The 2014 World Cup draw is the next key stop on the road to Brazil. Qualifying came to a close last month, leaving 32 national teams to battle next summer for one of the most coveted trophies in sports. First, they must find out the group where their journey will begin.
Quite simply, the draw is one of the most important factors of the entire tournament, especially for fringe contenders hoping to make a deep run. Landing in a favorable group can bolster a team's chances in a major way, while some poor draw luck would have the opposite effect.
The draw is scheduled to take place on Friday at 11:30 a.m. ET or 4:30 p.m. GMT. Coverage will be on ESPN2 in the United States and BBC Two in England. Knowing that, let's dive into some of the important details about the draw process.
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Brazil||Algeria||Australia||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
The first thing that stands out about the pots is the imbalance. Pots 1 and 3 both feature eight teams, which is the normal style, while Pot 2 has just seven teams and Pot 4 has nine. Sorting that out is the first task, and will be covered in the next category.
Pot 1 is made up of the eight seeded teams. The seeding was decided by the FIFA rankings in October—not November—which explains why Belgium is among the top eight despite currently being ranked 11th. Brazil also gets seeded as the host even though it was ranked 11th in October.
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Pot 2 is comprised of the remaining South American qualifiers and all five squads which made the tournament out of Africa. The only note is that teams from CONMEBOL can't be in the same group, so Chile and Ecuador won't be drawn into groups with the seeded teams from that region.
Pot 3 is the most straightforward of the batch, with four teams from Asia and four teams from North America, including the United States. No changing of pots is necessary and there are no seeded teams from those regions, which limits the complications.
Finally, Pot 4 includes all of the unseeded teams from Europe. Once one of the teams gets moved to Pot 2, this pot should become pretty easy to follow as well. There can't be three UEFA squads in one group, but "Pot X" will take care of that potential issue.
UEFA Team To Pot 2
The first order of business is leveling out the pots, which means one European team will join those from South America and Africa in Pot 2, leaving each pot with eight teams. It's an undesirable position because the UEFA team selected is very likely going to end up in a tough group.
Prevailing wisdom before Tuesday's organizing committee meeting was that the lowest-ranked European team in October, France, would automatically move into the smaller pot. Instead, FIFA decided to hold a separate draw to even things out.
Europe is the only region where more than one team from that qualifying area can be in the same group (13 teams in eight groups), but FIFA doesn't want three UEFA teams together, which led to the creation of what it is calling "Pot X."
There are only two regions (UEFA and CONMEBOL) represented among the seeded teams, but FIFA wants to avoid the possibility of three European teams in a single group. Pot X will solve that problem.
The South American teams in Pot 1 will be shifted into the separate pot and then drawn into a group with the European team that was moved into Pot 2.
Of course, it's easy to see why it's such an unappealing outcome. Not only will there already be two solid—potentially elite—teams in the group, but another UEFA team from Pot 4 is going to join it. Thus, it will create a likely "Group of Death" without even knowing which Pot 3 team ends up there.
That said, it's the only way to make sure all of the different requirements are met. South American teams from Pot 1 and the unseeded European teams just have to hope they avoid that scenario.
Back To Basics
Once all of that is taken care of, the process should become much easier to follow as it reverts to a pretty basic system of slotting teams.
FIFA will empty out the remaining teams in Pot 2, then Pots 3 and 4 in order until all eight groups feature four teams. Again, the only reason for a skip would be to avoid putting two South American teams from Pots 1 and 2 together.
Once the groups are filled, FIFA will then draw for positions within the group for teams from Pots 2 through 4, with the seeded teams being in the first position for each group (A1, B1, etc.). This is done to set the fixtures and will complete the draw process.