WITH the World Cup draw coming up, the seedings have been announced. Hosts Russia are seeded first and have been pre-drawn into Group A, as is customary, with former world champions Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France also among the top seeds.
Two other spots are, understandably, taken by European champions Portugal and Belgium’s ‘golden generation’. But the final team among the top seeds has raised a few eyebrows. Robert Lewandowski and Poland are the eighth top seed and therefore potentially set to benefit from an easier draw.
Why have Poland been seeded first for the World Cup draw?
The World Cup seeds are based on world rankings and Poland are currently the sixth best team on the planet, according to the Fifa system. That has proved controversial, with the likes of Spain, Uruguay, Colombia and England bumped down to second seeds as a result.
So are the rankings distorted or do the Poles deserve to be where they are? The answer is a bit of both. Poland did finish top of their qualifying group, ahead of a Christian Eriksen-inspired Denmark team which hammered Ireland in the play-offs.
And this is, without doubt, the best Polish team in a generation, having reached the Euro 2016 quarter-finals before losing to Portugal on penalties.
But there is slightly more to it than that, as the world rankings are weighted to ensure that qualifiers have more significance than friendlies. From the end of Euro 2016 to the completion of World Cup qualifying, Poland only played one friendly, at home to Slovenia.
In contrast, England played five friendlies. Due to weighting system, even if Gareth Southgate’s men had beaten Germany twice, Spain, France and Brazil, they still would have ended up with less ranking points than if they hadn’t played the friendlies in the first place.
The FA are reportedly aware of this but still decided that the experience the players gained from friendlies against the world’s top sides would prove more valuable than a superior world ranking. On their part, Fifa have stated that they will revisit the ranking system after the tournament to see if improvements can be made.