2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: Everything you need to know

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In a little over 24 hours the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw will be held and fans of the 32 qualifying countries will learn who they will face in Brazil next summer.

Eight groups of four countries will shape the South American spectacle and in this article, we provide everything you need to know about tomorrow’s draw.

Let’s get stuck in.

WHEN & WHERE

Date: Friday, December 6, 2013

Time: 11:00am ET; 4:00pm GMT

Venue: Costa do Sauipe Resort, Mata de Sao Joao, Bahia, Brazil

TV: ESPN 2 11:30am ET

Stream: Official FIFA app; SkyGo app

POTS & DRAW SCHEME

The 32 qualifying nations have been divided into four pre-draw “pots.”

Pot One: Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay

Pot One nations are comprised of the world’s top seven seeded countries, according to FIFA’s rankings, who managed to qualify for the finals through their group stage finish. Also in this pot is Brazil, who qualify as hosts of the tournament even though they are currently outside the world’s top eight.

Pot Two: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador

Pot Two contains the five qualified CAF nations as well as Chile and Ecuador. Note that Pot Two currently contains only seven teams, an issue FIFA will address during the first step of Friday’s draw (see below).

Pot Three: US, Japan, Iran, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras

Pot Three is made up of CONCACAF and AFC nations, as well as other top finishers from Asia and the Americas.

Pot Four: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia

Pot Four is comprised of nine unseeded UEFA nations. During Friday’s draw one of these teams will be placed into Pot Two.

As explained by Pro Soccer Talk writer Richard Farley, this is how the draw will go down:

1. They’re going to solve that nine-team pot problem first. One ball will be pulled at random from Pot Four (the one with all of UEFA’s non-seeded qualifiers) and placed into Pot Two. Once done, the pots will be even (eight teams each).

2. The pots will be drawn sequentially, one through four, with team placed into groups sequentially, A through H.

3. Brazil will be the first team pulled out of Pot One. As hosts, they’ll go into Group A and play in the tournament’s opening game. The rest of the teams will be pulled out at random and placed in groups B through H.

4. Pot Two is drawn next, albeit with two caveats:

If the European team that’s in this pot gets slotted with another UEFA qualifier, they’ll instead be bumped down to the next group. For example, if Portugal is pulled from Pot Four, dropped in Pot Two, and is then pulled out to be grouped with Spain, they’ll instead move down to the next non-European group, with the following draw from Pot Two filling the place in Spain’s group.

Likewise … Pot Two’s South American teams can’t be drawn with CONMEBOL’s seeded qualifier, FIFA committed to spreading out a region’s teams as much as possible. With all non-UEFA confederations limited to one team per group, Chile and Ecuador can not be drawn with Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, or Uruguay. If that happens, they’ll be slotted in the next group instead, with the next ball that comes out of Pot Two set to fill the vacated spot. This guaranteed Chile and Ecuador will be grouped with two European teams.

5. Pot Three (CONCACAF and Asia) is drawn. No tricks here. If you’re looking for potential Groups of Pain, see if Japan, the United States, or (to a certain extent) Mexico get drawn with Chile and Ecuador.

6. Pot Four (the Europe group) is drawn, and because of the care taken to ensure Pot Two doesn’t bunch teams from the same region, each group will have (no fewer than) one or (at most) two European teams.

USMNT – “BEST” AND “WORST” CASE SCENARIOS

Life was good for the US in 2010 as the Yanks were drawn into a group with England, Algeria and Slovenia. Suffice to say, tomorrow’s draw will not be as kind to Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad.

Most would say the “best” case scenario for the US would be to draw Switzerland out of Group A, Algeria out of Group B and Greece, Croatia or Bosnia out of Group D.

Of course, drawing an unproven side like Belgium or Colombia out of Group A wouldn’t be horrible, even if those nations are dark-horses to win the tournament. If the US can’t pluck Algeria out of Group B, nations like Cameroon, Ecuador and Nigeria wouldn’t be bad either. And if the Greeks don’t come up from Group D, Klinsmann’s men would welcome a match against England, Russia or even underachieving sides like France and Portugal.

