World Cup 2014 draw: webchat – as it happened

Our tactics guru Michael Cox was online to answer your questions about next summer's tournament in Brazil
England draw Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy
Poll: how far will England progress?
Travel guide to Brazil's 12 World Cup cities

Michael has signed off

We have plenty more reading material on the World Cup:

• Poll: How far will England progress?

• In profile: England's Group D opponents

• The perfect World Cup

And the forthcoming Premier League fixtures:

• Don't scoff at Yaya Touré

• 10 things to look out for this weekend

Premier League squad sheets

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Guardian contributor

It's full-time!

Thanks very much for everyone who posted questions/comments - some really interesting points on climatic conditions and outcomes of the draw, which I didn't have time to fully consider before the start of this chat.

Apologies to any questions I missed - I tried to answer everything...

Have a good weekend, and let's hope for a great World Cup.



What are your views on Russia? They've been one of the least talked about teams in the run-up to the draw, but they've got a winnable group, and potentially a tie against Portugal in the next round, who they qualified ahead of.

Guardian contributor

I agree fully that they haven't been discussed as widely as they probably deserve considering their qualification record. Capello, you'd expect, will be fairly keen to prove himself given the England disappointment in 2010, when his tactics were exposed very badly.

They've got a solid defence, and despite being a bit of a joke figure because of his poor finished at Euro 2012, Aleksandar Kerzkahkov does a superb job upfront. His movement is very intelligent and he creates space for the onrushing midfielders. I'd be very surprised if they didn't qualify from the group, and certainly wouldn't put them past finishing above Belgium.

Probably a tough draw in the second round, though.


Hey Michael, after Italy's refined performance in Euro 12, do you think Brazil 14 will be where a 'great' Italy might come into being? I am excited about Insigne, De Sciglio and El Sharaawy combining with dyed in the wool internationals like Pirlo and Buffon. And do you think Francesco Totti should be recalled?

Guardian contributor

I feel that Totti's probably had his time, personally, but his performances have been magnificent in a position Italy aren't particularly strong in.

I'm reasonably positive about Italy, yes, although I think it's tough to predict how well their young creative players will perform. El Sharaawy was magnificent this time last year but has endured a rather dreadful 2013. Even slightly more experienced players, like Balotelli and Rossi, are unpredictable because of discipline and fitness respectively.

I'd be surprised if they got past the semi-final, simply because they'll encounter a better side. But consider their 2008 and 2010 performances and Prandelli has done an excellent job.


Who's your dark horse? And are Argentina a little overrated? Messi and Aguero are brilliant, but will the 11 have the balance they were lacking in 2010?

Guardian contributor

I'm not sure there's any real dark horse. Chile and Japan will both impress, in my view, but I'm sceptical about their efficiency and their chances of making it all the way to the final.

I think the big sides are all especially strong, actually.


I've seen it said that Brazil and Spain can't meet each other until the final – is that not possible if Spain come second to Holland in group B?

Guardian contributor

Yes, they could well play in the second round.

It's worth pointing out that the draw isn't 'halved', as it was in 2002, for example.

This means any two teams could play each other in the semi-final stage.


Can I pin you down here? I think Germany will win this World Cup. If you had to choose the winner, which team do you fancy?

Guardian contributor

A spot of fence-sitting - I think there's a 'big four' of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain - and everyone else quite a way back.

Brazil have home advantage and a decent draw.
Spain have an incredible track record of success but a tricky draw.
Germany arguably have the best squad, but a tricky draw.
Argentina are a little too dependent upon Messi, but he remains the best player in the tournament, and they have a very, very good draw.

I think I'd just about go for Argentina, having seen the draw.

Unholy Alliance:

No one's mentioning Mexico, prior to their disastrous qualifying campaign. They have been viewed as a team on the up. Now with a new manager who's intent on using his regulars from his club team (he is also managing a club side simultaneously) , I do think this guys can at least be good enough for the second round on team spirit and chemistry alone.

Guardian contributor

I thought Mexico were unlucky at WC2010 and had a fascinating, fluid system. Also their win over the US in the Gold Cup final in 2011 is one of the best finals I've seen, and their youth record is very impressive.

I think they've got more of a chance than people expect given their qualification campaign, but it's all about the spirit, motivation and cohesion within the group. On the pitch they've got great talent, but I can't really judge or predict their behaviour off it.


Reckon we'll see anything a bit unexpected this tournament? Like more teams playing three at the back or teams doing well with a very narrow team that lacks wide play?

