World Cup Pots…A Small Favor For The USMNT

Be prepared to see a lot more of Zakumi.

Earlier today the pots for Friday’s World Cup draw were announced by FIFA. Though not nearly as dramatic as the placement of the 32 teams into groups will be in two days, FIFA did provide fodder for more speculation over the next forty-eight hours.

In a departure from previous World Cups, the seeded teams (Pot 1) were based solely on the October FIFA Rankings plus host country South Africa. Conveniently for FIFA, this method pushes France out of the seeding after their infamous Hand of Henry qualification and allows current world #3, The Netherlands, to slide into the seeded group. This change results in a slightly less potent Group of Death scenario for the US.

Unfortunately for the Yanks, FIFA didn’t change up anything else relative to other federations in the US pot. So, in Pot 2 goes three CONCACAF teams, the four Asian teams and one Oceania representative. Not being potted with the African nations decreases the likelihood that the US will draw into a group with seeded host country South Africa, currently at #85 in the FIFA rankings.

Pot 3 has the three CONMEBOL teams shacking-up with the five African nations that qualified. Finally, Pot 4 includes France and the rest of the European squads.

To add some intrigue to the mostly ho-hum announcement below are the final Pots listed in true TSG form, by nickname (with the country names listed further down the page).

Pot 1:
Auriverdes,La Furia Roja, Oranje, Azzurri, Die Mannschaft, La Albiceleste, Three Lions, Bafana Bafana

Pot 2:
The Yanks,
El Tri, Los Catrachos, Taeguk Warriors, Samurai Blue, Socceroos, Chollima (Thousand Mile Horse), All Whites

Pot 3:
La Roja, La Albirroja,  La Celeste, The Desert Foxes, Indomitable Lions, Super Eagles, The Black Stars, The Elephants

Pot 4:
Les Blues, The Pirate Ship, The Fighing Jondas, NA (Slovenia), the Nati, Danish Dynamite, Selection of the Shields, White Eagles


Here is the corresponding Pots by country name, matched to the nicknames above.

Pot 1:
Brazil, Spain, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England and South Africa

Pot 2:

US, Mexico, Honduras, South Korea, Japan, Australia, North Korea and New Zealand

Pot 2:
Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast

Pot 4:
France, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal and Serbia

31 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Howdy on 2009/12/02 at 7:51 AM

    I’m not sure I’d rather play the Netherlands than France at this point, even with van Persie hurt.


  2. Posted by Timmy on 2009/12/02 at 8:17 AM

    Even if the US is drawn into one of the most difficult groups, I’d be ok with it. It will provide an opportunity to upset some of the big dogs and with lower expectations could provide some historic performances. I would be more frustrated if the US was drawn into an easier group and fails to make the second round. Afterall, this is Project 2010! The time is almost here.


  3. Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/02 at 8:34 AM

    Timmy, I agree completely.

    It is time for the USMNT to step up. After all the proclamations over the Spain victory, half-time lead versus Brazil and finishing first in an “increasingly tough” CONCACAF the US needs to put their money where their mouth is and take down so more big boys.

    A tougher draw might get the team to focus and work just a little harder in their preparations for South Africa while taking some pressure off once the tournament begins.


  4. You mention above “Unfortunately for the Yanks, FIFA didn’t change anything else…” While the teams we’re potted with didn’t change, our pot number did. I’m not sure what the schedule was in Germany but being put in pot #2 presents the following schedule which could galvanize or demoralize the US.

    Game 1 is against the Seeded Team
    Game 2 is against the Pot 4 Team
    Game 3 is against the Pot 3 Team

    While none of the matches will be easy, most would prefer to have their easy game first to build some momentum (though we did better in 2002 playing the toughest opponent first)

    I do agree with hoping for a tougher draw, if we get a draw like Mexico did in 2006 we’d probably advance but no one would respect us in the morning. Or, worse we wouldn’t advance and we’d be pegged further back.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/02 at 9:57 AM

      Nick, I should have clarified that I meant the grouping of the US with Asia and Oceania and not Africa.

      Thanks adding the schedule.


    • Apparently they’re also drawing numbers along with the countries, so the schedule I mentioned above is not accurate. Mea Culpa


  5. Posted by kaya on 2009/12/02 at 9:56 AM

    Interesting that FIFA is using the October rankings instead of the most current November rankings. I was gonna say “wonder how they decided if France or Argentina are worse?” when I noticed they switched places for the most recent rankings.
    I don’t know if I’d rather play Netherlands or France, but just like before, we have the chance of playing them both😉
    I don’t know if Mexico is “disrepected” because of the way they progressed in 2006. I mostly think about the great game they played against Argentina and how they were unlucky to be knocked out by that killer goal.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/02 at 10:05 AM

      That is a really interesting question about the use of October rankings. I’m going to tweet the question out to see if anyone knows.


      • Posted by Timmy on 2009/12/02 at 11:36 AM

        I believe it is because some teams (like the US) played friendlies in Nov and didn’t use their full squad where other teams fighting for a spot at the WC used their full strength team. So the results in Nov were disregarded.


    • I don’t think Mexico is disrespected for their group in 2006, but had we been in that group and progressed to lose to Argentina, it would’ve been looked back on as a fortunate grouping. I’m not crying foul, it’s just the way it is for the US right now. You are correct, most will remember that awesome goal in Extra Time that sent El Tri packing instead of the thrilling 0-0 draw with World-Power Angola.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/02 at 10:21 AM

      One repsonse over Twitter is that Portugal and France have an “unfair advantage” by playing the playoff game. I don’t necessarily agree with that but I understand.


  6. Posted by brian on 2009/12/02 at 10:08 AM

    In response to Nick, I think Mexico was in Pot 1 last time, that’s why they got an easy group.

