[WORLD CUP 2014: The Groups] South American giants Brazil and Argentina should be very happy with Friday's World Cup 2014 Final Draw. But it did give us several intriguing groups to rival Group G for the label of the group of death.
GROUP A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon).
The Aztecazo. Dos a
Cero. Four different coaches in five qualifiers. All that's out the window as Mexico's chances of returning to the round of 16 for the sixth straight tournament look a lot better than those of the USA
advancing from Group G. Yes, El Tri must play Brazil in Fortaleza -- they already played there at the Confederations Cup -- but it can get points off Cameroon (weakest of West African teams) and
Croatia (which it beat at the 1998 World Cup). Once Brazil avoided Italy in the Pot X draw, the draw only got better for the hosts, who will coast.
B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia).
The 2010 World Cup finalists meet on the second day of the tournament. Neither can be assured of advancing as Chile gives the group the best trio
of teams. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque wouldn't come out and call it the Group of Death, but he admitted the group is "complicated." Tim Cahill can console with his MLS friends about the draw. The Socceroos are in way over their heads.
Must-watch game: Spain vs.
Netherlands (June 13 in Salvador)
GROUP C (Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan).
Ivory Coast had no luck with the draw in 2006 (Argentina
and the Netherlands) or in 2010 (Brazil and Portugal), but this time Didier Drogba's Elephants at least have a chance. This is easily the most even group.
Indeed, it's the one group where the teams from the generally weaker Pots 2 and 3 have as much as chance of advancing as those from the stronger Pots 1 and 4.
GROUP D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy).
The mayor of Manaus said if England didn't want to play in Manaus, Manaus didn't want England. Well, England is opening against Italy
in Manaus. As the ninth European team drawn, Italy got a break when it avoided Brazil or Argentina, but the placement at D4 gives the Azzurri the same three venues as the USA but in different order:
Manaus first, then Recife and Natal. Uruguay-England puts Luis Suarez up against Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard.
Must-watch game: England vs. Uruguay (June 19 in Sao Paulo)
GROUP E (Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras).
Just a couple of weeks ago, it didn't look France would even qualify for the World Cup.
But the Bleus could very well end up winning the group. Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld admitted as much even though El Nati is the group seed. The Ecuador-Honduras
game will pit a pair of Colombian coaches against each other: Ecuador's Luis Rueda and Honduran boss Luis Suarez. They
know each other and their opposing teams very well. Rueda previously coached Honduras, and Suarez coached Ecuador.
GROUP F (Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
The consensus was that Argentina got the best draw of the eight seeds: newcomer BiH, longshot Iran and Nigeria, which has not out of the first round in its last two trips
to the finals. On top of that, Argentina will avoid Brazil until the final if they both wins their groups, and it gets an easy travel schedule: Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, then Porto Alegre, which
will almost be a home game.
GROUP H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea).
Belgium has the easiest travel schedule of any team. The
distance between the Red Devils' three games in Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo will get the USA about halfway from its base in Sao Paulo to Manaus.
Algeria, Russia and South Korea all can head home from Costa do Sauipe feelings pretty good about their chances. That's better than some others we know.