| Huge models of footballs used at the World Cups from 1970 onwards on display in Cape Town, on Wednesday. (AFP) |
England will be among the top seeds for Fridays World Cup draw, having scraped through ahead of Portugal and France.
It means, although they could yet be drawn in the same group as either Portugal or France, Fabio Capellos team will avoid being drawn against any of the favourites, such as Brazil, Spain or Italy, the holders. Holland also breathed a sigh of relief, having been named among the top seeds.
Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke said France was a victim of its lacklustre qualifying campaign since the seedings were based on the October rankings.
It was purely sporting criteria. There was never, never, a question of the France-Ireland game in the discussion, Valcke said.
As feared, the World Cup organising committee elected to change the seeding regulations at their meeting at Cape Towns international convention centre this morning.
At the previous two tournaments, seedings have been calculated on two factors Ś positions in the Fifa world rankings and performance in recent tournaments.
The FA had hoped that the same formula would be used, which would have seen England seeded, but instead the formula was changed purely to reflect the Fifa rankings.
There had been fears that any rankings-based calculations would reflect rankings over a previous two-year or three-year period, which would have excluded England, whose ranking briefly dipped dramatically after their failure to qualify for Euro 2008, instead, Fifa preferred to use the October rankings, in which England were ranked seventh and thus scraped into the first pot of seeds along with South Africa, the hosts.
This was a source of particular relief for England, who had slipped to ninth in the most recent rankings, published last month.
Those rankings were dismissed from consideration because of the imbalance caused by the fact that countries such as Portugal and France played in two-legged qualification playoffs, where more ranking points were available than in friendly matches.
Beyond the first group of seeded teams, the countries have been placed in pots according to geographic factors.
Pot 4 consists of the eight remaining European teams, including Portugal and France.
Pot 3 consists of the three remaining South American teams and the five remaining African nations.
Pot 2 consists of all the teams left over, i.e. three from North and Central America, four from Asia (including Australia, who are part of the Asian Football Confederation) and New Zealand.
The worst-case scenario for a seeded team would arguably mean being placed in the same group as France (or rtugal), United States (or Mexico) and Ivory Coast.
The best-case scenario for a seeded team would be to be drawn with New Zealand, Algeria and one of the weaker European qualifiers, such as Slovenia or Switzerland.