Bafana will not face world heavyweights in group stage thanks to their host status

2009-12-03 00:00

BAFANA Bafana will not meet one of world heavyweights Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina or England in the group phase of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, thanks to South Africa’s seeding as the host nation.

But France and Portugal still lurk as potential opponents.

In a special executive meeting in Cape Town yesterday, Fifa established the criteria for the seven seeded teams that have joined South Africa and the format that the final draw will take at the city’s International Convention Centre tomorrow night.

The eight seeded teams go into Pot 1 of the final draw, which will determine the eight four-team groups for the World Cup finals.

The seeded teams occupy the first position of each group from A to H.

South Africa is already placed in A1 and is scheduled to play the opening game at Soccer City on June 11, 2010.

Bafana’s opponents drawn from Pot 2 will comprise teams from Asia (Australia, Japan, Korea DPR and Korea Republic), Concacaf (Honduras, Mexico and USA) and Oceania (New Zealand).

The five African qualifiers are in Pot 3.

With no two teams from the same confederation able to meet each other except for Europe, which can have a maximum of two teams in a group, this leaves South American teams Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay as potential opponents of Bafana from this pot.

The last team in Group A will be drawn from the remaining eight European teams: Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

From this pot, the obvious teams South Africa will hope to avoid will be Portugal and France, who remain a European powerhouse despite having had a mediocre qualifying campaign.

France controversially beat Ireland in a play-off when a handball by Thierry Henry resulted in the winning goal.

Serbia had a strong qualifying campaign, topping the group France were in.

From Pot 2, New Zealand, Honduras and Korea DPR would be Bafana’s preferred opponents.

Pot 1 consists of the hosts, the top five world-ranked European teams and top two world-ranked teams outside Europe.

The decision to use world rankings to determine the seeded teams was decided on at yesterday’s Fifa special meeting.

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said the seedings were based on the rankings of October 2009.

“This was because in October 2009 all the European teams had played the same number of matches before the play-offs started,” he said.

Valcke said the decision to use rankings and not factor in previous World Cup performance, which resulted in France not being among the seeded teams, was in no way motivated by the controversial way the 1998 champions and 2006 finalists qualified.

He said the proposal to go on rankings was put to Fifa before the final round of qualifiers was played.

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