2014 World Cup draw: Host Brazil plays Croatia in opening game

Posted on: 5:43 pm, December 6, 2013, by

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(CNN) — The 2014 World Cup in Brazil has thrown up the chance for revenge and the opportunity for the apprentice to become the master.

While the Netherlands will have an early opportunity for payback by taking on Spain in a repeat of the 2010 final, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have the chance to lead his side against his native Germany.

Germany, coached by Klinsmann’s former assistant Joachim Low, and the U.S. are in Group G along with Portugal and Ghana.

Klinsmann led Germany to a 1-0 win over the U.S. at the 2006 World Cup as his side reached the semifinals where it was beaten by eventual winner Italy.

But the 49-year-old faces a difficult task to steer the U.S. through the group with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and a tricky Ghana side also in contention.

“We have a big challenge ahead. But it’s also exciting,” Klinsmann told CNN’s Shasta Darlington in Bahia, Brazil.

“When you go to a World Cup you want to play the biggest teams.”

The contest, which will take place in Recife on June 26, is already being talked about with Low revealing the clash against the U.S. will be “something special.”

“So, we will be meeting old friends,” Low told German media.

“It’s already something special to have the USA in our group.

“Jurgen and I have had a very good and close relationship for a long time.

“We have always exchanged ideas on a regular basis, but that will certainly change before the World Cup match.”

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque revealed he predicted his side would be paired with the Netherlands.

His team is aiming to become the first European side to win the tournament in South America.

But it will face a tough opening game against the Dutch on June 13 in Salvador.

“I said this morning we were going to get Holland and we did, in the first game no less,” del Bosque told Spanish TV.

“Holland have changed a little bit, especially in the middle of the park, but they still have (Arjen) Robben, (Robin) Van Persie, (Rafael) Van der Vaart and (Wesley) Sneijder.

“I think it is good for our mentality that we have to prepare from the first day. Holland will demand that we start at our highest level.

“Everything depends not just on our opponents, but on ourselves and the way we mentally approach this competition.”

Brazil, the host nation, will kick off its campaign against Croatia on the opening day of the tournament, while it will also face Mexico and Cameroon.

“It is good,” Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari told the tournament’s official website.

“England, Italy, Uruguay, that is the toughest group and we are not in this one!

“We open against a European team, which was my preference. We have the clasico, which will be very tough, in the middle. Then Cameroon. I think it’s good for us”

England faces a tough task to progress past the group stage after being drawn with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.

Roy Hodgson’s side opens against Italy on June 15, before taking on Uruguay in Sao Paulo four days later.

It will finish up against Costa Rica in Belo Horizone on June 24.

“It’s a tough group no doubt about that,” Hodgson told reporters.

“We’ve almost got two number one seeds in our group, with Italy and Uruguay.

“Our great advantage is being based in Rio – meaning that we’ve only got that one really long trip.

“I’m very positive, you just never know. You don’t win football matches on paper, you go out on each occasion 11vs11. If you’re well prepared you’ve got a chance to win all three of the games.”

While Hodgson might be positive, England Football Association chairman Greg Dyke was rather more downbeat.

Former Nigeria international Sunday Oliseh believes his country has every chance of making it through to the last-16 after being drawn in Group F with Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran.

“The Nigerians are ecstatic, myself included, because we have Iran in the group — with all due respect to them I think we should be able to negotiate this encounter,” he told CNN.

“We’ve also got Bosnia, who are playing for the first time in the World Cup finals as a nation. Our chances are pretty bright and it’s looking interesting.”

Nigeria’s toughest assignment looks set to come against Argentina and Lionel Messi at Port Alegre on June 25.

Oliseh, who played at the 1994 and 1998 World Cup, says Nigeria will have to be at its very best to stop Messi from running riot.

“Messi is one of the best to have ever played football,” he said.

“He can do everything except head the ball. The question is how do you stop him?

“You can’t really if he’s on a good day. What we need to worry about is Messi going to be healthy come 2014? If he is healthy, we have a problem. But we have nothing to fear — for the first time in a long time we feel we have nothing to lose.”

Argentina, which won the tournament in 1978 and 1986, will be favorites to top the group and will play Bosnia in Rio de Janeiro in its opening match on June 15.

In Group H, Belgium will be confident of qualifying for the next stage after being drawn alongside Algeria, Russia and Korea.

Belgium is highly-fancied to reach the later stages this time around and will meet Algeria in its opening game in Belo Horizonte on June 17.

Colombia is in Group C where it will take on Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan.

France, which qualified through the playoffs, will take on Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.

Didier Deschamps, who won the World Cup with Les Bleus in 1998, believes his side can go far in the tournament after seeing off Ukraine in the European playoffs.

“It could have been more complicated, let’s be honest,” he told reporters.

“We’ll have our Swiss neighbors, one South American team and Honduras playing a similar style.

“First game is against Honduras, it’s the most important one, winning it would put us in the best position. No opponent is easy, we need to be ambitious but reasonable. Before and after the draw our objective is the same: Round of 16.”

Former England, Manchester United and Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves says France and Argentina are the big winners following the draw.

He told CNN: “France, being the lowest-ranked European team going into the draw, will be thrilled. Colombia have a favorable group as well.

“Argentina are clear favorites in their group and I think Bosnia will finish in second place and make it into the next round.”

2014 World Cup draw:

  • Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.
  • Group B: Spain, Netherlands,Chile, Australia.
  • Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan.
  • Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.
  • Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France,Honduras.
  • Group F: Argentina, Bosnia, Iran, Nigeria.
  • Group G: Germany, Portugal,Ghana, USA.
  • Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Korea.

By James Masters

The-CNN-Wire

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