• Kyodo

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Japan may be placed in Pot 4, the lowest-level lot in the draw for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia, as it dropped four notches to 44th in the men’s world rankings released Monday by soccer’s world governing body FIFA.

Japan, which was in Pot 3 four years ago in the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, would be grouped with teams from the top three pots for the first-round group stage next June unless it is bumped up before the Dec. 1 draw in Moscow.

The Japanese squad can go into Pot 3 in the unlikely case that countries ranked lower, such as Greece, New Zealand and Honduras, win berths to the World Cup in regional qualifying and playoffs scheduled in November.

The 32 teams who make it into the finals will be divided into four pots of eight, and each first-round group will get one team from each pot.

Pot 1 will be made up of countries ranked from first to seventh in the latest rankings — Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France — plus host Russia, ranked 65th.

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