So it begins: Teams get draws for 2014

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So it begins: Teams get draws for 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO - World champion Spain was drawn on Saturday with 1998 winner France, Georgia, Belarus and Finland in a qualifying group for the 2014 tournament - the first World Cup in Brazil in 64 years.

Officially kicking off proceedings for the event, the draw placed England with 2012 UEFA European Championship co-hosts Ukraine and Poland in Group H. Italy will meet Denmark and the Czech Republic in Group B, while Germany faces Sweden, Austria and Ireland in Group C.

Spain and England were the final two teams to find out their qualifying opponents in the draw, and either one had a chance to end up with France.

“Either one would be difficult, but getting Spain was worse,’’ France coach Laurent Blanc said of the European champions. “Spain still will be one of the best teams in the world by 2014.’’

Fifty-three European nations were divided into nine groups, with the winners automatically qualifying and the eight best runner-ups advancing to a playoff. The European qualifying matches will begin Sept. 7 and end Oct. 15, 2013. Group I is the only one with five teams instead of six.

“Apparently, France is the toughest rival in the group, but it would be dangerous and a grave mistake to underestimate the other teams,’’ Spain coach Vicente del Bosque told news agency Efe.

The draw in Rio de Janeiro determined the path of 166 teams in their bid to qualify for the tournament in three years’ time. It was the first major World Cup event in Brazil since the South American nation was awarded the competition in 2007. As host, Brazil is the only nation that doesn’t have to qualify.

“It will be interesting; there won’t be easy matches,’’ England coach Fabio Capello said.

Germany’s general manager, Oliver Bierhoff, said he’s expecting a difficult time in Group C, which also has the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan.

“Sweden and Ireland are very strong teams and that makes the group interesting,’’ Bierhoff said.

Italy is also likely to have a tough time in its group, which includes Bulgaria, Armenia and Malta.

“About a year before qualifying actually begins it’s very hard to judge our chances,’’ Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek said. “At the moment it looks like there’s no clear favorite in the group.”

The Netherlands, last year’s runner-up in South Africa, was drawn in Group D with Turkey, Hungary and Romania, while Portugal will have to face Russia and Israel in Group F.

Group A has Croatia, Serbia, Belgium and Scotland. Greece will play Slovakia in Group G, while Norway was drawn in Group E with Slovenia and Switzerland.

Americas and Africa

The United States and Jamaica are in the same group in qualifying for the North, Central America and Caribbean region. The other two teams in Group A will come from preliminary qualifying matches that include Haiti, Guatemala and six other nations.

Mexico is in Group B with Costa Rica, while Cuba and Honduras are in Group C. All three group winners and runners-up will advance to a final qualifying round in February 2013.

The African teams were divided into 10 groups for qualifiers beginning in November. South Africa, last year’s World Cup host, was drawn in Group A along with Botswana. Ghana is in Group D with Zambia and Sudan. Egypt has Guinea and Zimbabwe in Group G, while Cameroon faces Libya in Group I. Morocco will play the Ivory Coast in Group C.

South America was not included in the draw because the continent’s nine teams will be placed in a single group. They will play each other twice, home and away, with the top four finishers securing World Cup spots. The fifth-place team will advance to an intercontinental playoff against a team from Asia. The other playoff will pit teams from Concacaf and Oceania.

Asia and Korea

In Asia, Japan will face Uzbekistan, Syria and North Korea in Group C, while Australia will play Saudi Arabia, Oman and Thailand in Group D. Iran, Bahrain and Qatar were drawn in the same Group E, along with Indonesia, while China is in Group A with Iraq, Jordan and Singapore.

South Korea, a 2002 World Cup semifinalist, is in Group B along with the Middle Eastern trio of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

South Korea is higher up in the FIFA rankings at No. 28 than its three upcoming opponents - Kuwait is 95th, the UAE is 109th and Lebanon is 159th. The “Taegeuk Warriors” have a better head-to-head record against the UAE and Lebanon and is tied with eight wins, three draws and eight losses with Kuwait.

National team head coach Cho Kwang-rae said, much like the managers in Europe, that it will be a difficult group, especially on the road.

