World Cup draw sets stage for thrilling contest

Football’s finest: The World Cup will bring together the greatest attackers on the planet.

The draw to determine which teams will face each other in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup has taken place. England face a tough fight – but the tournament should be spectacular.

The official World Cup draw has taken place. The teams that managed to qualify for the tournament now know what opposition they will face in Brazil next year. The competing nations have been divided into eight groups of four. Only the top two teams in each group will survive to enter the final knockout rounds.

England must fight an uphill battle, facing Uruguay and Italy in Group D, as well as Costa Rica. England is lower than both those first two teams in the FIFA world rankings, and has never beaten either in a major tournament.

The US team has been landed with an even tougher fight. The world’s dominant superpower finds itself the footballing underdog in a ‘group of death’ that includes the brilliant Germans, Portugal led by Cristiano Ronaldo, and Ghana, the team that knocked the Americans out of the World Cup in 2010.

Even Spain, a team that has dominated world football for nearly a decade, might be feeling the first stirrings of alarm. The Spaniards will have to play Holland, the team they narrowly beat in the 2010 World Cup final in one of the most brutal and bad tempered contests in recent memory.

But while players and coaches are worrying, ordinary fans can celebrate. This World Cup could be the best tournament for a generation.

Why? First, because the competition is tighter than it has been for years. At the top, Spain, Germany and Brazil are all brilliant teams with a strong chance of success. And even ‘dark horse’ teams like tiny Belgium have squads of strong talented players this year.

Second, because the current fashion in football is to play a positive, open game. This footballing era is dominated by superstar attackers like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. We should see plenty of goals.

Third, because this World Cup is happening in Brazil, where football is a national obsession and is played with levels of flair and enthusiasm unmatched anywhere else in the world. This is the country of ‘samba football’ – where the sport earns its reputation as ‘the beautiful game’.

Joga bonito

The World Cup is no longer the most elite football competition in the world. The top club teams, recruiting players from any country they like, would beat the top national teams, which draw from a smaller pool. To see the world’s best sides battling it out, the competition to watch would be a club competition like the Champions League.

But whatever the national teams may lack in technical quality, they will make up for in passion. This World Cup should be a football battle to remember for years to come.

You Decide

  1. Would you rather watch a tournament with one brilliant team or lots of average teams?
  2. How much would you pay to see your national team win the World Cup?

Activities

  1. Which team do you think will win the World Cup? Write down your answer in secret, then compare notes with the class. Which team got the most votes?
  2. Which do you think are the top ten ranked teams in the world? Write down your guess for the top ten, then find the real answer using the links in Become an Expert. How did you do?

Some People Say...

“The World Cup helps maintain world peace!”

What do you think?

Q & A

This World Cup is worth getting excited about then?
Definitely! The World Cup is a great event for bringing people together. Even if your national side is not playing – or even worse, gets knocked out – you can always choose a new nation to support. If you live in a big city, you will always be able to find a community supporting their national side. Go and join in!
Should I worry about hooliganism?
Things are much better than they used to be. There was a time when football fans were infamously violent. Today, football is much more of a family affair.
How will England do in the World Cup?
Honestly? Probably not that well. But in a way, that is quite liberating. There is no expectation that England will win the competition, so we can all just relax and enjoy the ride.

Word Watch

FIFA
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA for short, is the governing body for international football, responsible for choosing which country will host each World Cup and for maintaining international rankings. The organisation has run into controversy recently, not least through its decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with not enough stadiums, an impossible climate, but lots of cash.
Group of death
International football tournaments usually throw up at least one group of unusually good teams that must beat each other to stay in the competition. This ultra-competitive group is usually nicknamed the group of death. The 2014 World Cup is unusual in having not one but three separate groups that have been called groups of death – a measure of how tight next year’s competition is likely to be.
Champions League
The Champions League is a competition for the top football clubs in Europe, clubs that have the financial power to attract star players from anywhere in the world. Top football clubs have sophisticated networks of scouts who spot and recruit talented teenagers from any country, and from ages as young as thirteen or fourteen.

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