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4 Revealing Observations From the World Cup 2014 Pots Selection

Now that the World Cup pots have been confirmed, countries around the globe will be tuned in Friday for the official draw. Managers will now have to quell nerves and focus on preparing their staffs for the task of scouting their future opponents. With a six month preparation window, final roster tweaks and lots of prayers for the health of players will fill the minds of the likes of Vicente Del Bosque, Roy Hodgson and Jürgen Klinsmann. But before the draw, it is worth noting a few nuances and expectations for Friday.

1. How many can say they expected the 9th European side to be drawn from Pot 4 into Pot 2? Analysts were expecting the lowest ranking UEFA side would be shifted into the pot housing the African sides and remaining South American sides. Few saw this as an opportunity for FIFA to place a random European side in this pot. What does this mean? Well, it means that France no longer face the prospect of a group with a top South American side and a quality European side (unless they are drawn from Pot 4 Friday). Furthermore, it means that Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands (all now ranked in the Top 10 in FIFA rankings) could potentially find themselves in an unenviable position that would force them into a group with a top 10 side from South America. This matters because only South American nations have won World Cups hosted in South American countries. Additionally, this also poses the threat of having a group with 3 Top 10 countries in a single group. Had the lowest ranked side (France by October rankings and Russia by November rankings) been placed in Pot 2, this would not be possible.

2. We can say there are certainly going to be 3 groups with 2 European countries and 1 South American country. It is almost certainly within these three groups that a Group of Death or multiple Groups of Death will emerge. As mentioned, having the potential for a group with 3 Top 10 countries from the most recent FIFA rankings would be entertaining and a shame for the side that would not finish in the top 2 of that group. Also, European sides will also not want to be placed in a group with Chile or Ecuador. Both of these countries are guaranteed to be paired with 2 European countries. Chile will certainly be the more feared of the two after their dismantling of England at Wembley last month. However, playing in Brazil will only enhance the support for the two South American sides that have already begun scouting the European sides that will prove major tests in their bid to get out of the group stage in World Cup 2014.

3. The pots are heavily unbalanced. While it is understandable that FIFA tries to ensure some geographic parity, they have failed to create balance within the pots themselves. Pots 2 and 3 are the prime example. Pot 1 and Pot 4 have essentially become the top ranked teams and the second highest ranked teams (although the United States, Chile, Ivory Coast and Mexico do all rank higher than the lowest ranked European side). As per the November FIFA rankings, here are how the pots average:

Pot 1 – 5.625 average ranking

*Pot 2 – 27.429 average ranking

Pot 3 – 39 average ranking

*Pot 4 – 13.778 average ranking

*It is worth noting that Pot 2 will have an average ranking between 24.625 (if Portugal are drawn into Pot 2) and 26.75 (if Russia are drawn into Pot 2) while Pot 4 will have an average ranking between 12.75 (if Russia are drawn into Pot 2) and 14.875 (if Portugal are drawn into Pot 2). However, the disparity is still great with Pots 2 and 3 having such a lower average ranking.

4. The United States actually has become the team that no one wants to draw. The United States is the highest ranked country outside of teams in Pot 1 and 4 and while the Pot 2 European side is certainly a team that one of the top 4 South American sides want to avoid, the United States is the team everyone in Pot 1 and 4 will want to avoid. It does not guarantee the United States will create a Group of Death as statistics show a 50% chance of that happening, but it does guarantee that the group will have the highest non-European and non-South American side awaiting it. Does this mean the United States will ruin someone’s World Cup hopes? Certainly not. What it does mean is that the United States are the one team in Pot 3 with a legitimate chance to cause major problems to the top nations in the tournament. No offense to Iran, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras, but those teams are a welcome opponent to many given the strength of the tournament field. However, this also means that the US must hope beyond hope that they receive a favorable draw to progress into the Knockout Stage.

Friday will present a lot of drama and heartache, but it was certainly worth pointing out some of the unique characteristics of World Cup 2014 prior to the draw taking place.

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  1. DaveGL

    December 8, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I would like to point out something. Everytime a little ball was opened, that ball and the name of the coutry would be hidden behind the blue thingy by the person who opened the balls. Only Brazil’s little ball was opened so everyone can see the name clearly and with no problems.

    Just saying.

