With 32 names in the bag (regardless of how they got there) thoughts can now turn to the subject of the draw for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa.
The first thing to be decided is which countries to seed. This is calculated just before the draw and is based on past performances in recent World Cups and the FIFA World Ranking. Controversially though, the same calculation never seems to be used twice and the choice of calculation is only decided once all the figures are available, leading to allegations that the whole system is rigged.
For 2006, past performances in the last two World Cups were considered with the performance in 2002 carrying twice the value of 1998. This was added to the FIFA ranking over the last three years. Both figures carried equal weight.
In 2002 and 1998 though, the past three World Cups were considered, and in 1998 the past World Cup performance carried 50% more weight in the final totals than the Ranking score.
Confused? It's easily done. Anyway to save you a headache, we've calculated the scores for each country using the same method as 2006 and the results are shown on the left (click to enlarge)...
The good news is no matter which system from the last three World Cups you use, the seven seeds selected are the same every time. However, should FIFA cook up a new formula between now and the draw, everything could change.
Do the seeds deserve their placing? Well it's almost impossible to argue with the inclusion of Brazil or Germany, with Italy as holders and Spain as European champions and ranked number one in the world their places are secured. England make it by virtue of their consecutive quarter final placings and France have reached the Final in two of the last three tournaments.
Argentina are there despite recent form and they only just manage to nudge out Portugal who also failed to impress during qualification. The team it's hardest on is the Netherlands - ranked third in the world for over a year, they're suffering from failing to qualify in 2002. If the new system of calculation puts more weight on ranking rather than finals performance, England could be in trouble.
One thing is for sure - if Netherlands aren't seeded, they're guaranteed to be drawn in the "Group of Death"...
Likely draw Pots:
Pot A: Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, France, Argentina, South Africa
Pot B: Paraguay, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Uruguay, Chile, Algeria
Pot C: Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovenia, Slovakia
Pot D: Mexico, USA, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Honduras, New Zealand, North Korea
The draw takes place on Friday 4th December, with the seeding being announced two days before.