Hosts, Argies Get Great World Cup Draws: How Does FIFA Do It?
As any magician will tell you, the first principle of prestidigitation is to create a distraction.
FIFA can tip its magician's hat to World Cup host Brazil for coming through in that respect.
The issues to date have definitely demanded attention from the world's press corps:
- A construction crane's collapse at one of the stadiums being built for the tournament killed two workers.
- Officials are sweating the deadlines for those construction schedules.
- The drawing presentation looked pretty damn vanilla for a world event.
Amidst the turmoil, the actual draw was held today. And what do you know? Before anyone could even utter a "say, what?" while the pools were taking shape, the top soccer powers in South America emerged with round-robin menus of virtual walkovers. Check out Groups A and F:
|4||Honduras||Nigeria||United States||South Korea|
Maybe putting Savannah State in there would have been too blatant. But it won't be surprising if we ever hear that FIFA had to be talked out of it.
So, while Brazil and Argentina will have to curtail their beach time every so often in the pool phase, other prime contenders for the Cup are left to pound it out:
- Spain and the Netherlands in Group B didn't exactly hug each other during the 2010 World Cup final, at least unless elbows and cleats were involved.
- England and Uruguay are no shrinking violets, either, and share Group D with the tactical Italians and a feisty underdog in Costa Rica.
- And for as many recent matches as they've logged amongst themselves, Group G looks more like a reunion than a pool.
Elsewhere, keep in mind the Smurfs were created in Belgium. It wouldn't be a shocker to see a few of them trotted out to keep the regulars fresh; Belgium will still advance. Switzerland is the best argument NCAA pollsters have against computer rankings. How the country hosting FIFA's head offices got a Top 8 seed is a conspiracy topic all its own. And if the French -- speakers of FIFA's prime language -- don't win some sort of Sandbagger of the Year award, crime pays.
Feelgoods? Ivory Coast is experienced on the world stage and is due. Long due. Honduras has a legit shot at the knockout round. And as long as the hookers in Nigeria keep stepping up in place of their stingy government and put out bonuses in their own special way, the Super Eagles have much more to play for than team and country.
Finally, here's one element that's not a surprise. It's more like the coup de grâce. Assuming Brazil and Argentina hold serve -- and with the knowledge that only South American sides have won the Cup on Latin American soil -- check out the bracket paths A1 and F1 have to the championship:
How do they do it? Dunno. They just do it. And that's enough.