Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pots and Seeds

Well, I was wrong, as usual. FIFA announced the eight seeded teams for this summer's World Cup. The seeded teams are Germany, Brazil, Argentina, France, Spain, England, Italy and Mexico. I had thought that FIFA would tweak their formula to find a way to give Holland seed rather than Mexico. However, they seemed to have used the same formula they had in the past so I should FIFA some credit for not being shady.

Based upon the formula, the US had 43 points which left them one point behind Argentina and Italy. Holland was next with 38 points. So, the US would have been the next team to be seeded. Despite not being seeded, Bruce Arena deserves a lot of credit for taking the team from the disaster that occured in the 1998 World Cup in France to coming within a single point of being seeded in this cup. Pretty amazing turnaround.

The other teams will be placed in three different pots and drawn into the eight different first-round groups. The pots will be:

Pot #1: The seeded teams mentioned above.

Pot #2: Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Angola, Togo, Australia, Ecuador and Paraguay

Pot #3: Croatia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine

Pot #4: Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, USA and Serbia & Montenegro

In the last few cups, the US has been placed in the same pot as the African teams and therefore never been able to face any of the African teams in group play. So, this has the potential to give us some interesting new opponents to face. Also, by being placed in the same pot as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Serbia & Montenegro, we can thankfully avoid facing a team that we have political tension with right now. Political overtones are just distractions in these games and hurt us in 1998 when we had to face Iran and Yugoslavia in the first round.

Considering that there can't be more than two European teams in a group and the US can't be in the same group as Mexico, the easiest group the US could draw would be:


France has been in decline since Euro 2000 and, of the seeded teams, may be the most primed for an upset. Togo is a newcomer to the World Cup without many top-shelf players. Switzerland is the weakest team in a strong pot.

The toughest group I think the US could face would be:


Oh, that would be brutal. I'd look like that guy in the photo if we got a pool like that one. Brazil is Brazil but even more so this time around. They are looking unbeatable. Ghana has some great players like Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah and Samuel Kuffour (if he returns to the team) and the Dutch are everyone's darkhorse for the tournament.

The more likely scenario is that we'll wind up a group that's harder than the first but easier than the second. We'll probably be in a group where we have to beat one very good team to advance and there will be one team that we'd be favored to beat.

The draw will be on Friday at 3pm EST on ESPN2 live from Leipzig, Germany. And if the soccer isn't enough to get you to tune in, German supermodel Heidi Klum will be hosting the affair.


cj howareya said...

I have this weird private theory about our best possible group involving Brazil -- so take your French group and replace it with the Brasucas.

Then if the U.S. plays them first, they will probably lose -- but they will be expected to lose and they will get the best warm up match imaginable.

Brazil should then go on to take full points from the rest of the group, with the U.S. well prepped to do the same.

Just a theory.

Flatlander said...

cj, I actually thought about that too. The idea being that if Brazil takes 3 points from everyone then we basically just have to worry about beating Switzerland to advance.

My worry about that scenario is Brazil playing a second team for the last match and dropping points which screws up everything (unless they drop points to the US in the last game). So, I guess I could say that the easiest group would be the one I listed in the post or Brazil, Switzerland and Togo assuming that we get to play Brazil last.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Australia in Pot 2, which is understandable seeing as how is has not made the Cup in a while. They would definitely qualify as one of the easier foes the US could draw.

Upon further look at the Pots, I feel better about the US avoiding the "Group Of Death." Then again, an argument could be made that the US made it out of one of the tougher groups of the last Cup.

It's still a head-scratcher for the US to not be a top seed while a team they knocked out of the last Cup is. The only way to fix that is to get the job done on the pitch.