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2014 World Cup kicks off, qualifying groups drawn
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - World champion Spain was drawn on Saturday with 1998 winner France, Georgia, Belarus and Finland in a qualifying group for the 2014 tournament _ the first World Cup in Brazil in 64 years.
The United States, featuring new coach Juergen Klinsmann, was drawn with Jamaica in a qualifying group from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
England was placed with 2012 European Championship co-hosts Ukraine and Poland in Group H. Montenegro, Moldova and San Marino also are in the group.
“It will be interesting, there won’t be easy matches,” England coach Fabio Capello said. “England will have to be very careful, especially against Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine.”
Italy will meet Denmark and the Czech Republic in Group B, while Germany faces Sweden, Austria and Ireland in Group C.
“Sweden and Ireland are very strong teams and that makes the group interesting,” Germany general manager Oliver Bierhoff said.
The draw will determine the path of 166 teams in their bid to qualify for the tournament in three years. It was the first major World Cup event in Brazil since the South American nation was awarded the competition in 2007. As host, Brazil is the only nation that doesn’t have to qualify.
“We are happy to be back in Brazil,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said.
Fifty-three European nations were divided into nine groups, with the winners automatically qualifying and the eight best group runners-up advancing to a playoff. European qualifying matches begin Sept. 7 and end Oct. 15, 2013.
Spain is in a difficult Group I, the only one with five teams instead of six.
The Netherlands, last year’s runner-up in South Africa, was drawn in Group D with Turkey, Hungary and Romania, while Portugal will have to face Russia and Israel in Group F.
Group A has Croatia, Serbia, Belgium and Scotland. Greece will play Slovakia in Group G, while Norway was drawn in Group E with Slovenia and Switzerland.
The U.S. and Jamaica will be joined by two teams in Group A. Those teams will come from preliminary qualifying matches featuring Haiti, Guatemala, the U.S. Virgin Islands and five other nations.
Mexico is in Group B with Costa Rica, while Cuba and Honduras are in Group C. All three group winners and runners-up will advance to a final qualifying round, beginning February 2013.
In Asia, Japan will face Uzbekistan, Syria and North Korea in Group C, while Australia will play Saudi Arabia, Oman and Thailand in Group D.
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
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