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Dec 6, 2013

Spain to open vs Netherlands

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil -- World champions Spain will open their defence of the title at the 2014 World Cup play with a rematch of the 2010 final against Netherlands, while hosts Brazil kick off against Croatia and the United States was drawn in the tournament's Group of Death.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup draw has provided some fascinating groups.
All 32 qualified nations finally learned their fate for the group stage.

The draw, which opened with a tribute to Nelson Mandela, saw Brazil alongside Mexico and Cameroon in Group A, while Spain were drawn in Group B with Chile -- who they also faced en route to lifting the trophy in South Africa in 2010 -- and Australia, as well as the Netherlands.

"I said this morning that we would get Holland in the first game, and look what happened," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "What fortune! It is up to us to be very good from the first day. The Dutch will demand the best from us. From there, it could all depend on us and our mental preparation."

Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece are together in Group C. South American champions Uruguay, Euro 2012 finalists Italy, Costa Rica and England are in a highly competitive Group D. Switzerland, Honduras, Ecuador and France are in Group E.

Argentina, Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina are in Group F. Bosnia-Herzegovina -- the only debutant at next year's finals -- will play their first-ever World Cup match against Argentina.

Group G looks set to be this tournament's 'Group of Death', containing Germany, Ghana, United States and Portugal. Belgium, South Korea, Algeria and Russia complete the draw in Group H.

Mexico will play their first match against Cameroon, while the USA take on their 2010 second-round conquerors, Ghana, in their opener.

Making their seventh straight World Cup appearance, the Americans will open on June 16 in Natal.

"I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Obviously it's one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw, having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the United States. It couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger."

With the longest travel schedule of any World Cup team at almost 9,000 miles, the US meet Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo on June 22 in the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus.

They close their group against Germany in Recife on June 26 in Recife, facing the team that beat them in the 2002 quarter-finals.

In Group D, Italy start against England, who they defeated in a penalty shootout at Euro 2012 before losing to Spain in the final.

"It’s a tough group, no doubt about that," England manager Roy Hodgson said. "With Uruguay and Italy, we’ve almost got two No. 1 seeds, because Italy were very unlucky not to be seeded amongst the first eight. We know how good they are, because we lost to them in the Euros."

Argentina, champions in 1978 and 1986, first play Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomers among the 32 teams. After that game at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the Argentine team of four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi then play Iran and finally Nigeria. In six previous World Cup encounters, Nigeria have beaten Argentina just once.

None of the previous seven World Cups held in the Americas, starting with the first edition in Uruguay in 1930, was won by a European team.

A film shown at the start of the ceremony showed Mandela at the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and other images from the life of the anti-apartheid campaigner and former president, who died Thursday at 95. A minute's silence was then held to honour Mandela.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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