“Under the home-and-away system with these Middle Eastern nations, it can be stressful because of travel distances,” Cho was quoted on the Korea Football Association’s Web site yesterday. “The time difference, hot weather and different field conditions will also prove difficult.”

The two top teams from each of the five groups in Asia will advance to a final qualifying round, where they will be divided into two groups. The winner and runner-up in both groups will move on to the World Cup, while third place team in each group will have a playoff to determine who will play a remaining South American team for the right to play in Brazil in 2014.

The qualifiers began June 15 and will end Nov. 19, 2013, after 824 matches. Twenty-eight teams were eliminated in preliminary rounds before Saturday’s draw. The World Cup will be played from June 12 to July 13 in 2014, and the complete match schedule will be announced in October.

By Joo Kyung-don, AP [AP,]

한글 관련 기사 [머니투데이]

한국, 월드컵예선서 중동 3팀과 격돌

쿠웨이트·UAE·레바논과 한조, 중동 강호는 피해

한국 축구대표팀이 2014 브라질 월드컵 아시아지역 3차 예선에서 중동의 3팀과 한조에 편성됐다.

국제축구연맹(FIFA)은 31일 오전(한국시간) 브라질 리우데자네이루의 마리나 다글로리아에서 대륙별 월드컵 예선 조추첨을 실시했다. 이번 추첨에서 한국은 아시아지역 3차 예선에서 쿠웨이트, 아랍에미리트(UAE), 레바논과 함께 B조에 포함됐다.

최악의 조는 피했다. 다만 세 팀 모두 중동 국가로 이동 거리에 대한 부담은 안고 경쟁하게 됐다. 한국은 9월부터 내년 2월까지 홈 앤드 어웨이 방식으로 열리는 3차 예선을 통해 최종 예선 진출을 다툰다.

세 팀 모두 전력면에서는 무난한 편이다. 쿠웨이트(95위), UAE(109위), 레바논(159위)는 FIFA 랭킹(7월 기준)에서 한국(28위)에 크게 못 미치는 데다 최근 몇 년 사이 국제대회에서 위협적인 모습을 보이지 못했다.

쿠웨이트를 상대로는 2004년부터 치른 세 차례 A매치에서 3연승을 거뒀다. 10득점에 실점이 없을 정도로 완벽히 제압했다. UAE 역시 역대 전적에서 9승5무2패로 일방적 우세다. 레바논 역시 역대전적에서 5승1무의 압도적이다.

◇2014년 브라질 월드컵 아시아 3차 예선 조편성

A = 중국 요르단 이라크 싱가포르
B = 한국 쿠웨이트 UAE 레바논
C = 일본 우즈베키스탄 시리아 북한
D = 호주 사우디 오만 태국
E = 이란 카타르 바레인 인도네시아

또 2010년 남아프리카공화국 월드컵 축구대회 우승팀 스페인과 1998년 프랑스 월드컵 챔피언 프랑스가 유럽 지역 예선에서 같은 조에 편성됐다. 스페인(국제축구연맹 랭킹 1위)과 프랑스(15위)는 벨라루스(42위), 조지아(57위), 핀란드(75위)와 함께 I조에 묶인 것.

유럽 지역 예선은 A~I조까지 9개 조 1위 팀이 본선에 직행하고 2위 팀 9개 가운데 성적이 좋은 8개 나라가 플레이오프를 치러 남은 4장의 본선행 티켓 주인을 가린다.

따라서 스페인과 프랑스는 1장의 본선 직행 티켓을 놓고 양보할 수 없는 혈투를 벌이게 됐다.

지난해 남아공 월드컵에서 스페인은 사상 처음으로 우승했고, 프랑스는 조별리그 탈락으로 희비가 엇갈렸다.

거스 히딩크 한국 축구 대표팀 명예 감독이 이끄는 터키(24위)는 네덜란드 등과 함께 D조에 들었다.

2012년 7월 끝나는 유럽 선수권대회까지 터키 축구협회와 계약한 히딩크 감독은 이 대회 결과에 따라 2012년 9월 시작되는 월드컵 예선에서 고국 네덜란드를 상대할 가능성이 있다.

터키는 유로 2012 예선에서도 A조 3위에 머물러 본선 진출 여부가 정해지지 않았다.

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