The eyes of the soccer world focused on Cape Town on Friday, with
fans of 32 competing nations hoping for a kind draw at next year’s
World Cup. Coaches, former soccer stars and celebrities were gathering
for a draw ceremony to decide the eight groups of four teams.
Oscar-winning movie star Charlize Theron will help FIFA secretary
general Jerome Valcke in a lavish ceremony due to start at 7 p.m.
Defending champion Italy, five-time winner Brazil and European champion
Spain will be looking to avoid the sort of draw that makes it tough to
get through the group phase. Teams from New Zealand to Mexico, Chile to
North Korea, Slovakia to host South Africa will hope those conducting
the draw will give them a chance of a place in the knockout phase. The
32 nations in the draw have been split geographically into four pots
which will eventually produce eight groups of four teams.
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South Africa, as host, has been given one of the seeded positions
along with Italy, Brazil, Spain, England, Germany, Netherlands and
“Expectations are very high and this is the start of the World Cup
for me and the other coaches involved,” said South Africa coach Carlos
Alberto Parreira, who led his native Brazil to the 1994 title and has
coached at three other World Cups. “I have been involved in World Cup
draws before. As Brazil’s national coach, expectations were just as
high but this one is extra special because we are the World Cup hosts.”
The other three South American teams – Paraguay, Chile and two-time
World Cup winner Uruguay – are also in the same pool so they can’t meet
in the first round. The same applies to the four Asian qualifiers,
North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Australia. and Africa’s other
qualifiers, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.
The 13 European teams in the competition can’t avoid each other altogether, but there can’t be more than two in any group.
The second band of European teams – France, Portugal, Slovakia,
Slovenia, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and Serbia – are in the same
pool. That has angered the French, who felt they should have been
seeded after winning the title in 1998 and reaching the final four
Because France is in the European pot, there could be a repeat of
the 2006 World Cup final in the group stage, with Italy possibly
meeting the French.
With the draw ceremony for the June 11-July 11 championship taking
place and hundreds of delegates and officials from around the world
gathering in Cape Town, the bidding nations for the World Cups in 2018
and 2022 are also taking the opportunity to impress observers.
David Beckham is one of the leading figures backing England’s bid.
But the 1966 hosts face opposition from the United States, Australia,
Russia, Japan, Qatar, Indonesia, South Korea and joint bids from
Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium.
The Associated Press.