Liveblogging the World Cup Draw
So it looks like the US’ recent history of bad fortune in the World Cup draw is going to continue, as they draw England as the seeded team in their group, while hated rival Mexico hits the jackpot by drawing host South Africa’s group. I spit in Sepp Blatter’s general direction.
UPDATE 1: Jeff Carlisle at ESPN notes that the England game will be the US’ first of the tournament. Will they be capable of repeating their upset of Portugal in their first game of the 2002 Cup?
UPDATE 2: A good break for both the US and England as the Africa/CONMEBOL pot gives their group Algeria, which is one of the less dangerous teams in that pot. Perhaps the US and England will each be able to avoid a Group of Death for the first time in awhile.
UPDATE 3: And the last team in the England/US group is Slovenia. And the US and England hit the equivalent of a runner/runner straight draw, avoiding teams like France, Portugal, Serbia, and Slovakia. The winner of the US-England match should win the group with ease, and the loser will have an excellent opportunity to rebound for second place.
UPDATE 4: As expected, South Africa will have a difficult time avoiding being the first host country to fail to advance to the second round. But the group they drew was probably one of the worst they could have, making the task not only difficult, but likely almost impossible, as they draw one of the best teams in the CONCACAF/AFC pot, a tough CONMEBOL team in Uruguay, and probably the most dangerous unseeded team in the tournament in France.
FINAL UPDATE: Those who like to believe in both karma and Western exceptionalism have to be happy with this draw. England and the US get to play what should be a fun-to-watch game, with both having relatively clear paths to the second round. North Korea, after taking the extraordinary step of revaluing their currency overnight, wind up in a group with three heavyweights in Brazil, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast; NoKo will be lucky to have a goal differential in the single digits in that group. On top of that, the games between Brazil, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast should be exceedingly entertaining.
There seems to be am early consensus emerging that for once there is no clear-cut Group of Death in which all four teams have a strong chance of emerging as the victors. If I had to make a call, I’d probably go with Group D, Group E, or Group H. Group D has perennial powerhouse Germany, plus Australia, Serbia, and Ghana, each of which could be dangerous. Group E may be a bit tougher, with the Netherlands, Denmark, Cameroon, and Japan. Denmark is coming off a particularly strong qualifying campaign in which they lost only one game, the Dutch are, well, the Dutch, Cameroon has a history of surprising people at the World Cup, and Japan is an emerging regional power. However, Group H apparently has the best average ranking according to both FIFA’s official rankings and Nate Silver’s rankings for ESPN, with early tournament favorite Spain, well-regarded Chile, solid but unspectacular Switzerland, and fiery Honduras. Still – none of these are the sort of Groups of Death that we’re used to seeing in the World Cup, and the seeded team in each case should have a clear route to the second round. The only one that may have even a little difficulty would, I think, be the Netherlands.
I’d say that Italy probably has the easiest path to winning its group of any seeded team, drawing one of the weaker CONMEBOL teams in Paraguay, a team in New Zealand that was only able to qualify due to Australia’s move out of Oceania, and good-but-not-great Slovakia.