Brazil start quest for sixth title against Croatia

Fri Dec 6, 2013 7:09pm EST
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By Mike Collett

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (Reuters) - - Hosts Brazil will get the ball rolling against Croatia, holders Spain face 2010 runners-up Netherlands and U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann is up against compatriots Germany after Friday's World Cup draw.

For a few hours at least the problems concerning stadium construction, infrastructure costs, and civil unrest surrounding the staging of next year's World Cup were forgotten as soccer took center stage in the north-eastern holiday resort in Bahia.

Following a brief tribute to former South Africa president Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, more than 2,000 celebrities, guests and media endured a typically cheesy stage show before the serious business started and the 32 finalists were placed in their eight first-round groups of four.

At least two of those groups produced tough obstacles for their participants to progress to the knockout rounds.

The first is Group B which features world and European champions Spain, their final opponents from four years ago the Netherlands, the dangerous Chile and the whipping boys from Australia, at 59 the lowest ranked team in the tournament.

The other gruelling-looking quartet involves three teams who have won the World Cup seven times between them - South American champions Uruguay (two titles), Italy (4) and England (1) - plus the unpredictable Costa Rica in Group D.

England and Italy will meet in their opening match in Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon jungle on June 14.

Among the standout first round games are three-times world champions Germany, who won one of their titles with Klinsmann in the side in 1990, playing his United States team.   Continued...

The groups for the 2014 World Cup finals are shown on the screen after the draw was made at the Costa do Sauipe resort in Sao Joao da Mata, Bahia state, December 6, 2013.REUTERS/Sergio Moraes