Saturday, December 5, 2009

World Soccer Rankings for 2010 FIFA World Cup

Draw for 2010 FIFA World Cup has been announced today in a star-studded event held at Cape Town’s International Convention Centre in South Africa. Jerome Valcke, who is the FIFA secretary General chose the balls along with the Hollywood superstar Charlize Theron from the four pots to create the eight groups for the World Cup event which is scheduled to be held next year. The draw, which consists of the top 32 teams in the world has been divided into 8 groups.
It couldn't have worked out better if United States national team coach Bob Bradley had sneaked behind stage and used his hands to fix the World Cup draw.

The United States could have been facing the only weak seeded team, host South Africa, so low in the world rankings they don't even make the first page on the FIFA website.

But one of the first lessons we all learn as schoolchildren: You can't have everything. Some of us disregard this advice—right, Tiger?—but most understand there are sacrifices in every endeavor.

So for the U.S. to wind up in Group C with England, Algeria and Slovenia—it was the closest thing the Americans could get to a dream draw while remaining wide awake.

Algeria is the 28th-ranked team in the world. Slovenia is 33rd. These are not 2-foot putts by any stretch, but understand that in Brazil's group—which will be known as the Group of Death from now until we do this thing again in four years—the teams drawn from those two pots were Portugal (No. 5) and the Ivory Coast (No. 16).

It didn't even take all that long to get the draw done. Or maybe the distractions made it seem tolerable.

In order to make the explanation of the draw rules tolerable, and eventually the presentation of the draw, FIFA gave us Charlize Theron. Hey, it was better than those accountants at the Oscars from Price Waterhouse.

The drama did not really begin until all the seeded teams were placed in their groups, A through H. Then the other countries started to be pulled, with the first name scheduled to join South Africa, ranked 86th.

It seemed almost inevitable, from an American standpoint, that Mexico would be the first team pulled out of the second pot. It was the draw every fan of U.S. soccer wanted most, and so naturally it would go to the Americans' fiercest rival.

It seemed almost as inevitable, from an American standpoint, that the United States would be shoved into Group C with an opening game against England. ESPN's Alexi Lalas celebrated on air, but he apparently hasn't seen the Three Lions play under coach Fabio Capello. At full strength, Capello's England has been a terror—and has become a legitimate threat to win its first World Cup since 1966.

At the least it will be a game to titillate American fans. The most visible world soccer stars in the United States are those of England's Premier League: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool, John Terry and Frank Lampard of Chelsea, Wayne Rooney of Manchester United. England-USA will be on June 12, one of the most attractive of all the opening-round games.

Given that the odds of drawing South Africa were relatively lean, however, the Americans couldn't have been feeling all that badly when Algeria lucked into Group C, and there was even greater cause to celebrate when France bolted out of pot 4 to be grouped with Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay. That meant the U.S. had no chance to play the French.

This also was about as close to justice as could come from a random draw. France played in the final of two of the past three World Cups and certainly had the ability to be a seeded team. Now, in South Africa's group, effectively it is one.

In the end, with Mexico, France, No. 19 Uruguay and a home team that might play the sort of inspired soccer the U.S. presented in 1994 and South Korea managed in 2002—Group A actually turned out to be pretty tough.

Thus the Americans got just about everything they could have wanted Friday, and all within the rules of the game.