World Cup draw drama a welcome break from other issues
On Friday there will be unrivalled attention on Brazil and the draw for the 2014 World Cup finals, marking the start of the countdown to the biggest sporting event on the planet.
If past experience is anything to go by, the draw ceremony will create its own unique drama with a now traditional slow burn build-up when a procession of former World Cup heroes will be wheeled before the tv cameras, join in a nostalgic look back at World Cups of yesteryear, talk about the joys of Samba and the host nation with Brazilian celebrities most of us won’t have heard of, and predict who will win the ultimate football prize next July.
Then, after an hour or so they will eventually get down to the business of pots and balls to decide who plays who in which group, which, if you haven’t nodded off by then, is classic drama, of the sort only this tournament can muster.
Typically, one or two issues have already kicked off including a late change to the draw format, which sees an odd pre-draw situation where one of nine non-seeded European teams will be drawn out of Pot 4 and put into Pot 2 to make it eight countries in each pot.
The four seeded South American teams, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay, will then be put into a temporary pot, called Pot X, and the poor European victims who have been lobbed into Pot 2 will be drawn against one of them.
It had been expected that the French would automatically go into Pot 2 as the lowest ranked European side, at the October cut off stage, to qualify through the play-offs, but no, that would have been far too straight forward.
Maybe it had something to do with them whingeing about the fact that they were in a qualification group of only five teams, when the majority of the groups had six, saying it was unfair because it meant they played one less game and lost an opportunity to improve their ranking.
Apart from all this pottiness, the more serious issue of whether Brazil is on schedule to actually provide the infrastructure for what is a massive event has reared its ugly, if predictable, head.
Apart from the political unrest over the enormous cost of staging the World Cup, estimated at $11 billion, which led to serious street protests during the Confederations Cup, plus fans safety issues this throws up, it has been revealed that half of the 12 host city stadiums will not be finished within FIFA deadlines.
After months of insisting these deadlines would not be extended, FIFA have relented with three venues so far getting leeway, including Sao Paolo’s Arena Corinthians after last week’s crane accident which left two workers dead.
Brazil’s Sports Minister, the wonderfully named Aldo Rebelo, is taking all this in his stride, insisting everything will be all right on the night and comparing the World Cup with organising a wedding.
He said: “At 100 per cent of weddings I’ve seen the bride arrives late. I’ve never seen one arrive on time but never saw a marriage that didn’t go ahead.”
He also put the delays to building the stadiums down to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s crowded Christmas and New Year diary. Let’s hope he’s kept next June free.
Just to add to the madness there is even a row over who has been chosen to host the World Cup draw show on television.
There have been laughable claims that a decision to go with light-skinned model Fernanda Lima (pictured) and her white TV presenter husband Rodrigo Hilbert to compere Friday’s draw instead of dark-skinned pair Camila Pitanga and Lazaro Ramos was racist.
You couldn’t make it up but thankfully, for a few hours on Friday, all these distractions, some of which are worrying, will take a back seat to the greatest game in the world and the most coveted prize in sport.
There will, inevitably be problems in the six months ahead but ultimately, as always, football will be the winner.