Photo: World Cup Brazil
Host nation Brazil appeared to be given a smooth path to the knockout phase of the 2014 World Cup in Friday’s draw, while defending champion Spain finds itself in a dangerous group that includes 2010 finalist the Netherlands.
Before the draw got under away in the northeastern coastal resort of Costa do Sauipe, Spanish head coach Vicente del Bosque handed over the 2010 champions’ trophy and said it would be a daunting challenge to get it back.
“That’s in the past. We’ll try like good sportsmen to win our second World Cup, but right off the bat we have outstanding opponents,” he said.
As usual, the draw featured some groups that appeared relatively tame and others packed with traditional soccer powerhouses.
Group D, which features three past World Cup champions - England, Italy and Uruguay - as well as underdog Costa Rica, is considered by many to be the toughest.
Group G, however, is perhaps equally strong with Germany, Portugal, the United States and Ghana.
Brazil heads up Group A and will take on Croatia in the tournament’s opening match on June 12 in Sao Paulo, while Mexico - which typically plays well against the five-time World Cup champions - and Cameroon are the other two teams.
Group B is headed by Spain, which will have to contend with 2010 runner-up the Netherlands, Chile and Australia as it looks to make another title run.
Colombia, meanwhile, avoided the traditional European powerhouses and will compete for a spot in the World Cup’s round of 16 against Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C.
Finally, Group H features four countries that, on paper, appear to be closely matched: Belgium, Algeria, Russia and South Korea.