World Cup draw: England face 'group of death' thanks to Fifa
Roy Hodgson's team could be forced to switch pots and end up facing Brazil, USA and Italy
FEARS that England will be thrown to the lions in this week's World Cup draw in Brazil have grown after Fifa "threw a procedural curveball" that could leave Roy Hodgson's team in a group with Brazil, USA and Italy or Holland.
The Guardian explains that England are one of the nine unseeded European qualifiers for the tournament that currently sit in Pot Two in the draw. One of them will have to be moved to the pot featuring seven unseeded African and South American teams (Pot Four) in order to balance the numbers ahead of the draw on Friday.
It had been expected that France, the lowest-ranked European qualifier, would be the nation to switch pots, but now the unlucky side will be picked at random.
"The French president of Uefa, Michel Platini, expected to rival Sepp Blatter, the incumbent, for the Fifa presidency in 2015, is believed to have been the driving force behind that decision," says the Guardian. "Both Blatter and Platini have said they will decide after the World Cup whether to stand in 2015 but the shadow boxing has clearly begun."
Whatever the politics in play it is another example of "Fifa making up the rules as it goes along", bemoans The Times, claiming that the "nightmare scenario" for Roy Hodgson has now become "terrifying".
If England do switch pots then the outcome could be disastrous. "The worst draw for England would be a group including Brazil, Italy and the United States, but a draw against Argentina, Holland and Japan would be almost as difficult," says the Daily Mail. But it notes that there is also the possibility that the Three Lions could end up facing the same group opponents as they did in 1966 - Uruguay, France and Mexico.
There was better news from Brazil, where the official ball for the tournament, the Adidas Brazuca, was unveiled. England will take delivery of the new ball later this month, but they will not be able to use it in a match until the end of the season because of a deal with Nike that covers the Premier League and national team.
However, the new ball has received a better reception than the much-maligned Jabulani, used at the 2010 World Cup. Steven Gerrard told the Mail: "Players and goalkeepers will be happy because it’s a really fair ball." ·