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Costa Rica likely to face a 'Group of Death' in World Cup 2014

Next summer Costa Rica will aim to make the second round of the World Cup for the second time in the country’s history. To do so, the national team likely must survive a so-called “Group of Death.” In fact, all the teams from the CONCACAF region – the United States, Honduras and Mexico – are looking at difficult draws to advance to the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup.

FIFA confirmed the four pots for 32 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday morning. Officials will fill out the eight groups by selecting teams from each pot at 10 a.m. Friday. And after the draw, there’s a good chance we’ll see multiple Groups of Death – the subjective term that refers to three or four powerhouse teams in the same group.

Here’s a look at the pots:
Pot 1: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
Pot 2: Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Ghana and Nigeria.
Pot 3: Australia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Mexico, USA.
Pot 4: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia.

Pot 1 is made up of the eight seeded teams. Pot 2 features teams from South America and Africa. Pot 3 has the North and Central American and Asian teams (including Australia). Pot 4 has the remaining nine European teams.

So how did Costa Rica and the United States get suckered?

With few upsets occurring in the qualifying rounds, there aren’t many pushovers in next year’s World Cup. But even worse, the North American teams got placed in the weakest pot (deservedly so, since in those regions only the U.S. and Mexico are even ranked among the 30 best in the world. Costa Rica is 31st.). The Pot 3 teams can’t face each other when the groups are drawn, which means no matches against low-ranked opponents like Australia or South Korea.

You probably noticed that there are nine teams in Pot 4 and only seven in Pot 2. To make sure there’s an equal number of teams in each pot, a Pot 4 team will be drawn into Pot 2 and face a seeded South American squad (to avoid three European teams in the same group).

All this is a bit confusing, so let’s simplify it. Try out this handy World Cup draw simulator, and see how lucky or terrifying Costa Rica’s group might be.

ESPN statistician Paul Carr calculated that, based on his national team rankings, the worse draw for the USA or Costa Rica would be Spain/Netherlands/Chile. The best would be Switzerland/Algeria/Croatia.

When we tried out the simulator, Costa Rica ended up in a group with Germany, Chile and Portugal. Yikes. ¡Qué horror!

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Hopefully the officials drawing from Mata de São João, Brazil, on Friday bring better luck for Costa Rica.

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