Why the World Cup Draw is good for soccer

Charlize Theron was one of the guest pickers for the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa.

Charlize Theron was one of the guest pickers for the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa.

It’s complicated, confusing, controversial and downright frustrating. But for all the pains that come with the World Cup Draw, in the end it’s an entertaining spectacle.

Every four years in the winter prior to the World Cup, the FIFA bigwigs come together and pick some plastic balls out of bowls to seal the fate of 32 nations. The World Cup Draw is a glorified mixture of NCAA March Madness’ “Selection Sunday” and the lottery ball picks before the six o’clock news. FIFA will attempt to liven the event with an attractive actress from the host nation and David Beckham in an attempt to outweigh the sullen faces of the bureaucrats. With so much at stake on a couple of balls, it’s easy to believe that there are prefixed outcomes selected by a scheming villain scornful looking at the miserable fans below.

This World Cup’s version is even more controversial. It’s starts with four pots of 8 countries except for Pot 1 that has 9 and Pot 2 that has 7. Hold on, were just getting started (If you don’t really care how it works just skip down past the picture of Sepp Blatter).

Group A has the eight seeded teams including the host nation Brazil (This is based on FIFA rankings and Blatter’s seal of approval). Pot 2 is made up 7 countries from Africa and South America. Pot 3 is filled with CONCACAF qualifiers ( including the U.S. and Mexico) and top Asian countries . Pot 4 is the rest of European teams that are not seeded.

Out of the nine teams in Pot 4, one team will be randomly selected and moved to pot 2. Normally this would go to the lowest seeded team, but now a quality side like England could be placed with the Netherlands and Spain.

Now we have 4 evenly 8-team pots. Nice work FIFA.

Next the brilliant FIFA magicians decided to make Pot X (sounds scary). This will be for the seeded South American teams (Brazil, Uruguay, Columbia and Argentina) that will be set aside so there won’t be three European teams selected in the same group.

Are you confused? You probably should be. Check out these links if you need things cleared up.

ESPN: http://ow.ly/ruvP9

NBC Sports: http://ow.ly/ruvRo

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (Yahoo Sports).

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (Yahoo Sports).

If the ball and pot process doesn’t scare you enough, then try using one of the many World Cup Draw simulators across the web.  Whether you’re a Yank, Golden Eagle, or Brit, the simulator can be either depressing or hopeful. Check out ESPN’s version of the simulator here.

This nervous anticipation is what makes the draw such a great event. It hypes and precedes the month long rollercoaster of emotions that will be coming to Brazil this June. It may not be fair, it may be rigged, but the World Cup Draw is part of the poignant journey each country takes over the four years leading up to the tournament. It’s a part of the process, part of the pain, part of the relief and part of the joy that makes the World Cup the greatest sporting event on earth.