Football / Analysis / World Cup Draw Preview

World Cup Draw Preview

With the World Cup Draw upon us, Bettorlogic looks at how teams may fair next Summer in South Africa.




Seeded teams

The draw for the FIFA World Cup has seen seeds allocated in 11 of the last 12 competitions (excluding Mexico 1970, where the Committee in charge formed geographical ‘sections’ from which the four groups were drawn) since 1962 and in all of these a seeded team has gone onto win the tournament.

On only two occasions has a seeded team finished bottom of their group, these were Uruguay in 1974 and France in 2002. However, when France were holders, they failed to score and to make matters worse their performance was the worst in the competition’s history by a defending champion.

The current format has been in place for the previous three World Cups, with 18 of the 24 seeds topping their group and 21 of the seeds making the knockout rounds. In each of these tournaments one non seeded team has made the semi-finals.

Since 1962, there have been 65 seeded teams in 11 World Cups and 38 of these sides went through the first group stage unbeaten, of which 13 (20%) won all three matches and 19 (29%) have a W2-D1-L0 record.


There have been 13 host nations in the 12 World Cups since 1962 and seven have topped their group, including six of seven hosts in the last six competitions. The host nations have made it through the group stages in all the World Cups since 1962, with USA finishing third but being a best loser. The hosts have also gone on to win four of the last 12 World Cups and only two of the 13 hosts have been knocked out by a non-seeded team.

The host nation has made at least the semi-finals in eight of the last 12 World Cups since 1962.


England have been involved in the final stages of nine World Cups since 1962 and made it past the group stages in all nine. Their strength has lain in defence, on average conceding 1.33 goals per group stage, scoring over a goal a game (3.67 goals per group stage).

They have been seeded in five of the nine World Cups in this sample and gone on to top their group in the last four. On these occasions, they have twice had to overcome higher ranked non-seeded teams to finish top. As seeds they have not lost a group game in any of their last four World Cups.

The trend lines would suggest that England must worry most about their match against their UEFA opponent. Since the 1962 World Cup, they have hosted non-European teams in 13 group stage matches and have won nine (W9-D3-L1), in this period they have kept 11 clean sheets, including all of their last nine; with Brazil the last team to score at this stage - back in 1970. Four of the games have finished 2-0, with the same number at 1-0 and three games goalless; all of the last 12 featured two goals or fewer. In contrast, against European teams during the group stages, they have W6-D5-L3 (W0-D4-L1 since 1990), keeping clean sheets in half of the 14 matches but only three in their last nine since 1982.

Previous Tournaments & Qualification

Since 1966, the World Cup winner has always been ranked in the top 10 going into the competition, but never at No. 1.

The runner-up in the previous World Cup has made it to at least the semi-finals in seven of the last 10 competitions. The defending champion has only once gone on to make the semis (Argentina 1990).

Teams who have made at least the semi-finals of their confederations competition (Euro Championships, Copa America …) have gone onto at least make the World Cup semis 14 times in 10 competitions (however Copa America only began in 1991) and gone onto win the event in four of the last 10, though in this period Argentina twice and Brazil once were World Champions having not played a regional tournament prior to the World Cup Finals (so this is really 4/7). Teams that qualify for this are Spain, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay.

There is a strong correlation of sides making at least the semi-finals of one of their last three major tournaments and going onto make the World Cup Final. In fact, this has been the case for 18 of the 20 finalists in the last 10 competitions, with half of these finalists winning one of the three competitions and nine finalists progressing  to the semis in at least two of the previous three competitions. This would thus include Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, Russia, Greece, Netherlands, Argentina and Brazil.

The poorest qualifying campaign from teams making the semi-finals came form Brazil in 2002 when they only won 50% of their matches and lost a third (W9-D3-L6) only Argentina have had a poorer campaign than this, this time around.

Spain look a class above at the moment but only once has a side had a perfect qualification record and won the World Cup (Brazil 1970 W6-D0-L0) and only on three occasions have they even made it as far as the semi-finals (additionally Poland and Germany both in 1982).

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