Defending champion Spain gets repeat of 2010 final
Defending champion Spain will play its opening 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.
The draw was full of bad news for the United States, which has
the toughest group and the worst travel schedule. The U.S. opens
with African power Ghana on June 16 on the coast in Natal, then
plays Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Amazon rain forest city
of Manaus. The Americans then go to back to the northern coast to
play Germany, one of the favorites, in Recife.
”I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get
Germany,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who played for
Germany’s 1990 World Cup championship team and coached his native
country to third place in 2006. ”Obviously it’s one of the most
difficult groups in the whole draw.”
Brazil starts its campaign for a sixth World Cup title with an
opener against Croatia. Mexico, which struggled to qualify, and
Cameroon are also in the group.
Argentina, champion in 1978 and 1986, first plays
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomer among the 32 teams.
After that game in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentine team and four-time
world player of the year Lionel Messi plays Iran and Nigeria. In
six previous World Cup encounters, Nigeria has beaten Argentina
Argentina will be heavily favored to come out on top of Group F.
If so, it could find either Switzerland or France in its first
knockout game. Those European nations will be hoping to come out on
top of their Group E that includes Ecuador and Honduras.
The Spain-Netherlands match is on June 13. When they met at the
2010 final, referee Howard Webb showed a record 14 yellow cards.
Chile and Australia are the other two teams in the Group B.
England’s first match will be against four-time champion Italy
in the heat and humidity of the Amazon basin, which coach Roy
Hodgson had said he wanted to avoid.
Italy and England will have to play their best to advance from
Group D, since it also includes 2010 semifinalist Uruguay and Costa
”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,” Hodgson said.
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 climate.
Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are in Group C.
One of the easiest groups on paper looked to be E, with
Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras.
Russia, host of the next World Cup, is in Group H with Belgium,
Algeria and Korea.