Guardian contributor

I wish, but I can't see much tactical variety. Chile are probably (again) the most exciting side, but there's not a great deal to get excited about in a pure tactical sense.

Probably the major issues will be the level of pressing, and whether the top sides play with or without a proper number nine. Whether individual teams will innovate, or even simply do something different, is highly doubtful.


Who starts as Germany's No9 between Kruse, Klose, Gomez and Goetze?

Guardian contributor

I'd guess Gotze, personally. By the end of the campaign I expect he'll have established himself at the top of Guardiola's system, and will be too good to leave out. Klose probably the favourite otherwise - Low doesn't seem to like Gomez much, and injuries haven't helped.

I like Kruse, though - just not sure he's quite good enough at this stage.


You think Roys really had a tenner? ...or like the rest of us he's really givin us no chance?

If he's really more worried about the venue ... and now weve got Italy in the "bad place" ... I reckon he said a tenner but actually put 10p on it.

Guardian contributor

"Would you put a tenner on Brazil?"

"No, I'd put it on England - I want us to win."

So (a) he hasn't put it on England, merely saying he would, with a hypothetical £10 bet, and (b) his logic for doing it is that he *wants* England to win.

Julio Torres

Assuming Brazil will win the Group A, which team you think will be the runner-up?

Guardian contributor

Mexico have the most potential, but the discipline problems within the squad makes it difficult to back them - I'd just about go for Croatia. Some talented playmakers and Mandzukic upfront. Would be nice to see Mateo Kovacic start, too - he was magnificent against Serbia in the qualifiers.


Having successfully applied for the game D3 v D4 in Manaus last month I was ecstatic to see England and Italy being drawn. Then I saw that this game could be swapped for Uruguay v Costa Rica. Any word on the chances this will happen, even if I get really cross and stamp my feet?

Guardian contributor

Personally, I'd be amazed if any matches were switched - though you can't put it past FIFA.


GoonDizzy:Do you think Switzerland, Colombia and Belgium deserved to be seeded over Holland and Italy?

Guardian contributor

On the basis of 'what I reckon', probably not.

But the FIFA rankings are logical calculations, and while they're not entirely perfect, they do a decent job.


Not to sound silly but what makes Spain as good as 2010 in terms of their 1st eleven? Xavi and Iniesta have looked worse this season than in 2010 for example. Spain lack a striker who's doing that well, I'd say Torres and Villa were much better in 2010, although Negredo/ Llorente could be an option.

Also, teams know how to play against Spain now, their passing ability, pressing, increase in passing tempo in the final third and ability for players to switch positions isn't completely alien to opposition teams anymore.

Guardian contributor

They're certainly not as good as in 2010, agreed. But Del Bosque, to give him credit, has evolved the side and used other options very nicely. They're still capable of controlling games in the centre of the pitch better than any other side, and they have enough attacking options to provide different threats.

Torres actually contributed very little in 2010 anyway, and Villa only scored when he played on the left.


What are your thoughts on France's chances to win it? Despite their messy qualification, they should be one of the best four teams. A very talented squad with a lot of players having good seasons and an easy route to the knock out stages which should help their eleven gel. Their only weaknesses seem to be -- a) no real defensive leader in the back (Abidal would be a surprise starter) and b) they're French.

Guardian contributor

Denmark in '92 and Brazil in '02 taught us that a bad qualification is no barrier to success...

Honestly, I think it's all about the mentality within the group. It's a huge issue - if they're going to win the tournament, they need to be together for six or seven weeks without any squabbles, which seems unlikely. I'm not convinced Deschamps has entirely solved those issues.

On the pitch, I think they're rather good. They need to find a decent holding midfielder to let Paul Pogba shuttle forward and attack, and they need to work out what they want from their attacking midfielders aside from Ribery - Nasri was poor as a number ten against Ukraine, and Valbuena looks a better bet.


Do you think teams will be affected by climate? (Especially teams that aren't from warmer places). It may seem silly but won't that impact the implementation of tactics like pressing? For that reason I could see South American or African teams being abit better off.

Guardian contributor

Yes, on paper it's a huge factor. Especially given the humidity levels that are being reported in the north of Brazil.

That said, South Africa was very cold in 2010 and theoretically perfect for pressing - but only two sides, Chile and Spain, remotely attempted to win the ball high up the pitch.


On Colombia, Macnelly wont start. They'll play two holding midfielders, James will be the number 10 coming in from the left wing, and they'll play Falcao and Gutierrez up front. Cuadrado can provide width on the other flank, or Guarin can further shore up themiddle from the right wing. The center backs are weak though.