    Since FIFA made Pot 1 based on rankings they should have made all the pots that way. The pots would look like this (with Oct. ’09 fifa ranking):

    Pot 1: Brazil (1), Spain (2), The Netherlands (3), Italy (4), Germany (5), Argentina (6), England (7) and South Africa (85)
    Pot 2: France (9), Portugal (10), USA (11), Switzerland (13), Cameroon (14), Greece (16), Chile (17), Mexico (18)
    Pot 3: Côte d’Ivoire (19), Serbia (20), Paraguay (21), Australia (24), Uruguay (25), Denmark (27), Algeria (29), Nigeria (32)
    Pot 4: Slovakia (33), Honduras (35), Ghana (38), Japan (40), S. Korea (48), Slovenia (49), New Zealand (83), N. Korea (91)

    It would not be too hard to perform the draw ensuring that teams from same confederations are separated.


    • It wouldn’t be too hard, but rearranging the pots each time to ensure no two teams from the same confederation (outside of UEFA) ended up in the same group would require about another 4 hours of TV time (2 for fluff, and 2 for more drawing). The upside is that they’d have to recruit more models/movie stars to help out.


      • why not seed it that way and not worry if teams in the same region are pitted against each other? I mean how epic would it be to have Mexico v US in the group stage? or England and France? or Brazil Argentina, i could go on and on. i don’t know to me it seems like it would add more excitement to the group stage, then its current format


        • Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/02 at 2:26 PM

          the epic one is North Korea versus South Korea. If they were both in the same group (even though I know they can’t) I would laugh my a** off.

          And special guest to the stadium… Kim Jong il
          please welcome North and South Korea’s military. sections 100 and 101 are the DMZ zone where everyone gets along.


  7. Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/02 at 2:29 PM

    I want to get South Africa, Algeria, and Serbia. And we can call it the group of death so our players work hard, and if we magically don’t advance out of that group, it wouldn’t be as shameful


  8. Posted by kaya on 2009/12/02 at 2:42 PM

    Mark, I’m still not clear on how you feel we were done a small favor in the arrangement of the pots.
    I never bothered looking up the various/likely arrangement scenarios, but I’d prefer the CONCACAF teams being in the pot with the African teams so that we could get grouped with Asia/Oceania instead of the way it is (being in the same pot.)


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/02 at 3:16 PM

      The (very) small favor was The Netherlands getting bumped up to Pot 1 and France getting knocked back in to Pot 4.


      • Posted by kaya on 2009/12/02 at 3:26 PM

        ..but either way we have the same chance of being grouped with either/both, no?
        anyway, I was never counting on FIFA’s friviloties in helping us.
        I think it’s going to be Italy, US, Ghana and Slovakia =)


        • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/02 at 3:41 PM

          Right, but a seeded (Brazil, Italy, etc) – Netherlands combo is out of the question now.


        • Posted by kaya on 2009/12/02 at 4:50 PM

          Ah, OK… I guess that goes back to an earlier commenter who understood what you were saying better than I did. If I had to choose one, I’d rather the US be grouped with Netherlands, not France… so to me this isn’t a favor.


        • Posted by kaya on 2009/12/02 at 4:57 PM

          Domenech or no, I just can’t see being happier with a seeded combo + Ribery, Gourcuff, Anelka, Benzema, etc over Van de Vaart, Van Nisterooy, Kuyt etc.


  9. Posted by sfshwebb on 2009/12/02 at 2:42 PM

    It would be best if the US should get the easiest group possible. They’re professionals and should realize that any team that has made it this far is to be reckoned with and not take it lightly. Moving on the group stage should e their first priority.

    As far as what the world thinks of the USMNT…see this from Kevin McCarra (well respected journalist and pundit) from the other Guardian in the UK

    “…The United States, with Mexico, are the substantial forces.

    The Americans, experienced and steady, are a worry to anyone. Spain, the No1 team at the moment, were knocked out of this year’s Confederations Cup in the semi-finals by Bob Bradley’s squad. The trophy itself could have gone to the United States, but Brazil’s formidable pride saw them complete a comeback from 2-0 down.”

    For more


    • Posted by jonk on 2009/12/02 at 6:07 PM

      The BBC echoed the same level of respect for the US in their article about England being seeded.

      “A worst-case scenario on Friday would result in Capello’s side taking on France, Ivory Coast and the United States, while a far easier proposition on paper would have England facing Slovenia, Algeria and New Zealand.”


      • Posted by Smitty on 2009/12/03 at 12:33 PM

        Nice work Jonk. As the fans of the USMNT neurotically analyze our fate, it is nice to remember that many National sides in this Cup do not relish the thought of tangling with the Snakes. (there, I tried on our new moniker for size.)


  10. Posted by kd on 2009/12/02 at 9:20 PM

    Ghana are “The Black Stars” and not the scorpions.

    …good website by the way, just starting looking at it regularly.
    The team nicknames made this article the most amusing pot draw article I have read.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/02 at 9:54 PM

      I have seen The Scorpions listed for Ghana, but they are definitely known as the Black Stars…thanks for the reminder (and the kind words).


  11. Posted by kaya on 2009/12/03 at 5:07 PM

    surely you could’ve come up with a penultimate post for the draw?
    I was thinking we should electronically shoot down Beckham’s call girl attempt to swing the 2018 WC for England.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/03 at 5:33 PM


      I wish I could. I was with clients all day for my paying work and now in the Denver airport en route to NY then Bristol tomorrow. Shaun will have something up tomorrow and then be writing again once I get back to San Diego.

      Enjoy the draw!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 257 other followers

%d bloggers like this: