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Former Brazil soccer player Cafu holds the slip showing "Brazil" during the draw for the 2014 World Cup (Reuters)

Former Brazil soccer player Cafu holds the slip showing "Brazil" during the draw for the 2014 World Cup

(Reuters)

SOCCER

Brazil faces Croatia in World Cup opener; USA, Germany and Portugal in 'Group of Death' Add to ...

Host nation Brazil will kick off next year’s soccer World Cup against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12 following the draw held on Friday. Brazil were grouped with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.

Defending World Cup champions Spain will begin defence of their title against the Netherlands, a rematch of the 2010 final in South Africa. Spain will also face Chile in Group B in another rematch from four years ago which saw the Chileans fail to advance out of the group stage.

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England have drawn four-time World Cup champions Italy in their opening match in Group D, a repeat of the Euro 2012 quarter-final which the Italians won on penalties. There is also a meeting with Uruguay, the 2011 Copa America winners and a semi-finalists at the last World Cup

France and Argentina appeared to have drawn favourable matchups - France in Group E with seeded team Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras while Argentina gets first time World Cup qualifiers Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F.

GROUP OF DEATH 1

Group G is shaping up to be the early favourite for the "Group of Death" designation with the United States, Ghana, Portugal and Germany having been drawn together. The Americans will face teams which eliminated them from the last three tournaments. They will open against Ghana, which eliminated the USA from the last two World Cups and will close against Germany, which eliminated them in the 2002 quarterfinal. That game will also pit current U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann against a team he starred with on the international stage. With the longest travel schedule of any World Cup team at almost 9,000 miles, the U.S. meets Portugal and Cristian Ronaldo in the Amazon rain forest city Manaus. At the 2002 tournament, the U.S. opened with a 3-2 upset of Portugal.

GROUP OF DEATH 2

England coach Roy Hodgson, speaking to the BBC, about England's Group D pairing: “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. We’re both in the same boat. There were not going to be many scenarios where we were going to be jumping for joy. It doesn’t surprise us. I suppose one positive is that we have only got one long trip then the other two are in the same neck of the woods.”

BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER - ROUND 2

The World Cup draw on Friday also pitted brother agianst brother with Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng set to face his half brother Jerome, who plays for Germany, on June 21st. “Brother, it’s time again... that’s how beautiful life is!” Kevin-Prince tweeted out when the two teams were drawn together in Group G. It's the second straight time the two brothers will face each other at the World Cup level. Germany beat Ghana 1-0 at the 2010 tournament in South Africa. That was the first time in tournament history that brothers met face to face on opposite sides.

NELSON MANDELA HONOURED

The draw ceremony for the World Cup opened with a tribute to Nelson Mandela. A film shown at the start of the ceremony showed Mandela at the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and other images from the life of the anti-apartheid campaigner who died Thursday at 95. A minute’s silence was then held to honour Mandela.

WHO GOES TO THE KNOCKOUT ROUNDS?

Each team plays one game against every other team in the group. Teams earn three points for each win and one point for a tie, with a loss getting you nothing. Based on point totals, the top two teams in each group advance to the round of 16. Simple, right? Come on, this is FIFA. If two teams should end with the same amount of points, the first tiebreaker is goal difference – the number of goals scored minus the number of goals allowed. If that’s still not enough, the next tiebreaker is who scored the greatest number of goals in all group matches.

There are additional tiebreakers in place, but that’s for another day.

RESULTS OF THE DRAW

GROUP A: Brazil, Cameroon, Mexico, Croatia

GROUP B: Spain, Chile, Australia, Netherlands

GROUP C: Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan, Greece

GROUP D: Uruguay, Italy, Costa Rica, England

GROUP E: Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras, France

GROUP F: Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina

GROUP G: Germany, Ghana, United States, Portugal

GROUP H: Belgium, Algeria, South Korea, Russia

(Files from the Associated Press were used in this report)

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