The 2014 World Cup draw took place this morning in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil … and there’s little doubt Australia is in its very own group of death.
But what does the draw mean to the other 31 teams?
After tributes to Nelson Mandela and performances from traditional Samba to Brazilian hip hop, a plethora of football royalty including Sir Geoff Hurst, Zinedine Zidane, Alcides Ghiggia, Mario Kempes, Fabio Cannavaro, Lothar Matthaus, Fernando Hierro and Cafu helped draw the eight groups.
With some of the world’s best teams now expected to exit in the group stages and a few more surprises likely to be made, just which team has the best path to glory?
FIFA ranking: 10
Best finish: Champions (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Star player: Neymar
Draw: Avoided the possibility of drawing two European superpowers. The hosts will open the tournament against Croatia in a game in which nothing but a win is expected. A possible clash with 2010 finalists Spain or the Netherlands is on the cards for the Round of 16.
Prediction: Expect them to pass through this group with relatively ease.
FIFA ranking: 16
Best finish: Third (1998)
Coach: Niko Kovac
Star player: Luka Modric
Draw: Would be relatively happy avoiding a second European nation. The Balkan nation will participate in the tournament opener against Brazil. Their match against Mexico is looming as the key match for them if they hope to qualify for the knockout stages.
Prediction: Expect them to scrape through this group in second spot with a superpower in the Netherlands, Spain or Chile waiting for them in the Round of 16.
FIFA ranking: 20
Best finish: Quarter-finals (1970, 1986)
Coach: Miguel Herrera
Star player: Javier Hernandez
Draw: Mexico will fancy their chances of qualifying past the group stage. A win in their opener against Cameroon would go a long way to securing that.
Prediction: Their chances will go down to their final group match with Croatia but they seem more likely to slip up than their opponents.
FIFA ranking: 51
Best finish: Quarter-finals (1990)
Coach: Volker Finke
Star player: Samuel Eto
Draw: Cameroon certainly drew a short straw. One of their positives going into the tournament is that they defeated the hosts Brazil the last time they met in 2012. If they are able to get a result against Mexico in their first game, they could cause a surprise and finish second in the group.
Prediction: If Samuel Eto can bang in the goals, Cameroon will have a chance of passing the group stage but I still expect them to finish bottom of the group.
FIFA ranking: 1
Best finish: Champions (2010)
Coach: Vincent del Bosque
Star player: Andres Iniesta
Draw: As the reigning World and European champions, Spain will fear no one going into the tournament. Spain’s opener against the Netherlands will be marked as the game to watch in the group stages. Spain also has never lost to Chile in their 10 games.
Prediction: It will not be easy, but Spain is still the top-ranked team in the world and should finish in the top two here. With Brazil likely to finish first in Group A, Spain will be aiming to finish on top of the table in order to avoid the hosts.
FIFA ranking: 9
Best finish: Runners-up (1974, 1978, 2010)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Star player: Arjen Robben
Draw: With the Netherlands unseeded, they were always going to come against some quality opponents. The Oranje will seek to exact revenge for their 2010 World Cup Final loss against Spain. The Netherlands should also be wary of Chile.
Prediction: Could be the biggest casualty in the group stage of the World Cup. However, with a squad brimming with quality, you’d expect them to finish second in the group and face Brazil in the Round of 16.
FIFA ranking: 15
Best finish: Third (1962)
Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
Star player: Alexis Sanchez
Draw: Chile will not be afraid of the European powerhouses as no European team has won a World Cup played in the Americas. Chile will back themselves to claim a comfortable win in their opener against Australia. Alexis Sanchez will be their key player and may possess some good information against the Spain side, which features a number of his Barcelona teammates.
Prediction: Chile will be the dark horse in this group and can certainly make it out alive. However, if the Netherlands and Spain are at their best, Chile should finish in third spot.
FIFA ranking: 59
Best finish: Round of 16 (2006)
Coach: Ange Postecoglou
Star player: Tim Cahill
Draw: It simply could not get any tougher for the Socceroos. Australia will hope to cause a surprise against Chile in their opener, a rematch of the 0-0 1974 World Cup clash. Australia has never faced Spain and the Socceroos are unbeaten against the Netherlands with a win and two draws
Prediction: Unfortunately it does not look good for the Socceroos. Expect them to finish bottom of the group.
