready.
Date of the Draw: Dec. 6, 2013
Time: 11 a.m. ET (1 p.m. local time)
Location: Costa do Sauípe Resort in Mata de São João, Bahia, Brazil
How it Works
The 32 qualified countries are divided up into four "pots" of eight teams.
Pot No. 1 features the host country (Brazil) as well as the other top-seven ranked squads, according to FIFA's October 2013 rankings. The three remaining pots are filled according to geographical regions.
It is expected that pot No. 2 will have the AFC (Asia) and CONCACAF (North America, Central America, the Caribbean) qualifiers; pot No. 3 will have CAF (Africa), CONMEBOL (South America) and OFC (Oceania) qualifiers; and No. 4 will have the UEFA (Europe) qualifiers.
Here's how that would look:
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Brazil (Hosts)||Japan||Ivory Coast||Netherlands|
*Not yet qualified
Note: Mexico and Uruguay are projected as winners on Wednesday, meaning there will be no OFC qualifier. As such, France, the lowest-ranked UEFA qualifier, moves into the third pot.
From there, one country is drawn from each pot and placed into one of the eight Groups.
For example, Group A will feature host country Brazil, one country from pot No. 2, one from pot No. 3 and one from pot No. 4.
What to Hope For
Winning the World Cup means your country is going to have to knock off the best teams in the world at some point, but that doesn't mean an easier path to the knockout stages can't help.
Who is the most dangerous team out of the first pot?
Countries outside the first pot are simply going to have to pick their poison. Spain and Germany are the vaunted favorites, Brazil is always dangerous and at home, Belgium has an unbelievable corps of young talent and Argentina features the best player in the world.
Then you have Colombia and Uruguay, two seriously talented squads that will only be made more dangerous on South American soil.
Switzerland would serve as the "best" draw, although it's not as though they are an easy matchup, either.
In the second pot, Japan and the United States look like the best squads. The Japanese are usually a tough matchup, while Jurgen Klinsmann's squad has seriously started clicking over the past six months.
Mexico has struggled during qualification, but El Tri has plenty of talent and could be a sleeping giant that could make for a loaded group.
Ivory Coast, France and Ghana are the countries to hope to avoid in the third pot, while Cameroon currently sports the lowest FIFA ranking of the countries qualified.
The fourth pot is where the "Group of Death" will be made. Imagine a group with Spain, Mexico and Ghana also drawing Netherlands. The finalists from last World Cup are easily one of the best teams in the world, and drawing the Dutch along with a top-tier Pot 1 squad will spell almost certain doom for any Pot 2 or 3 country.
Italy, England and Portugal are all also capable of making a deep run in Brazil and are countries you don't want to see in your group. While there aren't many breaks in this pot, Greece and Croatia probably serve as the most favorable draws.