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Demon Seed

December 7th, 2005 by · No Comments · Betting, Football

Shrouded in the usual secrecy, and with characteristic fudges, they announced the structure and composition of the four ?Pots? that will feature in the draw ceremony to be held on Friday the 9th December. It emerged, much to the relief, and no little disbelief, of the FA and Sven-Goran Eriksson, that England had been judged to be worthy of a top 8 seeding and would therefore, in theory, avoid being grouped with other strongly fancied teams.

As the tournament itself will be structured around 32 qualifiers, neatly dividing into eight groups of 4 teams, the process for the random draw is a little more straightforward than it has been in the past. The four ?Pots? contain, firstly, the 8 seeded teams, the European qualifiers not seeded, the Asian and ?North American? teams and finally the African and South American qualifiers. It just wouldn?t be Fifa unless we also had to shoehorn Australia into Pot 2 and have a one team ?Special Pot? for Serbia and Montenegro who will be manually added to any group where they wouldn?t constitute a third European team. Stay awake at the back!

So what does it all mean for dear old Blighty and the bookies? The fact that England are seeded second after Brazil, apart from being mystifying given their recent performances, means that the draw, and therefore the tournament, can be anticipated with some confidence. Of course there will always be a ?group of death? to give the hacks a chance to dust off their conspiracy theories but the seeding would suggest that at the very worst any ?group of death? featuring England would look like this.

England

Netherlands or Portugal, or maybe Czech Republic

Tunisia or Ivory Coast

USA or Japan, or maybe South Korea

The top two teams in each group will qualify for the next round so even an opening game draw, an England specialty, would present a fair chance of progress to the last 16. The Czech Republic, ranked above England by Fifa, and who must be a little bemused at not being seeded, would represent a challenge and, after Euro 2004, Portugal would also be a stiff test of nerve. The Dutch have one of their best squads since 1998, so no easy game there either.

Looking at the possible opponents from Pot 3, Tunisia are the highest ranked African team, reigning African champions and qualifiers for their third consecutive World Cup, Ivory Coast will feature Didier Drogba, Aruna Dindane, Didier Zokora and at least 1 Toure [Kolo and maybe Yaya]. In Pot 4 the USA are currently ranked above England following a year or more of consistently good results and Japan and South Korea, with the experience gained from the last tournament [Japan made the second round and South Korea made the semis] would hope to make as big an impact in this tournament. All in all then, a tough group that would require a higher level of performance and consistency from England than we?ve seen in the last 2 major tournaments. With a fair slice of luck it?s not impossible to imagine England qualifying for the second round. As we?ll see later England are currently at 6-1 to win but expect those odds to widen considerably if they are drawn in this sort of group.

Well let?s cheer up a bit because that?s the worst that can happen. The most positive possible outcome might look like this.

England

Ukraine or Switzerland

Angola

Trinidad & Tobago

Oh yes, The Group of Life. Ukraine, despite having Andriy Shevchenko, are one of the weakest European qualifiers, Switzerland were well beaten [3-0] by England in Euro 2004 in their last competitive meeting. Angola were the lowest ranking of the African qualifiers, scraping past an off-form Nigeria on head to head results only. Trinidad & Tobago qualified by way of a play-off against Bahrain. All the teams mentioned above are appearing in their first World Cup with the exception of Switzerland. Even the most care-worn fan would expect England to qualify top of such a group, which is never a bad thing.

After the news that England would be seeded the bookies moved England from 8-1 behind Brazil, Argentina, and Germany to 6-1 joint second favorites with Argentina. Brazil remain hot favorites at 3-1. Expect those England odds to close further if the draw throws up anything like the best case scenario above.

The bookies will also be mindful that the cup usually stays in the continent in which the tournament takes place. Following that twisted logic we only have to beat the Germans to win it. You know, when you think about it carefully, we could actually?.NO stop it, stop it??

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