You can start making those travel plans to Brazil now, as the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw is complete! The opening World Cup game on June 12th will see defending champion’s Spain play the Netherlands, a repeat of the ill-tempered 2010 final. However, lucky hosts Brazil look set to face a relatively easy path to the knockout stages after Friday’s draw.
Sadly however the draw was bad news for the United States, which not only has the toughest group but the worst travel schedule. The U.S. will open against African powerhouse, Ghana on June 16 in Natal, then play Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Amazon rain forest city of Manaus. The Americans then go play Germany, one of the favorites, back on the coast in Recife.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who played for Germany’s 1990 World Cup championship team and coached his native country to third place in 2006, said:
“I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany, obviously it’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw.”
Brazil starts its campaign for a sixth World Cup title with an opener against Croatia. Mexico, which struggled to qualify, and Cameroon are also in the group.
Champion’s in 1978 and 1986 respectively, Argentina will first play Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomer among the 32 teams. After that game in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentine team and four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi are lined up to play Iran, followed by Nigeria. In six previous World Cup encounters, Nigeria has beaten Argentina just once.
Argentina will be heavily favored to come out on top of Group F. If so, it could find either Switzerland or France in its first knockout game. Those European nations will be hoping to come out on top of their Group E that includes Ecuador and Honduras.
The Spain-Netherlands match is on June 13. When they met at the 2010 final, referee Howard Webb showed a record 14 yellow cards. Chile and Australia make up the remaining two teams in the B Group.
England’s first match will be against four-time champion Italy, in the heat and humidity of the Amazon basin, which coach Roy Hodgson had said he wanted to avoid.
Italy and England 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,” Hodgson said.
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 climate.
Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are in Group C. One of the easiest groups on paper looked to be E, with Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras. Russia, host of the next World Cup, is in Group H with Belgium, Algeria and Korea.
HERE ARE THOSE GROUP LISTINGS IN FULL:
The FIFA World Cup 2014 begins on Thursday, June 12 and ends on Sunday, July 13.
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