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The Antagonist - Get ready for the World Cup bore draw

Published: 04 Dec 2009 - 07:21:00

After all the drama of Ireland's controversial exit and the furore and hysterical reaction that followed it, we now have to endure the over-hyped and, more often than not, disorganised shambles of a group draw for the finals.

Like most of these pre-tournament events (Champions League, Europa Cup, Intertotototo etc), we huddle round our radios and televisions full of expectancy and excitement, only to be rewarded by an apparently confused group of expensively-suited, geriatric FIFA officials, probably fresh from a champagne reception, one of whom spends about half an hour explaining the intricacies of how the procedure will take place.

Apparently 3254 people were involved in delivering this draw including security staff, construction staff, volunteers and entertainers.

- Tim Lovejoy on England's chances
- World Cup 2010 stadium guide

All this just to pull 32 names out of a hat! It never starts on time and you get the impression that they are spinning out the whole process to a) justify the fact that the attending dignitaries have flown half way round the world for the event. or b) so that the conclusion of proceedings coincides with the pubs opening (do they have pubs in South Africa?)

At least, hopefully, we won't have to sit through the tedious process of a practice draw that sometimes precedes the main draw in European competitions (although the whole process is so shrouded in secrecy that my hopes may be misguided!).

What is the point of that? To be drawn against Standard Liege in the rehearsal, only to end up with Barcelona in the real draw is, surely, cruel in the extreme.

Anyway, back to the World Cup and I find it incredible that as recently as Tuesday, FIFA were still discussing the possibility of Ireland being included as an extra team.

For God's sake, as sorry as I felt for our shillelagh-wielding, Guinness-swilling neighbours, you cannot make an exception for one team or countries from all over the World will be citing instances where they have been wronged.

Setting a precedent like that would be opening a real can of worms.We could end up with FIFA having to have an extra qualifying competition for all the teams who felt hard done by in the normal qualifying competition.

Of course, there would have to be proper, acceptable criteria to qualify for this competition.

Incidents such as Henry's handball or a wrongly-awarded penalty are among more obvious reasons but what about less straightforward complaints such as,

"Our players stopped because they thought they had heard a whistle", "the grass was too long", "the half- time tea was too cold" or "our players were blinded by laser beams from the crowd".

The inefficiency and haphazard nature of FIFA's machinations further came to light on Wednesday, only two days before the draw, when we heard rumours, possibly unfounded, that the ultimate composition of the pools from which the teams would be drawn had not been finally decided.

It transpired that the criteria to be used might change from the last World Cup which could mean that England and Holland would swap pools. Ultimately, it was France who suffered the drop, which led many observers to suggest that it was FIFA's rather skewed way of punishing them for cheating Ireland out of a World Cup final chance.

Surely FIFA's modus operandi on the method of seeding should have been made clear to everyone even before the qualifying group games began - before the tournament started- rather than make it up as they go along.

However, despite the doom mongers telling us what other teams need to be in England's group for us to progress, let us not be too downbeat if we end up in a 'group of death' or overly optimistic if we find ourselves pitted against the potential whipping boys of New Zealand or Ghana, because history tells us the composition of the group matters not a jot.

Looking back at the last ten World Cups, I found that the eventual winners of these tournaments in total faced 27 different countries in the group stages out of a possible 30, with only three countries figuring more than once.

So, let's get this necessary, but overplayed charade out of the way and get on with looking forward to the mouth watering prospect of next summer' football fest.

Let's anticipate, with relish, the well accustomed, exquisite agony of witnessing England narrowly squeezing past third world opposition on their way to an ultimately inauspicious exit at the hands of one of the big boys in the quarter final. Or...maybe not! Bring it on!


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DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the antagonist
Love him or loathe him you cannot ignore the Antagonist. His Friday blog tackles the big issues in our game today in an abrasive, often controversial style. He goes where others fear to tread. From wages to wags, diving to drugs - no subject is "off limits", no individual beyond reproach. Miss him at your peril!

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