Road to Rio in 2014 starts now
Monday, 1st August 2011 at 10:16am
In a little under three years, 31 of the world's best football teams will join host nation Brazil for the 20th edition of the Fifa World Cup in what is likely to be a tournament quite unlike any that has gone before. If there are two things Brazilians love it is football and partying; the 2014 World Cup is going to give the hosts ample opportunity to both, especially if they win.
The road to Brazil started last weekend when the attention of the football world turned its focus towards the Marina de Gloria in Rio de Janeiro for the draw which determined the qualifying rounds for the next tournament.
Former stars from the Brazilian game were on hand to make the draw which took place in front of managers and officials from the world's footballing nations as well as the gathered media.
91 years to the day when Uruguay became World Champions for the first time, Fifa President Sepp Blatter invited the world to the 2014 party: "The world is expecting a wonderful FIFA World Cup and for that we will have the support of everyone, in particular the 190million football lovers. Brazil is not only about football, it's also a multicultural country with a rich culture and a booming economy, now ranked seventh in the world. I'm happy to say today: 'Let the 2014 FIFA World Cup begin'."
Defending champions Spain were paired with 1998 World Cup winners and 2006 runners up France in what will be two eagerly anticipated encounters, as well as Belarus, Georgia and Finland.
Spain coach Vincente Del Bosque was quick to remind Spanish football fans that the other teams in their group possessed a threat and not just France: "If you concentrate too much on France, you can fail against any other opponent, and complicate your qualification in the same way."
"It's to be expected that we drew a big fish as we were not seeded. It's a difficult group, but I hope anyway the best two will go through," said Laurent Blanc, coach of the French national team.
England take on old rivals Poland once more after the two teams were paired in the same qualifying group yet again. England will also face several more trips to Eastern Europe after the Three Lions were also drawn against Montenegro, the Ukraine and Moldova along with European minnows San Marino, a team that shocked England in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley in 1993 when they took the lead after just 8.3 seconds - the fastest goal in international football history - before losing the match 7-1.
"Ukraine and Montenegro are going to be tough. If we can beat Montenegro in our EURO group, that would be important for the confidence of the team," said England coach Fabio Capello who was in attendance but won't be guiding England to Brazil as he will step aside after Euro 2012.
The draws also took place for the Oceania, African and North, Central and Caribbean Zones, while the South American teams will all face each other in a nine-team league.
A total of 824 matches will take place between the 203 nations hoping to qualify for Brazil between now and 2013.
The complete draw for Brazil 2014 is as follows:
African Zone Draw
Group A: South Africa, Botswana, Central African Republic, Somalia or Ethiopia
Group B: Tunisia, Cape Verde Islands, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea or Madagascar
Group C: Cte d'Ivoire, Morocco, Gambia, Chad or Tanzania
Group D: Ghana, Zambia, Sudan, Lesotho or Burundi
Group E: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Niger, Sao Tome e Principe or Congo
Group F: Nigeria, Malawi, Seychelles or Kenya, Djibouti or Namibia
Group G: Egypt, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Comoros or Mozambique
Group H: Algeria, Mali, Benin, Eritrea or Rwanda
Group I: Cameroon, Libya, Guinea-Bissau or Togo, Swaziland or Congo DR
Group J: Senegal, Uganda, Angola, Mauritius or Liberia
Asian Zone Draw
Group A: China, Jordan, Iraq, Singapore
Group B: Korea Republic, Kuwait, UAE, Lebanon
Group C: Japan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Korea DPR
Group D: Australia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Thailand
Group E: Iran, Qatar, Bahrain, Indonesia
North, Central America and the Caribbean Zone Draw (Round Two)
Group A: El Salvador, Surinam, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic
Group B: Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, Bermuda
Group C: Panama, Dominica, Nicaragua, Bahamas
Group D: Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico, St Lucia
Group E: Grenada, Guatemala, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize
Group F: Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Curacao, US Virgin Islands
North, Central America and the Caribbean Zone Draw (Round Three)
Group A: USA, Jamaica, Winner of R2 Grp E, Winner of R2 Grp F
Group B: Mexico, Costa Rica, Winner of R2 Grp A, Winner of R2 Grp B
Group C: Honduras, Cuba, Winner of R2 Grp D, Winner of R2 Grp C
Oceanian Zone Draw
Group A: Vanuatu, New Caledonia, American Samoa/Cook Islands/Samoa or Tonga, Tahiti
Group B: Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea
European Zone Draw
Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales
Group B: Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta.
Group C: Germany, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan.
Group D: Netherlands, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Andorra.
Group E: Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland.
Group F: Portugal, Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg
Group G: Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Lichtenstein
Group H: England, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, San Marino
Group I: Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland