The World Cup Finals Draw Changes Over Time

The World Cup final Draw has undergone some changes, most notably in the seeding rule, from the first edition to the last one in 2018.

The World Cup final draw is an important stage before the tournament begins since it could determine the path of each team to the summit. No wonder that such event is one of the highly anticipated ones before the kick off. FIFA has made every effort to conduct the draw as efficiently as possible. Nonetheless, it has always been simple to be regarded as fair by the contestants, particularly prior to the introduction of the FIFA ranking system in 1993.

The FIFA ranking has aided the world football governing body in monitoring the performance of all teams around the world. It becomes a transparent and useful source for them to see the qualified nations’ most recent international fixtures prior to the world cup final draw. Yet, the dissatisfaction remained until Russia 2018.

The guideline for Qatar 2022 final draw has been released on March, 23, which is more and less the same as the previous edition. The current seeding relies on the most updated FIFA Rankings on March 31, one day after all the scheduled games at the world cup qualifiers at the end of March are completed. Nevertheless, only 29 teams will be allocated to the four pots instead of 32 as the remaining three sides will only be revealed in June. Those three come from the winner of two international playoffs involving one team from South America, Asia, North America and Oceania, plus the delayed UEFA world cup playoff in path B.

World Cup Final Draw Has Been Adjusted Throughout the Years

Before the Introduction of FIFA Rankings

The world cup draw before the introduction of FIFA ranking was trickier than expected. There were even some controversies in several world cup editions, mainly regarding the seeding.

In the first three world cup, 1930-1938, there was no clear standard on how FIFA decided the seeded teams. In 1950, or the first post-war World Cup, the elo rankings which is normally used in chess, was used as the source of information in seeding teams. Unfortunately, it was no longer taken into account in Switzerland in 1954. In fact, FIFA had already determined the seeded teams before the qualifying round ended. The unexpected occurred when Spain, one of the favorites, failed to secure one of the available berths. Their place was controversially given to Turkey, who was eliminated from the qualifiers.

Next, from the 1958 to 1970 edition, the qualified teams were primarily seeded based on their geographical locations. Normally, the four pots were divided as follows: one for the Americas, two for European nations, and one for the rest of the world. This appeared to be a fair seeding. Because there were only four groups back then, it was fairly simple. It even continued in 1974 and 1978, when previous tournament performance was mainly considered in the draw. The nations advancing to the last four in the previous world cup were joined in pot 1.

The problem began to rise when the contestants were expanded to 24 in 1980s. It means two teams shall be added in pot 1 alongside with the four semi finalists from the previous edition. Opting them was never easy. In 1982 and 1990 final draw, for example, England was somehow seeded alongside the favorite in pot 1 in spite of failing to progress to the top four in the previous world cup editions. The decision on including them was mainly because of the security reason.

Hooliganism has always been a issue along with England’s presence in nearly every major international tournament. When they qualify, it has always been the main concern for every host. In 1982, the organizing committee flatly preferred that The Three Lions play in Bilbao, while in 1990, Gary Lineker and co were pushed to play in Sardinia rather than on the mainland during the group stages.

The Post-FIFA Ranking Era

When FIFA released their ranking, which is updated monthly, the seeding in the World Cup final draw became less debatable. It is the modern version of elo ratings used to assess each FIFA member’s performance on a regular basis. When it was included as a factor in determining the teams in each pot, along with the results of the previous three or two editions in USA 1994, the qualified teams complained less. Until Germany 2006, such a combination formula was used.

Since South Africa 2010, the previous world cup performance has no longer been taken into account. Instead, the most recent FIFA ranking has been used as the sole source of the final draw. The only controversy occurred in 2014, when there were nine remaining European teams in the Europe pot, implying that one team would be sacrificed to be placed alongside the rest of the world pot. Normally, the lowest side in the pot, allegedly France, should have been placed there. FIFA, on the other hand, decided to draw it at random, and Italy was the ‘victim.’ They were eventually drawn in a group of death with Uruguay, England, and Costa Rica, and did not advance to the round of 16.

Main Image Credit Embed from Getty Images

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