If you have been living under a rock or have not paid attention to the biggest event in December in the biggest sport in the world, the World Cup final draw aired at 11:45 AM EST and just wrapped up moments ago. Think of it as the March Madness bracket unveiling, except instead of college teams, it’s entire countries being drawn out of a bowl.
So, let’s get started, group by group:
- Group A: Brazil was going to be in this group, as it is the host country. Unfortunately, Croatia (I went there two years ago for a study abroad trip, so they are my 2nd-favorite team!) also joined them in the same group - these two look like the early favorites here, as Mexico barely made it (they had to go into a playoff against New Zealand) to the 2014 World Cup. The Brazil-Croatia game is the FIRST game to open up the World Cup and so I will be watching.
- Group B: This has to be the 3rd-toughest “Group of Death” - you have Spain (#1 in the world); Netherlands (9th); Chile (15th) and Australia (59th). The prohibitive favorites are Spain and Chile, although the opening round game of Spain and Netherlands will be fun to watch.
- Group C: A decent group here, with no major soccer superpower superstars, with Colombia (4th); Greece (12th); Ivory Coast (17th) and Japan (48th). The game to watch in the group stage would be Colombia against Didier Drogba and Ivory Coast. Here, I think Colombia and Greece will advance.
- Group D: England pulled the short straw, as this group is, at first glance, THE “Group of Death”. You have Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez and 6th-ranked Uruguay; 31st-ranked Costa Rica; Wayne Rooney and 13th-ranked England, and 7th-ranked Italy, with Chad
Ochocinco Johnson look-alike in Mario Balotelli. England-Italy, Italy-Uruguay and England-Uruguay should all be exciting matches. My favorites: Italy and Uruguay.
- Group E: This is EASILY the WEAKEST group in next year’s World Cup, with Switzerland (8th); Ecuador (23rd); France (19th) and Honduras (41st). I can’t think of a star player outside of French midfielder Samir (shares the same name as me!) Nasri. Here, Ecuador and France will advance.
- Group F: Here, you have one EASY favorite (Lionel Messi - my FAVORITE soccer player - and 3rd-ranked Argentina), and the rest scrubs. Boznia-Hertzgovina (21st) is making its first World Cup and would make a nice Cinderella story. The others (Iran - 45th and Nigeria - 36th) are like the bottom-dwellers, a la Charlotte Bobcats/Jacksonville Jaguars/Houston Astros, of this group.
- Group G: Like England in Group D, the US (14th) got a VERY difficult draw in Group G, with USA-killer in Ghana (24th), Germany (2nd) and Cristiano Ronaldo and 5th-ranked Portugal. I pray HARD that the US advances to the tournament, as this group could EASILY be the 2nd (or in some cases) THE “Group of Death”. No easy matchups here. Throughout today’s drawings, I was hoping the US would get into either Groups E or H - the two weakest heading into July’s World Cup. ALL of the group stage games will be entertaining, and I am looking forward to these matches in six months’ time. Here, unfortunately, a young and powerful German squad and Ronaldo’s Portugal squad will advance.
- Group H: This group is possibly weaker than Group E. You have Belgium (11th); Algeria (26th); Russia (22nd) and South Korea (54th). On second thought, it IS the weakest group. No interesting/intriguing games here - Belgium and Russia should easily advance.
Well, that’s all for now! I’m looking forward to watching some spectacular games in half-a-year’s time from now.