It took 29 months to get here – first official qualifier match for World Cup 2014: Montserrat and Belize back on June 15, 2011 – but the 32-team field for Brazil is set.
(Bonus points if you actually know where Montserrat is. And no cheating with Wiki-whatever.)
So, in some ways, the fun is just beginning. Next up: the Dec. 6 draw from Bahia, a tourist-heavy coastal spot in Brazil, not far from Salvador, one of the 12 venue cities. Teams will be grouped into eight separate foursomes.
One of those will be labeled the Group of Death.
And people like me will remind everyone that we really should stop calling this the Group of Death.
(U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard told our own Arlo White that he had a premonition, that the United States would end up in the Group of … well, you know.)
The final draw will take place at 11 a.m. ET that day. What you are reading now is just a starting point, of course – there is so very, very much to come – but here is what you need to know:
- The (almost) final list of teams is here. For now, just pretend like Mexico and Uruguay are in. Because unless the world turns completely upside down — truly bizarre stuff, like galaxies imploding, educational programming on TLC, dogs and cats … sleeping together and such – Mexico and Uruguay are in.
- For super-quick team reference on these 32 ridiculously happy teams, the FIFA world rankings are here.
- You are not an official sports geek unless you work a World Cup Draw simulator. Yes, there are World Cup draw simulators.
- For most books, Brazil is the top favorite. Remember, hosts typically tend to do well; France was the last host to win, in 1998. But Germany did make a surprisingly strong showing (3rd place) in 2006. For the coming tourney: Spain (the defending champs, pictured above), Argentina and Germany are in as the next favorites in some varying orders, depending on which odds site you like.
- Early dark horse: Belgium is stacked with young talent. Start checking that out here.
As the groups are assembled, each will start with a top seed. The top seeds are:
- 1. Spain
- 2. Germany
- 3. Argentina
- 4. Colombia
- 5. Belgium
- 6. Uruguay*
- 7. Switzerland
- 8. Brazil (host)
*Unless all that aforementioned weirdness ensues. Trust us; it will not