Top seeds nervously eye France in upcoming World Cup draw

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Top seeds nervously eye France in upcoming World Cup draw

CAPE TOWN - France will assume the role of international pariah when the draw for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa takes place on Friday.

FIFA’s decision not to seed the 1998 World Cup winners has left France as the most dangerous floater in the draw for the 32-nation tournament and the team that the eight top seeds will all want to avoid. France, losing finalists to Italy in the last World Cup in 2006, acquired sudden notoriety last month when they won a playoff match against Ireland thanks to a goal following a blatant handball by French striker Thierry Henry.

But the French could hardly have imagined they would become even more unpopular - albeit for sporting rather than unsporting reasons - once FIFA decided on Wednesday not to seed the team. The eight top seeds are South Africa, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, England, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke told a news conference on Wednesday the seedings were based on October’s FIFA world rankings.

French Football Federation President Jean-Pierre Escalettes said France was not disappointed at not being seeded.

“There is no good news or bad news, just like there is no good draw or bad draw,” he said. “In 2006, everyone thought we had an easy draw and we struggled to go through.”

The draw, to take place at Cape Town’s International Convention Centre, will be broadcast live to more than 200 countries in a 90-minute television spectacular.

Appropriately for Africa’s first World Cup, there will be a strong African theme to the draw, which will feature African music and dancing and a number of African sports personalities. Most of the coaches of the 32 teams will also attend, although Argentina’s Diego Maradona will be forced to stay away after being banned from football by FIFA for two months for a foul-mouthed tirade against journalists following his team’s qualification for the finals.

Hosts South Africa already know they will be in Group A and play their opening match at Soccer City in Johannesburg on June 11. The same stadium hosts the final on July 11.

Apart from the seeds, who will be placed in pot one, teams will be placed in three other pots to prevent clubs from the same continent facing each other. The second pot will comprise eight teams from Asia, North and Central America and Oceania: Australia, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, North Korea, South Korea and the United States. The third pot will be the five other African countries and three remaining South American nations: Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Paraguay and Uruguay. The final pot is made up of the eight remaining teams from Europe: Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. Reuters
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