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Defending world champion Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland will join host Brazil as the seeded nations for the 32-team World Cup next year.
FIFA announced earlier in the month that the top teams in its October rankings–along with Brazil–would be placed at the head of each of the first round groups for the draw, which will be conducted December 6 in Bahia. The only twist involves No. 6-rated Uruguay, which must defeat Jordan in a home-and-home playoff to qualify. If the Uruguayans fail, then No. 8 Holland gets the seed. Italy is officially tied for No. 8, but it trails the Dutch by decimal points.
The previous World Cup seeding formula took into account a nation’s performance in previous World Cups as well as its ranking. [October 17]
Comment: U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann created a stir on September 22 when, in an interview with NBC Sports Network during halftime of an MLS match between Seattle and Los Angeles, he seemingly did his best to lower expectations for his team at Brasil ’14. Asked whether the U.S., which would go on to finish first in CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying competition, could win it all, Klinsmann replied, “No, you’ve got to be realistic. I mean, I think we have the potential, obviously like in the past, to get out of the group stage–it depends, obviously, on who you have in your group, and then it’s all down to 50-50 games. Then you give the real battles in the knockout stage.”
An affront to the sensibilities of Americans, who have a history of playing to win all the time regardless of the odds? A lowering of the bar to the point where a quarterfinal appearance would appear to be a spectacular triumph? Even the American Outlaws with the most rose-colored of glasses know the U.S. won’t be lifting the FIFA World Cup trophy July 13. However, the October FIFA rankings added some weight to Klinsmann’s remarks. The U.S., ranked 13th, had a half-dozen nations between it and what would’ve been only its third seeding in World Cup history (the first World Cup, in 1930, and 1994, when it was host). And when it comes to the World Cup, getting a seeding is at least fine silver, if not gold. In the 19 previous World Cups, only two unseeded nations have gone on to become the champion: West Germany, in what remains the biggest upset ever, in 1954, and Argentina in 1986, thanks to the play of the greatest player of his time, Diego Maradona.
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