Only Brazil are above England in seedings for World Cup

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The Independent Football

England will go into the World Cup finals next summer with the official tag as the second-best side on the planet.

Sven Goran Eriksson's side came out second behind Brazil in the seedings system devised by Fifa's World Cup organising committee announced in Leipzig yesterday. As one of the top eight seeds, it means that England will be kept apart from other footballing heavyweights for the group stage of the tournament. The hosts Germany, the holders Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, Spain and France are also seeded.

This is the first time England will have been seeded since 1990 and could prove helpful to their chances - although they still managed to win their "group of death" in the 2002 finals against Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria. Eriksson expressed his delight after the announcement yesterday.

The England manager said: "I think it's the right decision. We are one of the teams that have the potential to do very well in Germany and we have some of the best players in the world.

"Finishing top of our qualification group with the second-best record in the whole of Europe was a big achievement and I'm sure that has played a part in this decision. This is a big boost but, when the tournament starts, we must show on the pitch why we have been seeded. There are many very good sides that are going to be in Germany but I don't think that too many will want to face England.

"I have always been very confident we can win the World Cup. If we have all the players available we are one of four, five or six teams who can win it. But you need a bit of luck and all players to be available - let's hope they are all available in May."

The Football Association chairman, Geoff Thompson, said that the seedings announcement was "excellent news", but warned it did not guarantee an easy draw on Friday - for example, England could still be drawn with the Netherlands, Ivory Coast and 2002 semi-finalists South Korea.

Thompson said: "You have only got to look at some of the unseeded European teams to see how strong the competition is. The emerging nations give a very good account of themselves these days so it is never going to be easy. At least we are seeded and that is good for the team and for the country, as we were not seeded last time and it should give us an advantage."