Loaded Balls? World Cup Draw Certain to Raise Suspicions
What if FIFA was in charge of selecting teams for the BCS championship game?
With the reputation of world soccer's governing body for rigging World Cup draws, odds are it would toss out New York City due to its apathy for college football, take note that the next largest American markets are Los Angeles and Chicago, and find a way to install UCLA/USC and Northwestern/Nôtre Dame/Illinois as the combatants for that Waterford crystal football.
And then it would display its collective hands to show how clean they are.
With the 2014 World Cup draw approaching this Fri 6 Dec, the conspiracy theorists are gathering, hoping that perhaps this time they'll find a smoking gun in FIFA's holster.
It's not as if FIFA doesn't deserve the raised eyebrows. Evidence of shenanigans in its ivory tower constantly surfaces. And it doesn't help when its regional toady, UEFA, gets caught red-handed, as it did in defying the odds last December when its dress rehearsal for the 2013 Champions League draw became an exact match of the official draw later that evening.
That's why nothing is a surprise when it comes to these things.
The actual rules for placing teams in their World Cup pools are convoluted enough, albeit well-intentioned:
- 32 teams will form eight groups comprised of four sides each, with the top two in each group advancing to the knockout stage.
- No more than two European teams and one South American team will be placed in any one group.
A ball for each team will be placed in one of four pots. There will also be an 'extra' pot to cover contingencies, which are by definition a part of the mix:
- FIFA's top seven seeds plus host nation Brazil will be placed in Pot 1. These are -- in order of their ranking -- Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Switzerland, and Uruguay.
- Pot 2 contains balls for the African teams -- Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria -- and the unseeded South American teams, Chile and Ecuador.
- Pot 3 contains balls for Asian and the Central and North American teams, an arrangement that assures the USA and Iran will be in separate groups. Other teams in this pot are Australia, Japan, South Korea, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico.
- Pot 4 contains the balance of Europe's contingent: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Russia.
Yes, Pot 2 has seven teams and the last pot has nine. FIFA will thus conduct a pre-draw in Pot 4, with the 'winner' being moved to Pot 2 to equitably even out the distribution of balls.
Still, to accommodate other political sensibilities, Pot X comes into play. Watch for it during the actual draw:
- Brazil gets assigned to Group A as the host nation; the balls in Pot 1 are then drawn to head up Groups B through H.
- Pot 2 ultimately gets emptied, ball by ball, and placed into groups A through H.
Ultimately? Enter Pot X. In adherence to FIFA's principle of geographic separation, here's what happens next:
- The four seeded South American teams from Pot 1 -- Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina -- that were already placed in a group get temporarily pulled from the board and plopped into Pot X, and one ball will be drawn. They will still not lose their group spot.
- One ball will be drawn from Pot X.
- The European team that was put in Pot 2 will then join the group of the South American team drawn from Pot X.
So, that takes care of the contents from Pot 2. The draws will then occur from Pot 3 and Pot 4.
And the World Cup scheduling will be set.
The conspiracy theorists will be giddy with this system's opportunities for chicanery.
Everyone else is advised to watch the proceedings with ample amounts of adult beverages.