How are World Cup Groups Decided?

Watching the World Cup, I’ve been wondering how the groups are decided. The way it ended up it seems that each group has one or two strong teams, with two lesser teams. With this, I figured it couldn’t be a total random draw. Imagine if Brazil, Spain, Italy and the Dutch made up one group? It never happens. Why is that? How are the World Cup groups decided?

Before the country drawing is made, countries are placed into ‘pots’. The host nation and the top 7 teams (this year based on 2009 FIFA rankings) make up Pot 1. Thus for World Cup 2010 this pot consists of South Africa, Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, and England. The final 3 pots (Pot 2, Pot 3, Pot 4) are organized by geography. Thus…

Pot 1: Top 7 Seeds + Host Country
Pot 2: Teams from Asia, North America and Oceania
Pot 3: Teams from Africa and South America
Pot 4: Teams from Europe

The order the countries are picked, is the order they are placed into groups (A to H). There are a few exceptions, however. For World Cup 2010, they wanted to maintain some geographic diversity, and thus Brazil and Argentina were kept apart from any other South American teams. Ditto for Africa: South Africa was kept apart from other African teams. On top of that, there were a couple other minor tweaks. You can replay the drawing on FIFA’s website.

Hope that helps! I asked many a soccer fan lately and no one seemed to have an answer.

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