World Cup 2010 Draw Preview
|The seeding formula and pots have been released by FIFA. They've decided to use only the October 2009 FIFA ranking and nothing else to determine the seven seeded teams. I'm a bit disappointed, if only because the work of people like Edgar and myself has been for nothing this cycle.|
The big news is that the change means that the Netherlands will be seeded instead of France. You have to wonder exactly when this decision was made. It's convenient from a PR standpoint that France is left out after the Thierry Henry handball. I'm sure if they had any doubts about changing it, that made the decision clearer.
Looking back, it's obvious that FIFA was a lot higher on using FIFA rankings since the formula for them was changed after the 2006 World Cup. They've been used heavily for seeding in World Cup qualifying. However, even if they were going to only use one month's ranking, it wasn't announced that they would the October rankings instead of November until November 20th, when the November ranking came out. That's also two days after World Cup qualifying (and France vs Ireland) ended. If they had used the November ranking instead of the October one, then France would have been seeded with England missing out.
The reason given for using October over November was that "...using the November 2009 edition would create an uneven situation, specifically for the European Zone, where the play-offs involving the eight best runners-up led to an imbalance in the number of qualification matches played between the teams."
Fair enough, but four years ago (as part of the more complex formula) they used the November rankings which did take into account the playoffs. Just like the seeding of the UEFA playoffs, it looks shady. Why not decide these things before the competition starts? Even if there's no conspiracy, FIFA's behavior gives people reason to believe that there might be. Because unlike the small changes to the formula in 2002 and 2006, this time the makeup of the seeded teams is affected by them.
EDIT: Apparently the seeds were chosen by "feeling." What a joke. In other words, they decided which teams they wanted to seed and then picked a format based on that.
The other big announcement is that just like four years ago, Africa and South America will be grouped together in one pot, with Asia and North America in the other (plus New Zealand). It would've been much better for the USA's chances to have been grouped with Africa rather than Asia. In that scenario, there was a 33% chance of drawing South Africa and a good chance of an easy Asia/Oceania team from the fourth pot. Now, we're guaranteed to draw an African or South American team, and the chance of drawing the hosts is only 1/8.
As an American fan, here's what I would most and least like to see happen in Friday's draw. Oh, and if you decide to watch it live (noon Eastern, ESPN), remember that they have a ton of ceremonial stuff before they actually get down to business.
Pot 1 - Seeded Teams
We want South Africa, it's as simple as that. They're the weakest team by far, even with the advantage of hosting. Besides, we already beat them in South Africa in a friendly this cycle, and we also got a point against South Korea in 2002.
As for the others, I don't think it matters too much. We have gotten results against Spain and Italy in competitive games in the past four years, but I'm not sure I have a preference here other than avoiding Brazil. On paper, the Netherlands are probably the second worst team.
So the chance of a good draw from this pot is 12.5%, while the other 87.5% is an average draw.
Pot 3 - African/South American Teams
Algeria has to be the best choice, with Cote d'Ivoire and the South American teams the ones to avoid. Though I didn't look at it before writing that, Voros' national team rankings agree, placing Algeria way below the others.
I'm not sure though, the African teams may be stronger due to the home continent advantage. So maybe the CONMEBOL trio are more desirable. Unfortunately, as mentioned above we can't draw an Asian team. Due to that grouping, this pot is pretty even in strength. The team we get here should matter the least when it comes to the odds of advancing.
Pot 4 - European Teams
This is what it all comes down to. The USMNT's chances of advancing are greatly determined by what happens here. This matters more than anything else that's happened since the 2006 World Cup ended. A draw of France or Portugal would certainly make things very, very difficult and would be a nightmare. There's a 25% chance of that happening.
The main goal is to avoid those two teams (75% chance). However, if at all possible it'd be nice to draw Slovakia or Slovenia (25%) chance. We should be favored over either of them regardless of what happens in friendlies. Of the other four teams, I would prefer Greece or Switzerland over Denmark or Serbia. However, they don't stand out like the others as good or bad draws.
Goals & Possible Outcomes
Our goals should be in this order:
1. Draw South Africa.
2. Avoid France/Portugal.
3. Draw Slovakia/Slovenia.
You could also hope to draw Algeria and not say, Chile or Ivory Coast. But that's not as important.
3.1% - Dream draw - South Africa, ???, Slovakia/Slovenia
6.2% - Very good - South Africa, ???, Denmark/Greece/Serbia/Switzerland
21.9% - Good - Other seeded team, ???, Slovakia/Slovenia
3.1% - Decent - South Africa, ???, France/Portugal
43.8% - Average - Other seeded team, ???, Denmark/Greece/Serbia/Switzerland
21.9% - Nightmare - Other seeded team, ???, France/Portugal
An average draw is the most likely by far. As you can see, the odds of a really great draw are slim. I'm not expecting that, I just want to avoid the worst.