Tomorrow is the draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. By noonish Eastern Time, we’ll have a pretty good idea of who has an easy road to the knockout stage and who got totally screwed by a bunch of ping pong balls.
I cannot wait. In fact, my buddy and I did a prediction contest four years ago and I won, 2-0, so I have a title to defend!
(Yes, we conducted our own random draws to predict the outcome of a random draw, and we compared the results. As I have told you many times, we are sick.)
Anyway, here’s how it works:
• The host, Brazil, plus the top seven teams in the October 2013 FIFA rankings are considered the “seeded” teams for the draw. They will be placed in Pot 1. The remaining pots are constructed to ensure as much geographic separation as possible: the five African qualifiers plus Chile and Ecuador make up Pot 2, Asian and North American qualifiers go into Pot 3, and the European nations that are not seeded make up Pot 4. P.S. Pot 4 is loaded.
• One of the European teams in that loaded fourth pot will be drawn at random and placed in Pot 2 to even the pots at eight teams each.
• As the hosts, Brazil will be placed in Group A, and then the seven remaining seeds will be drawn sequentially into Groups B through H.
• A new pot, “Pot X,” will be created, consisting of the four seeded South American teams. Whoever is drawn from Pot X will have the European team that was drawn into Pot 2 placed in its group; this prevents any group from having three European teams.
• The remaining teams from Pot 2 will be drawn sequentially into Groups A through H. If a South American team from Pot 2 is drawn into a group with a South American team from Pot 1, they will be bumped down sequentially through the remaining groups until they are placed with a European seed.
• The teams from Pots 3 and 4 will be drawn sequentially into their groups.
• After the four members of each group are assigned, there will be a draw among the unseeded teams to decide who will play who in what order. Don’t worry, we’re not predicting that. We’re just trying to get the right teams into the right groups.
Before I conduct my predictive draw, here is who is in each pot:
Pot 1: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay
Pot 2: Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria
Pot 3: Australia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Iran, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, United States
Pot 4: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia
Here we go!
Group A: Brazil, Nigeria, United States, Italy
Group B: Switzerland, Ecuador, Australia, England
Group C: Germany, Chile, Japan, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Group D: Uruguay, Croatia, Honduras, Portugal
Group E: Spain, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Greece
Group F: Argentina, Cameroon, Mexico, France
Group G: Colombia, Algeria, Costa Rica, Russia
Group H: Belgium, Ghana, Iran, Netherlands
(Notes: Croatia was the European team drawn into Pot 2. Uruguay was drawn from Pot X. Ecuador was drawn into Group A, but moved to Group B.)
Oof. Poor USA. The Americans appear to have drawn the “Group of Death” this time around, with hosts Brazil and maybe-should-have-been-seeded Italy. That group has three of the top 14 in the current rankings (Brazil is ranked 10th because, as the hosts, they didn’t play any qualifiers, so they didn’t earn many ranking points).
However, should the Americans be able to squeeze into the knockout stages, a tasty matchup with the winner of Group B would await. I say “tasty” simply because Switzerland is the weakest of the seeded teams, England is notorious for underachieving, and Ecuador is the lowest-ranked of the South American squads (but may surprise people playing on their home continent). Playing any of those teams after dealing with Brazil and Italy would almost be like a vacation.
I would consider Group G to be by far the easiest draw; in that spot, Colombia might as well have a bye to the Round of 16, and you might see Costa Rica sneak through.
Looking to the knockout stages, this draw would likely set up a Round of 16 match between Spain and either Mexico or France. Sweet. Or, should one of them falter and finish second in their group, Spain and Argentina. Even sweeter. You could also see England taking on Brazil or Germany facing Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
Of course, this is all for fun. We’ll know the real draw in just a few hours. I’ll probably break it down tomorrow night, because I am a dork and I absolutely love the World Cup.