Sunday, April 01, 2007

World Cup Qualifying 2010: UEFA Pots

It's never too early to start thinking about the next World Cup. After all, qualifying starts in a few months. UEFA, due to the number of quality teams and the format used, is the most interesting confederation to follow. So today, I want to take an early look at the upcoming draw (November 23 in South Africa) for the groups.

What does this have to do with American soccer? As I said, UEFA has a number of quality teams. There are only about 9 world class teams in the world, and only two are outside of UEFA. Those two, Argentina and Brazil, are assured of qualification every time thanks to CONMEBOL's system (which is the fairest one, though). UEFA, on the other hand, has so many teams that it is necessary to have many different groups. Some groups will be much harder than others. It's definitely in our best interest as US soccer fans that the best teams get the hardest groups, and therefore are less likely to qualify. Because outside of those top teams, I feel we can beat anyone.

The system for determining the groups for World Cup qualifying is already known: results from the past two European qualifying campaigns (World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008) are taken into account on a PPG basis. So every Euro qualifier now has an impact on the World Cup qualification, as well.

Here is how the seven pots would look like as it stands now. Since UEFA will have 13 teams in the 2010 World Cup, I'm assuming that they'll use the same qualifying system (8 groups, winners plus 2 best second place teams qualify automatically, remaining 6 second place teams playoff for last 3 spots). So each group of eight teams is a pot. Italy is seeded first automatically as world champs, while I believe Montenegro will start out at the bottom (but I'm not certain).

Thanks to Edgar on Bigsoccer for his work (which I also keep track of myself and have double checked).

1 Italy 2.20
2 Germany 2.60
3 Netherlands 2.56
4 Croatia 2.47
5 Sweden 2.40
6 Poland 2.35
7 Portugal 2.28
8 England 2.25

9 Czech 2.22
10 Ukraine 2.18
11 France 2.13
12 Turkey 2.12
13 Romania 2.12
14 Serbia 2.06
15 Russia 2.00
16 Greece 1.94

17 Spain 1.93
18 Israel 1.81
19 Denmark 1.81
20 Switzerland 1.80
21 Slovakia 1.78
22 Ireland 1.76
23 Norway 1.67
24 Bulgaria 1.60

25 Scotland 1.56
26 Bosnia 1.53
27 Finland 1.50
28 Austria 1.50
29 N.Ireland 1.38
30 Hungary 1.33
31 Belgium 1.19
32 Belarus 1.13

33 Latvia 1.13
34 Slovenia 1.07
35 Estonia 1.00
36 Albania 0.94
37 Wales 0.93
38 Lithuania 0.93
39 Macedonia 0.89
40 Georgia 0.89

41 Liechtenstein 0.65
42 Cyprus 0.50
43 Armenia 0.47
44 Malta 0.47
45 Iceland 0.47
46 Azerbaijan 0.44
47 Moldova 0.44
48 Kazakhstan 0.33

49 Andorra 0.29
50 Faroe Islands 0.06
51 Luxembourg 0.00
52 San Marino 0.00
53 Montenegro 0.00

The biggest news here is that France is in pot 2 and Spain in pot 3. So if those teams continue to do poorly, or at least worse than the teams in front of them, then it will things harder for their World Cup campaign and also for the top teams they'll drawn with. As it stands now, there could be a group with Germany, France, and Spain. That's what we want, and it would be good for the USA in 2010. In addition, a team like Belgium is on the verge of going into the fifth pot which is not indicative of their talents. Stuff like that is good as well.

So in summary, if you follow Euro qualifying and you need something to root for, here's what I recommend. It's in our best interests to root for Poland, Czech, Ukraine, and Greece, and against Portugal, England, Spain, and Belgium.

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