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Swiss and Belgians shake up World Cup seedings

updated 8:09 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Ottmar Hitzfeld led Switzerland through their World Cup qualification campaign unbeaten
Ottmar Hitzfeld led Switzerland through their World Cup qualification campaign unbeaten
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Switzerland are among eight seeded teams for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil
  • Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland all seeded
  • Uruguay could be usurped by Netherlands if they lose World Cup playoff to Jordan
  • Italy and England both miss out on seedings, Portugal and France in playoffs

(CNN) -- Switzerland and Belgium will shake up the seedings ahead of next year's FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil.

The appearance of those two countries in the top bracket of seeds means it is possible that hosts Brazil could be drawn in a group with Italy, or Argentina with Netherlands.

Ottmar Hitzfeld, who on Thursday announced he'll be stepping down after the tournament, led the Swiss through their qualifying campaign unbeaten.

Switzerland won seven of their group matches, drawing the other three and have leaped seven places up the official FIFA rankings to seventh. Belgium were also unbeaten in qualifying, finishing nine points of second place Croatia.

Read: Can World Cup unite Bosnia?

The population of Switzerland and Belgium (7.9 million and 11.1 million respectively) is dwarfed by many of the other nations, with the exception of Uruguay (3.3 million).

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Hosts Brazil and defending champions Spain, along with Germany, Argentina and Colombia are all seeded while England and Italy, both unbeaten in qualifying, narrowly miss out.

Uruguay will be seeded should they win their two-legged qualification playoff with Jordan, but if they miss out then Netherlands -- who won nine of their ten group matches -- will take their place.

The draw for the finals will be held in Bahia in Brazil on December 6, by which time the results of the playoffs in various territories will be known.

France go into the European playoffs unseeded due to their current ranking of 21 which means they could face Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in the two-legged tie.

As well as Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Ukraine are seeded while Iceland, Sweden and Romania are not. The draw for the playoffs will be conducted on October 21 with the matches played on November 15 and 19.

Hitzfeld said his decision to relinquish his role as Switzerland coach after the World Cup was the "most difficult decision of my coaching career."

The 64-year-old, who has held the post since 2008, led the Swiss to a famous 1-0 win over world and European champions Spain at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"The association's management, with the players and the staff is absolutely ordered for the best, so this is the most difficult decision of my coaching career," Hitzfeld said on the Swiss Football Association's official website.

General Secretary Alex Miescher added: "Ottmar Hitzfeld is a gentleman from head to toe, and leaves us plenty of time (to find a successor)."

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