Thursday, November 21, 2013

Then there were 32 - but not many surprises

All 32 places for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are now taken after the play-off games were completed this week, and the field has a familiar look to it. Twenty-four of the 32 teams are same as in 2010, with the qualification process seemingly paving the way for the bigger teams to make the tournament. 

Mexico won just two of their 10 games in the final round of qualifying, yet still got another chance to make it by playing a home and home series with New Zealand, a team ranked 79 in the world (Mexico are 24). Bosnia-Herzegovina are the only debutants, with 14 of the 32 teams having reached double digits in appearances (Brazil 2014 is the 20th World Cup). 

Although 76 different national teams have made the finals, there have only been 17 new teams since the format expanded to 32 teams in 1998, and only seven of those have made a repeat appearance. 

Only South American teams have won the tournament when it's been held in the Americas, and no team from outside of Europe or South America have ever made the final in any World Cup - so although it's great to see representation from Algeria to Australia, it's unlikely they will reach the later stages - with South Korea and the US (in 1930) the only teams from outside the traditional powerbases to even make a semi-final.

The African teams tend to vary a little, but teams from Asia, South America, North and Central America and Europe are largely the same every four years. Some bigger European nations always miss out as the region gets 13 spots for 53 nations, but it’s the World Cup and the beauty of it is seeing teams from all over the world – because there’s no other stage to potentially watch Iran against Costa Rica.

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