How to Draw the FIFA Way

I like Aaron's video proposal idea. The only way instant replay works in any sport is if the review occurs outside the run of play. There are only so many times this can happen in a soccer game, so it's by necessity going to be limited.

I also agree with John about The Group of Death, and whining about same. Sure, Mexico's draw last time around was so cuddly and squeezably soft that I could have just hugged and kissed it all day, so anything they end up with is going to be worse in comparison. But Americans ought to know better by now.

(a) The United States has never had an easy draw, ever.

(b) Some of this has to do with sucking through most of recorded history.

(c) African teams also tend to get sucktacular draws, but do you hear them bitching about it? Nope.

(d) Until and unless we get the attitude that "Damn right, it's the Group of Death, and we're the ones with the ********ing scythe," complaining about the draw is going to come across as provocatively petty to nations like, to pick an example entirely at random, Costa Rica and the Republic of Ireland.

It's the World Cup, for Christ's sake. It's supposed to be tough. If we want to play easy games in the summer, schedule friendlies with Tahiti and the Philippines. I'm sure Ireland would be delighted to take these tough games off of our delicate little hands.

The United States will not get an easy draw in the World Cup until we're a seed, and until we beat good teams in the World Cup, we don't deserve a seed.

(e) Anyway, we're not that far away from respectability. Putting aside the Confederations Cup, the United States wasn't that far away from surviving in 2006. Poor strategy against the Czech Republic, some mental errors against Italy, and I still don't know what happened against Ghana but we should have been better than THAT.

And unlike its fans, the United States doesn't seem intimidated anymore by tough European teams in the group stage. It was against Portugal and Italy that the United States had their best games in the past two World Cups, not South Korea or Ghana. The real vulnerability for the US is against mid-tier European teams, like Yugoslavia in 1998, Poland in 2002, the Czech Republic in 2006. Fortunately, the mid-tier European team we get this time won't be playing in Europe. (I still don't know what happened against Poland, either. A couple of early calls went against us, and we folded. Weird.)

So we might go three and out again. Half the teams do, these days. You sure you don't want a chance to take Germany, Italy or England down with us? You guys are no fun.

Besides, we're looking at the draw all wrong. You can't predict a draw based on one team, but based on what would make FIFA the most money with the most comedy. Bonus points for matching teams that had just finished wars with each other. If it helps, don't think of it as a draw, but a Final Four seeding.

Two nations must be protected at all costs. Let's start with them.

South Africa
I don't think they can have an African playmate in this round, and wouldn't want one if they could, so they'll probably have Uruguay from pot three, North Korea (and lots of encouragement to defect) from pot two, and one of the stronger European leftovers. It would have been France if not for Henry, so I'm thinking Portugal, since a Brazil-Portugal matchup is too sexy to waste in the first round.

New Zealand will be seeded here. Now, they have to have an African team, and the weakest of those is Algeria. For the European teams, I think FIFA will give Switzerland a free pass to the second round, what with it being their home, and all.

Now, let's get Argentina out of the way, since they too must have an African team. People hate Argentina a lot, but I think Cameroon would be just too, too obvious. Nigeria, then. I think this is where you have to put France, too, since everyone else is a Euro rival that, again, you don't want to blow in the first round. This would be an interesting spot for Mexico, but I think Australia is the last team here, since despite Cinco de Mayo I don't think Mexico is carrying a grudge against the French.

Some tough calls to make, because you don't really want any of the big money seeded teams on the wrong end of an upset. Yes, now it can be told. Groups of Death are default groups after everyone else has been protected.


Hey, if you can't have an Axis get-together in the World Cup, when can you?

Spain wins the coin flip over Italy to see who has it out with South Korea for 2002. We're not likely to see too many old colonial wars - although it would have been funny to put France and Algeria in the same group - so Spain is stuck with someone like Cameroon. Let's round it out with Greece.

You don't really want your defending champs embarrassed, and Italy always starts slow, so they need to be closely guarded. Let them eat Honduras, Chile and Denmark.

Starting to get a little toasty. Holland is the last seed, so they might have to deal with the toughest also-rans. That means Mexico, Ghana, and Serbia.

Which leaves England. Remember what I said about avoiding colonial match-ups? Well, the Ivory Coast and Slovenia were never English colonies. And one other've got 31, who did I leave off....

Oh, come on - do you really think FIFA would resist the Beckham v. Donovan matchup? Or run the risk the US didn't make it to the second round?

It had been rumored for days and days, but still, this story about Chivas USA hiring Martin Vasquez depressed me. The last thing MLS needs is Chivas USA performing well, and Vasquez is the perfect guy to fix the mess Preki left. Or would be, except Vasquez is too good to be wasted on the MLS version of Terry Schiavo. Damn the luck. I suppose this is karma for how great I felt when CUSA went with Shawn Hunter instead of Peter Wilt.

I don't know if Chivas USA can make up for lost time - well, yes, I do know, they can't - but in retrospect, the only people as unhappy as Rapids fans about MLS Cup were Chivas Guadalajaja. Let's recap our recent expansion teams:

Toronto: making potfuls of money in their own stadium
Seattle: making potfuls of money in their own stadium, US Open Cup
Salt Lake: bringing the championship to their own stadium (which I assume is profitable),
Houston: Buncha metal on the shelf, even if they're renting
Portland, Philadelphia and Vancouver: look like they'll make money in their own homes
Chivas USA: Daring to dream of one day being the Clippers or *flutter* the New York Jets.

How much more of a hint do MLS and Vergara need? The Quakes doing the double next year?