Do not be late to this party.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil
will not be one at which you can snooze through the group stages. There is too much fun to be had from the get-go. Global heavyweights will stand toe-to-toe and you can take your pick trying to identify the real Group of Death
From the moment Italy disappeared into Pot X the intrigue began. The Azzurri avoided Brazil and Argentina but instead ended up with Uruguay, the South American seed that upstaged both its geographical neighbours in South Africa.
Having qualified the hard way, the 2010 semifinalists might have hoped for a gentler draw, but the soccer gods were not smiling. Italy and England will both expect to advance to the knockout stages but may cancel each other out, allowing Uruguay to get a jump-start against Costa Rica in Group D.
In a sense, 2014 will continue where 2010 left off.
Spain, which lifted the World Cup for the first time -- only after an ugly, card-laden final against the Netherlands in Johannesburg -- faces a rematch to begin its defence of the trophy in Group B. It is worth recalling the Spaniards lost their opening group game in 2010 before going onto glory, and another early loss cannot be ruled out this time around.
The crossover will be fascinating. Host Brazil will be heavily favoured to top Group A - a section that also features Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. If all goes to plan for the 'home' nation, it could lead to a titanic Round of 16 clash with the Dutch or the Spaniards.
Germany can also expect a stern test out of the gate. The Germans, seeded in Group G, will launch their bid for a fourth World Cup against Portugal. It would be churlish to suggest Portugal is a one-man team but it is also impossible to ignore the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo. At his best, and with the right service, CR7 can unhinge the strongest of defences.
Group G will also provide a snapshot of how strong the game is in North America. The U.S., through no fault of its own, finds itself in a bona fide Group of Death. The Americans first get a chance to avenge their 2010 loss to Ghana, before head coach Jurgen Klinsmann comes face to face with his home country - the nation he coached to third place in 2006.
There is no question the U.S. is now the No. 1 team in the CONCACAF region. Despite initial misgivings, Klinsmann has elevated the Americans' standing in the world game. Quite how that stands up against top-class opposition in the heat and humidity of Northern Brazil remains to be seen.
Argentina and Belgium can count themselves among the draw winners. The Argentines must be happy with the way the it all panned out - kicking off against World Cup rookies Bosnia-Herzegovina followed by Group F games against Iran and Nigeria.
Belgium's "golden generation" can also anticipate early successes
. Algeria, Russia and South Korea will accompany them in Group H - but the Belgians will be satisfied to have avoided the likes of Holland, France or one of the unseeded South American nations.
The French, such a disaster in 2010, know their situation can only improve in Brazil. The 1998 world champions, who showed their character by coming from behind to win a playoff against Ukraine, will feel quietly confident of advancing from Group E that will involve matches against Honduras, seeded Switzerland and Ecuador.
For all the apparent winners - there's always a flip side.
While the Americans are certainly in tough, spare a thought for Australia. The Socceroos, who recently cruised to a victory over Canada, must be wondering whom they offended en route to the draw.
The Aussies start out against potential dark horses, Chile, before getting to grips with the Netherlands and finishing with world champion Spain. The Qantas' flight back across the Pacific may be among the first to depart.
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