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2014 World Cup draw: Brazil has reason to cheer
Question of the Day
COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil — Defending champion Spain will play its opening 2014 World Cup game against the Netherlands, a repeat of the ill-tempered 2010 final, while host Brazil faces a relatively easy path to the knockout stage after Friday's draw.
Argentina, champion in 1978 and 1986, first plays Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomer among the 32 teams. After that game at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentine team of four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi then plays Iran and finally Nigeria. In six previous World Cup encounters, Nigeria has beaten Argentina just once.
Argentina will be heavily favored to come out top of its Group F. If so, it could find either Switzerland or France in its way in its first knockout game. Those European nations will be hoping to come out on top of their Group E that also includes Ecuador and Honduras.
The Spain-Netherlands match is on June 13, a Friday. When they met at the 2010 final, referee Howard Webb showed a record 14 yellow cards — two leading to red for the Netherlands' John Heitinga. The Netherlands was blamed for most of the dirty play.
England's first match will be in the heat and humidity of the Amazon basin, which coach Roy Hodgson was anxious to avoid. That night game in the Amazon city of Manaus pits the 1966 champion against Italy, a four-time winner.
Both will have to play their best to advance from Group D, since it also includes 2010 semifinalist Uruguay and Costa Rica.
"It's a tough group, there's no doubt about that. In Italy and Uruguay it's almost as though we have got two number one seeds in our group. We know how good Italy are because we lost to them in the quarterfinals at the Euros. The game is going to be tough from a climate point of view for both teams," said Hodgson.
England could also face hostility from the home crowd after the city's mayor said he did not want the English in Manaus because they complained about the venue's climate.
Belgium, one of seven seeded teams in the draw, will fancy its chances of advancing from Group H. Playing its first World Cup since 2002, Containing some of Europe's most exciting young players, Belgium first takes on Algeria, which has never moved beyond the group stage in its three previous appearances.
Coach Marc Wilmots' team will also play 2018 World Cup host Russia and South Korea, a semifinalist in 2002. If Belgium tops that group it would then play the second-placed team from Group G. That is likely to be whichever team from Portugal, Ghana or the United States finishes behind Germany, one of the favorites to win the monthlong tournament.
Germany, champion in 1954, 1974 and 1990, first plays Portugal, with 2008 world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo. Germany's last group game is against the United States, which will be particularly memorable for U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. He won the 1990 World Cup as a forward for Germany and coached his country to the semifinal in 2006.
"I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany," said Klinsmann. "Obviously it's one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw, having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the United States. It couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger."
"But that's what a World Cup is about. It's a real challenge. And we'll take it. We'll take it on, and hopefully we're going to surprise some people there."
Brazil starts its campaign for a sixth World Cup title with an opener against Croatia. Mexico and Cameroon are also in the group.
Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are in Group C, one of the weakest groups.
By Robert N. Tracci
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