Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

England's World Cup bid could rest on kind draw

England trio Leighton Baines, Steven Gerrard and Gary Cahill with the Brazuca official World Cup ball

ROY Hodgson always looks back fondly at his time as Switzerland manager, and he will no doubt be hoping for a reunion with the country famed for its love of cheese and clocks next summer.

England fans will be crossing their fingers on Friday when the World Cup draw takes place in Brazil in the north-eastern city of Salvador.

England boss Hodgson insists he is more concerned about the venues his team will play at next summer, than the opposition.

But the 66-year-old will have surely cast an eye over England's possible opponents as he will tailor the Three Lions' build-up campaign around the teams they will face in the group stage.

Hodgson has been to a World Cup draw before. The England boss ended Switzerland's 28-year wait for tournament football when he guided them to USA '94.

He did not do too bad once he got to the World Cup either, taking Switzerland through a group containing Colombia, Romania and hosts the United States before they were knocked out in the second round by Spain.

Switzerland will be top of Hodgson's wish-list for his second World Cup campaign next summer.

As England are not one of the top seven teams in the world, they are not seeded for the draw.

Strangely, Switzerland are one of those seeds. In all honesty, they stick out like the sore thumb of pot one.

The World Cup pedigree of Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina and Uruguay – who are all included in pot one – is not in question.

Colombia had a successful qualifying campaign and deserve their seeding while the other team in the pot, Belgium, have a galaxy of stars that light up the Barclays Premier League every weekend.

Switzerland's unbeaten qualifying campaign – in an easy group – was commendable, but they claimed their position inside the top seven of the FIFA world rankings only because Holland and Italy made massive errors by playing summer friendlies against Indonesia and San Marino, damaging their ranking points.

So, all the other unseeded teams in the draw will be hoping they are placed with the Swiss, who have only a handful of top class players

Pot two includes the African qualifiers – some of whom could be dangerous like Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Chile, who beat England 2-0 at Wembley last month, and Ecuador are also in pot two.

This pot currently consists of only seven teams, with the number to be made up to eight ahead of the draw on Friday when a team from pot four –comprising unseeded European teams, England among them – will be relocated. Whether in pot two or four, England will have to face another team from the Asian and north American groups, who are in pot three.

There are some hard teams in that pot too, like the USA, Mexico and South Korea, but England would be confident of beating teams like Honduras, Iran or Costa Rica.

Assuming England remain in pot four, they will avoid the likes of Portugal, Holland, France and Italy, providing of course that one of them is not the team that is to be relocated to pot two.

England's dream scenario: Switzerland, Iran, Algeria

England's nightmare scenario: Brazil, Chile, United States

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