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Saturday, December 21, 2013


The draw for the finals of the twentieth World Cup took place on 6/12/13 in The Brazilian resort of Costa da Sauipe, just under 50 miles north of the north-eastern city of Salvador, and the ceremony was hosted by Jérome Valcke, FIFA General Secretary and Brazilian actress Fernanda Lima. The draw itself, meanwhile, was made by former players representing all eight countries who have won the World Cup: Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Alcides Ghiggia, Fernando Hierro, Geoff Hurst, Mario Kempes, Lothar Matthäus and Zinedine Zidane.

Useless Fact no. 1: Belgium and Chile will be the only two countries to play group matches in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Useless Fact no. 2: Cuiabá is apparently at the geographical dead-centre of South America. Useless Fact no. 3: Bosnia-Herzegovina are the only country competing in this tournament who have never previously qualified for a World Cup finals.

Never mind all the hoo-hah about the distances that teams, fans and so on will have to travel, the costs involved, the social unrest caused by Brazil hosting the World Cup, ticket prices for supporters travelling from outside Brazil, and the obtaining a hotel room and the resulting reduction in the swelling of the average fan's wallet; said topics, and the fact that Brazil is now one of the most expensive places to visit, have already been more than adequately covered elsewhere.

So, the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals will kick off on 12/6/14, just shy of three years to the day since the qualification rounds began in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, with a match between Montserrat and Belize (an event documented here on Pat's Football Blog); please find below the fixtures for the tournament.

Kick-off times for several of the matches were rearranged the day after the draw.

One more thought: every World Cup has a Group of Death, though, if you believe everything you read, this one has several. Which one shall turn out to be the real Group of Death? Answers on a postcard, please.



12/06/14 Brazil : Croatia (São Paulo)
13/06/14 Mexico : Cameroon (Natal)
17/06/14 Brazil : Mexico (Fortaleza)
18/06/14 Cameroon : Croatia (Manaus)
23/06/14 Cameroon : Brazil (Brasília)
23/06/14 Croatia : Mexico (Recife)

Brazil will be more than confident of being able to swan through the group stage of the 2014 World Cup; suffice to say that they have been looking rather impressive over the past few months, and (of course) swept aside the opposition during the recent Confederations Cup. Meanwhile, if the Mexican team were a collective cat, it would be anxiously looking over its shoulder right now and enrolling for a basic arithmetic course; El Tricolore had to rely on the USA scoring two injury-time goals to deny Panama a tilt at the Intercontinental Play-Off against New Zealand. Mexico, of course, swamped the All-Whites 9:3 on aggregate over the two-leg play-off after finishing a chastening fifth in the CONCACAF final qualifying group. It would have been nice for us football romantics to have seen a Panama : New Zealand play-off, though. (Just a thought.) Like Mexico, Croatia entered the play-offs after looking distinctly unimpressive in their qualifying group, and eventually defeated a doughty Iceland side 2:0 on aggregate. Cameroon qualified by defeating Tunisia 4:1 on aggregate in the CAF third-round play-off, the perfect antidote to the Lions Indomitables missing out on qualification for the 2014 African Cup of Nations. Nobody seems to rate Cameroon's chances of advancing to the second round of the World Cup; this may just work to their advantage.



13/06/14 Spain : Holland (Salvador)
13/06/14 Chile : Australia (Cuiabá)
18/06/14 Australia : Holland (Porto Alegre)
18/06/14 Spain : Chile (Rio de Janeiro)
23/06/14 Australia : Spain (Curitiba)
23/06/14 Holland : Chile (São Paulo)

Oh, look, we have ourselves a Group of Death, well, if one believes what one reads in newspapers from Australia to Nigeria. The Dutch press, meanwhile, have already been licking their lips at the prospect of meeting Spain in the group's opening match and looking at it as a revenge mission for Oranje's defeat in the 2010 World Cup Final. It will be tough for an aging Australia side to get anything from this group; Holland breezed through qualification, as did Spain, and Chile came good at the right time to qualify, and recently defeated England 2:0 at Wembley for good measure. Spain and Holland to qualify, though Chile will be a tough nut to crack, and who knows what may happen if they can manage to keep their form from going off the boil.



