The FIFA World Cup, played once every four years, is probably the most famous and competitive football tournament in the world. After winning the World Cup back in 2010, Spain looks to retain its title as the world champions (and currently the European champions as well, having won the Euro Cup back in 2012). The actual tournament will be held in June, and games will be played in various cities around Brazil such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
For the last two years, countries have been playing games in their own conference (separated by continent) to attempt to qualify for the World Cup. 4 teams from Asia, 5 teams from Africa, 4 teams from North America, 6 teams from South America, and 13 teams from Europe have qualified for this year’s World Cup through their placings in their respective regions’ playoffs or through international wildcard matches. A total of 32 teams will participate in 8 groups of 4, with the top 2 advancing to the single elimination bracket round of 16.
On Friday, December 6, the draws for the group stages were announced. Countries from all around the world were seeded into the eight groups. The selection was based on four “pots,” group of countries with similar skill levels. The theory is that one country from each of these pots would make up a group. The first pot was made of the top 7 countries on FIFA’s most recent seeding list, and the host nation Brazil. The rest of the three pots represented Africa and South America, Asia and North America, and finally Europe.
The full list of groups A-H can be viewed on the FIFA website. Notable groups include Group D, where three powerhouse countries are fighting for the two spots into bracket: Uruguay, England, and Italy. Uruguay, one of the stronger South American teams, had placed fourth in the 2010 World Cup, though it arguably had an easier run through bracket, having had to face South Korea and Ghana in the Round of 16 and Round of 8, respectively. Having a strong offensive line with players such as Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, England as a team should not be slept on. Though Italy failed to make it past groups in the 2010 World Cup, Italy outright won the 2006 World Cup and has won second place in the Euro Cup in 2012, losing only to Spain. One of these three teams will make an early exit from the tournament.
The United States isn’t in very good contention. In Group G, powerhouses Germany and Portugal, ranked 2nd and 5th respectively on the FIFA seeding list, are expected to make it out of groups, leaving behind both Ghana and the US. Other contentious groups include Group A and Group B.
Overall, it will be a very exciting tournament to watch. Star players like Neymar of Brazil and Lionel Messi of Argentina are expected to make great showings, so look forward to the first games starting in June 12!
Official FIFA website for the World Cup: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/index.html
Official FIFA World Rankings: http://www.fifa.com/worldranking/rankingtable/
Results for 2010 FIFA World Cup: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2010/groups_and_teams