Win-Lose at the Draw

FIFA will conduct the 2014 World Cup draw on Dec. 6 in Bahia, Brazil. The U.S. team, despite a stellar qualifying campaign, isn't seeded. It will share a first-round group with three other countries. The best-case scenario for Jürgen Klinsmann's squad won't be easy. The worst case is brutal
December 02, 2013

BEST CASE

SWITZERLAND

Least intimidating of the eight seeded teams, the Swiss are solid but lack star power or a World Cup pedigree.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

The U.S. must play an unseeded European team, so why not a World Cup debutant that it beat 4--3 on American soil in August?

ALGERIA

The Fennec Foxes are arguably the weakest of the five African entrants and lost to the U.S. at the '10 World Cup in South Africa.

ALLTIME RECORD VS. GROUP: 3-3-3

WORST CASE

NETHERLANDS

The skillful Dutch ('10 runners-up) barely missed out on a seed but will be among the favorites. They went 9-0-1 in qualifying.

BRAZIL

The five-time champs haven't lost a competitive match at home since 1975. They served warning with this summer's 3--0 rout of Spain in Rio.

FRANCE

Another squad whose ranking belies its talent, Les Bleus reached two of the past four World Cup finals. They'll be eager to atone for failure in '10.

ALLTIME RECORD VS. GROUP: 1-23-0

The Americans' outlook is ominous not only because the field is deep, but also because the pot-driven draw does them no favors. Even though they're No. 13 in the world, there's nothing to prevent them from being grouped with three higher-ranked teams; it's also less likely for them to get an easy first-round foe because they're traditionally dispersed from a weak pot that includes the four Asian sides. The alternative? If FIFA used its rankings to create eight groups in the way that the NCAA tournament creates four regions (with minor tweaks to avoid geo-clustering, e.g., no more than two European teams in a group), those would emerge quite balanced. Such a setup would prohibit rematches in the round of 16 and keep the top eight teams apart until the quarters. Here's how that would play out, with higher-ranked teams advancing:

A

1 SPAIN (1)

2 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (16)

3 IVORY COAST (17)

4 AUSTRALIA (57)

A1

G2

B

1 GERMANY (2)

2 GREECE (15)

3 ECUADOR (22)

4 CAMEROON (59)

H1

B2

C

1 ARGENTINA (3)

2 PORTUGAL (14)

3 CROATIA (18)

4 SOUTH KOREA (56)

E1

C2

D

1 COLOMBIA (4)

2 U.S.A. (13)

3 RUSSIA (19)

4 IRAN (49)

D1

F2

E

1 BELGIUM (5)

2 CHILE (12)

3 FRANCE (21)

4 JAPAN (44)

G1

A2

F

1 URUGUAY (6)

2 ENGLAND (10)

3 GHANA (23)

4 HONDURAS (34)

B1

H2

G

1 SWITZERLAND (7)

2 BRAZIL (11)

3 MEXICO (24)

4 NIGERIA (33)

C1

E2

H

1 NETHERLANDS (8)

2 ITALY (9)

3 COSTA RICA (31)

4 ALGERIA (32)

F1

D2

*Rankings in parentheses

PHOTOFERNANDO BIZERRA JR/EFE/SIPA USA PHOTO THIRTY SEVEN PHOTOS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)