Friday, December 6, 2013

2014 World Cup Draw for United States

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil starts on Thursday, June 12, 2014.  Earlier today FIFA choose the eight groups for the 32 participants with the top two teams in each group qualifying for the knock-out stages.  The first hour of the "selection show" was downright brutal to watch.  I know it is supposed to give the host country a chance to educate the world about them but having recently visited Brazil, I would say they completely missed the mark.

FIFA creates four pots and then picks the eight groups out of those four pots.  It is confusing so here is a nice breakdown.  Unfortunately for the United States, FIFA placed all the CONCACAF teams in the same pot as the Asian teams, which makes that pot by far the weakest pot.

Going into the selections, I decided to develop some power rankings for each group.  Just to make these rankings crystal clear, the first team in each pot is the team I would least like the United States to be drawn against, so on and so forth.  It is sort of academic for Pot Three since the United States cannot be drawn with any of those teams but I thought it would be a nice way for me to rank the teams as they are currently constituted.  I put each country's current FIFA ranking in parenthesis, which were updated on November 28, 2013.  Here are the four pots with my ranking (best to worst) within each pot:

Pot One: Spain (1), Brazil (10), Argentina (3), Germany (2), Uruguay (6), Belgium (11), Colombia (4), and Switzerland (8)

Pot Two: Ivory Coast (17), Chile (15), Ghana (24), Algeria (26), Ecuador (23), Nigeria (36), and Cameroon (51)

Pot Three: United States (14), Mexico (20), Costa Rica (31), Honduras (41), South Korea (54), Japan (48), Iran (45), and Australia (59) 

Pot Four: Netherlands (9), Portugal (5), Italy (7), Croatia (16), France (19), Greece (12), England (13), Russia (22), and Bosnia-Herzegovina (21)

The highest FIFA ranked country that did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup was the Ukraine, which are currently ranked 18th.  I understand that only so many teams can qualify from certain continents but it makes no sense to me that Ukraine lost a home-and-home playoff to France for a spot in the World Cup but are still somehow ranked ahead of France in the FIFA rankings.

Here is explanation of the rankings.  I get that the FIFA rankings account for more things that just World Cup qualification but the lunacy of France being ranked behind the Ukraine despite knocking them off to get into the 2014 World Cup is just one of the million problems I have with the FIFA rankings.  Since FIFA could care less about cracking down on match fixing or the fact that they awarded the next two World Cups to corrupt countries, they could at least carve out an exception to their rules for their rankings that account for oddities like the one just highlighted.

Sorry for the FIFA rankings detour, back to the draw for World Cup 2014.  Those that counted the teams in each of the pots above will notice that only seven teams are in Pot Two and nine teams are in Pot Four.  FIFA had to randomly draw one of those teams into Pot Two.  There are some restrictions for how the team that is moved to Pot Two can be drawn based on how teams are drawn from Pot One.  Basically FIFA did not want to see two European teams drawn into one group out of Pot One and Pot Two because that would mean a third European team would be drawn into that group from Pot Four.  As it turns out Italy, which was the team that I ranked third in Pot Four, got drawn into Pot Two.

Going into the draw I thought the best possible draw for the United States was Switzerland, Cameroon, and Bosnia-Herzegovina while the worst draw was Argentina, Portugal, and Netherlands.  Again groups matter because only the top two teams from each group qualify for the knock-out stage.  Here is the full list of the groups for the 2014 World Cup:

Group A: Brazil, Cameroon, Mexico, and Croatia.

Group B: Spain, Chile, Australia, and Netherlands.

Group C: Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan, and Greece.

Group D: Uruguay, Italy, Costa Rica, and England.

Group E: Switzerland, Honduras, Ecuador, and France.

Group F: Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Group G: Germany, Ghana, United States, and Portugal.

Group H: Belgium, Korean Republic, Algeria, and Russia.

As it turns out the United States got just as bad of a draw as my worst case scenario landing in Group G with Germany, Ghana, and Portugal.  It also means that United States manager Jurgen Klinsman will coach against his home country in the group stages.  Just to show how strong the members of Group G are, all four teams made it to the knockout round of the 2010 World Cup.  The only other group to even have three members make the knockout round of the 2010 World Cup was Spain, Chile, and Netherlands from Group B.

The lowest ranked team in Group G according to the FIFA rankings is Ghana at 24.  United States fans know that Ghana are no pushovers either because they knocked the United States out of the last two world World Cups (final group stage match in 2006 and in the Round of 16 in 2010).

As you can see, it would be no small feat for the United States to be one of the two qualifiers for the knockout stage out of Group G.  The first match of the 2014 World Cup for the United States is against Ghana.  Hopefully the United States will be able to avenge their last two World Cup defeats to Ghana with a win, which would mean they would most likely only need a win or tie against Portugal or Germany to reach the Round of 16.

We have over six months to speculate and let's not forget injuries play a big part in what groups actually end up being the toughest right now I would say Group G is the deepest group.  The United States were drawn into Group B or Group D then that could have been the toughest group in the 2014 World Cup.  I see Group E or H as the easiest.

Although this is a Cheesehead sports blog if you follow the United States Men's Soccer Team or the World Cup make sure to check back as the 2014 World Cup nears because I plan to write Building The 23 posts leading up to the World Cup and The 23 posts throughout the World Cup.

1 comment:

  1. Vous blog est accrocheur. Je reçois du plaisir. Merci pour le partage de ce beau morceau de l'écriture avec moi.