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Lots of fun

June 23, 2010

Would you rather go out on penalties or lots?

If England draw 2-2 with Slovenia this afternoon, and the USA play out a goalless draw with Algeria, the runners up of Group C will be determined by the drawing of lots. This is because, under Article 39 of the 2010 FIFA World Cup regulations, qualification is determined by the number of points; then goal difference; goals scored; results between sides involved in the equation; goal difference in games involved those sides; goals scored by those sides in games involving those sides – and then the drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee. As there are more likely to be two teams on the same points rather than three, the goals difference and goals scored in games involving them becomes irrelevant if the group stage match was a draw. Thus, the drawing of lots becomes a reasonable possibility.

The same scenario, with a few variables, is a possibility in several of the other groups which draw to a conclusion over the next few days.

But how is this carried out – what exactly constitutes the drawing of lots? Keen readers of the World Cup regulations are none the wiser just from reading the document. And who has the TV rights? Will The Videprinter be doing live text commentary? The FIFA Organising Committee seems to be an organisation shrouded in secrecy, like Opus Dei or the FA’s Dubious Goals panel.

Does Desmond Tutu hold a table tennis ball behind his back, and, with an anxious Landon Donovan looking on, invite Steven Gerrard to guess in which hand it is clasped? Perhaps John Terry will put himself forward to fulfil the captain’s role and offer a teary-eyed apology to the massing hordes of the media after he confidently walked up to the Archbishop, took a step forward to point to one side and slip over, accidentally pointing at the wrong one as a result? Or maybe Sepp Blatter holds two sticks of different lengths, obscuring the ends? How do they decide who gets to pick first?

Wikipedia claims that there are a variety of potential methods that constitute ‘sortition’, which was used in Ancient Athens to appoint public officials, including jurors. They used a device called a kleroterion, which appears to be a primitive Lotto machine (the one pictured left is called Guinevere).

You could be forgiven for hoping that two balls would be put into a kleroterion to determine the winners of the draw – perhaps FIFA could borrow one from the Greek team before they head home. In fact, though, the truth is rather more prosaic. The teams, Reuters reported yesterday, will be drawn out of a hat in Soccer City after the final games in the group concerned. Exactly by whom, we do not know – but it will certainly be a member of the aforementioned Organising Committee. How secretive the draw will be, we do not know. What we do know is that at 6pm tonight, England or the USA could be out of the World Cup based on their name not being drawn out of a hat.

More likely, they’ll both go through with narrow wins.

Today’s predictions:
England 2 Slovenia 1
USA 1 Algeria 0

Germany 3 Ghana 1
Serbia 1 Australia 0

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Guy Kilty permalink
    June 23, 2010 11:49 am

    From who’s hat in Soccer City will the teams be drawn? And what sort of hat? Hopefully not this one…

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