2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: Everything you need to know

5 Comments

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.

Germany’s ‘golden generation’ primed for World Cup defense

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Germany coach Joachim Loew is brimming with confidence just over three weeks before what he calls the country’s “golden generation” begins its World Cup defense against Mexico.

“I have a very good feeling,” Loew said at the team’s training camp in South Tyrol, Italy. “I don’t know what will happen with this golden generation after the tournament. It’s possible there will be a break-up. But all the players are on fire for the World Cup.”

Germany is one of the favorites in Russia despite the retirements of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose since winning the tournament in Brazil four years ago.

Players like Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mats Hummels and Thomas Mueller have grown into leading figures with the side, which wrapped up qualification with 10 wins from 10 games and 43 goals, a record number of goals for a European team in qualifying.

Now they are charged with attempting to make Germany the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962.

“I don’t have to coax new craving or new enthusiasm from the players,” Loew said in comments reported by news agency dpa. “The craving and ambition are still there, even among those who became world champions.”

Germany’s only worries concern the fitness of captain Manuel Neuer, defender Jerome Boateng and midfielder Mesut Ozil. Neuer hasn’t played since September with a hairline fracture in his left foot after being injured in training. Boateng is still recovering from a thigh injury sustained in the Champions League semifinals. Ozil missed Arsenal’s last few games of the season with back problems.

Team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt gave Ozil the green light to start training with the team and he was to decide Friday if Boateng should stay in Munich for further treatment or join the squad.

“We don’t want to make any mistakes,” Loew said of Boateng. “I think he’ll be able to at least take part in some team training next week.”

Neuer, too, is being given every chance to prove his fitness. Loew named four goalkeepers in his 27-man preliminary squad and is hoping that the 32-year-old Neuer won’t be the one sent home before FIFA’s June 4 deadline for final squads to be submitted.

“He can tolerate all the strains, even the most strenuous strains like jumping,” Loew said. “If he has the feeling he can perform at 100 percent he can be at the World Cup.”

Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen will keep the No. 1 spot if Neuer doesn’t recover fully.

Ter Stegen was to join the rest of the squad on Friday, along with Bayern’s Hummels, Mueller, Joshua Kimmich and Niklas Suele, as well as Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger.

“It’s clear to everyone that the training camp is to get the required strength and power for the tournament. The fuel has to be there,” said Loew, who also hopes it boosts team spirit. “Everyone has to know that he is just a puzzle piece for success. Nobody can be world champion on their own.”

Loew recently signed a contract extension through the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022. The 58-year-old former assistant coach took over after the 2006 World Cup and has led Germany to the semifinal stage or further in every major tournament since.

Germany has two warmup matches, against Austria in Klagenfurt on June 2 and Saudi Arabia six days later in Leverkusen, to iron out any pre-tournament issues.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Klopp hails Real Madrid; plots upset in UCL final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp has placed all of the pressure on Real Madrid ahead of the UEFA Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday.

[ MORE: UCL final projected XI’s ]

The Liverpool manager spoke to the media on Friday ahead of the showpiece final and revealed his admiration for Zinedine Zidane and his superstars, with Real hoping to win a third-straight UCL trophy and a record 13th European title.

Liverpool (five-time winners themselves) are the slight underdogs but the way Klopp was talking suggested this final was a proper David vs. Goliath battle.

It seems as though the pressure is off his players, as Klopp (who has lost all five of his major finals as a manager) believes the experience of Real is key but still thinks his players are quite capable of causing an upset.

“Experience is very important. I am pretty sure in the second before the game Real Madrid will be more confident than we are but the game doesn’t end in that second, it only starts. When you see Real Madrid play you say ‘wow they are really strong’ but they never played us,” Klopp said. “But we are here because we are Liverpool. We are not only a really good football team. This club has it in its DNA that it can really go for the big things.

“Nobody expected us to be here, but we are here. Because we are Liverpool. Because we have the games we had in the Champions League, the most exceptional run to the final, the most goals, I cannot believe that it is true… but it’s us. We scored the most goals, we had exceptional results away and at home, all of that stuff. The experience they have is a big advantage. 100 percent. To feel confident, or whatever, but in the game experience doesn’t help all the time.”