FIFA ranking: 4
Best finish: Round of 16 (1990)
Coach: Jose Pekerman
Star player: Radamel Falcao
Draw: Will be ecstatic not drawing any European powerhouse. Colombia will go into this group as heavy favourites to finish on top. They also have never lost to Greece and Japan while it will be the first time they face Cote d’Ivoire.
Prediction: Colombia should past this group quite comfortably in top spot — however, if they are not on top of their game, a potential slip-up may be on the cards.
FIFA ranking: 12
Best finish: Round 1 (1994, 2010)
Coach: Fernando Santos
Star player: Giorgos Samaras
Draw: It is not the toughest draw for Greece but it will be difficult. Their clashes with Japan and Cote d’Ivoire will be the key to passing the group stage.
Prediction: Greece is ranked highly by the FIFA rankings, but their squad lacks quality and depth. Expect them to be knocked out in the group stage.
FIFA ranking: 17
Best finish: Round 1 (2006, 2010)
Coach: Sabri Lamouci
Star player: Yaya Toure
Draw: Would be happy that they are not in the Group of Death like in their previous two World Cup appearances. The only team from the group they have faced in the past is Japan, with their last clash resulting in a 2-0 victory.
Prediction: The Africans should be on their way to their best result at a World Cup. Cote d’Ivoire should not have too many problems against Japan along with Greece and may even surprise Colombia.
FIFA ranking: 48
Best finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010)
Coach: Alberto Zaccheroni
Star player: Keisuke Honda
Draw: The Blue Samurai will be quite pleased with their draw and will fancy their chances to progress. If Japan is allowed by the other three teams to play their free-flowing football, the likes of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawi can light up the tournament.
Prediction: Japan will be right in this group but may just miss out on the knockout stages. Their opening clash with Cote d’Ivoire will be their most important game.
FIFA ranking: 6
Best finish: Champions (1930, 1950)
Coach: Oscar Tabarez
Star player: Luis Suarez
Draw: Any team drawing England and Italy is up for a tough task. Uruguay’s second group game against England will be a highlight of the group stage as Luis Suarez is set to take on some of his Liverpool opponents. The South Americans have also never lost to Italy in regular time outside of Italian soil.
Prediction: Uruguay’s attack is their key to their World Cup Campaign with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani needing to be at their best. Uruguay should be good enough to scrape through and could go on past the Round of 16.
FIFA ranking: 31
Best finish: Round of 16 (1990)
Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
Star player: Bryan Ruiz
Draw: Much like the Socceroos, Costa Rica were handed a horror draw. Costa Rica will be looking to seek revenge on Uruguay for their exit at the hands of the South Americans in the 2010 World Cup intercontinental play off.
Prediction: Costa Rica has never beaten Uruguay or Italy, and I don’t expect history to be made here. It will be their first clash against England but another loss is expected there. Unfortunately Costa Rica seems doomed to finish bottom.
FIFA ranking: 13
Best finish: Champions (1966)
Coach: Roy Hodgson
Star player: Wayne Rooney
Draw: It would not be a World Cup without England involved in some sort of drama. This time it is their difficult draw against Italy and Uruguay. However, England did beat both teams the last time they played, both by the same 2-1 scoreline.
Prediction: With a large supporter base headed over to Brazil, the English fans will be expecting qualification past the group stage. Expect them to fight for one of two spots with Uruguay and Italy, but I’m predicting they might just fall short.
FIFA ranking: 7
Best finish: Champions (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
Star player: Mario Balotelli
Draw: Handed the short straw from FIFA, Italy were drawn from Pot 4 to be placed in Pot 2. This meant the Italians had to meet a fellow European nation and a South American seed despite being ranked the seventh-best team in the world.
Prediction: If Mario Balotelli can stay in control and fire in Brazil, Italy will be one of the teams to watch out for. Their opening game with England is all important but the Azzurri should be good enough to pass the tests of Italy and Uruguay and help erase the failure of 2010.
