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Brazil get Portugal, England lucky in World Cup draw

4 December 2009 09:55

CAPE TOWN (AFP) - Brazil and Portugal were sent on a World Cup collision course when the final draw was made here Friday while Lady Luck smiled on England.

The Brazilians and Portuguese will clash in Group G and will be joined by top African side Ivory Coast and unknown quantities North Korea in what will inevitably be dubbed the 'Group of Death'.

"It's the most difficult of the groups," Brazilian midfield star Kaka told Spanish TV. "The Group of Death."

"But that's okay we just have to do our job."

England coach Fabio Capello had reason to be happy as his men drew a relatively lightweight trio of the United States, Algeria and Slovenia.

Ironically it was David Beckham, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy, that pulled out the ball which paired up the Americans with England in the World Cup for the first time since 1950 when the United States pulled off a shock 1-0 win.

"It's an even group, we've already played against the United States and Slovenia and struggled," Capello told Italian TV.

"Algeria will be dangerous not least given what they did to Egypt. The first game will be tough as the US will have far more time than us to prepare.

"I remember some groups that looked easy in the draw and then proved to be anything but. Like all World Cup matches they won't be easy but we have to win if we want to advance."

Hosts South Africa were given a tough assignment, getting 1998 winners France, Central America powerhouse Mexico and Uruguay.

"We have landed the hosts and that is never easy. We will be playing away from home," French coach Raymond Domenech said.

"The groups are well balanced though. There really isn't a Group of Death as such this time around."

Group B has Diego Maradona's Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria and Greece, with Germany, Australia, Ghana and Serbia making up an open Group D.

German team manager Oliver Bierhoff said: "We are glad we did not draw France or Portugal, but Australia, Serbia and Ghana will also not be easy.

Coach Joachim Loew agreed: "We are quite happy with this draw, it's an interesting group."

The Netherlands fared well getting Japan, Cameroon and Denmark in Group E. defending champions Italy also blew a sigh of relief bagging New Zealand, Paraguay and rookies Slovakia in Group F while in the final Group H, European champions Spain go up against Honduras, Chile and Switzerland.

Italian coach Marcello Lippi though warned that appearances can be deceptive.

"The more you think a group will be easy the more difficult it becomes," he said.

"I'm neither satisfied nor upset. They are all difficult opponents but then we will also cast an eye on the (possible) second round and quarter-final (opponents)."

The draw, which saw the 32 qualified teams split into eight groups of four for the first round stage of the June 11-July 11 tournament, laid down the battle lines for what will be the first World Cup to be played on African soil.

With the eyes of the footballing world firmly focused on this historic city perched on the southern tip of the continent, it was an evening full of symbolic significance both for Africa and for South Africa, coming as it did just 15 years after the end of the apartheid era.

After a show that featured both traditional and modern African music, the stage was handed over to South African-born Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron who took on the duties of main presenter to be joined on stage later by other sporting celebrities including Beckham.

First, as pre-arranged, out of the seeded Pot 1 were hosts South Africa who will be playing in just their third World Cup and who, at 86th in the world, are the lowest-ranking team in the competition.

They were followed in turn by heavyweights Argentina, England, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Spain.

It was then a question of who would go up against them from the three remaining pots which had been carefully assembled to ensure that teams from the same continent would be kept apart as far as possible.

The latter contained the two most dangerous floaters in the draw - France and Portugal - and when Portugal were flung in with Brazil the atmosphere turned electric in the main auditorium of the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

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