14/06/14 Colombia : Greece (Belo Horizonte)
14/06/14 Côte d'Ivoire : Japan (Recife)
19/06/14 Colombia : Côte d'Ivoire (Brasília)
19/06/14 Japan : Greece (Natal)
24/06/14 Japan : Colombia (Cuiabá)
24/06/14 Greece : Côte d'Ivoire (Fortaleza)

A much more interesting - and even - group than it looks on paper; Colombia, who stormed into the World Cup Finals in some style just behind Argentina, Côte d'Ivoire, who steamrollered Senegal in the African play-offs, Greece, who will always prove difficult to beat, playing a style of football which, while not exactly endearing them to the average football purist, is effective, and Japan, the first team to qualify directly for the finals, who have been playing reasonably well recently, deserved far more out the Confederations Cup than what they got and impressed greatly during their short tour of the Low Countries. This is the real Group of Death. Just don't tell the English press.



14/06/14 Uruguay : Costa Rica (Fortaleza)
14/06/14 England : Italy (Manaus)
19/06/14 Uruguay : England (São Paulo)
19/06/14 Italy : Costa Rica (Recife)
24/06/14 Costa Rica : England (Belo Horizonte)
24/06/14 Italy : Uruguay (Natal)

Another Group of Death; the Group of Death, according to the English press. So, if England get knocked out at the group stage, the media can hardly get worked up about it as expectations are not that high anyway. Right? Er, moving swiftly onwards, the four teams will be clocking up some serious air-miles between them, and the English media will no doubt be proclaiming that the FIFA decision to move kick-off times for some matches amounts to little more than a witch-hunt against the FA. Tick that one off as another excuse in the event of early elimination for the Three Lions. Should England get knocked out in the group stages, there is at least one (more) consolation: the "band" that follows them around will also be packing up and heading home. It will be a tight group, with Italy playing well, Uruguay looking good - at long last after a qualifying group fraught with danger, their then swatting Jordan aside in their Intercontinental play-off - with Suárez and Cavani in fine form for club and country, and Costa Rica are improving all the time, having qualified as deserved runners-up behind the USA in the CONCACAF final group.



15/06/14 Switzerland : Ecuador (Brasília)
15/06/14 France : Honduras (Porto Alegre)
20/06/14 Switzerland : France (Salvador)
20/06/14 Honduras : Ecuador (Cuiabá)
25/06/14 Honduras : Switzerland (Manaus)
25/06/14 Ecuador : France (Rio de Janeiro) 

France received assistance from the match officials for the second World Cup play-off in a row to qualify for the 2014 edition; despite having an early Benzema goal incorrectly chalked off for offside, they later scored an equally dubious one, and a Ukrainian player was sent off for a supposed foul on Franck Ribery. Switzerland needed no such assistance; they finished head and shoulders above second-placed Iceland in what was admittedly a weak group. Ecuador, meanwhile, were looking like a shoe-in for qualification at one stage, but one win in their last five games saw them limp over the finishing-line in fourth place, on goal-difference ahead of Uruguay. If they can recover their form from the early rounds of CONMEBOL qualification, they will be a hard team to beat. Honduras, somewhat surprisingly, finished in fourth place in the CONCACAF final group ahead of Mexico, and, whilst considered by most to be Group E's makeweights, are capable of springing a surprise.



15/06/14 Argentina : Bosnia-Herzegovina (Rio de Janeiro)
16/06/14 Iran : Nigeria (Curitiba)
21/06/14 Argentina : Iran (Belo Horizonte)
21/06/14 Nigeria : Bosnia-Herzegovina (Cuiabá)
25/06/14 Nigeria : Argentina (Porto Alegre)
25/06/14 Bosnia-Herzegovina : Iran (Salvador)

This could be one of the most interesting of all the first-round groups at the 2014 World Cup; Argentina will be strong favourites to win the group, having lost just twice in qualifying and scoring 35 goals in the process. Oh, and they have Lionel Messi. Bosnia-Herzegovina, meanwhile, have 10-goal Edin Dzeko and ten others, according to the English press, but Vedad Ibisevic also weighed in with eight during the campaign, while Zvjevdan Misimovic scored five, so they are not short of goalscoring options. Nigeria scored the joint-least amount of goals amongst the CAF group winners in African qualification, but easily disposed of Ethiopia in the play-offs. Iran finished top of Group B in the AFC's fourth round of qualification after defeating South Korea 1:0 in Seoul, and, while not exactly scoring a hatful of goals, conceded only two in the final group stage. Bosnia-Herzegovina will posibly be slight favourites to finish in second place in Group F, but there may not be much in it between them, Nigeria and Iran.



