England miss out on World Cup seeding

Click to follow
The Independent Football

England's prospects of being seeded in the World Cup draw on Saturday week receded into the distance yesterday when they slipped to 10th in the Fifa rankings. With fellow qualifiers Mexico overtaking them, England are set to pay a heavy price for dropping points by failing to beat either Greece or Sweden at home. It is the third recent blow to their hopes as the qualifications of Brazil and Germany, both probable seeds, had already damaged their case.

England's prospects of being seeded in the World Cup draw on Saturday week receded into the distance yesterday when they slipped to 10th in the Fifa rankings. With fellow qualifiers Mexico overtaking them, England are set to pay a heavy price for dropping points by failing to beat either Greece or Sweden at home. It is the third recent blow to their hopes as the qualifications of Brazil and Germany, both probable seeds, had already damaged their case.

That Mexico could be seeded ahead of England may be a surprise to many but their record in the last two World Cups is better than England's. So is that of Spain, seventh in the rankings and another candidate for the one available seeding. Portugal, fourth in the rankings, have not qualified for a World Cup since 1986.

Three seeds are already confirmed – holders France and joint-hosts Japan and South Korea. The other five seeds are determined on two factors, World Cup history and the Fifa rankings. Whatever combination of these factors is used, Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Germany are all likely to be seeded. They are 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 11th respectively in the Fifa rankings and have all reached at least one of the last three finals. That leaves the football associations of Mexico, Spain and England lobbying the organising committee ahead of its decisive meeting on 28 November. The committee has yet to determine how much weight to give to their rankings, and how to measure 'World Cup history'.

For the 1998 draw the last three tournaments were considered, with the more recent given greater emphasis. On that basis Spain, who have qualified for the last three tournaments, appear favourites. England were semi-finalists in 1990 but, unlike Mexico, did not reach 1994. Both teams went out in the second round in 1998.

England's best chance of being seeded is if Fifa puts heavy emphasis on their status as former winners, an improbable scenario given that that victory occurred 35 years ago. Even then Uruguay, as double-World Cup winners, would have a stronger claim if they overcome their one-goal play-off deficit to Australia. The other pots in the draw, to be held on 1 December in the South Korean port of Pusan, are likely to be filled on a geographical rather than a seeding basis. With Fifa rules stipulating no two countries from the same region share a group – except for Europe, whose 15 qualifiers make it unavoidable – the draw would otherwise be ridiculously complicated. Thus African countries will be in one pot, another will only have European countries, the third unseeded South American countries.

Five of the top 15 in Fifa's rankings have failed to qualify for the World Cup (Colombia, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic and Romania) while China and Senegal, though 55th and 67th, have made it. The Republic of Ireland have moved up two places to 18th; Scotland down two to 49th; Northern Ireland remain 90th, a place behind Indonesia; and Wales climb back into the top 100, just above Gabon.

FIFA RANKINGS (last month's position in brackets): 1 (1) France 811pts; 2 (3) Argentina 798; 3 (2) Brazil 797; 4 (4=) Portugal 741; 5 (8) Colombia 736; 6 (4=) Italy 735; 7 (6) Spain 731; 8 (7) Netherlands 722; 9 (11=) Mexico 713; 10 (9) England 712; 11 (14) Germany 710; 12 (11=) Yugoslavia 709; 13 (10) Czech Republic 699; 14 (13) Paraguay 694; 15 (15) Romania 687; 16 (18) Sweden 676; 17 (17) Denmark 675; 18 (20) Republic of Ireland 672; 19 (16) Croatia 671; 20 (33) Belgium 666.

Comments