Brazil will be the name every nation wants to avoid when the FIFA World Cup draw is made on Friday.
The competition's most decorated country will play host to the world's greatest football nations in 2014, with home advantage sure to boost their chances of claiming a sixth global crown and first since 2002.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's men will be one of eight seeded teams in the draw, which will be held at the Costa do Sauipe Resort in Bahia, but a number of big names could be pitched into a group-stage battle with them.
Included among the unseeded countries are the Netherlands, the 2010 runners-up, and 2006 champions Italy, who were not in the top seven of FIFA's world rankings when the seedings were determined in October.
France and Uruguay's qualification via the play-offs, meanwhile, means every previous winner of the competition will compete this time around.
The seeds - Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Colombia and Uruguay - will be kept apart in the round-robin phase, but every World Cup produces a so-called 'group of death' that can make the task of a seeded team trickier than that faced by an unseeded counterpart.
Brazil know this only too well, having been drawn alongside Portugal and Ivory Coast in South Africa 2010, with North Korea having been cast in the unenviable role of rank outsiders.
Supposed favourites should be wary of complacency even when the draw appears to have been kind to them.
Never was this more apparent than when Italy, having been crowned champions in 2006, failed miserably in defence of their title four years later.
Handed a group containing Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand - three nations ranked outside the world's top 30 at the time - Italy contrived to finish bottom, a stark warning to current champions Spain.
Despite narrowly missing out on reaching the last 16, New Zealand were the only unbeaten side at the 2010 tournament, highlighting the impact that unfancied nations can have.
Bosnia-Herzegovina are the only debutants this time around, while five of the competing nations - Honduras, Ivory Coast, Greece, Iran and Algeria - have never made it past the group stage.
Colombia, making their first appearance at the finals since 1998, can be considered among the favourites after rising to fourth in the world rankings.
Belgium, absent from the last two World Cups but recently ranked as high as fifth following an excellent qualifying campaign, also appear strong contenders.
Brazilian legend Pele once famously predicted the crowning of an African champion by the year 2000 but the continent has yet to produce even a semi-finalist, with Ivory Coast the most likely challengers in 2014.
It is Pele's compatriots who have the most compelling omen on their side, with the host nation (including co-hosts South Korea in 2002) having reached at least the third-place play-off in 12 of the previous 19 World Cups.
Whoever is left facing the daunting prospect of tackling Brazil on home soil will quickly learn the value of the old football adage that to become champions, you really must beat the best.
|Germany should be proud to have Sane, says Tah|
|Bertrand out of England friendlies with back injury|
|Young backs Mourinho over Shaw treatment|
|BVBolt? Athletics great scores header while training in Dortmund kit|
|Fekir will look to leave Lyon the right way, says agent|
|Alisson loves Roma and we haven´t discussed Liverpool move, insists agent|
|McTominay: I always wanted to play for Scotland|
|Chiesa vows to honour Astori with Italy displays|
|England´s Pope ready for Heaton challenge amid World Cup race|
|Lautaro Martinez confirms impending Inter move|
|Morata wasn´t happy with Spain snub, admits Alonso|
|Raiola rages over Italy´s Balotelli snub|
|Raiola hopes Reina to Milan hastens Donnarumma exit|
|Former Sevilla coach Berizzo eyeing return after beating cancer|
|Cutrone did not expect whirlwind Milan season and Italy call-up|
|´Happy´ Kepa mulled over Real Madrid move|
|Lucas Vazquez keen on Real Madrid stay|
|Juventus clear Chiellini of serious injury|
|Newcastle charged as youth team allegedly breach advertising regulations|
|I did not betray Roma – Pjanic could not pass up Juventus opportunity|
|Title-chasing Sarri closes on Napoli renewal as he hopes to repay fans|
|Messi and Ronaldo reveal World Cup kits|
|Nara praises Inter project as Icardi talks continue|
|Marseille´s Rami wants to ´tickle´ PSG|
|Salah can push on to Messi´s level - Robertson|
|Iniesta better than last year – Lopetegui|
|Okon quits as Mariners head coach|
|Lopetegui: Morata must earn World Cup spot|
|Ronaldo has asked about China – Scolari|
|Ronaldo: I always show I´m the best|
|Manchester United not in Jorginho talks, says Napoli star´s agent|
|Hazard will not be false nine for Belgium, says Martinez|
|Martial agent will not guarantee Manchester United stay|
|Ronaldo slams ´fake news´ amid latest tax case claims|
|Van Dijk and Gundogan expect tough City-Liverpool tie|
|VAR to be introduced in Eredivisie|
|Di Biagio sees bright Italy future with Cutrone and Chiesa|
|Koeman won´t rule out Van Persie Netherlands return|
|I ate badly for years – how Messi solved his vomiting problem|
|Tuchel feels he would still be at Dortmund without bomb attack|
|Pogba shows off new haircut as Ben Yedder trolls Man United star|
|Pogba cannot be happy but must focus on France, says Deschamps|
|Debuchy disappointed to be left out of latest France squad|
|Barton rejects England´s World Cup chances|
|Sevilla coach Montella interested in Italy job|
|Football brain lacking, poor attitude and fourth choice – The Mourinho-Shaw saga at Manchester Unite|
|UEFA charges Marseille and Lyon for Europa League trouble|
|Injured Chiellini out of Italy squad|
|Buffon cites Astori among reasons for Italy return|
|Welbeck faces no action over alleged dive against Milan|
|Barcelona? I´m staying with PSG, insists Marco Verratti|
|Bastian Schweinsteiger & Ana Ivanovic announce birth of son|
|The numbers behind Cristiano Ronaldo´s 50 hat-tricks|
|Consistency the only thing stopping me from being the best, claims Depay|
|Guardiola second to none tactially, says Man City midfielder Gundogan|
|Liverpool captain Henderson ponders Salah and Suarez comparison|
|Messi worried by the uncertainty retirement brings|
|Rants, criticism a familiar story – Is Mourinho set for Man United exit?|
|Messi desperate for World Cup success|
|Napoli causing Juventus problems as Sarri revels in crucial win|
|The better Ronaldo is, the better Madrid will be – Vazquez lauds four-goal hero|
|Salah ´unstoppable´ like Messi, says Watford boss Gracia|
|Demanding Mourinho is still special, insists Matic|
|Dallas 3 Seattle Sounders 0: Dempsey sees red after VAR|
|Ronaldo ´from another galaxy´, says Zidane|