The Netherlands were among the eight seeded teams announced here Wednesday for the 2010 World Cup at the expense of France and Portugal.
World football's governing body said the seeds were selected according to the FIFA rankings as of October, so Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, defending champions Italy, Germany, Argentina and England made the grade.
South Africa were also seeded in Pot 1 as the host nation and will play the opening game on June 11 at Soccer City in Johannesburg. The 63 matches that follow will span South Africa, culminating in the final in the capital on July 11.
The seeding criteria differs from the last World Cup in Germany when they were allocated on team's world rankings over the
past three years, with performances at the previous two tournaments also taken into account.
France and Portugal's omission puts them in Pot 4 along with the rest of the UEFA contingent, including Denmark, Greece, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
It means they will be drawn in the same group as one of the seeds here on Friday when who they play and where they play will be decided in a 90-minute ceremony featuring David Beckham and actress Charlize Theron.
Jerome Valcke, FIFA secretary general, denied France being relegated had anything to do with the controversial qualifier, with Thierry Henry's handball putting them through at the expense of Ireland.
“It had nothing to do with that,” he said.
“The seedings were decided according to the rankings in October, before that match was played. In no way was it a sanction against France.”
FIFA said teams had been drawn with geographical criteria respected, so that no two teams from the same confederation will be in the same group, except the Europeans where a maximum of two will be pitted together.
Each country plays three first round fixtures with those finishing first and second on the final standings advancing to the four-round knockout phase.
World Cup winners form an exclusive club with just seven members — Brazil (five titles), Italy (four), Germany (three), Argentina and Uruguay (two each) and England and France (one apiece).
No team from Africa or Asia has ever lifted the trophy, and appears unlikely to do so next year.
But the prospects are brighter in South America with Brazil leading the pack, although an exciting and young Chilean side has also proved its credentials.
Maradona asked to stay away from draw
FIFA has written to the Argentine football federation to make sure coach Diego Maradona stays away from Friday's World Cup draw.
FIFA has said Maradona's two-month suspension for an expletive-filled rant at a news conference extends beyond matches and also includes such activities as the draw.
Valcke said on Wednesday he sent a letter to the Argentine delegation to say “be aware that he is banned and we are asking you to make sure that he is not coming.”
Maradona will miss Argentina's December 16 friendly against the Czech Republic, but he avoided sanctions that would have kept him from coaching at the World Cup.
Theron draws ‘Ireland’ at rehearsal
Oscar-award-winning South African actress Charlize Theron put up another good performance when she pulled “Ireland” during a rehearsal for the World Cup draw on Friday.
The actress was pulling FIFA's leg over Ireland's failed bid to become the 33rd team at the 32-nation Cup.
Ireland had asked to be allowed to participate after being ousted in the play-offs by France, which clinched its place with a goal from striker William Gallas after captain Thierry Henry had handled the ball.
Theron, who will co-host Friday's draw with Valcke, pulled the “Ireland” ball out of the bowl instead of France.
“Yes, she did, but it was only a joke,” Valcke confirmed.