FIFA ranking: 8
Best finish: Quarter-finals (1934, 1938, 1954)
Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld
Star player: Gokhan Inler
Draw: Being seeded, Switzerland avoids facing one of the top nations in group stage. Although they have drawn France, Switzerland will fancy their chances over Les Bleus, who’ve seemed to implode in major tournaments of late.
Prediction: Switzerland should be good enough to finish in the top two of the group and will hope to finish first to avoid a potential clash with Argentina in the Round of 16.
FIFA ranking: 23
Best finish: Round of 16 (2006)
Coach: Reinaldo Rueda
Star player: Antonio Valencia
Draw: Almost all teams would have hoped to draw Switzerland from the seeded pot 1. Led by Manchester United star Antonio Valenica, Ecuador will hope to surprise both France and Switzerland. A surprise stat in this group is that they have only beaten Honduras three times in regular time in 13 attempts.
Prediction: Ecuador will test all three teams in the group but a third place finish seems likely as France and Switzerland could be too good.
FIFA ranking: 19
Best finish: Champions (1998)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Star Player: Franck Ribery
Draw: Les Bleus will be extremely happy with their draw. If France is able to avoid a repeat of the catastrophe of the 2010 World Cup, the three opposing teams should be no serious challenge.
Prediction: If the French avoid blowing up internally — no guarantees there! — the Europeans should finish in top spot of the group and challenge any team they face in the knockout stages.
FIFA ranking: 42
Best finish: Round 1 (1982, 2010)
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Star player: Wilson Palacios
Draw: This is not the most difficult task Honduras could have received. Their 0-0 draw against Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup will give the minnows confidence. The downside is that Honduras faces France in their opening clash and a poor result could end their tournament early.
Prediction: Honduras may surprise a few teams and their star striker Carlo Costly may stop either Ecuador or Switzerland advancing from the group stage. But a likely bottom place finish seems the likely outcome.
FIFA ranking: 3
Best finish: Champions (1978, 1986)
Coach: Alejandro Sabella
Star player: Lionel Messi
Draw: Argentina will be one of the happiest seeded teams with the draw they received. Looking for their third World Cup, Lionel Messi will be looking to score some goals in the group stage to calm his nerves before the knockout stages.
Prediction: Argentina should pass this group quite comfortably and expect to beat anyone from Group E in their Round of 16 clash. Messi may have his best chance to get his hands on the one trophy that has eluded him so far.
FIFA ranking: 21
Best finish: N/A – first time qualified.
Coach: Safet Susic
Star player: Edin Dzeko
Draw: Playing in their first world cup as an independent nation, Bosnia has never beaten Iran or Argentina and they’re yet to play Nigeria. That being said, Bosnia may have a difficult task but will back themselves against all three teams.
Prediction: Bosnia will be relying on the experiences of players such as Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Emir Spahic. If the Bosnians can keep their nerve on the world stage, they should qualify second in the group.
FIFA ranking: 45
Best finish: Round 1 (1978, 1998, 2006)
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Star player: Javad Nekounam
Draw: Iran would be pleased to avoid a powerhouse from the European pot 4. Bosnia and Nigeria are by no means assured of an easy fixture against the only Middle Eastern team. However, their match against Argentina may end up with a big scoreline.
Prediction: Iran will fight until the final match day but unfortunately Nigeria and Bosnia look a bit too strong for them in competition for second spot.
FIFA ranking: 36
Best finish: Round of 16 (1994, 1998)
Coach: Stephen Keshi
Star player: Victor Moses
Draw: For the fourth time in their five World Cup appearances, Nigeria have drawn Argentina in the group stage. Their previous three clashes ended in losses by a sole goal. The Africans will be confident against both Iran and Bosnia.
Prediction: Nigeria will hope to reach the round of 16 for the third time. With a good result in their opening game against Iran, Nigeria may qualify before their clash with Argentina if they get on the top of Bosnia. But it’s easier said than done and expect them to narrowly miss out to Bosnia.