16/06/14 Germany : Portugal (Salvador)
16/06/14 Ghana : USA (Natal)
21/06/14 Germany : Ghana (Fortaleza)
21/06/14 USA : Portugal (Manaus)
26/06/14 Portugal : Ghana (Brasília)
26/06/14 USA : Germany (Recife) 

The American press quickly dubbed Group G as their Group of Death, and, to be honest, it will be pretty difficult to see past Germany - despite a creaky defence - and Portugal, who have more aces up their sleeves than just Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, occupying the top two spots in this group. To be fair to Jürgen Klinsmann's team, winners of the CONCACAF final group, they do not give much away in defence, though, as always, the lack of a genuine goalscorer - apart from Clint Dempsey - will surely prove problematic. Ghana only played eight games in qualifying, winning six and losing two - against Zambia in the group stage and Egypt in the second-leg of their play-off. That came only after they had annihilated the Pharaohs 6:1 in Kumasi. The Black Stars looked impressive in qualification, but the free-scoring Nationalmannschaft and Ronaldo and Co are a different proposition.



17/06/14 Belgium : Algeria (Belo Horizonte)
17/06/14 Russia : South Korea (Cuiabá)
22/06/14 South Korea : Algeria (Porto Alegre)
22/06/14 Belgium : Russia (Rio de Janeiro)
26/06/14 Algeria : Russia (Curitiba)
26/06/14 South Korea : Belgium (São Paulo)

Belgium will be entertaining us at a World Cup Finals for the first time since 2002, and a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. The Diables Rouges slipped into the shadows during the intervening period, veering between the brilliant and the shocking, with brilliant attacking play more than offset by abject defensive displays. Now, they are back, and Kompany, Hazard, Fellaini, Courtois et al have created a media frenzy the length and breadth of Europe, with some pundits even tipping them as dark horses to lift the World Cup. Not yours truly, however; a top-two finish in Group H should not be beyond them, though. Russia should join them; they finished ahead of Portugal by a point in UEFA Group F, but qualification was a lot more comfortable than it looked on paper. South Korea finished as runners-up in their Asian qualifying group, squeaking home ahead of Uzbekistan on goal difference. Uzbekistan, of course, went on to lose to Jordan in the Asian play-offs; Jordan, in turn, lost 5:0 on aggregate to Uruguay. South Korea will find it difficult this time, as will Algeria, who defeated 2013 African Cup of Nations runners-up Burkina Faso on away goals in the play-offs.


28/06/14 R2A Winner Gp A : Runner-up Gp B (Belo Horizonte)
28/06/14 R2B Winner Gp C : Runner-up Gp D (Rio de Janeiro)
29/06/14 R2C Winner Gp B : Runner-up Gp A (Fortaleza)
29/06/14 R2D Winner Gp D : Runner-up Gp C (Recife)
30/06/14 R2E Winner Gp E : Runner-up Gp F (Brasília)
30/06/14 R2F Winner Gp G : Runner-up Gp H (Porto Alegre)
01/07/14 R2G Winner Gp H : Runner-up Gp G (Salvador)
01/07/14 R2H Winner Gp F : Runner-up Gp E (São Paulo)


04/07/14 QF1 Winner R2A : R2B (Rio de Janeiro)
04/07/14 QF2 Winner R2C : R2D (Fortaleza)
05/07/14 QF3 Winner R2E : R2F (Brasília)
05/07/14 QF4 Winner R2G : R2H (Salvador)


08/07/14 SF1 Winner QF1 : Winner QF2 (Belo Horizonte)
09/07/14 SF2 Winner QF3 : Winner QF4 (São Paulo)


12/7/14 Runner-up SF1 : Runner-up SF2 (Brasília)


13/7/14 Winner SF1 : Winner SF2 (Rio de Janeiro)


BELO HORIZONTE: Minerão (56091)
BRASÍLIA: Estádio Nacional do Brasília (65702)
CUIABÁ: Arena Pantanal (39553)
CURITIBA: Arena da Baixada (37634)
FORTALEZA: Arena Castelão (57747)
MANAUS: Arena da Amazônia (39573)
NATAL:Arena das Dunas (39304)
PORTO ALEGRE: Estádio Beira-Rio (42153)
RECIFE :Arena Pernambuco (40604)
RIO DE JANEIRO: Estádio Mario Filho/Maracaña (71159)
SALVADOR: Arena Fonte Nova (49280)
SÃO PAULO: Arena do São Paulo (59955)

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