While the qualification race for the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup has already started (in the region of South America), the build-up to the biggest football show on Earth is about to step up a gear, with the staging of the UEFA (Europe), CONCACAF (North-America), CAF (Africa), and AFC (Asia) regions Preliminary Draw in Durban this week-end. The whole ceremony will be broadcast live at FIFA.com who will also be providing live commentary of the event, including a special application showing the draw as it unfolds.
The European Groups have been drawn: England have been drawn in group 6 with Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Andorra, and… get this: Croatia!! There will undoubtedly be an air of revenge at Wembley stadium…
Other interesting clashes include Portugal/Sweden/Denmark in Group 1, Czech Republic/Poland in Group 3, Germany/Russia in Group 4, Spain/Turkey/Belgium in Group 5, France/Romania/Serbia in Group 7, Netherlands/Scotland/Norway in Group 9.
Current World Champions Italy have been drawn in Group 8 with Bulgaria, Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia, and Montenegro.
Full list of the groups after the jump.
|Group 1||Group 2||Group 3||Group 4||Group 5|
|Group 6||Group 7||Group 8||Group 9|
Seems like UEFA and FIFA like to coordinate things, because the Euro 2008 Group Stage draw is set to take place just a week after the World Cup Prelim draw. In any case, this time the way the teams have been seeded should provide for a more equal balance of the European groups. World Champions Italy have been inserted in Pot 1, along with Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Croatia, and Greece. England, who are currently 12th in the FIFA Rankings, have been excluded from the Top Seeds and inserted into Pot 2.
53 European countries will be separated Sunday in 6 pots (5 pots of 9 teams, 1 pot of 8), which will be used to draw 8 Qualifying groups (6 groups of 6 teams, 1 group of 5). The top-ranked team from each group will automatically earn their ticket to South Africa 2010, while the 8 second-best will have to go through a two-legged play-off qualifying round.
The draw will take place today in Durban, South Africa at 17:00 local time (i.e. 15:00 UK time and 10:00 ET).
|Italy, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Croatia, Greece|
|England, Romania, Scotland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Israel|
|Norway, Ukraine, Serbia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium|
|Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Moldova, Wales, Macedonia, Belarus, Lithuania, Cyprus|
|Georgia, Albania, Slovenia, Latvia, Iceland, Armenia, Austria, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan|
|Liechtenstein, Estonia, Malta, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Andorra, Faroe Islands, San Marino|
Marco Pantanella writes for the mCalcio blog