ENGLAND’S World Cup hopes suffered a setback last night when it emerged they could be plunged into a group with two top 10 teams when the draw is made on Friday.
The worst-case scenario would see them drawn with Brazil, Holland and the USA – all ranked in world governing body Fifa’s top 14 countries.
The unexpected blow came after Fifa revealed the format of the draw. Hosts Brazil and the seven best-ranked sides make up the eight seeds, as predicted, but geography also has a prominent – and complicated – role.
The nine unseeded European qualifiers, including England, make up
Pot 4, although one nation will be selected at random to join Pot 2 before the main draw. That is the scenario Hodgson will be keen to avoid, as they would then be guaranteed to face a South American side from the seeds as well as a European nation and a team from Pot 3.
Fifa’s system is designed to prevent more than two European sides or more than one South American team being drawn in the same group.
Were England to be dumped in Pot 2, they could also face a group containing Argentina, France or Italy and Mexico or Japan, while the best they could hope for would be Uruguay, Greece and Iran.
If they remain in Pot 4 their most favourable draw would likely include Switzerland, Cameroon and Australia.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter says construction of some World Cup stadiums will overrun a January deadline. Brazil deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes said the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, damaged in a fatal accident last week, would not be late.
HOW DRAW WORKS
1. Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay
2. Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Chile, Ecuador (plus one from Pot 4)
3. Australia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, USA
4. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia
Before the main draw, one team will be taken at random from Pot 4 and placed in Pot 2. They will be certain to be drawn with a South American team from Pot 1 to ensure there aren’t more than two European sides in one group