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Northern Ireland in fourth pot for 2014 World Cup

By Jonathan Bradley

Northern Ireland will be in the fourth pot for this weekend’s 2014 World Cup qualifying draw after Nigel Worthington’s men remained 62nd in yesterday’s Fifa rankings.

The draw, which will take place in Brazil on Saturday evening, will place one team from each pot into the nine qualifying groups.

The winners of each group automatically qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, while the eight best runners-up will go into a play-off for the remaining four spots.

With teams such as Greece, Norway, Slovenia and Slovakia in the first two pots, Northern Ireland will be hoping for a favourable draw despite their lowly ranking, as they aim to reach their first major finals since the Mexico World Cup in 1986.

They are joined in the fourth pot by Scotland, who are ranked one place higher in 61st.

The Republic of Ireland — who could face their northern neighbours — are in the third pot and will be hoping for greater fortune this time around after being denied a place at the 2010 World Cup by Thierry Henry’s infamous handball in their play-off against France.

Les Bleus disappointing showing in South Africa relegates Laurent Blanc's men to the second pot, leaving them with the possibility of drawing one of Europe's top sides.

And that could mean old cross-channel enemies, England, who have dropped to sixth in the rankings but maintain their place in the top pot alongside World Cup winners Spain and teams such as 2010 runners-up Holland and Germany.

Wales have moved up two places to 112th in the rankings but find themselves in the final pot with the likes of San Marino, Andorra, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

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