England’s path through the group stages at next year’s World Cup in Brazil could be made more difficult after Fifa announced a surprise change to the way Friday’s draw will be held on Tuesday.
Under the new formula, before the main draw takes place, one of the nine unseeded European teams from Pot Four will be drawn at random and moved to Pot Two, meaning they will definitely face one of the four South American seeds, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia or Uruguay, in the group stage.
If that team is England it would create an extra headache for Roy Hodgson in his bid to qualify from the group and reach the last 16.
It had been expected that France, as the lowest-ranked European side to qualify through the play-offs, would be moved to Pot Two – which contains seven teams from Africa and South America – in order to make the number of nations in each pot equal.
The South American team to face the European side in Pot Two will be chosen by putting all four seeds into a “Pot X” and drawing one out. The three South American seeds not drawn against the European team in Pot Two will go back into the main draw.
This Pot Two formula will ensure that there will be no more than two Uefa qualifiers in the same group.
Meanwhile, players will be forced to endure the full heat of Brazil’s tropical climate after the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, said a request from international players’ union FifPro to shift early afternoon kick-offs to cooler times of the day had been rejected.
Matches will kick off at three times each day – including the hottest period, 1pm local time – for European TV audiences.
It was also confirmed that building work on three stadiums is behind schedule. Delays in Curitiba and Cuiaba mean they will not be ready until February – missing the 31 December deadline for handover to Fifa, while Sao Paulo was delayed by last week’s fatal accident.
However, the governing body insisted that the tournament will start on time.
Pot 1 (top eight seeds): Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, Uruguay
Pot 2: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador, (plus one from pot four)
Pot 3: Japan, Iran, South Korea, Australia, United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras
Pot 4 (-1 one before draw): Bosnia, Croatia, England, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia,France