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World Cup 2010 draw: What do past trends hold for the USA?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

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1990 World Cup- USA faced three European teams- Italy, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. The USA lost all three matches, failed to advance.
1994 World Cup - USA faced two European teams- Switzerland, Romania, with Colombia as the non- European team. The USA won a memorable match against Colombia, drew Switzerland, lost to Romania. Advanced to the group of 16 as one of the best third placed finishers where they lost to Brazil, the eventual winners.
1998 World Cup- USA faced Germany, Yugloslavia, and in a match with major political ramifications, Iran. The lost all three matches. Failed to advance.
2002 World Cup- USA faced Portugal, Poland, and South Korea as the non -European team. In a stunner won against Portugal, tied South Korea, lost to Poland but made the group of 16. Beat Mexico in a match to remember. Made the QFs where they lost to Germany, runners up to champions Brazil.
2006 World Cup- USA faced Italy, Czech Republic, and Ghana as the non- European team. An anticlimax to their 2002 showing as the USA lost to the Czechs, drew Italy, and lost to Ghana. Failed to advance. This was widely considered the Group of Death although the Cote D'Ivoirians could easily argue that death was a kind fate with Argentina, Netherlands, and Serbia in their group.
• Pot 1 consists of Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England and host South Africa (all the seeded teams).
• Pot 2 includes the AFC teams (Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic), the CONCACAF region (Honduras, Mexico, USA) and Oceania (New Zealand).
• Pot 3 includes the CAF (Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria) and CONMEBOL teams (Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay).
• Pot 4 contains the remaining UEFA teams (Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland).
With thirteen European teams, there will be five groups that have to accommodate two of them. The USA has faced 13 European opponents in the group stages in the last five World Cups.
If the trend holds, then the USA could face a seeded European team (I made the case that it could be Italy), another European team (with four 'S' teams- Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, and Slovakia, there is a huge chance that one of these could be the second team). The USA has tended to draw East European teams. So one can narrow it down to Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Since Asia is in the same pot, it will be an African or South American country as the third non- European team. Cote D'Ivoire and Chile are the strongest teams and Algeria and Uruguay the weakest in Pot 3.
The USA has trended towards drawing the strongest non -European teams. Colombia was the strongest CONMEBOL country in the 1994 qualifiers. In 2002, South Korea were the hosts with a huge home advantage. Ghana were second to top rated Cote D'Ivoire in 2006. Only in 1998, Iran could be considered relatively weak having to win a playoff against Australia to capture a spot from Asia. The USA has two losses, one victory, and one draw against this competition.
Thus the USA could end up in a similar group as the 2006 World Cup: Italy, Slovakia (part of former Czechoslovakia), and Ghana.
Not easy but compared to the absolute Group of Death which would be Brazil, France, and Cote D'Ivoire, infinitely preferable. On paper, the easiest would be SA, Greece, and Uruguay.

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