I’m a nine-year-old at heart, and like all nine-year-olds I can’t wait for next year’s soccerball World Cup, even down to poring over the different permutations for tomorrow night’s draw.
And, inspired perhaps by a certain book by OJ Simpson, I’ve decided to have a look at what the World Cup draw would look like if there was a way to pull off the crime of the century.
Obviously this is written from an England point of view and, equally obviously, the actual draw will be nothing like this….
First, It’s important to consider who we want England, should they trample the minnows in the first round, would play in the quarter-final, the first time they’d come up against a fellow group-winner.
Clearly the weakest seed is South Africa. The hosts may be able to rely on fanatical home support but they have only a handful of truly international-class players. That puts England in Group C.
Next, to the rest. Brazil and Spain are clearly the favourites, so a quarter-final showdown for them would be handy. They’re into F&H respectively. Next, England’s possible semi-final victims. The four other seeds are much of a muchness, but I’ll take a declining Italy and a Diegoe Maradona ‘inspired’ Argentina for E&G, with the Germans and the Dangerous Dutch in B&D.
The second pot brings in Asia, Oceania and North America, so its North Korea for England (rather than a New Zealand side with a point to prove).
Pot C is more tricky, as it involves African and South American sides who can’t face seeds from their own continent. We’ll give Brazil one of the most dangerous unseeded teams, Ivory Coast, and Spain, Ghana. Continuing a trend of putting the weakest possible choice in with South Africa, they’ll face Paraguay. Algeria look the poorest outfit.
Finally, the unseeded European pot, where France, Portugal and the tough Serbs lurk. But England should fancy their chances against Slovenia, while Slovakia would risk a nosebleed if they got as far as the quarter finals.
The final pools would look something like this;
A) South Africa, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia
B) Germany, United States, Cameroon, Serbia
C) England, Korea DPR, Algeria, Slovenia
D) Netherlands, S Korea, Uruguay, Demark
E) Italy, Honduras, Chile, Switzerland
F) Brazil, Mexico, Ivory Coast, Portugal
G) Argentina, Japan, Nigeria, Greece
H) Spain, Australia, Ghana, France
Based on FIFA rankings, this would be the quarter-final line-up.
Paraguay vs Cameroon
England vs Uruguay
Italy vs Portugal
Argentina vs France
Germany vs Slovenia
Netherlands vs Algeria
Brazil vs Chile
Spain vs Greece
Ok, tricky for England – but by no means impossible, and with some real rewards ahead in the shape of semi-finals (rankings-based) that looked like this
Cameroon vs England
Italy vs France
Germany vs Netherlands
Brazil vs Spain
Ok, so Cameroon would have the whole of Africa behind them – but could you really imagine England losing that game? A semi-final with Cap’s native Italy or a post-Zidane France? Going into a final against a bruised Brazil? I dare to dream
But probably shouldn’t, as England will probably end up with Portugal, Cote D’Ivoire and Australia when the balls finally drop some time after 1am Thai time Saturday morning.