Ahead of the World Cup draw coming up on Friday, FIFA has clarified some points to take into consideration in order to understand which teams will go in each pot. Essentially, the rules are very simple. While the Pot 1 is based on the official FIFA Rankings, the other three are determined by geographical locations: one pot for the Europeans, another one for both Asian and North American countries, and the last one for both African and South American nations.
Moreover, given that this World Cup will present nine European countries that are not top-seeded and only seven between Africa and South-America, one of those Europeans will have to move to the other group as each pot must only have eight spots.
Consequently, considering that the already-mentioned rankings are used to determine the Pot 1, it would be fair to assume that they would also be used to figure out which team from the European pot will be drawn down to the African-South American one, which in this case would be France.
However, this assumption is wrong. As a matter of fact, as announced in the press conference held today in Brazil, the European team to move to the other pot will be selected from a raffle. For this reason, all nine teams have equal chances of being moved.
For the record, these nine teams are Bosnia, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Russia, Portugal, Holland and Italy. It is especially for these last two teams that the situation can be very unfair, considering their great results of the last years. For the Netherlands, the poor performance in the 2012 European Championship does not erase the positives from the 2010 World Cup and the comfortable qualification run to Brazil.
For Italy, the draw could ignore three years of great work by Cesare Prandelli, which included the 2012 European Championship final, the 2013 Confederations Cup semifinals and the unbeaten World Cup qualification record, without even mentioning that it’s the nation that actually won the recent 2006 World Cup.
For all these reasons, the fact that both Holland and Italy are in high risk of ending up in the Pot 4 for the drawings is simply pathetic. As they are perfectly capable of defeating any obstacle, they do not deserve to be going through this situation.
Unfortunately for other countries, however, teams like Italy and Holland have actually demonstrated to perform better when they play against the best teams. This is especially the case for the Azzurri, who have reached uncountable glorious moments in their history almost every time they’ve had to face tough challenges.
It is only enough to think about both the victorious semifinals of the 2000 European Championship and the 2006 World Cup, against the home teams Holland and Germany respectively, to realize how well Italy performs in difficult scenarios. The historic wins over Argentina and Brazil in Spain 1982 are the biggest representations of the famous quote through which Italian players live by: “when the game gets tough, the tough players start playing.”
If Italy end up in the African-South American pot and probably in a group of death, its opponents will have to start being afraid of it because there is a high chance that the four-time world champions will approach the tournament with the highest motivation and desire to prove everyone wrong.
It is highly advisable for all teams in Pot 1 and 2 to start hoping not to get Italy in the Friday draw as it appears that FIFA is creating the perfect stage for the Azzurri to write history once again.