  2. Matt

    December 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I honestly will be shocked if the “random” team from Europe to be put into Pot 2 isn’t one of Bosnia, Croatia or Greece. But I guess we will see, they didn’t really manipulate the playoff draw 😉 Back in 2006 when they had the same issue they chose the lowest ranked team though so they scrapped that when they saw it was France (lowest ranked team using Oct rankings). Just uneasy about FIFA deciding this 3 days before the draw, they should have revealed this when the seeds were announced, now some media/federations (notably the Dutch FA) are putting this decision into question.

    Not a big fan of FIFA rankings being used for seeding, I know they did it last time in 2010, but find it ridiculous teams like Italy and Netherlands, who qualified with 3-4 games to spare are punished for maybe not taking their final matches seriously when they already qualified. Also the fact friendly results count should be scrapped, the UEFA coefficients for example don’t take friendly matches into consideration.

    • Adam Williams

      December 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      I totally agree about the FIFA rankings. As a social science researcher, I looked into their methodology and found it appalling and full of bias. They “decide” on weights for regions and arbitrarily put a coefficient of 1, 2.5 or 3 on games based on their importance. They need a researcher to go in there and explain to FIFA why their rankings will never have an Asian side in the Top 5 or have the US (even if they won every game over a 2-year stretch) find themselves in a legit position to be seeded.

  3. David

    December 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    As a huge USA National Team supporter, the last team I want to see is Ghana. That would be awful if they knocked us out of the World Cup again for the third time in a row.

  4. Andre

    December 4, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Ghana emerged from the “group of death” in the 2006 world cup and came a missed penalty away from a semi-final in 2010. Nigeria were unable to make it out of a group where second place was very much for the takingin 2010. I recognize winning the ACoN is an achievement but that tournament is very unique. Just think Egypt won it 3 times straight and failed to make a world cup in that time.

    But beyond the run of form over the last half dozen years I said what I said above based on the quality of players in both squads. I just see Ghana as a much better team. Of course it wouldn’t surprise me to be wrong but I have a hard time seeing Nigeria making a strong run in Brazil.

  5. Prinz

    December 4, 2013 at 2:42 am

    I beg to disagree with your view, Andre that Ghana are the only strong team in pot 2 thats overlooking African Champions Nigeria, so Ghana have become world beaters overnight with a technically inept coach steering their affairs, Ghana to me are ripe for the picking.

  6. Andre

    December 3, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Excellent point about geographic balance not translating to competitive balance. To me the United States is the only quality team in pot 3. Chile, Ecuador, and Ghana are potentially strong sides but the rest of pot 2 is pretty weak.

  7. jtm371

    December 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    BELGIUM 2014!

  8. James

    December 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    One of the things that make football (soccer) tournaments unique and unpredictable is the draw. I actually like the fact the group stages end up with 1 or more groups of death. You get terrific matchups right from the beginning.

    The luck of the draw is an essential part of the sport. Even the less-talented nation has a chance to progress. That’s the beauty of the sport and in my opinion not a bad thing. It gives hope to nations that might not have any if the system was not like it presently is.

  9. Dust

    December 3, 2013 at 7:23 pm


    I said/posted it earlier…

    • Smokey Bacon

      December 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Sorry but I stopped reading your posts after you started channeling AVB.

      • dust

        December 3, 2013 at 8:36 pm

        point well made (as you read and respond to my post) lol… At least you didn’t lose to palace today.

  10. Smokey Bacon

    December 3, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    It’s all rigged so that Brazil win.

  11. Saints Fan

    December 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Obv some teams are better than others but come the finals there are no San Marino’s or in the tourny.

    It’s going to be a good, competitive WC – whatever the draw is.

    • Saints Fan

      December 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      or… “some small island with a pop. of 200 people and 58 sheep” is missing from above.

      They’ve all long gone.

  12. Flyvanescence

    December 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Um, have you watched Japan anytime recently (or ever, for that matter)?

    They are bloody good, would beat USA easily and probably by multiple goals.

    Sorry, Japan is not a welcome opponent to anyone in this tournament. Ask Italy.

    • Evan

      December 3, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      I have to disagree with you there. Sure they beat Belgium and drew with Holland, but a month before they lost to Belarus and Serbia.

      Every team can get good results (USA beating Germany), but it doesn’t mean they’re suddenly consistent world beaters.

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