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.

Wenger says Ozil, Sanchez want to stay at Arsenal

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Arsene Wenger has being discussing the situation regarding Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Sanchez to Chelsea? ]

Speaking to the media ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Manchester City on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger is hopeful his star duo will both remain with the Gunners beyond this summer.

Both Sanchez and Ozil are contracted to Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but are yet to agree a new deal and talks will not begin until the end of the current season.

Wenger isn’t too concerned despite Sanchez being linked with plenty of the biggest clubs on the planet.

“I personally believe both of them want to stay. I hope the club will find an agreement with them,” Wenger said.

Asked about his own future, Wenger had no update about reports suggesting he was about to sign a new two-year contract extension. That was despite saying before the international break that he would reveal his decision soon.

“It’s a subject that at the moment it is not sorted completely out,” Wenger said. “I’m very clear in my mind. Do I stay two months or two years? My commitment will be exactly the same all the time. It does not influence my attitude.”

So, Wenger is standing firm and did not want to get into any details regarding his own future as his current deal runs out in the summer.

However, the fact he said it is “not sorted completely out” suggests that talks are ongoing and that would also seem to point towards Wenger staying on after 20 years in charge.

There’s no doubt that this situation rumbling on has impacted Wenger’s team in recent weeks as Arsenal crashed out of the UEFA Champions League 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich and have also lost four of their last five Premier League games.

Bagging a big win this weekend against City would significantly boost Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four but perhaps everyone connected with Arsenal is more eager to have Wenger’s future sorted and then everything else will slot into place.

If the 2018 World Cup started today…

Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
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Another international break has passed, with fortunes rising and falling in most of FIFA’s confederations (Africa took a break during the break, having staged AFCON in January).

[ MORE: All World Cup qualifying news ]

Brazil joined hosts Russia as nations to have qualified for the 2018 World Cup, and 30 spots remain. Let’s take the opportunity to project the field for Russia.

In October, we took the projected qualifiers and simulated all the way down to the World Cup final. Germany beat Brazil. Let’s go again. Who will “win” it this time?


QUALIFICATION

We’ll again use actual qualification, as flawed and early as it is in some confederations, to be predict our combatants.

Asia (7 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia
PLAYOFF: Uzbekistan vs. Australia

PROJECTION: While Uzbekistan has been better in terms of overall form, Australia’s experience boosts it into a match-up with the USMNT.

Africa (2 of 6 qualifiers played)
IN: DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Egypt

CONCACAF (4 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama
PLAYOFF: United States

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

South America (14 of 18 qualifiers played)
IN: Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile
PLAYOFF: Argentina

Oceania (4 of 6 qualifiers played)
PLAYOFF: New Zealand vs. Tahiti

UEFA (5 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: France, Switzerland, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Croatia
UEFA PLAYOFFS: Sweden, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Italy, Greece, Iceland

SIMULATED PLAYOFFS (random draw):
Sweden vs. Iceland — Sweden wins
Portugal vs. Republic of Ireland — Portugal wins
Northern Ireland vs. Slovakia — Slovakia wins
Italy vs. Greece — Italy wins

Intercontinental playoffs:

Australia vs. United States — USMNT wins
Argentina vs. New Zealand — Argentina wins


FIELD (FIFA Rankings)

  1. Russia (hosts, 60)
  2. Argentina (1)
  3. Brazil (2)
  4. Germany (3)
  5. Chile (4)
  6. Belgium (5)
  7. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    France (6)

  8. Colombia (7)
  9. Portugal (8)
  10. Uruguay (9)
  11. Spain (10)
  12. Switzerland (11)
  13. Poland (12)
  14. England (13)
  15. Italy (15)
  16. Croatia (16)
  17. Mexico (17)
  18. Costa Rica (19)
  19. Egypt (20)
  20. Slovakia (25)
  21. USA (30)
  22. Iran (33)
  23. Burkina Faso (36)
  24.  (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

    DR Congo (38)

  25. South Korea (40)
  26. Nigeria (41)
  27. Sweden (45)
  28. Ivory Coast (47)
  29. Japan (51)
  30. Serbia (52)
  31. Panama (53)
  32. Saudi Arabia (57)

THE POTS

The 10 European qualifiers mean two will have to join Pot 2. Our random selections were… Croatia and Spain.

Pot 1 (seeds): Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, France, Colombia, Brazil

Pot 2 (CAF, CONMEBOL, UEFA): DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Uruguay, Croatia, Spain

Pot 3 (AFC & CONCACAF): Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, USMNT

Pot 4: (UEFA): Sweden, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Serbia, Poland, England, Portugal


THE DRAW

Group A: Russia, DR Congo, Saudi Arabia, Sweden
Group B: Chile, Croatia, Mexico, Portugal
Group C: Brazil, Nigeria, Panama, Switzerland
Group D: Germany, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Poland
Group E: Argentina, Spain, Japan, Slovakia
Group F: France, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Italy
Group G: Belgium, Uruguay, USMNT, England
Group H: Colombia, Egypt, Iran, Serbia

So… should we play it out? We’ll try to throw in some upsets and not just go with the chalk.

Round of 16
Mexico (B2) def. Russia (A1)
Brazil (C1) def. Poland (D2)
Spain (E1) def. Italy (F2)
Belgium (G1) def. Egypt (H2)
Portugal (B1) def. DR Congo (A2)
Germany (D1) def. Nigeria (C2)
France (F1) def. Argentina (G2)
Colombia (H1) def. England (G2)

Quarterfinals
Brazil def. Mexico
Spain def. Belgium
Germany def. Portugal
France def. Colombia

Semifinals
Brazil def. Spain
France def. Germany

Final
Brazil def. France

Dempsey leads way for MLS players during Cup qualifying

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The latest round of World Cup qualifying saw a major increase in the number of players from MLS called in for their national teams.

