With Uruguay becoming the 32nd and final team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup last night, thoughts are immediately starting to turn towards the Finals themselves, with the draw set to take place in just over two weeks time on 4 December in Cape Town.
Questions about the possible draw immediately spring to which teams will be seeded and who can and cannot be drawn in the same group, as well as whether there will, inevitably, be a Group of Death .
FIFA have yet to announce the method by which they will decide the seedings and subsequent lay-out for the draw, but we are able to speculate based on the processes used for the past few tournaments.
Since 1998 FIFA have employed constraints for the draw which ensure that no more than two European teams are placed in the same group, and equally that no group contains more than one team from any other confederation.
The seedings have been calculated using a formula based on performances at previous World Cups as well as taking into account the FIFA World Rankings.
The seedings for the 2006 World Cup were decided based on each nation’s performance at the past two World Cups, as well as their FIFA World Rankings over the previous three years.
The following information is all based on this very seeding formula which FIFA used for the 2006 World Cup.
FIFA will incorporate the FIFA World Rankings for November, which are released tomorrow, in their calculations but the October rankings have been used here—there will be minor changes in the new rankings tomorrow but nothing significant enough to affect the below as long as the 2006 method is still used.
South Africa are automatically seeded and placed in Group A, to ensure that they play the opening game, as hosts of the tournament.
The other seeds are the seven highest placed teams based on the criteria outlaid above.
These seven teams are Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, France, and Argentina. All seven were also top seeds at the 2006 World Cup where they were joined by Mexico, whereas South Africa join them this time.
Portugal and the Netherlands just miss out, the former in particular coming close to edging out Raymond Domenech’s France.
The second pot consists of the remaining eight European nations who have qualified. They make up their own pot so that no group will contain will contain more than two teams from Europe.
Portugal and the Netherlands are joined in this pot by Switzerland, Slovenia, Greece, Denmark, Serbia, and Slovakia. Any of these teams can be drawn into any group.
The third and fourth pots will divide the remaining qualifiers from the CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, African, Asia, and Oceania regions.
Africa has five qualifiers and is paired with the three qualifiers from the CONMEBOL region to make a group of eight. Asia (four teams), CONCACAF (three remaining teams), and Oceania (one team) make up the final group of eight.
*Note the three CONEMBOL or CONCACAF teams could be in either pot, depending on how FIFA decide to organise the draw.
All of this leaves the pots for the World Cup draw looking as below:
(*Note: Pot 1 contains the seeded teams, thereafter Pots 2-4 are in no order of relative strength, i.e. Pot 2 is not a higher seed than Pot 4.)
Pot 1: South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, France, Argentina
Pot 2: Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovenia, Greece, Denmark, Serbia, Slovakia
Pot 3: Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Algeria
Pot 4: South Korea, Japan, Australia, North Korea, Mexico, USA, Honduras, New Zealand
Below, by way of speculation and to make things more interesting is a *random * draw of how the groups could come out using these seedings and pots:
Group A: South Africa, Switzerland, Chile, USA
Group B: England, Portugal, Cameroon, Honduras
Group C: Spain, Slovakia, Cote d’Ivoire, South Korea
Group D: Brazil, Slovenia, Ghana, Mexico
Group E: Argentina, Netherlands, Nigeria, North Korea
Group F: France, Greece, Uruguay, Australia
Group G: Germany, Serbia, Algeria, New Zealand
Group H: Italy, Denmark, Paraguay, Japan