BUENOS AIRES -- Traditionally, before each World Cup draw, what provokes the most discussion is the possible rivals that each of the national teams might have the luck (or bad luck) to be drawn against. This makes perfect sense, as that is the main unknown to be clarified. Starting off against weaker opponents is always better than against the stronger teams. But, obvious matters aside, that’s not the only question that will be answered Friday in Costa do Sauipe.
More than 3,200 kilometers (approximately 2,000 miles) separate Fortaleza in the north and Porto Alegre in the south in Brazil, more than twice the distance between Cape Town and Nelspruit, the two most distant host cities of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This means in a World Cup as decentralized as Brazil's will be, the distances to be traveled are one of the issues to be dealt with by the 32 participating delegations.
When the host country for the 2014 World Cup was chosen, one of the main goals for the organizers was to take the tournament to every corner of Brazil, from the main cities to the most beautiful beaches and into the jungle. As a result, the 12 stadiums are spread out along the length and breadth of the 3.5 million square miles of the world's fifth-largest country.
There is also an enormous distance between Curitiba and Manaus (2,700 kilometers, 1,700 miles), or between Cuiaba and Natal (2,530 kilometers, 1,570 miles). Avoiding one of these trips could be one of the main objectives of coaches and physical trainers in the draw.
Beyond the issues of dealing with the trip itself, the changes in climate will have to be addressed. In the north, the average temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit; in the south, it now is 59 degrees. It’s winter in one region and eternal summer in the other. These changes can be damaging for squads that have to play a game every five days.
Below, we'll answer a few questions in order to try to clarify what would be the best scenario for the South American national teams Friday in the World Cup draw.
What is the most convenient group for a top seed?
- Without a doubt, Group H. In that zone, the top seed will play in Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and thus will only have to travel a total of 700 kilometers (440 miles). Another interesting option is Group F, because the distance of travel here is 1,700 kilometers, or 1,050 miles (Rio, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre). These two options are very good for Argentina and Uruguay, while Group G might suit Colombia better, as it would play the three games in the warm northern climate, in Salvador, Fortaleza and Recife. The top seed of that zone will cover 1,600 kilometers (1,030 miles).
Which is the group to avoid?
- Group E is a very difficult one. The top seed will start off in Brasilia, travel to Salvador, and close out the first stage in Manaus. In other words, it has to play in the north, the center, and the jungle, and will have to travel 3500 kilometers. Zone D will also be very tough, because after the first game in Fortaleza, the top seed will have to travel to Sao Paulo and then return north and play in Natal. That will entail 4,100 kilometers (2,530 miles). Group B isn't easy, either, because of the trips (Salvador, Rio and Curitiba) and because one of the teams from that group will have to face Brazil in the round of 16.
Is there any group in which it is possible to play two games in the same host city?
- No. In this World Cup, all of the national teams have to play in three different cities during the first round.
What is the best outcome for the South American teams that are not top seeds?
- It's hard to know what Chile and Ecuador will end up with, because apart from the group, they have yet to find out the order in which they will be drawn. In other words, the team that draws A3 has a different fixture list than A4. For example, drawing E3 could be a good deal (Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Rio), and so would F4 (Curitiba, Cuiabá, Porto Alegre, three southern host cities) or H3 (Cuiaba, Rio, Curitiba).