Pot 1 - Strongest
- France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA
Pot 2 - Americas/Africa/Australia
- Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Dominican Rep., Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Uruguay
Pot 3 - Asia
- China, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam
Pot 4 - Europe
- Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Switzerland, Portugal
I initially had Iran in Pot 1, but then decided Poland & Hungary belonged there because they've both had strong WC performances the first two seasons, whereas Iran never made it past the first round.
I'm not convinced about leaving China out of Pot 1, because it is a strong country, but decided it made things simpler than trying to shuffle around European countries; plus, this way the three main Chinese-speaking participants are guaranteed to be drawn into different groups.
Malaysia is leading at this point. If Norway gets in instead, then I'd have to figure out a completely different proposal that's less geographically succinct.
This port system ensures that no more than two European countries will be in any one group. You could have an extra provision to prevent Turkey (or even Georgia) from being added to a group with two European countries already, but that would be a bit complicated because the only non-European non-Asian country in pot 1 is USA, unless we're okay with two Asian countries in one group. I'd also recommend ensuring the two Arabic-speaking countries are in separate pots. Beyond that, I'd probably be too picky.
A final alternative, if Malaysia gets in, is to have the 12 first-time countries in a single pot.
Actually, that now seems really interesting to me, so let's see how that might look...
Pot 1 - Strongest
- France, Germany, Hungary
, India, Italy
, Japan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK
Pot 2 - First-timers
- Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria
, Burkina Faso, Dominican Rep., Latvia
, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mali, Peru, Switzerland
Pot 3 - Asia + Australia, Canada, Morocco
- Australia, Canada, China, Georgia
, Hong Kong, Iran, Morocco, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey
Pot 4 - Europe & Latin America
- Argentina, Austria
, Brazil, Croatia, Czechia, Finland, Greece
, Mexico, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Portugal
And you can still ensure that no group has more than 2 countries from Europe
or 1 country from other continents.