Much ink has already been spilled on the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 men's World Cups to hosts Russia and Qatar. In order not to add too much to the flood, let me restrict myself to a tweet-sized helping of commentary:
That will be my final word on that, save for the unlikely circumstance whereby I still happen to be blogging in 2018.
But what you really all care about are the groups for the 2011 women's tournament. As often seems to be the case, Canada has been drawn into a tough group, along with #2-ranked but likely world-best Germany, a tough France side ranked just ahead of Canada at #9, and the top qualified African team, Nigeria.
A pretty reflexive move for Canadian fans is to immediately begin bitching about being placed in the Group of Death.
(I certainly did that when the 3 semi-final groups were drawn for CONCACAF qualifying for South Africa. I still stand by my claim that Canada could have qualified for the hex from either of the other two groupings, but the blow was softened somewhat by the fact the team never played well enough to give hope of advancing beyond that point.)
A lot depends on how you define a Group of Death. If it must include 4 strong teams who all have a strong shot of finishing top 2, there is no group of death among the 16 teams in Germany. But if it's a group with 3 strong teams, where one will be on the outside looking in after all is said and done, then there are some possibilities. This seems to be the definition most prefer, since the Brazil/Portugal/Cote d'Ivoire group at the World Cup earned the label, despite also including one of the worst World Cup squads ever (Yes, I'm looking at you, North Korea. Even with your so-called Asian Rooney -- who scored exactly as many goals in South Africa as the real guy -- you were still garbage.)
Any way you spin it, it's Group A and C that are the strongest. Both include 3 top 10 teams, and are topped by one of the two favourites to win the whole thing. A quick look at the numbers:
|Top 3 only||6.33||2041.67|
|Top 3 only||12.33||1930|
|Top 3 only||3.67||2084.33|
|Top 3 only||7.33||2021|
Any way you slice it numerically, and as hard as I might try to make a case for Canada falling victim to the Group of Death curse, Group C is tougher. The top 3 teams are all closely matched, and each would likely qualify without too much difficulty from Group B or D.
Much also depends on whether you believe that Korea DPR is deserving of its #6 ranking, which has been the subject of some debate. I had a look through their results over the last year or two. They regularly beat their Asian opponents, save for matches against Japan which were fairly even. Unfortunately they didn't face much competition from outside the region.
If only there were some contest that brough teams from different parts of the world together to determine who is best . . .
Canada's fortunes, if all else goes as expected, likely depend on the match-up with France. This falls on June 30th, 2011. Mark your calendars.
One last point. I wrote a post a few weeks ago lambasting some of the flaws of the much-flawed FIFA men's rankings. I also did a drive-by smear of the women's ranking table, dampening my celebration of Canada's climb into the top 10. I have been reliably informed, however, that the women's rankings are much closer to the ELO ratings formula, and considered much more accurate by the statistics community.
For this reason that I use the FIFA women's rankings in this group of death discussion without any irony.