France paid for its lacklustre qualifying campaign by failing to nab one of the top eight seeds for Friday's World Cup draw.
England was given one of the eight seeded spots by FIFA on Wednesday, as were reigning World Cup champions Italy, five-time winners Brazil, European champions Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina and tournament hosts South Africa, who will compete in Group A.
Surprisingly, France was not seeded, which means it faces a first-round clash with one of the aforementioned eight teams, including powerful Brazil or Italy.
FIFA determined the seeded teams based on the October world rankings, and past World Cup performances.
France won the World Cup in 1998 and was a finalist eight years later, but Les Bleus struggled through the recent European qualifiers, winning a crucial two-game playoff series against Ireland on the strength of Thierry Henry's handball that led to a French goal in the decisive second leg.
Friday's draw ceremony in Cape Town (CBC, CBCSports.ca, noon ET) will determine the eight first-round groups and the match order for the 32 teams that will contest the FIFA World Cup from June 11 to July 11 in South Africa.
The eight seeded teams will be drawn into separate groups, ensuring that the earliest they will face each other is in the second round of the month-long tournament.
The top two teams in each of the round-robin groups move on to the knockout stage of the tournament.
Each of the top seeds will be grouped with one European country, and all have a chance of drawing one of five African countries, other than the hosts.
No group can have more than two teams from Europe, and South Africa, which will play in Group A, can't be grouped with another African country. Likewise, no two teams from South America can be in the same group.
Teams from Pot 1 will be placed in eight different groups, and the same procedure will follow for Pots 2, 3 and 4.
FIFA decided to reward recent play more than past World Cup results, which is why they relied heavily on the latest rankings to determine the seeds.
"It is to recognize their qualifying campaign," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told The Associated Press. "Holland had a great qualifying campaign [and] Spain is the first team having won all their matches."
Former France national team coach Michel Hidalgo speculated in a radio interview the French were being punished for Henry's actions, but Valcke said that didn't have any influence on the seeding.
"It was purely sporting criteria. There was never, never, a question of the France-Ireland game in the discussion," Valcke said.
Here are the four pots of teams:
- Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Spain, England, the Netherlands, Argentina.
- Pot 2 (Asia and CONCACAF): Australia, New Zealand, Honduras, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mexico, United States.
- Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Paraguay, Nigeria, Uruguay.
- Pot 4 (Europe): France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia.