The draw for Germany 2006 took place earlier today, and it’s funny how this seeding business rewards certain nations at the expense of others. England — recent losers to Northern Ireland (!) should have a relatively easy path to the round of 16 having been grouped with Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago and Paraguay.

(man with futuristic microphone announces Australia’s impending defeats to Brazil and Croatia).

The United States — who qualified earlier than ever this time and narrowly missed a quarterfinals appearance in 2002, have been given the death sentence of matches with Italy and the Czech Republic. Perhaps by the time Freddy Adu is ready to take on a prominent role in the national side, the U.S. will get a favorable draw — though I wouldn’t bet on it. (Adu story link courtesy Jay Strell).

All complaints aside, afternoons next June will be hi-def tastic and the only thing I’m looking forward to more than the actual competition is counting how many times Will Leitch calls upon an anonymous “soccer expert” for generic analysis.

Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe fit to be tied over Portsmouth’s alleged tampering that led to Harry Redknapp walking out on the Saints. The former was quoted by the Independent’s Jason Burt as saying “we do not believe this episode has been conducted within the rules of the game,”.

Responded Pompey chieftan Milan Mandarich, “I don’t what game he is talking about. Is it hockey or rugby?”

Southampton director Andrew Cowan points out there’s been a tremendous amount of money (the sum of £16million has been bandied about) wagered on Redknapp returning to Fratton Park. Is there any CCTV footage of Mandarich leaving a local betting shop?