Group letter key in deciphering England’s World Cup progress
Given that there are nine European teams in pot four ahead of the World Cup draw, one of these nations will be moved at random into pot two along with the African and unseeded South American qualifiers.
There is obviously therefore a 8/1 chance that this could be England, leaving a high probability that it won’t be. Assuming this is not England (as it will ruin the information below), the biggest key in the draw will be the actual group letter Roy Hodgson’s team are placed in, rather than the opposition that they face.
This is because of the fact that Brazil is especially large, with 3,000 miles separating cities in the north and south and three timezones across the country.
Fixtures in the south will be much more advantageous to England, where temperatures tend to be lower and more in-line with what the squad will be used to, while there is even the prospect of some wind and rain.
Compare this to the north, where it will not only be hot, but also especially humid, which will not only be a disadvantage to England, but all European nations, for which these conditions will be a predominantly new experience.
Thus, although avoiding the South American nations in the group stages will be of benefit as they will be more at home in the conditions throughout Brazil, avoiding the groups where the pot-four qualifiers are scheduled to play in locations in the north is more important.
Groups D and G are the worst for pot-four qualifiers, with all group fixtures being played in the extremely northerly locations of Manaus, Recife and Natal.
Group A would also be a struggle, as England would play their opening two games in the north, before facing Brazil in the more southerly Brasillia.
England’s odds are 2/1 go out in the group stages and this price should be snapped up if they are drawn in any of the three above-mentioned groups.
On the flip side, Groups B, F or H would be the best for England to be positioned in, if remaining as a pot-four team, as these avoid any northerly fixtures.
Instead, two fixtures will be in the most southerly regions hosting World Cup games in Curitiba and Porto Alegre, while the other will only be slightly more northerly.
If there was an ultimate preference, Group F would possibly be slightly better for England, as the most southerly fixtures will be first and last, with the harder fixture in terms of climate sandwiched in the middle.
In the other pair, England would either have to play their first or final group game in the tougher conditions, which is obviously less than ideal given the need for a positive first result to relieve some pressure or the prospect of needing a result to confirm qualification from the final group game.