England and Holland received the news this morning that they were hoping to hear: they will both be amongst the eight seeded teams making up pot 1 when the draw for the World Cup takes place on Friday.
This is certainly not what France and Portugal wanted to hear as it means they will be in pot 4, reserved to Europe’s second-tier teams and will thus have to face one of South Africa, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Germany, Argentina or the aforementioned duo.
Teams from pots 1 and 4 will be joined by one from pot 2 – comprised of qualifiers from Asia, north or central America, or Oceania – and one from pot 3 – which has five African and three South American sides.
There is one certainty ahead of Friday’s draw. Everyone will want to see South Africa’s name selected from pot 1 when the draw for their group is made. There is also a feeling that an Ivory Coast side including Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Emmanuel Eboue and the Toure brothers is the most dangerous from pot 3, whilst Mexico’s record in the World Cup just about makes them the trickiest side from pot 2.
What is less certain is the thinking behind the rationale by which FIFA went about deciding the seeded teams. FIFA’s explanation of their method came via general secretary Jerome Valcke who said there was no agenda against France as a result of the play-off controversy from their game with the Republic of Ireland.
“In the past the seedings have been determined by a mixture of world rankings and performances in past World Cups but this time the feeling was the October rankings most closely represented the best teams in the tournament,” he said.
“We made the decision last month that the October rankings would be used because they were fairer – countries who had been involved in the play-offs would have had an unfair advantages because they would have played more games and that affects their rankings.”
Had the November rankings been used then England would have missed out with France occupying that cosy slot in pot 1.
The first question is: why do current rankings represent a fairer assessment of who should be seeded? Shouldn’t the fact that England and Holland have failed at the “business end” of the World Cup in recent times suggest that they’re strong teams but ones who can’t handle the pressure in big games against the big teams and therefore make them less worthy of being seeded this time round? After all, Portugal made the semis last time round whilst France won the tournament back in 1998 and made the final four years ago.
Secondly, both Holland and England were arguably in easier qualifying groups to start with than the likes of Portugal and France. Aren’t the latter two being penalised a second time because they needed the play-off route? Weren’t they already at a disadvantage because they had harder teams to beat in their group?
Thirdly, by mentioning the fact there was no agenda against France as a result of the play-off controversy aren’t FIFA admitting there may indeed have been an agenda? Why mention it at all? Whatever you make of the whole affair, the fact is FIFA declared France the victors of the play-off against Ireland. If FIFA are indeed secretly punishing France, they are following up the referee’s mistake with another of their own.
There will be those who agree with the seedings system and those who won’t, but I’m sure any football fan in the world would at the very least demand transparency. For a second time in two months, FIFA made the rules up as they went along. When the play-off teams were known, they decided at the 11th hour to seed them. And they’ve now decided how to go about seeding the teams once they knew who all the teams who had qualified for the World Cup were. If they made the decision last month why they didn’t they announce it last month? Better still, why didn’t they announce it before a ball was kicked in anger when qualifying first began?
Interestingly, the announcement of the seeds hasn’t really affected the betting on Betfair’s winner market. England are into 7.8 from 8.0 but other than that it’s “as you were” with Brazil and Spain sharing favouritism at 5.8 with Argentina (12.0) and Germany ([14.5)] amongst the other favourites.
Pots for Friday’s draw: eight groups of four countries to be drawn, each group containing one country from each pot.
Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England
Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania and North/Central America): Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Mexico, Honduras
Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay
Pot 4 (Europe): France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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