World Cup Draw Blues

By | December 5, 2009

In the early days of the World Cup draw, in the 1930s, organizers from FIFA gathered around a table and drew lots from a hat. Once it was Jules Rimet’s grandson Yves who got the job of picking the lots. Until relatively recently, the draw still consisted of men in suits from FIFA doing the honors. Call me a traditionalist, but I sort of wish we still used the same system, and that FIFA didn’t feel the need to make picking balls out of bowls look like the Academy Awards. Even if it took a long time before we actually got to it, and even if I’d personally pick Rimet’s grandson or pretty much any other little kid over Charlize Theron and David Beckham for the job of overseeing the whole business, the essential is accomplished: we can now start the sixth-month process of worrying, predicting, and hoping as we await the kickoff of the World Cup in late June.

I participated in a conversation as part of Duke’s online office hours just before the actual draw began, which you can see here. I also published an op-ed here in the Durham Herald Sun about the draw today. I’ll publish another in the newspaper about soccer in the U.S. next week. Both were done before I actually knew the outcome, so here’s a few additional reactions:

First, the obvious: The Brazil-Portugal match up, as well as the Brazil-Ivory Coast games, will be wonderful early matches.

France lucked out, in a way, and there will be a consolation for me at least if the team, rather than redeeming itself as it needs to after the past several months, self-destructs in the early stages of the World Cup: that will help South Africa progress, which I very much hope it does.

Good news for the U.S., of course, and the match-up with England will certainly be an early highlight of the tournament. The general reaction in both England and the U.S. to being in a group with Algeria, however, was a little unseemly, and probably a bit too confident, as one journalist in Algeria has cheekily pointed out. Algeria beat Germany in 1982, only to be pushed out of the tournament through the famous and despicable collusion between Germany and Austria during the final group game, and I hope they get a chance to move on in the tournament this year, ideally along with the U.S. from that group.

In general, the African teams got a rough draw. We should all begin send pleas and prayers to whatever higher powers we think will help to ensure that a reasonable number of them nevertheless get through to the round of 16. If I have to watch an Italy-Germany final, or indeed if we end up with eight teams in the quarter-finals that make the World Cup into the European Cup plus Brazil, I’m swearing off football for life and turning to golf.

I’m counting on the fickle football gods to provide us with something different this year. Football needs it.

Category: FIFA World Cup

About Laurent Dubois

I am Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University. A specialist on the history and culture of France and the Caribbean, notably Haiti, I am the author of Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France. I founded the Soccer Politics blog in the Fall of 2009 as part of a Duke University course called "World Cup and World Politics," whose students helped me develop the site.

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