World Cup draw: US, England, France get good slots in South Africa
FIFA settled the World Cup draw in South Africa today ahead of next summer's tournament. The US will face off against England and minnows Algeria and Slovenia.
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Convoluted seeding process
Complaints that the pre-draw seeding process was flawed are almost certain to follow. FIFA, the game's governing body, only drew up the rules for seeding the draw in the past week and has been rather opaque about its selection criteria.
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The process this time involved seeding eight teams – host South Africa and FIFA's choice of the top seven teams in the world: Brazil, England, Spain, Holland, Italy, Germany, and Argentina. These eight are the top seed in each of their groups. The groups were rounded out by a convoluted process aimed at ensuring geographical diversity in each group.
First, teams were selected at random from, in this order, Asia, North America, Central America, and Oceania. Then the remaining African and South American teams were added to the groups at random. Then, and this is where there will likely be moans and controversy, the remaining eight teams from Europe – football's strongest region, and host to 10 of the 18 World Cup tournaments held since 1930 – were allocated.
Before the draw, England start Frank Lampard explained the stakes: "It's great to be seeded [but] we could still draw Ivory Coast and then Portugal or France. That would be a Group of Death for sure. That would focus the mind all right." England tonight should be breathing a sigh of relief – drawn in Group C with the United States and minnows Algeria and Slovenia.
Goalies unlikely to celebrate new Jabulani ball
Then there's Jabulani, the new World Cup ball from Adidas. The name means "celebration" in Zulu and it's the company's latest addition to soccer. Ahead of each World Cup, a new ball is produced that skilled players can strike harder and put more swerve on. FIFA's practice of introducing the ball less than a year before the games are played, however, has often led goalies to complain they're not given enough time to adjust.
This one could be a doozie. The surface of the ball that can be struck with maximum power has been increased by 70 percent, Adidas says, and that could lead to a few more screamers ripping the nets next summer. (Popular Science has dissected the technology behind the ball).