When FIFA announced the World Cup seedings back in October, there were a few surprises with the eight seeds.
To determine the seeds, FIFA used their ranking system. The eight seeds were Brazil (hosts), Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Switzerland and Belgium.
The two surprises were Switzerland and Belgium.
The unexpected omissions were Italy and the Netherlands.
Some may say that Colombia were lucky to be seeded.
However, Colombia did qualify second in South America, which many experts would regard the toughest group to qualify for a World Cup. Also Colombia did make the quarter finals of the Copa America in 2011.
I give Colombia the benefit of the doubt. Just.
But the same can’t be said for Switzerland and Belgium.
Both teams qualified from easier groups in Europe, therefore both teams do not deserve to be seeded.
Both teams in recent times haven’t done enough to prove their status as seeded teams. When you compare them with the likes of Italy and the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland are well behind.
Here is a comparison in the last four years what of Italy, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland have achieved on the field.
2010 World Cup: group stage
2012 Euro: runners up
Brazil World Cup qualifying: six wins, four draws. Qualified for Brazil
2010 World Cup: runners up
2012 Euro: group stage
Brazil World Cup qualifying: nine wins, one draw. Qualified for Brazil
2010 World Cup: group stage
2012 Euro: Did not qualify. Last Euro appearance 2008
Brazil World Cup qualifying: seven wins, three draws. Qualified for Brazil
2010 World Cup: Did not qualify. Last World Cup appearance 2002
2012 Euro: Did not qualify. Last Euro appearance 2000.
Brazil World Cup qualifying: eight wins, two draws. Qualified for Brazil
The Netherlands and Italy have made the final of the World Cup and Euro respectively.
While with Belgium and Switzerland, between them only Switzerland made the 2010 World Cup, where in that tournament they were knocked out in the group stage.
When the seedings were announced in October, Belgium was ranked fifth, Switzerland seventh, Netherlands and Italy were tied in eighth spot.
With Brazil been host and ranked 11th, to be seeded, you had to be ranked in the top seven.
When the World Cup draw was announced last week, there were three “group of death” groups. Using the October FIFA rankings, here are the toughest groups:
Costa Rica (31)
In each of those groups, you have three teams that are ranked inside the top 15. Meanwhile, let’s have a look at how Belgium and Switzerland fared.
South Korea (56)
Both Groups E and H should be termed the “group of life”.
In each of those groups, only one country is ranked in the top 15. France would be heavily favoured to get through their group, despite the fact that France needed to get through a playoff to qualify for the World Cup, and are ranked well outside the top 10.
Belgium should easily progress through to the round of 16 due to the lack of strong opposition, while Switzerland might have a battle against Ecuador for that top two spot in their group.
What this all proves is a couple of things.
FIFA’s rankings need to be reviewed. There needs to be a greater emphasis on teams that have qualified for tournaments over a four year period, and how those teams have fared in those tournaments.
FIFA rankings shouldn’t be rewarding teams that do well in high profile friendlies or the amount of friendlies they play. Qualifiers and tournament play should be counted very highly.
Countries that are ranked in the top 15 or 16, should have qualified and played in a World Cup and their continental confederation tournament, such as the Euro’s, Copa America, Asian Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, or CONCACAF’s Gold Cup over a four year period.
Switzerland and Belgium shouldn’t be ranked in the top 15 or 16. Colombia may well be in that same boat.
The other thing FIFA should do is with the World Cup draw have four pots of eight teams, but with a difference.
In pot one, have the top eight seeded teams including the host country.
In Pot two, have the next eight higher ranked teams, regardless of confederation.
Example, it could be teams ranked from ninth to 16th.
In Pot three, have the next eight higher ranked teams.
Those teams could rank from 17 to 31. While pot four, have the remaining eight teams, where those countries could rank from 32 to 59.
In this system, you could have three or four European teams in the one group, or two South American teams in another group.
But at least the groups will be fair and balanced.
You may end up with one or two groups that are lauded with the ”group of death”, but that would come down to the luck of the draw.
In Brazil 2014, if results go according to plan, two former World Cup Champions could exit by the round of 16 stage.
In all likelihood, Brazil could face either Spain or the Netherlands in the round of 16. For that match to appear so early on is a waste.
While in Group D, three former champions, England, Uruguay and Italy face off with one to miss out.
At the moment, it is the appalling that the FIFA rankings system has created three difficult groups.
It definitely isn’t the luck of the draw.