argentinaA lot has changed since we last brought you the SportsPolitik World Cup Bracketology Report. Five new teams have qualified for automatic spots to Brazil, bringing our number of locked-in teams to 10. Jordan won their playoff with Uzbekistan, guaranteeing them a playoff spot against the 5th-placed CONMEBOL team. Uruguay grabbed a huge pair of wins, at Peru and at home against Colombia, vaulting them into a tie for fourth place in South America. And last but not least, the ten African semifinalists have been named, with a seeded draw taking place early next week.

There are still several qualifying games to be played, but the picture is a lot clearer now than it was in July. We’ve got a good bead on most of the UEFA group winners, with a few exceptions. The top five of CONMEBOL has more or less materalized, although we’re still unsure of the order. CONCACAF still has a little bit to figure out, but the top two teams are already in. In short, it’s much easier to visualize the 2014 World Cup field.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our projections for the December draw. Below you will find several lists of teams. Teams in CAPS have clinched either an automatic bid or a playoff bid. The teams listed under each confederation are the ones who I am projecting to qualify. A team with an asterisk (*) beside its name is one I am projecting to win a playoff, and therefore qualify.

QUALIFIED

BRAZIL (HOST)

JAPAN (AFC)

AUSTRALIA (AFC)

IRAN (AFC)

SOUTH KOREA (AFC)

COSTA RICA (CONCACAF)

UNITED STATES (CONCACAF)

ARGENTINA (CONMEBOL)

ITALY (UEFA)

NETHERLANDS (UEFA)

 

CAF

*Ivory Coast / Cameroon

*Ghana / Egypt

*Algeria / Senegal

*Nigeria / Burkina Faso

*Cape Verde Islands / Ethiopia

 

CONMEBOL

Colombia

Chile

Uruguay

 

CONCACAF

Honduras

 

sagirlsUEFA

Belgium

Germany

Switzerland

Portugal

Bosnia & Herzegovina

England

Spain

 

UEFA PLAYOFF

*Croatia / Sweden

*Russia / Hungary

*Greece / Iceland

*France / Ukraine

 

PLAYOFFS

NEW ZEALAND (OFC) / *Mexico (CONCACAF)

JORDAN (AFC) / *Ecuador (CONMEBOL)

 

So that is 32 teams total, which will be dropped into four pots of 8 teams. Pot A is the seeded teams, which includes the host Brazil. Brazil is already locked into Group A, so the remaining seven teams were randomly assigned to Groups B-H. The seeding was arrived at through examining the FIFA rankings. No real surprises in the seeding, as far as I’m concerend.

Because there were five seeded UEFA teams, Pot B ended up containing the remaining eight UEFA teams. Again, these teams were randomly assigned to Groups A-H.

Pot C consisted of the AFC teams and the four CONCACAF teams. This is obviously contingent on Mexico beating New Zealand, but even if the Kiwis win that contest, I could see them getting dropped into this pot.

Pot D contains the winners of the five CAF ties, as well as the three non-seeded CONMEBOL teams. As with Mexico/New Zealand, this is contingent on Ecuador beating Jordan (a likely bet, I would think). If Jordan somehow defeated Ecuador…then I’m not sure what FIFA would do, except make a mess of things.

 

POT A (SEEDED TEAMS)

Spain

Germany

Colombia

Argentina

Netherlands

Italy

Portugal

Brazil

 

POT B (UEFA TEAMS)

Belgium

Croatia

Switzerland

Bosnia & Herzegovina

England

Russia

Greece

France

 

morganPOT C (AFC and CONCACAF)

Japan

Australia

Iran

South Korea

United States

Costa Rica

Mexico

Honduras

 

POT D (CAF and CONMEBOL)

Chile

Uruguay

Ecuador

Ivory Coast

Ghana

Algeria

Nigeria

Cape Verde Islands

 

With the teams placed into pots and then assigned to groups, here is the outcome. I’ve put the teams in alphabetical order by group, and included both the current FIFA ranking (in parentheses) and current ESPN SPI ranking [in brackets].

 

GROUP A (25.25) [31.5]

Brazil (9) [1]

Cape Verde Islands (36) [94]

Costa Rica (42) [22]

England (14) [9]

 

GROUP B (13) [20]

Croatia (8) [29]

Ecuador (17) [12]

Mexico (20) [24]

Portugal (7) [15]

 

GROUP C (25) [36.75]

Algeria (34) [72]

Australia (46) [41]

Netherlands (5) [14]

Switzerland (15) [20]

 

GROUP D (17.25) [12.25]

Belgium (10) [8]

Chile (21) [5]

Japan (37) [33]

Spain (1) [3]

 

GROUP E (21.25) [17.75]

Bosnia and Herzegovina (13) [13]

Germany (2) [4]

Iran (52) [37]

Ivory Coast (18) [17]

 

GROUP F (12.5) [12]

Colombia (3) [6]

Russia (16) [19]

United States (19) [16]

Uruguay (12) [7]

 

GROUP G (29.5) [18.5]

Argentina (4) [2]

France (23) [10]

Nigeria (35) [26]

South Korea (56) [36]

 

GROUP H (21) [23.25]

Ghana (24) [28]

Greece (11) [23]

Honduras (43) [31]

Italy (6) [11]

 

Groups of Death (FIFA): Group F, Group B

Group of Puppies (FIFA): Group G

 

Group of Death (SPI): Group F

Group of Puppies (SPI): Group C

 

Analysis: If this draw happens, there will be an immediate and utter freakout by the soccer press in the United States, and for good reason, because Team USA’s draw would be into the clear Group of Death. A seeded Colombia, a surging Uruguay (who happened to play in the 3rd-place game in 2010), and a top-20 Russian squad is not what the doctor ordered for a deep USMNT run. What this should also drive home to people is that predicting ANYTHING about what happens in the World Cup before draw is announced is foolhardy, as team USA could’ve just as easily been drawn into a relatively weak Group C or an advanceable Group A.

Part of the issue for the Americans (and the rest of CONCACAF) is that getting put in the same pot as the AFC teams creates a competitive disadvantage. You’d almost prefer to see Mexico lose (I know, right?) and have UEFA flip the pots, so that CONCACAF ends up potted with the CAF teams and New Zealand and CONMEBOL get potted with the AFC teams. This bears watching as we get through the playoff legs.

It is interesting to note that the ESPN SPI rankings really don’t like Portugal and The Netherlands as seeded teams.

As we did the last time, I’ll include what my picks would be for the Round of 16, given this draw:

A1/B2:  Brazil vs Croatia

C1/D2: Netherlands vs Belgium

E1/F2: Germany vs Uruguay

G1/H2: Argentina vs Ghana

 

B1/A2: Portugal vs England

D1/C2: Spain vs Australia

F1/E2: Russia vs Ivory Coast

H1/G2: Italy vs France

 

Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to chime in below.