World Cup 2022 draw begins late Friday; here's how it works
NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday (April 1), football teams will learn the answer to the critical question that they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar?
The World Cup draw - part gala, part pep rally, part maths seminar - will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments.
But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works:
Q: When and where is the draw?
A: 7pm Doha time (Midnight, Singapore time), at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre in Qatar.
Q: How can I watch the draw?
A: The draw will be telecast live on StarHub Ch 202 from midnight on Saturday. Fifa will also live stream the event.
Q: How does it work?
A: Each team has been assigned to one of four pots, based on its world ranking. One team from each pot will be placed in each of the eight World Cup opening-round groups, to ensure the teams are divided by strength. There are also rules to keep them apart from regional rivals. Each group may have no more than two teams from Europe, for example, and no more than one from any other continent.
The entire process can feel a bit methodical at times: First, a ball is pulled from one of the bowls containing the names of each team in that pot. Then a second ball is drawn to place the team in its position, which must be done carefully to ensure that rules about regional rivalries are followed.
It can go badly wrong, as the Champions League learned in December. It had announced its highly anticipated knockout-round match-ups before discovering its mistake and had to stage an embarrassing do over.
Q: Who will actually draw the teams?
A: Football luminaries including Cafu (Brazil), Lothar Matthaus (Germany), Adel Ahmed Malalla (Qatar), Ali Daei (Iran), Bora Milutinovic (Serbia), Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria), Rabah Madjer (Algeria) and Tim Cahill (Australia) will do the actual drawing of the balls out of the bowls.
Q: Who's in Pot 1?
A: Since the teams are ordered by their world ranking, Pot 1 traditionally contains the tournament favourites as well as the host nation. That means, in addition to Qatar, this year the pot includes Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, France, England, Spain and Portugal.
Q: What about the other three pots?
A: Pot 2 consists of the United States, Mexico, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia and Uruguay.
Pot 3 is Serbia, Poland, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Iran, Japan and South Korea.
Pot 4, nominally the weakest teams (though perhaps not this year), holds Canada, Ghana, Cameroon, Ecuador and Saudi Arabia.
Three teams that have not yet been determined will also be in that pot. A European spot will be taken by Ukraine, Scotland or Wales. Another spot will go to the winner of an inter-continental play-off between Costa Rica and New Zealand, and the last to one of Peru, Australia or the United Arab Emirates. All of those places will be decided by games in June.
Q: Who's missing?
A: The chief absentee is Italy, four-time World Cup winners and the reigning European champions. After missing out in 2018, Italy were eliminated for the second straight cycle when they lost a play-off semi-final against North Macedonia.
Q: Who will teams want to draw or avoid?
A: Qatar, who have never qualified for the World Cup on sporting merit, are by far the weakest team in Pot 1, and every team in the other pots will be eager to land in their group.
No one will especially want to play Brazil, because they are No. 1 in the world. France are the defending champions.
Germany and the Netherlands look to be the strongest teams in Pot 2, and Serbia and Poland (with Fifa World Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski) could be dangerous from Pot 3. Any team that can qualify from South America is going to be strong, and Ecuador in Pot 4 should frighten many teams ranked above them.
The same goes for Canada, who have a host of young talents and breezed to first place in their qualifying group ahead of more traditional powers the United States and Mexico.
Q: Who is going to win the World Cup?
A: The favourites are Brazil, France, England and Spain, in that order, bookmakers say.