A number of those decisions paid off for their countries, perhaps no one more than Clint Dempsey.

A few months ago, Dempsey wasn’t even in consideration for the U.S. after missing the latter half of last season because of a heart issue. But the Seattle Sounders forward scored four times in two matches as the U.S. gathered four critical points in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

[ WATCH: Schweinsteiger asked if Chicago can win World Cup ]

Dempsey was part of an influx of MLS players contributing during the latest round of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

In all, MLS had 55 players called in for qualifying in CONCACAF, CONEMBOL (South America) and UEFA (Europe) competitions. Last September, the league saw 58 players called in to their national teams, but there were more countries still alive in qualification at that time. The 55 players selected this time was an increase of 16 from the last round of qualifying matches in November, and 40 of the 55 saw action during the two days of competition in the past week representing 12 countries.

In the three CONCACAF games last Friday, 29 of the 84 players to see the field were from MLS. That outpaced LigaMX, which had 17 players among the 84 used in the three matches.

Dempsey wasn’t the only MLS player coming up big for his country. Minnesota midfielder Kevin Molino had the only goal for Trinidad and Tobago in its 1-0 win over Panama. The Vancouver duo of Christian Bolanos and Kendall Waston teamed for the only goal in Costa Rica’s 1-1 draw with Honduras.

But not all went well for MLS players during qualifying.

Young Atlanta star Josef Martinez injured his left leg during the second half of Venezuela’s 2-2 draw with Peru in CONEMBOL qualifying. Martinez returned to Atlanta and an MRI revealed a left quadriceps injury that will keep the MLS leader in goals scored out for four to six weeks. Martinez had five goals in Atlanta’s first three games.

U.S. midfielder Sebastian Lletget was forced off early in the match against Honduras but not before scoring the opening goal for the Americans. Los Angeles announced Tuesday that Lletget suffered a Lisfranc injury that will require surgery and he will be sidelined for four to six months.

[ MORE: BWP a DP; Nephew called up to England U16 ]

MATCH OF THE WEEK: The club that set the bar for expansion debuts faces the newcomer looking to topple that standard.

The Seattle Sounders will host Atlanta United on Friday night. It’s the only regular-season matchup between the two sides, but there’s more than just the competition on the field.

Seattle’s expansion season of 2009 was regarded throughout the sports industry as arguably the best franchise launch ever, not just in MLS. Between ticket sales and fan engagement, Seattle’s start could not have gone better.

Atlanta might be setting a new standard. Atlanta drew more than 55,000 for its first match and more than 45,000 for its second home game, a win over Chicago. Atlanta seems to be following significant parts of Seattle’s blueprint, down to having an influential NFL owner highly involved from the start.

As for the on-field product, the validity of Atlanta’s promising start will be tested over the next month with four straight road matches.

“It’s definitely still an expansion team,” Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst said. “We’ve got our bumps and bruises along the way. Off the field, everyone’s still trying to get sorted and situated to the new city.”

BEST OF THE REST: Toronto finally gets to come home after opening the season with three straight road games. The Reds will host Sporting KC on Friday night. The trade-off for opening the season on the road is that Toronto gets five of its next six league matches at home and was able to get five points out of those three road contests to start.

Also of note will be what kind of lineup Vancouver rolls out on Saturday night against Los Angeles. The Whitecaps play in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals four days later.

BACK ON THE BENCH: Real Salt Lake introduced Mike Petke as its new head coach Wednesday, less than two weeks after firing Jeff Cassar. Petke was the head coach of the New York Red Bulls for two seasons, including the 2013 season when they won the Supporters’ Shield. After two years out of coaching, Petke signed on to be the head coach of the Real Monarchs, the minor-league club associated with RSL.

OFF TARGET: The other expansion debut this season by Minnesota United is on pace to set records, but not any they want to be associated with. Simply put, Minnesota can’t play defense.

Minnesota allowed at least five goals for the third time in four matches in last week’s 5-2 loss at New England. Minnesota allowed five goals to Portland and six to Atlanta and is on pace to allow more than 150 goals this season.

LAST WORD: “I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen over the last 10 days. It’s going to take some time to piece that team together.” U.S. coach Bruce Arena after the latest round of World Cup qualifying.

Messi explains actions that warranted 4-match ban

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Lionel Messi is set to miss four Argentina matches for something we arguably see every week on TV.

That doesn’t make it okay, but is anyone else scratching their head at the suspension handed down to the world’s best player for verbal abuse of an official?

[ MORE: Barca defends Messi ]

Messi, 29, shouted an obscenity at the linesman in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile, and was both banned and served the first match of his ban on Tuesday, as Argentina was beaten 2-0 in Bolivia.

Messi explained his actions Wednesday with the following:

“My expressions were never directed to the referee, they were said to the air,” Messi told La Nacion.

That’s pretty ridiculous, yeah? But I can’t help but feel the four matches are a bit harsh. Hardly a high-level match goes by without seeing a player clearly being derisive toward an offical, and usually lipreading proves it wasn’t G-rated.

Again, I have no problem for setting a standard, as abuse of officials is unnecessary (and even those of us who are serially offenders know it).

But if confederations and leagues want to get serious about cutting it out, this can’t be a one-off suspension; End the group upbraiding of referees during games, the wild gesticulations, so on and so forth.