The buildup to the 2014 World Cup begins in earnest on Friday when the group-stage draw takes place in the beach resort of Costa do Sauipe in north-eastern Brazil. It promises to be one of the most important draws in recent memory with increased possibilities for unenviable groups and the geography and climate of Brazil making location an added key factor that the draw will determine.
The 32 teams have been divided into four pots this week and will be drawn into eight groups over what will be a lavish and lengthy ceremony in front of soccer’s great and the good, in addition to FIFA’s full array of dignitaries. Pot 1 is made up of hosts Brazil as well as the seven highest-placed teams in FIFA’s October rankings. The second pot comprises the two remaining South American sides and the six African nations. Pot 3 features the four qualifiers from Asia and the four CONCACAF representatives.
FIFA threw in a minor late curve ball with the announcement that one of the nine unseeded European teams from Pot 4 will be drawn into Pot 2, to be paired with one of the four South American seeds -- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador. With the potential to be drawn with either of those tough opponents, combined with the chance of getting another top European team from Pot 4, being selected for Pot X, as it has been amusingly dubbed, is not an enviable proposition.
The pots in full are as follows:
Pot 1: Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay and Switzerland
Pot 2: Chile, Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon (plus one side from Pot 4)
Pot 3: Australia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras and the United States
Pot 4: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Russia
Arguably being the strongest team in the weakest pot, the draw will make a nervy watch for the United States and their coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Showing the importance of the draw, in 2006 they were thrown into the competition’s most unwelcome group, alongside Italy, the Czech Republic and Ghana. Despite high hopes beforehand, the U.S. were sent home in the first round. Four years later, a favorable draw alongside England, Slovenia and Algeria saw them make it back to the last 16.
Potential groups this time around can range from as treacherous as Brazil, Italy, USA and the Netherlands, to as seemingly hope-inducing as Switzerland, Algeria, Iran and Greece.
It is likely to be some time after events get underway that the actual makeup of the groups is known. As is the current way of things, there cannot be just some pulling of names from a bowl, the ceremony will be full of famous guests, performances and endless speeches. There will be a star present from each of the eight previous nations to win the World Cup, including Zinedine Zidane, Lothar Matthaus, Cafu and Fabio Cannavaro.