Guardian contributor

That sounds more promising, although I haven't been impressed with James for Monaco this season, and feel it's been a bad transfer. Arguably a year too soon, and to a side/league where his talent won't develop sufficiently. I still worry about creativity if he's the main srouce.

Cuadrado is a very exciting player - must be one of the best dribblers around at the moment. Again, though, not overly creative.


Germany seem to have adopted a much more aggressive pressing style over the course of the qualification campaign, similar to the way Dortmund and Bayern play. Given that all 3 of their group matches are in the north and if they won the group the first knockout game would also be in the north, would one think Löw might tone this down due to the heat and humidity factor? Would we see a more counterattacking style like in 2010?

Guardian contributor

That's a very interesting point - I hadn't yet considered the location of their matches, but that seems to work very nicely.

Agreed fully on the pressing. I always think Low learned from the 2010 semi, when the difference between Spain's pressing and Germany's reactive, counter-attacking approach was so stark - once Spain went ahead, Germany's system didn't allow them to win the ball, and its limitations were exposed massively.

I think Low wants them to have a more proactive approach this time around - if the climate plays into their hands, fantastic.


No doubt Roy will be playing for a draw in the first two games, and hoping to nick one from a set-piece (or a flash of brilliance, if he allows himself to imagine such things). With Gerrard, Sturridge and Baines on the field, that wouldn't be a bad strategy. It's going to be a very tight group, and likely full of very defensive football, but that's per usual for the World Cup. My prediction is we'll get the two draws we are hoping for in the first two games, then bugger it up against Costa Rica when everyone thought we were through already.

Guardian contributor

Gerrard's set-piece delivery for England over the past couple of years has been consistently excellent, it must be said. One of England's major threats, I would think (which is slightly depressing, but never mind).


Which African country do you think has the best chance of reaching the last 16?

Guardian contributor

Probably Nigeria.

In my experience, people don't pay enough attention to performances at the ACON when considering World Cup chances. For example, ahead of the last tournament Ghana had just reached the final of the ACON, yet people were suggesting the likes of Ivory Coast would be better on the basis that they had more famous individuals.

But Nigeria were good at last year's ACON, even if the tournament overall was quite poor.

It's interesting that the five African qualifiers are the same as the 2010 sides - usually their qualification process throws up some surprises.


Do you think we'll see in the next 12 years a procedure where the top eight seeds are placed in Pot 1, the next top 8 seeds in Pot 2, etc.? They could still account for geographical variations in the same manner done here.

Guardian contributor

I wouldn't be hugely surprised - although then drawing the teams geographically simultaneously would surely be rather complex, although not impossible.

Christopher Harwick:

Who's under-rating Spain exactly? Feel like they'll be fine in group stages and play the 2nd place team in group A (I think) who won't be extremely strong (Croatia?)

Guardian contributor

Well, they're fourth-favourites. 8/1.

For the defending champions, the side ranked (by far) #1 in the world, with an experienced manager and a brilliant squad, I think they're being hugely underrated.

Their track record of success is probably greater than any international side in history.


If Juan Quintero stays fit throughout the second half of the season with Porto, could you see him starting as the creative playmaker for Colombia? Pekerman does like to play with two forwards generally but it seems that way because they lack a creative player playing behind Falcao.

Guardian contributor

I'd love to think so - he looks a magnificent talent - but I'm not sure it will happen for him at club level, and like you say, I'm not sure Pekerman will change the system.


Hello, you see the showdown between England and Uruguay, which would be the favourite? Thanks, Carlos from Uruguay.

Guardian contributor

Seems like a game that could suit Hodgson's England well if they're patient and intelligent. If they throw men forward, Suarez will punish them. But it's Hodgson, so men won't be thrown forward.


One thing that strikes me looking through that list is that there really are no genuinely easy groups.

France must be laughing, though, having barely scraped through, assumed they were going to be put into pot 2, been told that it wouldn't be like that and then ended up in the least difficult group. It's almost as though someone is looking out for them.

Guardian contributor

I think it's crucial that Brazil, a very good side, are the hosts (and therefore seeds).

When you have weaker sides - Japan, Korea, Austria, Switzerland, South Africa, Ukraine, Poland - seeded, it means their groups are always rather poor.

That said, Group E is very underwhelming.



Having seen the draw, is it safe to say that Argentina are now the favorites?

Brazil naturally held that position going into the draw (rightfully so), but now their first knockout game will be against one of Spain, Holland or Chile. It's also important to not that Argentina got one of the friendliest travel itineraries, including a game in neighboring Porto Alegre.

