By Laurence Rosen
After months of speculation, the final draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be revealed at around 3am AEDT on Saturday morning at the Costa do Sauipe in the Brazilian state of Bahia. There are over 800 different situations the Socceroos could find themselves in and thus it is vital to understand how this intricate process works.
How does it work?
Nations qualify in their confederations and therefore when it comes to drawing the fixtures for the World Cup, nations are split up by these confederations as well their FIFA ranking. The first pot contains the best eight nations in the world according to the October FIFA rankings, but in this case Pot 1 includes the likes of Switzerland and Colombia but omits the likes of 2006 World Cup winner Italy and footballing powerhouse Holland. Much has been made about how FIFA would construct the seeded Pot for the Brazilian World Cup and their decision leaves us with the very real possibility that England, Mexico and Brazil could land up in the same group.
The second Pot is virtually made up of South American and African sides but Pot 2 only has seven sides and such before the draw starts, a European nation will be drawn from Pot 4 to make up the eighth and final spot in Pot 2. To makes things more complicated, the European nation in the second pot 2 must be paired with one of the South American seeded nations (Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina) as a result of the geographical rules that govern the draw.
The third pot contains Australia as well as all the other nations that qualified from the AFC (Asian Football Confederation). The remaining teams from Pot 3 reside in North America and include the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica.
The final pot is made up of nine European nations but will be cut to eight before the draw begins. The likes of England, Italy, Holland and France lurk in this group. On the other side of the spectrum, Greece, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina reside in this pot as well.
As the balls are drawn out early Saturday morning, one team from each of the four pots will be drawn together to make up a four-team group. As a result, Australia cannot be drawn with anyone from their own pot and therefore that rules out the Socceroos facing the likes of USA or Japan in Brazil.
Who do the Socceroos want?
It is no secret this is the hardest group of them all and it is highly likely that the winner of the 2014 World Cup will come from this pot. As is usually the case with FIFA, not everything is as it seems and as such there are a few teams the Socceroos can draw that would put them in a favourable position. If the Socceroos were to draw Switzerland, their group will likely be the ‘ ’, while snaring Colombia wouldn’t be a bad draw either. While many will point to Belgium’s absence from the last World Cup, they are currently going through a golden generation and therefore they are one of the favourites as the competition goes down to the wire. For a purely sentimental viewpoint drawing Uruguay would be a positive while the likes of Spain, Germany and Brazil are teams that Australia would do well to avoid.
Verdict: Switzerland or Colombia would make coach Ange Postecoglou a very happy man.
Here is where it gets tricky. Pot 3 contains South American and African sides but as a result of France taking up an extra spot in Pot 4, Pot 2 has just seven nations. The likes of Ecuador, Chile, Ivory Coast and Algeria reside in this group and out of the eight teams that make up this group; five possibilities would put Australia in a very good position. Ecuador didn’t qualify for the 2010 edition of the tournament but made it through to Brazil as fourth best in South American qualifying. Drawing Ecuador would please Ange and the Socceroos. As well as this, African sides such as Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria or Cameroon from Pot 2 would be positives as well. Australia was unlucky not to beat Ghana in Rustenburg last time they met and they would welcome a match up to right those wrongs. In Pot 2 it is imperative to dodge the likes of Chile and Ivory Coast as well nations such Portugal, Italy, France and Holland that could land up in Pot 2 as a result of one of the draw’s anomalies. The Socceroos have a better than 50% chance of drawing a beatable team in Pot2 and therefore this Pot is likely to be key in our World Cup campaign. It is also vital to consider home continent advantage. While Ecuador is probably the weakest of all South American opponents, they still reside in South America and therefore will have thousands of supporters at every game. Australia would do well to avoid South American opposition here and draw an African side.
Verdict: Ecuador, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana would all be favourable for our side. The likes of Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Russia and England could also land up in Pot 2 and would all be a solid match up.
This is Australia’s pot and therefore it is impossible for the Socceroos to play any of these teams in the group stage of the tournament. It is the weakest Pot of the quartet, but as are the permutations of the draw, Australia will miss out on playing some favourable opponents.
Comprised of just European sides, Australia drew Serbia and Croatia in these pots in 2006 and 2010 respectively. What is unique about 2014 is that the likes of England, Holland and Italy aren’t seeded for this tournament and such they are placed in Pot 4 rather than the usual seeded Pot 1. On the other side of the spectrum is Bosnia-Herzegovina, a nation making their very first appearance at a World Cup. The likes of Greece, Croatia and Russia also make up this group and either of those sides would be a solid match up for Australia. Australia will do well to avoid Italy and Holland, especially if they draw a tougher side in Pot 1. It is well known that Australia share an intense rivalry with England in other codes and if both teams are drawn together it would set up a salivating game on the world’s biggest stage. It is also vital to note that Portugal lie in this group as well and armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, Australia would be happy to avoid them in Saturday’s draw.
Verdict: Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Russia would be a fair result while snaring England for purely sentimental value could make it one of the games of the 2014 tournament.
Switzerland, Australia, Algeria, Greece
Brazil, Australia, France, Italy
Sentimental World Cup:
Uruguay, Australia, Ghana, England
The group of revenge:
Brazil, Australia, Ghana, France
Official FIFA simulation
Early Thursday morning FIFA conducted a rehearsal of the draw which is customary before the event proper. Below are the groups that were drawn:
Group A: Brazil, France, Australia, Italy.
Group B: Uruguay, Nigeria, USA, Croatia.
Group C: Argentina, Ghana, Costa Rica, Russia.
Group D: Switzerland, Chile, Japan, Greece.
Group E: Spain, Ivory Coast, South Korea, England.
Group F: Colombia, Cameroon, Honduras, Holland.
Group G: Germany, Ecuador, Iran, Portugal.
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Mexico, Bosnia.
Safe to say that if Australia drew that group in the final draw, it would place them in the group of death and possibly be one of the hardest groups in recent memory. Socceroos fans will be hoping for something more favorable come Saturday morning.
The final word:
From now until the early hours of Saturday morning the hundreds of possibilities that the Socceroos could face will be played out. One final thing to consider is the distances that Australia will be travelling in a country as big as Brazil. If the Socceroos are drawn in position A3, they will only have to travel 1001 km while if they unlucky and snare position G4, they will be travel 5603 km for their three group games. Over the past two World Cups, Australia has never drawn the group of death but on both occasions have been handed draws that aren’t easy. Landing one powerhouse is not the end of the world but snaring two would provide a very tricky path for the Socceroos. If Australia draw Switzerland or Colombia and somehow avoid another strong nation, they will fancy themselves to get out of their group. How the groups are determined will go a long way to deciding the Socceroos’ fate in Brazil but if they can draw favourably, a spot in the Round of 16 would prove a massive success. The dying embers of the horror story that was Holger Osieck’s reign are still lingering and next year’s showpiece event could be the start of something for Ange and his revitalised side.
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