Draw produces two groups of death and keeps Brazil’s chances firmly alive
So smiles for Brazil, Belgium, France and Switzerland while Spain, the Netherlands, England and Germany are among those less than impressed with last night’s World Cup draw.
The ceremony threw up two immediate candidates for the ubiquitous ‘Group of Death’: Group B of Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia and Group G of Germany, Portugal, Ghana and USA.
Based on FIFA’s rankings points it’s the latter that’s statistically the stronger, but it’s strange to think that when the second round begins one of the holders, the 2010 finalists and Chile won’t be featuring.
For the Dutch, it’s the third successive World Cup where they’ve had to negotiate their way through a tough round of opening fixtures.
In 2006 they had Argentina, Serbia and the Ivory Coast for company and in 2010 the slightly more manageable trio of Japan, Denmark and Cameroon.
The Spanish won’t exactly be enamoured with the draw either, especially given whoever finishes runners-up is likely to have to meet Brazil in the Round of 16, assuming the hosts top a very winnable group of Mexico, Cameroon and Croatia.
With La Roja and De Oranje to meet in what is likely to be a cagey group opener, it could be Chile – in familiar conditions – who profit the most as they play Australia who may have to just enjoy the fact they’re doing well in the cricket.
Group G offers up the nice narrative of Germany against Jurgen Klinsmann, with the former Mannschaft striker and Joachim Low’s ex-boss now USA coach.
Cristiano Ronaldo v Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Germany’s abundance of individual stars is another battle to relish. Especially given Portugal's propensity to play on the break, supposedly Germany’s Achilles heel.
But aside from Brazil the real winners were the less established seeds Belgium and Switzerland.
Marc Wilmots’ talented Belgian outfit are yet to convince against the world’s elite but should be nicely introduced into their first World Cup for over a decade against Algeria, Russia and South Korea.
The Swiss meanwhile have France, Ecuador and Honduras alongside them. It’s difficult to see how it could have gone better for them, or Les Bleus for that matter.
But arguably the feel-good story of the night is that the only newcomers, Bosnia-Herzegovina, get to play Argentina at the Maracana in their opening fixture.