RIO DE JANEIRO - The first major World
Cup milestone on the road from Soccer City to "Soccer Country"
will be reached on Saturday when the draw for the preliminary
round of the 2014 finals takes place in the home of five-times
world champions Brazil.
Little more than a year since Spain beat Netherlands in the
World Cup final in Johannesburg, the world champions' name will
go into one of the dozens of Perspex bowls to be used as they
discover who they will face in the defence of their trophy.
A total of 824 matches will take place before the identity
of the 31 nations joining hosts Brazil in the finals will be
revealed by November 2013.
The days when the draw consisted of middle-aged men in suits
sitting at a desk pulling balls out of velvet bags are long gone
of course and Saturday's 100-minute ceremony has cost more than
$30 million and will be broadcast live around the globe.
It will take place in a specially constructed auditorium at
Marina da Gloria not far from the Sugar Loaf mountain because
there was no other suitable building in Rio available to house
more than 1,000 attending dignitaries.
"All the planning for this event began over a year ago and
it has taken two months to set everything up. We are hoping to
put on a great event that makes Brazil proud and shows the world
we are ready to host the World Cup," Joana Havelange, the
director of the local organising committee and the
grand-daughter of former FIFA president Joao Havelange, told
Ten former and current Brazilian international players
including World Cup winner Ronaldo and current young hopes
Neymar and Ganso will assist with the draw for five of FIFA's
There will be no draw for the South American confederation,
whose nine contenders will play each other in a single league
system, seeking to make, for them, the relatively short trip to
Brazil in three years time.
FIFA's Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who will conduct the
draw ceremony, highlighted that the proceedings are more than
just a showbiz extravaganza.
"Due to political sensitivities, Georgia and Russia and also
Azerbaijan and Armenia will not be in the same group and if
they are drawn together we will change the order," he said.
All the draws will be based on FIFA's current world rankings
which could produce some intriguing battles, especially in
Europe where former world champions France are among the
second-seeded teams and could face the likes of the world
champions, England, Germany or Italy, who they met in the 2006
Vicente del Bosque, who guided Spain to success in South
Africa last year, Laurent Blanc of France, Guus Hiddink of
Turkey, Fabio Capello of England and naturally, Mario Menezes of
Brazil, are a few of the 38 national coaches attending the draw.
While some preliminary qualifiers have already taken place,
the competition will begin properly later this year and be
completed by November 2013.
FIFA said on Wednesday the finals will be staged from June
12 to July 13 in 2014.
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