Wow. Okay.

Klopp is clearly trying to take the pressure off his players and the fact that he also lavished praise on Zidane ahead of the final shows how much respect Liverpool have for the team who have won the most European titles in history.

But are the Reds going too far here? Klopp added the following as he continued with the underdog theme.

“We have to make it as difficult as possible for them. That’s the plan of course,” Klopp said. “We cannot try to fight on their level but tactics in football are there to bring a better opponent on your level. When they are on your level you can beat them. That’s hard to do, but I think it’s worth a try.”

This just seems like Liverpool are giving Real a little too much respect ahead of the game. After all, no team has scored more goals than Liverpool in the UCL this season plus they have the hottest player in the world in Mohamed Salah on their side.

It’s tough to question Klopp given what he has achieved in the UCL this season but he does seem to have gone a little over the top here as he portrayed his Liverpool side as massive underdogs in the final.

List of most valuable European clubs released

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Auditors KPMG released its ranking of the most valuable clubs in Europe over the past year and the Premier League once again dominated with six teams in the top 10 and Manchester United leading the way ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Overall, the key stats to emerge from KPMG’s study is that there’s an aggregate growth of 14 percent among the top 32 clubs in Europe. While the English clubs in the top 32 list account for a staggering 42 percent of the total value, while Lyon, Sevilla and Tottenham are the big climbers in the list.

The top 14 clubs remain in the same positions as last season, but there is plenty of movement after that.

Manchester City are fourth, while Arsenal are in fifth, Chelsea in sixth, Liverpool in seventh and Tottenham stay in the top 10 as their progression on and off the pitch continues.

Leicester City are in 15th, West Ham United are newcomers to the list with the Hammers in 16th as their move to the London Stadium has increased their value substantially, while Everton are in 19th as nine of the most valuable 19 clubs in Europe are from the PL.

Below is a look at the top 32 via KPMG, while you can read the report in full here.


How will Liverpool, Real Madrid line up for UCL final?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With just over 24 hours to go until the UEFA Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine, excitement is building as Liverpool and Real Madrid lock horns in the battle to become Champions of Europe.

[ LIVE: Champions League final ]

Jurgen Klopp and Zinedine Zidane both possess an embarrassment of riches in attack but both coaches know they have weaknesses in defense.

With that in mind, we are expecting attack-minded starting lineups from both coaches. But who will get the nod for the XI?

Below is a look at my projected starting lineups for the final in Kiev, as well as analysis on the gameplan for both teams.


LIVERPOOL

—– Karius —–

— Alexander-Arnold — Lovren — Van Dijk — Robertson —

—- Milner —- Henderson —- Wijnaldum —-

—- Salah —- Firmino —- Mane —-

Analysis: At this point, there are no real surprises in Liverpool’s squad as Klopp is without the likes of Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through injury and the back five pick themselves. The only real dilemma will be in midfield but even then the duo of Emre Can and Adam Lallana have been out injured and aren’t fully fit, so James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are likely to start alongside Jordan Henderson in a midfield three. Then, up top, well, Salah, Firmino and Mane will start with Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke on the bench.


REAL MADRID

—– Navas —–

— Carvajal — Ramos — Varane — Marcelo —

—– Kroos —– Casemiro —- Modric —–

—- Isco —–

 —- Benzema —- Ronaldo —-

Analysis: Like Liverpool, the back five pretty much select themselves for Zidane with Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane a talented central defensive duo but marauding full backs Dani Carvajal and Marcelo will leave plenty of gaps for Salah, Mane and Firmino to expose. In midfield the silky duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will pull the strings, while the robust Casemiro will look to stop and Salah and Co. from getting at Ramos and Varane. The forward three is the biggest dilemma for Zidane with Cristiano Ronaldo certain to start centrally, but the likes of Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale could well find themselves on the bench with Isco and Karim Benzema likely to get the nod, plus Lucas Vazquez pushing hard for a starting spot. Having Bale (in fine form with four goals in his past three games) fresh to bring on from the bench may well just prove to be the difference if the game becomes tight and tense in the second half.