7 Ways to Spice Up the 2014 World Cup Draw
After 15 months of qualifying, the 32-team shortlist for the World Cup finals has been confirmed and the most important 90 minutes of the campaign so far is upon us: the draw.
The balls will be plucked in a lavish FIFA ceremony in a luxury resort in Bahia, Brazil, on Friday, with millions across the globe tuning in to see the fate of their nation.
Anyone who has watched a World Cup draw in the past, however, will know they can be long, dry and frustratingly boring.
Here are seven ways the whole process could be more interesting...
Make It 5 Minutes Long
No disrespect to the performers and guests intended, but the most insufferable part of a World Cup draw is the preamble.
Us viewers usually have to endure at least an hour of musical performances, pointless interviews and highlight reels from tournaments gone by.
The 2014 draw is scheduled to take 90 minutes, only the final 35 of which are the actual draw. And 35 minutes is far too long to draw out 32 balls. According to my calculator and some advanced mathematics, that's more than one minute per ball.
A few weeks ago I held a mock draw with my nine-month-old daughter. Like most FIFA delegates, she had no idea what she was doing, but she only took 47 seconds to draw an entire pot.
Extrapolate that and the whole draw takes less than four minutes. This is the model FIFA needs to follow (doing it quickly, that is, not necessarily using babies).
Turn It into a Worldwide Bingo Game
Here's an idea they could implement without having to change the actual draw at all.
All around the world, football fans can pay a small amount for a bingo card, the proceeds of which will go to charity. If the order the balls are plucked out matches your card, you win a cash prize from FIFA's sizeable reserves.
Football's governing body won't enjoy the part where they have to give away money, but they could plaster the bingo card with any number of their 22 official sponsors to cover the loss.
Put a Brazilian Wandering Spider in One of the Pots
The Brazilian Wandering Spider, often found in the Atlantic rainforests, is thought to be one of the deadliest arachnids in the world.
In the recently announced (and extremely confusing) draw process, there will now be a "Pot X" to ensure no more than two European teams are in the same group. To make things a little more exciting, what if Pot X also contained one of these spiders?
On the downside, it might kill someone. But on the plus side, its venom has been known to cause prolonged erections. If he is invited to the draw, Silvio Berlusconi will like those odds.
Make It a 'Strip' Draw
The likes of Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Mario Kempes, Lothar Matthaus, Zinedine Zidane and Sir Geoff Hurst—all previous winners—are due to draw the balls on Friday.
To make it more interesting, they should have to declare the name or federation of the ball they are drawing. If they get it right, we move on. If they get it wrong, an item of clothing comes off.
The premise of Zinedine Zidane standing stoically in just his underwear, with a bead of sweat dripping down his forehead as he has one more ball to pick, would make great television. Geoff Hurst in the buff? Not so much.
Turn It into an 'I'm a Celebrity' Challenge
If nonsense reality television such as I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! has taught us anything, it's that people love to watch famous people humiliated with exotic animals and revolting meals.
A new draw suggestion: Each of the 32 teams gets to pick where they play and whom they face based on how long their representative can stand unpleasant challenges.
If England want the group with Cameroon, Australia and Switzerland, then Roy Hodgson has to crawl through a pit of rabid badgers to retrieve the ball.
If Germany and Italy would prefer to play all their games in the south where the humidity will be less of a problem, Jogi Loew and Cesare Prandelli have to battle it out by seeing how long they can keep a live piranha in their mouths.
Scrap Seeding and Make It a Skill Game
One of the best bits of Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday show is the car park game, where rival fans compete to "score" as many times as possible in one minute.
Why not adapt this for the World Cup draw? Put up a screen with eight holes in it and a player from each of the 32 teams shoots until they land in one of the eight groups. The holes close up when that group is full and order of shooting could be determined by FIFA rankings.
This drama of players choosing which groups to shoot for would be sensationally dramatic.
Turn It into a Drinking Game
Let's face it, some of these ideas are a little radical and FIFA are unlikely to change their boring formula. So, make your own fun by inventing a World Cup draw drinking game:
1 finger for every time Sepp Blatter speaks
2 fingers for a bad joke from the hosts
2 fingers whenever someone struggles to open up a ball to reveal the name
1 finger for every time someone mentions "samba" or "carnival"
3 fingers whenever they show highlights of previous World Cups
1 finger every time they cut to a manager looking apprehensive
Drink continuously whenever Ronaldo is on screen
Down your drink when your team comes out of the pot
It's fun for all the family!