COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP):
One of the worst finals in World Cup history - Spain versus the Netherlands - will be reprised in one of the first games at the 2014 edition. But yesterday's draw proved kind, of sorts, for Brazil. The host nation should make short work of Group A.
Brazil, however, could then face the Spanish or the Dutch in the very first knockout game. Should they lose, not unimaginable against such pedigree teams, the host nation's sorrow would surely suck some of the samba-loving sense of fun out of the tournament.
Three former winners - Italy, Uruguay and England - were tossed together in one daunting group, meaning at least one of them is bound to go home early.
Tough break for US
The United States drew one of the shortest straws. Their game schedule will send Jurgen Klinsmann's team pinging around on a 9,000-mile (14,000-kilometre) trip around the world's fifth-largest country.
Having only squeezed into the tournament via the play-offs, 1998 winners France could hardly believe their luck, drawing a manageable group of Switzerland, Ecuador, and Honduras.
Argentina, champions in 1978 and 1986, first play Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomers among the 32 teams. That will be the first of seven games at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium, which also hosts the July 13 final. Argentina, one of the favorites to win with four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, then play Iran and Nigeria, which they beat in all three previous World Cup encounters.
Argentina will be heavily favoured to come out top of its Group F. If so, they could find either Switzerland or France in their way in their first knockout game. Those European nations will be hoping to avoid Argentina by topping Group E.
Defending champions Spain and the three-time finalists Netherlands first play each other. Hopefully, it won't be a repeat of the horror show that was the 2010 final, when referee Howard Webb showed a record 14 yellow cards and could have sent off several players, instead of just the one.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said that history should challenge the teams to do better on June 13. He and Spain coach Vincent del Bosque both warned against underestimating Chile, even though it lost 6 of its 16 qualifying games, shipping 25 goals.
Del Bosque said the South Americans' "style of play is very impressive, they make it very uncomfortable for opponents. They are very hard-working, a very difficult team."
Spain and the Netherlands will both want to top their Group B, which also includes a very unimpressive Australia, because the second-place team faces the prospect of then meeting Brazil.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari didn't want to think that far ahead, saying: "If you start thinking about the second round you forget about the teams in the first round, which are important."
Brazil kicks off their campaign for a sixth World Cup title with the opening match on June 12 against Croatia. That could be a daunting experience for the Croats, playing their fourth World Cup. Full-throated support from home fans helped lift Brazil at the Confederations Cup warm-up tournament in June, where they beat world champions Spain in the final.
Group A: 1. Brazil, 2. Croatia, 3. Mexico, 4. Cameroon
Group B: 1. Spain, 2. Netherlands, 3. Chile, 4. Australia
Group C: 1. Colombia, 2. Greece, 3. Ivory Coast, 4. Japan
Group D: 1. Uruguay, 2. Costa Rica, 3. England, 4. Italy
Group E: 1. Switzerland, 2. Ecuador, 3. France, 4. Honduras
Group F: 1. Argentina, 2. Bosnia-Herzegovina, 3. Iran, 4. Nigeria
Group G: 1. Germany, 2. Portugal, 3. Ghana, 4. United States
Group H: 1. Belgium, 2. Algeria, 3. Russia, 4. South Korea