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Opinion: World Cup needs second seeding to reward good teams

With the second World Cup matches about to conclude, teams are beginning to look ahead. All the more reason, says Deutsche Welle's Jefferson Chase, to re-seed the sixteen survivors after the group stage.

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FIFA could improve future tournaments - perhaps England 2018?

In any other universe, teams would want to finish at the top. But in the groups stages of the World Cup, there's always debate about whether second might actually be better.

Case in point: Germany. As things stand, should the Nationalelf win Group D, it would put them on a collision course with Argentina, the squad that's most impressed thus far, in the quarterfinals.

Second place would forestall a potential showdown with the Gauchos - and put Wednesday's unlucky defeat to Serbia in a whole new positive light.

Those hypotheticals illustrate a change that soccer's world governing body FIFA should consider making at the next World Cup. Instead of setting up the draw in two halves, why not rank the teams that progress beyond the first round based on how they perform in the tournament?

Under such a system, the top team - the one that accrued the most points and the best goal differential - would be matched against the worst one, second best against second worst, and so on.

Such a change would have two major benefits. It would keep the top-performing teams from having to play one another early on and result in better match-ups in the final stages.

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It would also give teams that qualify early for the knock-out stage - for example, the Netherlands - an incentive to field their strongest squads for their final group matches.

Rewarding excellence

Seeding is the rule in American sports, where champions are always determined by playoffs, and it is employed to set the initial groups at the World Cup. But the initial seeding is based on FIFA world rankings, a dubious measure at best of many teams' quality.

A second seeding would correct the pecking order to reflect nations' actual current form.

It would get also rid of the division of the draw into two halves, which is necessary in the US because of the different time zones and conferences with different rules but makes no sense in a tournament held in one country.

There's no way, of course, that FIFA can completely prevent teams from playing tactically with an eye to how other nations perform. But a simple change in procedure would make for a more level playing field.

So please, fine folks of FIFA, let's have a second seeding in 2014 in Brazil so that the hosts, assuming they play well, don't have to face another top team until at least the semifinals.

Jefferson Chase is a Deutsche Welle sports correspondent.
Editor: Matt Hermann

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