This isn't a surprise, but it is confirmation that the USA will be staring down long odds of a friendly group on Friday when the World Cup draw goes down:
â‡¥â‡¥Pot 1 will consist of the eight seeded teams and will be drawn intoâ‡¥groups at the outset of the Friday's event.â‡¥
â‡¥â‡¥Pot 2 consists of CONCACAF, Asia and Oceania and will beâ‡¥drawn next with no restrictions as to where those eight teams can beâ‡¥drawn.
Bleah. I wrote up a big table on my other blog explaining why this is terrible; the upshot is that the USA can't get in the same group with five of the six worst teams in the tournament, and the other two they miss are Australia, who no one fears much, and Mexico, who can't beat the USA outside of Mexico*. Their group is likely to be one of the toughest in the tournament merely by virtue of their inclusion.
The last hope is the actual worst team in the tournament according to FIFA (although not according to Nate Silver's forward-looking rankings):South Africa. The hosts are seriously outmatched. They've got guys playing for them who play for things called "Orlando Pirates,"which isn't a third-rate USL team but rather a team in the domestic South African league. If the USA swings the 1-in-8 shot and lands in South Africa's group, they'll have a great shot at advancing against an unseeded European team -- you're hoping for Switzerland, probably -- and an African or South American team that isn't Brazil or Argentina.
If they don't ... well ... replace South Africa with Italy, Spain,Brazil, Argentina, etc: that's a tough, tough assignment. It's one that the USA probably feels better about after their showing at the Confederations Cup, but unless Charlie Davies has Wolverine-style healing powers and Jozy Altidore finally gets off the bench and Oguchi Onyewu manages to prove his wonky knee fit, three huge pieces of that run will be uncertain or watching from the bench.
Teams you like in each section of the draw and teams you don't:
You want: South Africa, obviously, and probably Argentina, since they're coached by a man well known for his cocaine use and almost had to go to the playoff. England has a rep for choking, too.
You don't want: Anyone else.
You want: Switzerland or Greece. Greece's FIFA ranking is propped up by their Euro run from five years ago, and they're way worse than most of the other UEFA teams.
You don't want: France or Portugal. Yeesh. It's probably more important to dodge those two than get any of the vaguely weaker teams in this pod.
You want: Algeria. The worst team to qualify from Africa this cycle as this time around the good soccer countries all got their acts together.
You don't want: Chile or the Ivory Coast. Both are top ten in Nate Silver's power index.
You dream group, which will not happen, is South Africa-Greece-Algeria. Your doom group, which will, is Brazil-Ivory Coast-Portugal. Mexico will draw North Korea, New Zealand, and Fiji after FIFA changes the rules.
*(B-team Gold Cup excluded for obvious reasons.)â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.