What is it?
AN AIR-CONDITIONED conference centre within spitting distance of Brazil’s Copacabana Beach is the venue for this Saturday’s World Cup 2014 preliminary draw.
Sepp Blatter and assorted FIFA bigwigs will MC the event, which will see a pool of approximately 170 teams broken into smaller, more manageable qualifying groups.
My nation’s fate is in the hands of Sepp Blatter?
A total of 203 nations have signed on to participate, but with the Asian qualifying campaign already underway, around 170 teams are going to feature in Saturday’s ceremony.
They don’t just pull the names out of a big hat, do they?
Not exactly. Each one of the five remaining football federations will have a separate ceremony to decide the shape of their qualifying groups. UEFA, the European federation, has 53 members, of which Ireland is one, and only 13 places at the 2014 World Cup.
Brace yourself: here comes the science bit!
Europe’s teams are divided into five seeded pots of nine teams and one of eight. Running from highest to lowest, the contents of each pot are decided based on the current FIFA world rankings.
The nine teams from the pot of highest seeds will each be placed at the head of their individual groups, followed by the second seeded teams, and so forth, until eight completed groups of six teams and one of five remain.
Where does Ireland sit in all of this?
The Republic finds itself drawn among the third pot of seeded teams, alongside Switzerland, Israel, Belgium, Czech Republic, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary.
This means that we’ll draw a top seed from among Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Norway and Greece, and a second seed from a group that includes France, Montenegro, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Turkey, Serbia and Slovakia.
Don’t worry about the other guys; we can handle them.
Anything else I need to know?
Every group winner will qualify from the home-and-away round robin and the eight top second-placed teams will play off to decide the remaining four spots.
In a bid to avoid a repeat of 2010’s high-profile controversies, the draw for the play-offs will also take place on Saturday.