The highly anticipated 2014 FIFA World Cup draw concluded Friday evening in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil.
32 countries were divided into 8 groups, consisting of four each. Teams will play each other once in the tournament's group stage, with the top two teams qualifying for the knockout stages.
Legendary Brazilian players, such as goalscoring genius Ronaldo, striker Bebeto and former World Cup winning captain Cafu, were among the honoured guests at the event.
The draw was held with the use of four different pots, with a country from each pot being placed in a group. The highest ranking teams were placed in pot 1, with them occupying the first group position.
The lowest ranked teams were in pot 4, and faced much tougher assignments. The teams are ranked according to their FIFA World rankings. Some commentators and analysts have argued that teams pot rankings are also determined by previous World Cup results and achievements.
It will have to be seen whether FIFA decides to implement different strategies in the future.
The draw poised some interesting questions and elicits a plethora of predictions. Football aficionados were licking their lips at the promise of 2010 FIFA World Cup finalists, Spain and the Netherlands locking horns in the group stages. The smaller World Cup nations such as Iran and Algeria also have a good chance to progress to the knockout stages of the competition, as the draw created some interesting match ups.
In Group A, hosts Brazil will face some interesting and colourful opponents that will try their utmost to cause the Samba Kings an upset or two. Croatia are a formidable side, with Luka Modric pulling the strings from midfield. Mexico have had a difficult qualifying campaign, which they needed to beat Oceania champions, New Zealand, in a playoff. Manchester United striker, Javier "Chicharito" Hernanadez, could cause some trouble up front, but all in all the Mexicans lack the firepower to progress much further than the second round.
Cameroon could be a dark horse to progress to the next round. They have Samuel Eto'o in their ranks, the leading goalscorer at the African Cup of Nations, and he will be hungry for success on the world stage. The 2014 FIFA World Cup could be his stage to impress.
Brazil are one of the clear favorites and could well win the World Cup for a record breaking sixth time. Can the Selecao do it? Only time will tell. But with Neymar, Oscar, Thiago Silva and Andre Luis in their ranks, anything is possible.
Group B is the "Group of Death". Each World Cup has it, and this time Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia will battle it out. Expect Spain and the Netherlands to progress, with Chile putting up a fight and perhaps even an upset.
Group C looks to be a very open group and gives Didier Drogba and the Ivorians the chance to progress to the group stages. Pitted against Colombia, Greece and Japan, Ivory Coast has the chance to finally doubt their critics and stop choking in big tournaments. Expect, Colombia to join them in the knockout stages, with deadly striker Falcao providing the firepower.
Group D is another Group of Death. Italy, England and Uruguay are most likely to battle it out for supremacy, with Costa Rica sadly only contributing to the party, but not really posing a significant challenge. England or Italy will find the going tough against the Uruguayans, with the likes of Suarez in hot form and the even reliable Diego Forlan to lean on for some experience up front. Expect, Italy to crash out, with England sneaking in by the skin of their teeth. Rooney, Walcott, Wilkshere and company would like to destroy the ghosts of the past. Brazil could be their redemption ground.
Group E, features an unpredictable group with Switzerland and France being the favorites if one looks at the FIFA rankings position. But Equador has been known to perform well on the South American continent and could use the "home groud afvantage" offered in Brazil. Minnows, Honduras, might also cause a few sweats among their opposition, with Maynor Figueroa and Carlo Costly, they can not be underrated.
Group F sees Argentina in an easy group with Bosnia and Nigeria looking to battle for second place. Will Messi finally shine on the world biggest stage? Time will tell. Nigeria have been impressive of late and could be a serious contender for the knockout rounds this time around. Bosnia, with Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko in their ranks also has an excellent chance of upsetting the apple cart at the tournament. Argentina have the players, but do they have the willpower?
Group G sees another difficult to predict group with Africans Ghana looking to repeat their success of the previous two World Cup when they qualified for the knockout stages. In 2010 they cruelly went out of the World Cup on penalties to Uruguay. This time around they have to compete against tournament favorites Germany, with Marco Reus, Per MArtesacker and Mario Gotze among the star names. Then Portugal with Christiano "CR7" Ronaldo, will also be hot property. Ronaldo is a goal scoring machine - expect the goals to flow all the way to a probable semi final appearance for the Portuguese.
Group H sees tournament dark horses Belgium square off against Algeria, Russia and South Korea. Russia should progress along with Belgium in this group. the South Koreans have an outside chance, but that will depend on their ability to play as a team. Looks out for Belgian stars such as Eden Hazard, Romeu Lukaku and Jan Vertonghen to star in this tournament.
In the coming weeks previews for each group will be published in this blog. This was only a quick roundup of the draw.
The groups are as follows:
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