England group of death scenario gets tougher, as seedings and pots announced
ENGLAND are facing the increased possibility of a World Cup 'group of death' after FIFA announced a surprise change to the way Friday's draw will be held.
It had been expected that England would remain in Pot Four and that France, as the lowest ranked European team, would be grouped with the African and South American teams in Pot Two.
Instead, FIFA have decided that there will be a separate random selection ahead of the main draw to determine which of the nine unseeded European teams is moved to Pot Two.
That team could not then be drawn against Switzerland or Belgium – the weakest of the eight seeds – and would have to face one of the top four South American teams as well as another European country, such as Italy or Holland.
The worst-case scenario for England is that they are moved to Pot Two and drawn against Brazil or Argentina as well as Italy and the United States.
Should England remain in Pot Four with the other unseeded European teams, they could face a relatively weak group, with Switzerland, Algeria and Honduras as their rivals.
Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, went into little detail when asked why France had not been automatically placed in Pot Two.
"The decision was taken by FIFA's executive committee – all the confederation presidents," he said. "We are at a draw and we should have a draw. It's easy to say it. Let us draw all the teams, and not pick one out."
Jerome Valcke, the FIFA general secretary, confirmed that the European country which is moved to Pot Two could not play one of the European seeds in their group and so would then face Brazil, Argentina, Colombia or Uruguay from Pot One.
In order to avoid a scenario where three European teams are drawn together in one group, the South American seeds will make up a special sub-Pot X from Pot One.
As part of FIFA's attempt to make the groups as geographically diverse as possible, the South American teams from Pot One also cannot be drawn with Chile or Ecuador from Pot Two.
"It's not easy to understand – the first take, it took me some time," admitted Valcke.
England have benefited from relatively kind draws in recent World Cups, although they could only qualify second from a group containing the USA, Slovenia and Algeria in 2010.
They also struggled to beat both Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago in the 2006 group phase.
Starting yesterday, there will be four full rehearsals in a bid to ensure nothing goes wrong during Friday's draw when the balls will be selected by representatives of the eight World Cup-winning nations.
As well as England's Geoff Hurst, they will include Uruguay's Alcides Ghiggia, Argentina's Mario Kempes, Germany's Lothar Matthaus, France's Zinedine Zidane, Brazil's Cafu, Italy's Fabio Cannavaro and Spain's Fernando Hierro.
FIFA also confirmed yesterday that they will not change the scheduled kick-off times in the hotter northern Brazilian cities of Manaus, Salvador, Natal and Fortaleza where temperatures are likely to approach 35C.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is still urging FIFA to allow two time-outs of two minutes during matches for rehydration.
World Cup Pots
Pot One (top eight seeds): Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, Uruguay
Pot Two: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador
Pot Three: Japan, Iran, South Korea, Australia, United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras
Pot Four: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, France (one to be moved to Pot 2)
(© Daily Telegraph, London)