FIFA ranking: 2
Best finish: Champions (1954, 1974,1990)
Coach: Joachim Low
Star player: Mesut Ozil
Draw: Germany will not take this group lightly at all. An opening game clash against Portugal will be a highlight of the group stages. As usual the Germans will go into their clashes with Ghana and United States full of confidence as they have won all their World Cup games against the two teams.
Prediction: Germany’s clash with Portugal should determine who finishes on top of the group, but a loss in that game could cost them a spot in the knockout stages. However, not many would bet against a German team progressing past a group stage.
FIFA ranking: 5
Best finish: Third (1966)
Coach: Paulo Bento
Star player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Draw: Another team unlucky not to be a seed, Portugal will have a repeat of their Euro 2012 opener against Germany. Led by the world’s (currently) best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal will fear no one in this tournament.
Prediction: Expect Portugal to get through even if they do slip up against Germany. If Ronaldo can carry the hopes of the nation on his shoulders, they may be the team to watch in Brazil.
FIFA ranking: 24
Best finish: Quarter-finals (2010)
Coach: Akwasi Appiah
Star player: Kwadwo Asamoah
Draw: This is a much more difficult group than in 2010 for the Africans. Ghana will hope they can get past the United States then draw with either Portugal or Germany for a chance of qualification.
Prediction: The Black Stars were the surprise packet in South Africa 2010. However, being grouped with Germany and Portugal will make another quarter-final appearance a dream. Expect them to go down swinging in the group stage.
FIFA ranking: 14
Best finish: Third (1930)
Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
Star player: Landon Donovan
Draw: The United States were likely to be handed a tough group and it sure is. An enticing group for USA fans as they face Ghana, the team they were eliminated by in a penalty shootout at South Africa 2010. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann will also get the opportunity to coach the nation he led on home soil in Germany 2006.
Prediction: Much like Ghana, USA will go out fighting in the group stage. Unfortunately it is a case of receiving a tough draw for a team who pre-draw, would have fancied their chances of passing the round of 16.
FIFA ranking: 11
Best finish: Fourth Place (1986)
Coach: Marc Wilmots
Star player: Eden Hazard
Draw: Belgium will be very happy with their draw for their first appearance since 2002. Belgium will go into this group as favorites but will potentially face Germany or Portugal in the Round of 16.
Prediction: Labeled as the tournament’s dark horse, Belgium’s star studded team should comfortably qualify to the knockout stages, where Germany or Portugal may end their tournament.
FIFA ranking: 26
Best finish: Round 1 (1982, 1986, 2010)
Coach: Vahid Halihodzic
Star player: Sofiane Feghouli
Draw: Algeria will back themselves in their group to possibly qualify past the group stage for the first time. The Africans have never beaten any of the three teams they are set to face. Sofiane Feghouli will need to inspire his team to previously unrecognised heights.
Prediction: Algeria may cause a surprise result in this group but a group stage exit is highly likely.
FIFA ranking: 22
Best finish: Fourth (1966, as Soviet Union)
Coach: Fabio Capello
Star player: Igor Akinfeev
Draw: Russia avoided being placed in Pot 2 and would be pleased with the draw. Fabio Capello will hope Russia can get a win against Korea in their first match to help them qualify for the group stages. Belgium might be a tougher task than they think.
Prediction: Russia should compete with Korea for second spot in this group. If a draw happens in their opener against Korea, that spot may be decided by the dreaded goal difference.
FIFA ranking: 54
Best finish: Fourth (2002)
Coach: Hong Myung-bo
Star player: Son Heung-Min
Draw: Korea have been handed a comfortable draw compared to Asian counterparts Australia. Korea will be wary of the Russians in competition for second spot in this group as they were defeated by them just last month.
Prediction: The opening clash with Russia is crucial for Korea. A win here could clinch them qualification but the Russians will be confident against the Asians from their last result. However, Korea should be a bit too strong when it matters more.
Steven Talevski’s predictions
Teams eliminated in the Round of 16
• Korea Republic
• Cote d’Ivorie
Teams eliminated in Group Stages
• Costa Rica