The 32 teams travelling to Brazil for next summer’s World Cup learned their group stage placements on Friday, and the draw produced some mouth-watering encounters between some of the world’s top nations in the opening round.
In an event broadcast live around the world, a host of legendary former players drew the nations into eight groups of four teams, with the opening game of the tournament taking place on June 12th in Sao Paulo.
The host nation and tournament favorites, Brazil, will kick off the tournament with European play-off qualifiers Croatia, in a showcase for home stars such as Neymar and Oscar to reproduce the form that led them to a Confederations Cup victory last summer. They are joined in Group A by Mexico and Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon, in a group which is expected to conjure up a fascinating battle for the second qualifying place, should Brazil fulfil expectations.
Group B’s opening fixture features a repeat of the 2010 final, with reigning champions Spain facing Holland. Two of the tournament heavyweights meeting so early on in the tournament is sure to capture the imagination of the audience, with a lot of the pressure lifted compared to the sides’ last World Cup meeting. They are joined by Australia and the exciting Chile, who will be hopeful of progressing past the group stages after some very impressive recent performances, notably over England at Wembley last month.
Monaco’s Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez will spearhead Colombia’s attempt in the tournament, after being drawn in Group C with Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan, while Group D will be one of the most competitive groups of all.
England was the final team drawn into the group with Costa Rica, Uruguay and European powerhouse Italy. Roy Hodgson’s England play the Italians in their opening game in Amazon hotbed Manaus, in a game where the test will be with the climate as well as with the four time World Champions. The in form Luis Suarez will line up across from England in game two, in a series of games which will be hugely decisive in who makes the round of sixteen.
France were arguably handed the most favourable draw of the group phase, lining up with top seeds Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E. France’s qualification with an astonishing win over Ukraine in the play-offs led them to the tournament, and after the draw Franck Ribery and company will fancy their chances of progressing.
For all the successes of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the World Cup has yet to be a stage where he has been able to have as big an effect as he would like. Joined by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F, Argentina will be favorites to progress, and should give the four time Ballon d’Or winner a chance to create some momentum.
Germany and Portugal feature in a very strong Group G, alongside Ghana and USA. The opener in this group pits Cristiano Ronaldo’s men against one of the tournament’s strongest squads in the Germans, however, both Ghana and their American counterparts have had some very impressive showings in recent World Cups.
The final group, Group H, sees a very talented Belgian squad go face to face with Fabio Capello’s Russia, South Korea and African qualifiers, Algeria. The Belgians are much fancied, offering a wealth of youthful exuberance and talent in a ‘golden generation’ of players. Many people’s dark horses for competition winners, their quality is expected to tell throughout the early stages of the tournament.
The World Cup is around seven months away, and now that the draw is made and the dust is settling, players will return to their clubs to concentrate on achieving domestic successes. The final takes place on July 13, and with most of the world’s greatest footballers on show, it is hoped that the football will live up to the anticipation at this grand spectacle.
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan.
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.
Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras.
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria.
Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea.
Who do you expect to win the 2014 World Cup? What makes host nation Brazil the favorites to win the tournament?