The world’s gaze will be firmly focused on the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday, December 4 as the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals draw will take place at 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT).
All 32 qualified nations (or Participating Member Associations to give them their full FIFA title) will learn their group stage fate and possibilities for knockout rounds for this summer’s tournament. FIFA have announced that 27 of the 32 Coaches have confirmed their attendance including Dunga, Fabio Capello and Marcello Lippi, with the remaining four welcome Coaches expected to do so prior to Friday. Diego Maradona is serving a FIFA ban for his tirade following Argentina’s last-gasp qualification so it is likely that AFA President Julio Grondona will be present in his place. The only current player hoping to make the tournament to be present is David Beckham with a 2018 bid salvage mission on the cards for the former Real Madrid man.
FIFA has now confirmed the exact format for the draw, and it follows the same pattern as the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The format will be to pick teams from four separate pots with one team from each pot present in each of the 8 groups (A-H). The seeding was based on the October 2009 FIFA World Ranking, which did not take into account the unfair advantage November’s play-off games would have given the nations that competed in them.
Pot One is the only pot which is seeded according to the aforementioned criteria with the remaining three pots simply made up due to geographical location. Teams from the same continental Confederation are placed in the same pot so to avoid them being drawn against each other in the same group. This will ensure that no more than two European teams (UEFA) are in any of the eight groups and no more than one from South America (CONMEBOL), North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), Africa (CAF), Asia (AFC) and Oceania (OFC) are in any of the eight groups. This structure has seen the following teams allocated to the following pots:
Pot One (seeded elite across all Confederations)
Pot Two (AFC Nations, OFC Nations, CONCACAF Nations)
Pot Three (CAF Nations, CONMEBOL Nations)
Pot Four (UEFA Nations)
In order to avoid African or South American teams playing against each other in the First Round, South Africa will draw from South America and the two South American seeded teams – Brazil and Argentina – will draw from Africa before the African and South American teams are placed into Pot Three.
South Africa as the host nation are seeded in Pot One and are already announced as Team A1 meaning that they are already drawn and so will not be making an exit from any velvet bag on Friday. This is to enable them to take part in the opening match of the tournament to take place at the newly developed Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. This is slightly different from tournaments gone by and it is only since 2006 that the host nation has taken part in the opening match rather than the holders.
At previous tournaments we have seen so-called ‘groups of death’ where four strong nations have been drawn against each other in the same group. An example of this was in 2002 when England was drawn against Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria. Looking at the probable pots above, it is clearly conceivable that there may be a similar group of death drawn this time around with the likes of Portugal and France included in Pot Four, the likes of Ivory Coast and Paraguay in Pot Three and South Korea and USA in Pot Two. Come Friday there may well be some nervous Head Coaches immediately following the draw.
Prior to the final draw and indeed prior to knowing which 32 teams will make up the Participating Member Associations, ticket sales for Team-Specific Tickets (TSTs) will have been high but for Individual Match Tickets (IMTs) sales only for the knockout stages will have been high. This will all change following the final draw.
A TST is a series of tickets for a specific team for a number of matches ranging from a TST 3 (all three group games) to a TST 7 (all three groups games, round of 16, quarter final, semi-final and final) and is conditional on first your chosen team making the finals and then progressing through each round. If they do not do this then a refund is given which makes it a safe bet even if the outcome of those two factors are uncertain. An IMT on the other hand is simply a ticket for a single match with the participating teams only known following the final draw. Expect a huge peak in ticket sales for certain matches immediately after the draw.
The venue of the matches will also play a part with some of the host cities extremely desirable destinations – Cape Town and Durban spring immediately to mind. If England, for example, is drawn to play the likes of Portugal or France in Cape Town that would prove a mouth-watering encounter for the various hotels and tour operators involved in the event. Similarly, this may well increase interest in matches featuring less well established nations. If the likes of Algeria are drawn to play against the likes of North Korea then Cape Town could well draw a crowd.
With much of the England football fans fully immersed in the Premier League or Football League season, this Friday could well bring some early excitement and World Cup fever to our shores a full six months before the lucky few board that plane to South Africa. For all hopeful players it will provide a timely reminder of what needs to be done to cement that place in the final squad and for Capello himself it will herald the beginning of a tactical base to progress safely through to the round of 16. The World Cup is very much on the horizon.