After over two years of qualifying rounds featuring 207 nations and 816 matches, the end came last Wednesday with Uruguay qualifying as the 32nd and final team to clinch a place for 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Except the debutant Bosnia-Herzegovina, most of the favorites cemented their places, including eight former world champions. Ukraine were the most unfortunate FIFA ranked nation at No. 20 as they lost to No. 21 France in Tuesday’s playoff, even after leading 2-0 in the first leg at Kiev.
The field is now clear for the grand final draw on December 6, 2013. Those, who couldn’t make it to the last 32, will rue their chances but their only option now is to wait for 2018 World Cup in Russia. The December 6 final draw is the next big FIFA event and World Cup organizers could not have chosen a better venue than Costa do Sauipe in the Brazilian state of Bahia, which is famous worldwide as the most romantic holiday destination. Peppered with sandy dunes, lagoons and palm trees on the Atlantic Ocean, Costa do Sauipe is located in the Brazilian state of Bahia, some 75 kilometers from the city of Salvador. Once the draw is completed, it will be known as to who is playing whom and millions of football enthusiasts in every corner of the world will begin speculating on the chances of their favorite teams.
FIFA will bring live global coverage of the event and it is expected that television audience for the event will be same as that glued to see a FIFA World Cup match. In addition to the 35-minute crucial procedure for the final draw, the coverage will also feature interviews with key football figures, detailed analysis, possibilities and a lot more. The show is estimated to cost about $8m but no one seems to mind, given the enormity of the occasion. About 1300 guests and more than 2000 media persons are likely to attend the 90-minute event, which will take place at a specially built hall in the resort. The main draw will be preceded by performances from Rapper Emicida from Sao Paulo, Afro-Brazilian percussion group Olodum from Bahia and Margareth Menezes, an iconic figure also from Bahia. The event will feature some of the biggest names in world football and more importantly, bring together the coaches and delegations of all 31 participating countries for the first time.
FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke will conduct the final 35-minute of the draw and he will be assisted by football icons representing the eight champion nations who won the coveted trophy in 19 editions of the FIFA event since it began in 1930. FIFA has confirmed that the former champions will be represented by Cafu (Brazil); Ghiggia (Uruguay); Geoff Hurst (England); Mario Kempes (Argentina); Lothar Matthäus (Germany); Cannavaro (Italy); Hierro (Spain) and Zidane (France)
Customarily, the draw will decide 4 teams each in 8 Groups A-H. There will be 4 pots containing 8 plastic balls, in whose inner recesses, names of qualifying teams will be hidden. While the exact format for the draw will be formally announced on December 3, no surprises are expected from the routine followed for 2010 World Cup. The most likely combinations will be as follows:
Pot No.1 will contain host Brazil and seven other top ranked teams, which are Uruguay, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland.
Principle of geographical separation will apply for other three pots. This will ensure that teams, which appeared in the same qualifying region at group stage, are kept away from each other and in view of this, the remaining three pots will be decided as follows;
Pot 2 will contain four teams from Asia and four from North America. These teams will be Japan, Iran, South Korea, Australia, USA, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras.
Pot 3 will have five teams from Africa, two from South America and one from Europe. Therefore these teams will be Chile, Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon and France.
Pot 4 will have the remaining eight teams from Europe, which are Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Russia.
If one were to examine the consequences of such pot-divisions, it becomes easy to infer that Brazil will not have to face the supposedly strongest sides like Spain, Germany or Argentina until the knockout stage. Meanwhile, the United States appear worst-placed since they have been bracketed with the 7 weakest teams and when the Groups are formed US may find it difficult to reach the knockout stage.
When FIFA’s Jérôme Valcke begins the process, he will start with Pot 1 and as the host nation, Brazil will have the privilege of being the first team in Group A, which will be completed by three other teams randomly drawn from Pot 2, 3 & 4. The other seven Groups will be formed similarly by random draws from the 4 pots by repeating the process seven more times. When the draw is complete the countdown for FIFA World Cup 2014 will begin officially.