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I really hope FIFA's seeds are trampled.

Byline: Gerry Armstrong

LET'S be honest - England might as well have received a bye for the knockout stages of theWorld Cup.

For the life of me, I cannot see any situation arising wherebyFabio Capello's men will come unstuck against the likes of the USA, Algeria and Slovenia. Forget it.

But to be really frank, I wasn't really looking out for who England drew on Friday night.

Instead, I was eager to see who France and Portugal were paired with.

I'm still annoyed at how France secured their place in South Africa and there was a part of me hoping they would get a nightmare draw. Asit turns out, I'm sure they will be fairly happy to be coming up against hosts South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay. They should be happy to be there at all!

Portugal, however, will not be so pleased.

I am still fuming at how Sepp Blatter moved the goalposts and seeded them for the play-offs, just to make life easier for the bigger nations.

Well, FIFA got its wish and Cristiano Ronaldo will grace the greatest show on earth next year - but they'd better hit the ground running.

There's always one socalled Group of Death and theyhave, thankfully, landed bang in the middle of it.

Carlos Queiroz's men will go head-to-head with Brazil, IvoryCoast and North Korea.

The Koreans will be the whipping boys, I have no doubt about that. But the Brazilians know how to win World Cups and the Ivorians are my outside bet for the tournament. They are strong throughout the sideandDidier Drogba will give any defender nightmares.

In fact, I think they are stronger than Ronaldo and co, and I will have a huge smile if Portugal fail to make it past the group stages.

Therunners-up of that group are almost certain to face European champions Spain, and they are my favourites for the World Cup. They have gone from strength to strength in the past two years and their group will be a breeze.

Holders Italy will also walk their group after a pretty good draw for all the big guns.

Soback to England. I suppose it was written in the stars that David Beckham would come up against his American buddies is what is likely to be his swansong.

I really do hope Becks gets the nod because his ability on the ball is still a huge asset and I'm sure he'd love to get one over his LA mate Landon Donovan.

I can't see anything other than three wins there - but the fun will begin in the next round when they could face old foes Germany.

The Germans are always strong at the finals, regardless of their form before, and that has been the difference between them and England.

Under Capello, though, I think the Three Lions could roar in Africa.

The squad are a good age and have some terrific experience. The coach is one of the best in the world. I put them in my top three with Brazil and Spain. Interview: MARK McINTOSH

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PLAYING AROUND: Blatter at the draw
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 6, 2009
Words:515
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