Guardian contributor

That's a very fine point - Argentina have a good draw, and probably a good second round draw, too.

Can't argue with that at all.

Dan Place:

Views on Shearer's assessment of England's best team/system? What do you think would be the best team and system to take to Brazil?

Guardian contributor

Rooney on the left was strange.

He's England's problem, though. He wants to be the number ten, but England don't have a good enough number nine for him to play behind, and Rooney's lack of interest in tracking Pirlo (Euro 2012 QF) and Busquets (2011 CL final) has left the midfield overrun.

On present form he's by far England's best player, but has a habit of letting them down - through injury, suspension or poor form - at tournaments.

On balance, I think I'd play Rooney as the main striker with Carrick, Gerrard and Wilshere in the centre. Welbeck on the left, and Walcott on the right, storming forward to play on the break. It's not a great system but feels the best compromise.


How do you think Portugal will fare in their group? And, if Danny is fit to play at World Cup, what formation do you expect from Bento?

Guardian contributor

Sadly I'm not sure Danny will get into the side. It's a shame - usually they have no proper number 9, these days they have no proper number 10.

I'd love to see Ronaldo upfront with Danny on the left, but that won't happen because Bento wants to play to Ronaldo's strengths, which is fair enough, and Ronaldo is happier on the left.

Sadly Bento prefers Nani on the right, too, despite a string of underwhelming performances. If it's not Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles in the middle with Nani and Ronaldo on the flanks and Almeida/Postiga upfront, I'd be shocked.

Quarter-final, I'd expect.


As a Belgian, I'm very happy with the draw as it gives us a very real chance of progressing through the group stage. However, there's lots of attention on the national team, they're even being named as outsiders for the title. This strikes me as odd as Belgium haven't beaten any major team in the past couple of years, apart from when they defeated a Holland side that was humiliated at Euro 12 and just had a new coach, hardly a quality team at the time. Besides, there's some glaring weaknesses in the squad and style of play that still haven't been adressed.

So my question, why do you think they have so much of a chance, apart from having a bunch of very talented individuals? And how far do you see them go?

Guardian contributor

Belgium have a great set of individuals - not yet a great team.

The real problem is the lack of full-backs. There's amazing strength in depth in every position, but barely a single first-choice full-back. Often, Alderweireld and Vermaelen, two centre-backs, are pushed out there. This means there's not enough attacking width, and the wingers aren't allowed to drift inside and move towards goal.


Could you go into more depth about why you believe Groups B and D are the toughest? Group G is certainly the strongest group across the board. Australia and Costa Rica are likely to be non-factors in their group, while any of the USA, Ghana, or Portugal are more than capable of beating each other (and Germany) on their day.

Perhaps the argument is that Chile and England are better than the third best teams in their respective groups, but I am not sure I buy that. Chile was somewhat fortunate to progress in 2010 and haven't improved all that much based on their showings in the qualifiers, and England have continued to stagnate since 2010 and 2012. Meanwhile, the USA and Ghana have added youthful depth to their sides that they did not possess in 2010 (where Robbie Findlay actually saw playing time) and have played some excellent stuff over the last year.

Guardian contributor

I'm not sure Australia are as bad as you think, really.

Group B is stronger because Spain are there, in my view. I said this earlier, but this Spain side is arguably the greatest and most ruthless international side of all-time, and while Germany are a brilliant side too, they don't have that proven quality. People seem to forget to consider the actual quality of the favourites when talking about overall quality.

I think Ghana have gone backwards since 2010. The US squad looks slightly more exciting this time around, but I think Chile (Group B) and England (Group D) are better than them.

Group G's tough, but I'm not sure it's the toughest group.


Which sides do you find most interesting from a tactical point of view, are we likely to see anything as radical as Bielsa's 3-3-1-3?

Guardian contributor

Sadly, no. But Chile might well be the most interesting side again, under Jorge Sampaoli. He's a big Bielsa fan but rather more pragmatic. His system is fascinating, often switching between a back three and a back four, and Vidal's role supporting Sanchez and Vargas works really nicely, too.

It's like in 2010 - they'll entertain, and they could be magnificent. But I fear they'll be too open and make too many individual errors at the back.


I think Spain and Chile will qualify from their group. What do you think? Netherlands had an easy group while Spain had a group containing France. Netherlands don't have the squad they had for the WC final and they have a very young team while Spain have a conveyor belt of players who are pushing extremely hard to get into the first 11. Chile will also adapt easier to the conditions while Spain have already made pre-tournament plans to stay in Curitiba and have the experience of the Confed Cup.

Guardian contributor
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