Cape Town :The Netherlands were among the eight seeded teams announced on Wednesday for the 2010 World Cup at the expense of France and Portugal, whose tournament just got a lot harder.
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 of the tournament on June 11 at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
The 63 matches that follow will span South Africa, from Polokwane in the northeast to Cape Town in the southwest, 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.
Every draw delivers at least one 'Group of Death' and placing France with Brazil, and perhaps Australia or Mexico and Chile or Paraguay, would certainly fit that bill.
"Holland had a great qualifying campaign, like Spain, the first team having won all their matches, so Holland are in Pot 1," explained FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke on why they deserved their seeding.
He denied France, the 1998 winners and finalists in 2006, being relegated from the seeds had anything to do with the controversial way they qualified, 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. It had nothing to do with the Ireland game."
Pot two consists of Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Honduras, Mexico, USA, and New Zealand while Pot 3 features Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Algeria.
FIFA said the teams had been drawn with geographical criteria respected, meaning 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.
Mighty Argentina is an unpredictable element after only just hauling themselves over the line with Diego Maradona enduring a see-saw ride as coach that generated more questions than answers.
He is banned from Friday's draw after FIFA slapped him with a two-month ban for his sexually-explicit rant in October after losing his cool with journalists following Argentina's qualification.