Five-time winner Brazil was stung by a tough draw for the 2010 World Cup on Friday while co-favorite Spain was given an easy ride through to the second round.
Brazil has to face two of the teams from the top 16 in FIFA’s rankings- Portugal and Ivory Coast. Also in the group is North Korea, an unknown quantity.
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“Having a difficult group like this is good because we’ll be focused,” Brazil coach Dunga said. “They won’t be easy games. The group is undoubtedly balanced, but we’re confident in our play.
“We’ll have to maintain the good play we’ve had of late – and work even harder. Every time Brazil takes the field, we’re expected to win. The pressure will be tough.”
European champion Spain, which has never won the World Cup, should easily make it through to the knockout phase, facing lower ranked Switzerland, Honduras and Chile and avoiding the tough opponents in the 32-team draw.
Coach Vicente Del Bosque is taking nothing for granted.
“Let’s not underestimate the three opponents we’re facing,” he said. “Every one has their difficulty. We already knew that we were going to be mentioned as the group favorites, but that’s something you have to prove on the pitch.”
Del Bosque wasn’t interesting in talking about a possible second-round meeting with Brazil or Portugal.
“That’s way ahead,” he said. “First we have to get through the first round.”
After qualifying via the playoffs thanks in part to Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland, France faces host South Africa with Mexico and Uruguay in Group A and has an easy task to get to the second round.
“I’m not relieved. We have been drawn in the host country’s group and it’s never easy,” said France coach Raymond Domenech, who has come under fire for the team’s poor form for two years. “We know how important it is to host in World Cup matches. It will be an away game (against South Africa).”
South Africa will face Mexico in the opening game on June 11 at Soccer City, one of six new or rebuilt stadiums at the tournament. Soccer City will also host the final on July 11.
England was drawn to face the United States, Algeria and Slovenia, which won a playoff to reach the competition, in Group C. England midfielder David Beckham, who took part in Friday’s draw, is set to face many of the Americans he regularly plays alongside and against in Major League Soccer in Rustenburg on June 12.
England and the United States have met only once before in the World Cup, with the Americans stunning their star-studded opponents 1-0 in a group game at the 1950 tournament.
“I think it will be not an easy game,” England coach Fabio Capello said. “It’s good. USA plays good and the Premier League is the best championship in the world. If you are playing in England, you are a really good player. Like basketball, if you are a European playing in the NBA, you are a good player.”
Germany, which has won the title three times, faces a tough group against Australia, Serbia and Ghana, but has not lost a World Cup group game since a 2-0 defeat to Denmark in 1986.
“It’s important to win the opening game (against Australia in Durban on June 13) and get the necessary confidence for the next two matches,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “The game against Australia will be very important. We already played them in an opening game, at the Confederations Cup (in 2005), and we won 4-3, with a lot of difficulty.
“I have great respect for Serbia. I have watched some videos of their qualifying games. They advanced easily, left France behind. They are very strong technically. They have very good players and a very good team.”
Ghana coach Milan Rajevac rued getting a tough group but was hopeful of advancing.
“It was not a lucky day for Ghana,” Rajevac said. “But I think we can reach the second round.”
Defending champion Italy, which is chasing its fifth World Cup title, should be confident of reaching the next stage after drawing New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia.
But coach Marcello Lippi, who returned to lead the side after guiding it to a fourth World Cup title in Germany in 2006, feared facing European champion Spain in the last eight.
“We could face a very tough opponent in the quarterfinals, if we get there,” Lippi said. “Being satisfied doesn’t mean we consider it an easy group. You’ve got to go game by game.”
The Netherlands, which won all its qualifying games, faces Japan, Cameroon and Denmark. The Dutch have reached the final twice and should prove strong enough to make it through to the second round.
Argentina, which only just made it after winning its final two qualifying games under coach Diego Maradona, must play Nigeria, South Korea and Greece, the Euro 2004 champion.
That is one of the tough groups and the pressure will be on Maradona, whose team struggled throughout the qualifying rounds, to get the best out of talented players such as Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.