Where will you be on Saturday at 2 pm EST?
I know where I will be; in front of my computer watching the draw for World Cup qualifications to Brazil in three year’s time.
It’s the first major step on the long and difficult road to the finals, which is set to open on June 12th 2014 and concludes with the finale on July 13th 2014.
Nothing beats the excitement and the drama of the preliminary draw unfolding in front of your eyes, except the draw for the finals itself, perhaps.
There is something intriguing about seeing the expectation and prediction of where each team will end up, and watching the reaction of those involved that matches any excitement at a thriller in a movie theater.
In total, there were 203 countries (in addition to Brazil) at the start of the campaign with only one African and three Asian nations declining the invitation.
Five CONCACAF and 23 Asian teams were already eliminated through the preliminary rounds, and we are left with 175 teams.
And because all the South American teams will play in one group and don’t need a draw, there will be a total 166 countries in this draw.
Here is a look at each confederation and what I will be looking for.
Unlike all the other confederations which are using the July FIFA ranking, CONCACAF will be using the March ranking that was used at the preliminary round draw. As a result, Cuba stood to be the main beneficiary of this decision.
In March, and fresh of their success in the Caribbean Cup, Cuba was ranked 6th and was spared the first group stage and will go directly to the second group stage with the other top 6 seeds (US, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica and Costa Rica).
The team that stood to lose is Panama which is ranked 6th currently, while Cuba currently ranked as 9th.
The first group stage consists of 6 groups of 4 teams. Only the winners of these groups will move on to the next stage.
The 6 seeded teams are: Panama, Canada, El Salvador, Grenada, T&T and Haiti.
(Guatemala was seeded below these 6 and will make its group very interesting.)
The second group stage will consist of 3 groups of 4 teams and top 2 moved to the final group of 6 (hexagonal).
Top three seeds for this stage are: the USA, Mexico and Honduras
The second seeds are: Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba
The third and fourth seeds are the winners of the 6 groups of the first group stage with no particular order.
Note: Every one will be looking forward to getting Cuba in their group except Jamaica and Costa Rica which could not, of course.
A straight forward draw: 53 teams in 9 groups. Top teams qualify to the finals and 8 best runner-ups will play off for the last 4 spot.
The 9th and worst runner-up will be eliminated.
Top seeds are: Spain, Netherlands, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Norway and Greece.
Second seeds are: France, Montenegro, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Turkey, Serbia and Slovakia.
(Look for the groups that get France or Russia to dynamite ones)
Other teams to be worried about are:
Switzerland and Republic of Ireland in the third pot
Wales ended up in pot 6 and this is very awkward. Players like Bale, Bellamy, Earnshaw and Ramsey surely deserved better and I wouldn’t want them in my group.
Scotland and Northern Ireland were put in pot 4.
The Lowest ranked 24 teams will play each other on a home and away round and the 12 winners join the top 28 in the group stage.
The group stage consists of 10 groups of 4 teams and only the winners go through to the next stage where there will be 5 play-off home and away round to decide the 5 qualifiers.
The top seeds for the group stage are: Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Cameroon, Algeria and Tunisia.
Although we learned from the African competitions that you can’t discount any team out, the only real recognizable threat to the top 10 is going to come from Morocco in the second pot.
The 20 teams that are left will go into 5 groups of 4 and top 2 of each group will go to the next round.
Seeded teams are: Australia, China, Iran, Japan and South Korea
Second seeds are: Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan
There are few surprises here. First, the other WC 2010 finalist, North Korea, was put in pot 4 while Bahrain which made it to the last two final intercontinental play-offs was put in pot 3.
China, the perennial failure, on the other hand, was placed in the top seed pot.
Look for every one to wish to get China from pot 1 and avoid Iraq in pot 3.
One of the most complicated system, yet the easiest to predict. No matter what they do to make it look interesting, look for New Zealand to win it and move on to the intercontinental play-off.
(The bottom 4 countries play in one round robin group and the winner join top 7 in the second group stage (2 groups of 4). The top two of each group move on to form the final group of 4. The winner goes to the intercontinental play-off)
I will be adding updates in the comment section below, after the draw. Also I will be adding some comments on my twitter account @guskeri
Enjoy the draw. And may your team get the best draw.
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