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2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: So we’re not using the world rankings to solve the nine-team pot problem?

Dec 3, 2013, 4:37 PM EDT

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Most people who follow FIFA’s machinations expected France to be torn out of Pot Four (the European pot) ahead of Friday’s World Cup 2014 draw. That’s what the world’s governing body did for 2006, when they pulled the lowest-ranked team (Serbia and Montenegro) away from the eight other non-seeded European teams, allocating the team so it wouldn’t get grouped with two other UEFA squads. With nine unseeded European teams replicating that problem this year, FIFA’s decided to slightly change course, a move that could be seen as a sign of progress.

Instead of relying purely on FIFA rankings to drop one of UEFA’s teams our of Pot Four, Friday’s draw will start with a team drawn at random from the European pot. That team will then be placed with the seven-team group made up by the African and South American qualifiers. If that UEFA team happens to be drawn with one of the European seeds, they’ll instead be bumped int a group with a non-European seed, thus ensuring only two UEFA entrants are together once Pot Four is drawn.

The difference between 2006 and 2014 isn’t big, but it’s a notable one for those questioning the importance of the FIFA World Rankings. Those world rankings were responsible for teams like Switzerland, Colombia, Belgium and Uruguay being seeded at the expense of teams like Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal, calling into question the viability of the system. Today, however, rather than persisting with use of that system and using it to sift one team out of Pot Four, FIFA has decided to draw at random.

The extent you see this as progress probably depends on how strongly you feel about the FIFA rankings. Or perhaps you hate the FIFA rankings but don’t see this as important. Even though I’m bringing up the possible importance of this change, I tend to fall into the “not important” camp. It’s possible today’s “change” says nothing about how FIFA’s rankings will be used going forward.

But if you’re looking for any reason to wonder if FIFA’s second guessing their own ranking system, Tuesday was a good day. It’s at least a change, one that implies some more thought’s going into the process. If we start to see the same second-guessing next time around, perhaps we’ll be spared from a team like Switzerland in Pot One.

  1. danielofthedale - Dec 3, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    I think this has less to do with FIFA second guessing their Rankings and more to do with the team that would have been starring down a potential group with Brazil/Argentina and another Eruo Heavyweight, France. The Head of UEFA, who is probably the second most powerful man in soccer, and favorite to be the next head of FIFA Michel Platini is French. He probably used his considerable clout to change this to help to try to give France a better draw.

  2. futbolhistorian - Dec 3, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    Why is Portugal any more deserving of a group seed than Uruguay or Belgium?

    • footballkahuna - Dec 4, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      It’s not that they’re more deserving, it’s just that they have more high-profile talent.

    • mknow406a - Dec 5, 2013 at 1:47 AM

      Uruguay finished 5th in their region qualifiers (without Brazil even in the mix!) and had to qualify via a play-in. They have really done nothing of note in the past 2 years other than have their Ranking boosted by beating Tahiti 8-0 and a mutinous Nigeria 2-1, and then losing in a shoot-out to an exhausted Italian side in an “official” FIFA tournament (Confederation Cup). Take that tournament out of the mix, which they were invited to based on a 2011 result, and it’s not too hard to show that many other teams are more deserving than Uruguay based on form over the last 2 years..

  3. jucam1 - Dec 3, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    Quit your whining on this issue, and how is Italy more deserving than Colombia in this scenario?… Have you watched the two teams play over the last two years?… Colombia is clearly one of the best 6 or 7 teams in the world. Let it go, when was the last time FIFA did anything fairly anyway?…

  4. footballkahuna - Dec 4, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    No system can be perfect, and the FIFA rankings are the most accurate and reliable record of team strength we have available today.

    At the end of the day, you’re trying to squeeze the game into a number and if this were entirely possible there would be no reason to watch. This isn’t caused by the FIFA rankings, it’s a situation the rankings themselves are beholden to.

    Is Spain the best team in the World? I think so. Is Lichtenstein one of the worst? Yes. So at the extremes it works and in the middle of the ground you can argue a few ranking spots up and down, but you can’t argue the general area of a team’s placement.

  5. bishopofblunder - Dec 4, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    I am not concerned much with how the process works, or which process FIFA uses, but what’s the use of having rankings if one is not going to use them when the situation arises? If one is going to seed teams in a tournament, then one has to have a way to determine those seeds in the least subjective manner possible. At the present time, I see no other process less subjective than the FIFA rankings.

    If Italy or the Netherlands wants to be seeded, they need to play better and achieve the necessary ranking.

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