For the 32 qualified teams, the World Cup draw can be a matter of "Group of Life" or "Group of Death." Aspirations of glory can be transformed into nightmares of early exits long before anyone's boot bends a blade of grass in the host nation.
As tends to be the case every four years, the so-called "Group(s) of Death" garnered the most conversation following the draw for the 2014 World Cup on Friday. Two groups that seem likely to prove deadliest to the title hopes of nations capable of deep runs in the tournament are B and G. The opening match in Group B is rematch of the final from the 2010 World Cup, with Spain and the Netherlands kicking it around in Salvador on June 13. In Group G, Germany finds itself piled up with Portugal, Ghana and the United States.
For all the post-draw angst generated by the travails -- and travels -- of the U.S. team and the inevitable hype ahead of the Spain-Netherlands rematch, it may be some of those teams lucky enough to land a spot in a "Group of Life" that people are still talking about as the 2014 World Cup progresses into the later rounds. After needing a stunning rally in a two-leg qualifying playoff pairing with the Ukraine just to secure a spot in the field of 32 teams, France found itself in arguably the most enviable position after the draw: Les Bleus landed in Group H with Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador. The Swiss were the lone seeded team in the group after a 14-game unbeaten run during qualification vaulted them up the FIFA rankings. Recent hot streak aside, most teams would rather face Switzerland than unseeded teams Italy, England and the Netherlands.
"Of course we're smiling. It could have been worse, but the matches still have to be played. A World Cup is never easy," France midfielder Yohan Cabaye cautioned after draw on TMC, via ESPN FC. "We don't know Honduras and Ecuador very well, so we have to be careful and not lack respect towards those nations."
While France's second-round prospects seem bright, several other nations also had reason to feel quite optimistic. Like France, Argentina was pleased with the outcome of the draw. Lionel Messi and company headline Group F and will face Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran in the first round.
"It's been a positive draw," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said, via The Guardian. "We know Bosnia because we played against them recently. I know less about Iran and as for Nigeria, we know them because we've played them in a few World Cups, they are very strong physically."
Like France and Argentina, Belgium managed to avoid facing a traditional European or South American powerhouse in the group stage. The class of Group H, Belgium will see Russia, Algeria and South Korea in the opening round. This group gives the Red Devils "one of the easiest routes to the last 16 that they could have possibly wished for," wrote Kris Voakes of Goal.com.
While seemingly relieved to have avoided the powerhouses nations in the opening round, Belgian defender Vincent Kompany addressed the downsides to a coveted berth in a "Group of Life."
Belgium, Algeria, Korea Republic, Russia. Interesting but tricky because there is no hiding for us, next round is a must. #Belgium
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) December 6, 2013
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