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Spain get repeat of ’10 final

- Former winners Italy, Uruguay & England grouped together

Costa Do Sauipe: Defending champions Spain will play their opening 2014 World Cup game against the Netherlands, a repeat of the ill-tempered 2010 final, while hosts Brazil face a relatively easy path to the knock-out stage after Friday’s draw.

Argentina, champions in 1978 and 1986, first play Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomers among the 32 teams. After that game at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentine team of four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi then play Iran and finally Nigeria.

In six previous World Cup encounters, Nigeria have beaten Argentina just once.

Argentina will be heavily favoured to come out top of their Group F. If so, their could find either Switzerland or France in its way in their first knock-out 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.

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 champions against Italy, four-time winners.

Both will have to play their best to advance from Group D, since it also includes 2010 semi-finalists 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 quarter finals 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 were drawn into a tough group with Germany, winners in 1954, 1974 and 1990, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Ghana, a quarter finalist in 2010. The US are coached by former Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann.

The US meet Portugal and 2008 Fifa Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo on June 22 in the Amazon rain forest city Manaus. The Americans close group play on June 26 in Recife against Germany, who beat the US in the 2002 quarter final.

“Difficult draw, but a group the US can get through if they play well,” former US coach Bruce Arena said.

The United States, ranked 14th in the world, have alternated quick exits with advancement since returning to soccer’s showcase in 1990.

Second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Portugal are the favourites to advance to the second round. The US will feel pressure to open with a win against Ghana, who are ranked 24th.

At the 2002 tournament, the US opened with a 3-2 upset of Portugal.

Brazil start their campaign for a sixth World Cup title with an opener against Croatia. Mexico and Cameroon are also in the group.

Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are in Group C, with Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy in a strong Group D.

One of the easiest groups on paper looked to be E, with Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras.

Russia, host of the 2018 World Cup, are in Group H with Belgium, Algeria and Korea.

The Groupings

Group A

Brazil
Croatia
Mexico
Cameroon

Group B

Spain
Netherlands
Chile
Australia

Group C

Colombia
Greece
Ivory Coast
Japan

Group D

Uruguay
Costa Rica
England
Italy

Group E

Switzerland
Ecuador
France
Honduras

Group F

Argentina
Bosnia
Iran
Nigeria

Group G

Germany
Portugal
Ghana
US

Group H

Belgium
Algeria
Russia
S. Korea