Defending champion Spain will play its opening 2014 World Cup game against the Netherlands, a repeat of the ill-tempered 2010 final, while host Brazil faces a relatively easy path to the knockout stage after Friday’s draw. Argentina, champion in 1978 and 1986, first plays Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomer among the 32 teams.
England’s first match will be in the heat and humidity of the Amazon basin, which coach Roy Hodgson was anxious to avoid. That night game in the Amazon city of Manaus pits the 1966 champion against Italy, a four-time winner. Both 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. We know how good Italy are because we lost to them in the quarterfinals at the Euros. The game is going to be tough from a climate point of view for both teams,” said Hodgson.
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 venue’s climate.
The United States was drawn into a tough group with Germany, the winner in 1954, 1974 and 1990, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Ghana, a quarterfinalist in 2010. The U.S. is coached by former Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann.
Argentina, big favourites
After their first game at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentine team of four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi then plays Iran and finally Nigeria. In six previous World Cup encounters, Nigeria has beaten Argentina just once. Argentina will be heavily favored to come out top of its Group F. If so, it could find either Switzerland or France in its way in its first knockout game. Those European nations will be hoping to come out on top of their Group E that also includes Ecuador and Honduras.
The Spain-Netherlands match is on June 13, a Friday. When they met at the 2010 final, referee Howard Webb showed a record 14 yellow cards, two leading to red for the Netherlands’ John Heitinga.
Brazil starts its campaign for a sixth World Cup title with an opener against Croatia. Mexico and Cameroon are also in the group. Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast