FIFA will go ahead with its controversial decision to stage World Cup matches at midday in tropical venues, president Sepp Blatter said last night as football’s governing body announced a bafflingly complex procedure for Friday’s draw.
General Secretary Jerome Valcke caused general bewilderment as he tried to explain the workings of the draw which will decide which teams comprise the eight first-round groups at next year’s tournament. “It’s not easy to understand it the first time, I agree with you,” he said. “It took me some time to be sure I had the right explanation.”
Each group will consist of one team from each of four pots with Pot 1 featuring the top seeds: Brazil, the host nation, alongside Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. The other pots will be based on geography so that countries from the same confederations are kept apart. Pot 2 will contain the five African teams, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon, plus the non-seeded South American teams Chile and Ecuador and a European team to be moved out of Pot 4 in a pre-draw.
Pot 3 will feature Japan, Iran, South Korea, Australia, United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras while nine European sides, Bosnia, Croatia, England, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and France, will comprise Pot 4.
Valcke revealed that a pre-draw will be held to move one of the nine European teams into Pot 2 where they would then be drawn against one of the four seeded South American teams to preserve the geographical balance of the draw. To complicate matters further, the four South American seeds would form a temporary Pot X and the three not drawn against the European team in Pot 2 will return to the main draw.
A seeded team’s place in the draw will determine how much travelling around the vast hinterland of Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country by area, will be involved and may therefore not be so beneficial as in the past. The seeded team in Group H will have a relatively easy first-round schedule with matches in the milder conditions of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. But the seeds in Group G will play in the intense heat of northeastern cities Fortaleza, Natal, Salvador or Recife.
The team that meet Brazil in the opening game will face a 3,880km flight to Manaus in the Amazon for their next match before a 4,508km flight to Recife for their third game. Kick-off times could also pose a threat to a team’s chances depending on whether they play in the humid north or the chilly south. From 12-22 June when there are three matches a day – the programme switches to four a day from 23-26 June for the last round of group games – matches are due to start at 1pm, 4pm and 7pm local time which is 1600GMT, 1900GMT and 2200GMT to maximise European television audiences.
Friday’s glitzy ceremony is being shown live in 193 countries around the world.
HOW THE DRAW WILL WORK
The 32 countries will be split into four pots, and drawn into eight groups each containing four teams.
Pot One is the top seeds: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
Pot Two contains the unseeded South American countries and the qualifiers from Africa: Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Ghana and Nigeria.
Pot Three is the teams from north and central America and Asia: Australia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, United States.
Pot Four contains the nine unseeded European teams: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Russia.
• At the start of the draw, one European team from Pot Four will be selected at random and added to Pot Two to make it eight countries in each pot.
• The four seeded South American teams will be put into a temporary pot (Pot X) and the European team from Pot Two drawn in the same group as one of them.
• The draw will then proceed with Pot One being emptied and the teams allocated to position one in the Groups A-H in turn.
• Pots Three and Four will then be emptied in order but no South American teams can be in the same group, and a maximum of two European teams.
• Teams from Pots Two, Three and Four will have their positions in the group drawn randomly.