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World Cup draw seeding skewed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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Next week’s World Cup draw will have some of its seedings skewed because of Russia’s war with Ukraine and the coronavirus pandemic.

FIFA outlined the procedure on Tuesday for the draw in Qatar on April 1. Only 29 of the 32 teams in the draw will be known by then because of the war and global health crisis. The three remaining places will be decided in June.

At the draw, the 29 qualified teams will be put into four pots according to their FIFA ranking.

Hosts Qatar are in Pot 1 along with defending champions FranceBelgiumBrazilArgentina and EnglandGermany, the 2014 World Cup champions, have been ranked outside the top 10 for more than three years and will be in Pot 2.

FIFA resolved the uncertainty around how to seed the three undecided entries by creating placeholder spots in Pot 4. The teams affected could land in a tougher World Cup group than their ranking merits simply because they could not complete their games as originally scheduled.

Some of the teams that could be affected include UkraineWales and Colombia. Each of the three, if they were to qualify, would likely have been in Pot 3.

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Only 15 teams have so far qualified for the World Cup ahead of more qualifying games in the next week.

Ukraine were scheduled to play at Scotland on Thursday with the winner advancing to play either Wales or Austria on March 29. Ukraine asked for a postponement because it was not possible for home-based players to train and travel during the Russian invasion.

The pandemic forced the intercontinental playoff round to be delayed. It is now scheduled to be played in Qatar on June 13-14. An Asian team will play a South American team, and the Oceania representative will play a team from the North American region.

The World Cup is scheduled to be played from Nov. 21-Dec. 18 in eight stadiums around the Qatari capital of Doha.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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