The “worst” case scenario would see the US pitted against a Group A nation like Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany or Uruguay, a Group B country like Ivory Coast, Ghana or Chile and a Group D team like Italy or Netherlands.

Note, however, that I put the words “best” and “worst” in parentheses. I did this because, for me, those terms don’t really apply to the US. There are difficult draws and not-so-difficult draws. But knowing the makeup of the USMNT – grinders, fighters, a team that loves to play the role of underdog and on any given day can beat anyone – the draw simply is what it is.

If paired with a dominant country like Spain, Brazil or Argentina, then the US has a chance of defeating one of the best nations in the world. Nothing better than that. Plus – as astutely noted to me by famed soccer producer Shaw Brown – being paired with a world-powerhouse also means that the other two teams in the group are likely taking losses, thereby improving the Yanks’ chances of advancing. I like that mentality.

So no matter who the US is paired with, keep things in context. The US are a plucky side, capable of astounding results. Like life, the World Cup Draw truly is in the eye of the beholder.

GROUPS, VENUES, STADIUMS

The 32 nations will be divided into eight equal groups according to letter. Within each of those groups, matches will be set in various locations throughout Brazil.

Below is a list of venues and stadiums where teams within a group may be assigned to play.

Group A: Sao Paulo (Arena de Sao Paulo); Natal (Estadio das Dunas); Fortaleza (Estadio Castelao); Manaus (Arena Amazonia); Brasilia (Estadio Nacional); Recife (Arena Pernambuco)

Group B: Salvador (Arena Fonte Nova); Cuiaba (Arena Pantanal); Rio De Janeiro (Estadio do Maracana); Porto Alegre (Estadio Beira-Rio); Curitiba (Arena da Baixada); Sao Paulo (Arena de Sao Paulo)

Group C: Belo Horizonte (Estadio Mineirao); Recife (Arena Pernambuco); Brasilia (Estadio Nacional); Natal (Estadio das Dunas); Cuiaba (Arena Pantanal); Fortaleza (Estadio Castelao)

Group D: Fortaleza (Estadio Castelao); Manaus (Arena Amazonia); Sao Paulo (Arena de Sao Paulo); Recife (Arena Pernambuco); Natal (Estadio das Dunas); Belo Horizonte (Estadio Mineirao)

Group E: Brasilia (Estadio Nacional); Porto Alegre (Estadio Beira-Rio); Salvador (Arena Fonte Nova); Curitiba (Arena da Baixada); Manaus (Arena Amazonia); Rio De Janeiro (Estadio do Maracana)

Group F: Rio De Janeiro (Estadio do Maracana); Curitiba (Arena da Baixada); Belo Horizonte (Estadio Mineirao); Cuiaba (Arena Pantanal); Porto Alegre (Estadio Beira-Rio); Salvador (Arena Fonte Nova)

Group G: Salvador (Arena Fonte Nova); Natal (Estadio das Dunas); Fortaleza (Estadio Castelao); Manaus (Arena Amazonia); Recife (Arena Pernambuco); Brasilia (Estadio Nacional)

Group H: Belo Horizonte (Estadio Mineirao); Cuiaba (Arena Pantanal); Rio De Janeiro (Estadio do Maracana); Porto Alegre (Estadio Beira-Rio); Sao Paulo (Arena de Sao Paulo); Curitiba (Arena da Baixada)

THE NEXT 48 HOURS

Throughout the next few days make sure you stop back here at Pro Soccer Talk (and follow NBC Sports Soccer on Twitter) for Draw articles analyzing the biggest storylines, matchups and reactions from the U.S. Men’s National Team, England and CONCACAF region.

We’ll also be giving you the lowdown on the US’ opponents, reactions from the US camp and the rest of the world, top games to watch, Group of Death insight, and much, much more.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.