The October FIFA rankings confirmed that the European giants will not be in Pot 1 for the 2014 World Cup draw - a decision that can only be described as farcical.
The eight seeded teams who will be in Pot 1 when the World Cup draw is made in Bahia on Dec. 6 are Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Switzerland and, barring a shock loss to Jordan in an inter-confederation playoff, Uruguay. The presence of the latter four teams ahead of giants Italy and Netherlands can only be described as farcical.
The Azzurri and Oranje were runners-up at Euro 2012 and World Cup 2010, respectively, and were the first nations outside of the Asian region to qualify for Brazil - romping through their groups unbeaten with two rounds to spare.
Four-time winner Italy has not lost a World Cup or European Championship qualifier for 40 games - its last defeat was more than seven years ago to France in Paris. In its last four major tournaments, Italy has reached the final twice - winning one. Netherlands has incredibly emerged victorious in 26 of its last 28 competitive qualifiers - the best record in Europe for the previous three qualifying programs, superior even to Spain.
Compare this to Belgium, which has not progressed to a major finals in 12 years and finished fifth, fourth and third respectively in its three group qualifying campaigns prior to World Cup 2014.
|WORLD CUP 2014'S TOP SEEDS
|6th||Uruguay (still to qualify)|
Compare this to Colombia, which was won fewer World Cup games than Italy has trophies and has not participated in a finals since 1998. Or Switzerland, which failed to qualify for Euro 2012, was eliminated in the group stage in South Africa two years earlier and was the first team to be knocked out of its own co-hosted Euros in 2008.
The seeds were decided by using the October FIFA Ranking (this decision was only, coincidentally, made by the FIFA executive committee this month), in an attempt to reward form rather than past performances - as had been the old system.
But this procedure is clearly flawed when you consider that Uruguay is set to be in Pot 1, despite having not even qualified for Brazil yet. Oscar Tabarez's men endured a dreadful CONMEBOL campaign, winning just seven of their 16 qualifiers and ending with a +0 goal difference.
The complicated FIFA ranking places too much emphasis on meaningless friendly matches, and this is where Italy and Netherlands have clearly been penalized. Since Cesare Prandelli replaced Marcello Lippi in 2010, the Azzurri have won just four of their 17 friendlies - displaying that innate Italian trait of treating uncompetitive games with disdain. The Dutch have only five victories in their last 14 friendlies - most of these against smaller opponents - which thus earns them fewer ranking points.
Uruguay, on the other hand, has won six and lost just one of its last 10 friendlies, earning substantial points by beating high-level opponents Italy, France and Chile. Switzerland has also won six of its last 10 uncompetitive clashes, losing two, racking up the points with prestigious triumphs over Brazil and Germany. Colombia has won six from seven, and Belgium also boasts a much better record than the Azzurri and Oranje.
This is all somewhat comparable to UEFA's decision to compensate nations whose clubs do well in the derided Europa League with extra Champions League places, via their own flawed coefficient system.
Thus, when the World Cup draw is made in December, we are almost certainly guaranteed at least two or three groups of death. With Italy, Netherlands, England and playoff favorites France and Portugal all absent from Pot 1, a repeat of the controversial 2002 World Cup when superpowers fell by the wayside in the early rounds - albeit for other reasons - is a very real possibility.
What another wonderful World Cup that would be.
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