FIFA World Cup: 32 teams, plethora of possibilities in draw

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SummaryThe 31 countries that qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and host nation Brazil will cross fingers and toes and hope for the luck of the draw on Friday when their names are plucked from bowls one by one in a globally televised extravaganza.

Thirty two teams and a world of possibilities. The 31 countries that qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and host nation Brazil will cross fingers and toes and hope for the luck of the draw on Friday when their names are plucked from bowls one by one in a globally televised extravaganza to determine where, when and, most importantly, who they will play in Brazil next June at football's showcase tournament.

Will Brazil be paired in a tough opening group of opponents who could sink its campaign for a sixth FIFA World Cup victory, souring the tournament that, all told, is costing the nation nearly $11 billion?

Who will triumph if four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi is drawn against Cristiano Ronaldo, his nemesis in the most intense individual rivalry in football? There will be frissons of excitement if the draw groups Messi's Argentina and Ronaldo's Portugal together.

Could defending champion Spain be drawn to play its opening game against the Netherlands? That repeat of the ill-tempered 2010 final would also cause sharp intakes of breath.

With the world title at stake and because of football's rich and deep sporting, historical and political rivalries, the transparent bowls holding the teams' names are bound to cough up mouthwatering match-ups.

Around the world, eyes will be trained on 1998 FIFA World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane and other former stars from the eight nations that have won the trophy as they pluck out balls containing slips of paper bearing the teams' names. Even in the 177 football-playing nations and territories that didn't qualify for the month-long tournament, fans will hope for encounters worthy of the sport's showcase.

Bosnia-Herzegovina will get its first taste of the nervous excitement of a World Cup draw, having qualified as an independent nation two decades after its war that killed more than 100,000 people. Other nations are old hands: Seven have qualified for each of the last seven World Cups - Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the United States.

Although it likes to consider itself the fun-loving soul of football, Brazil will field a team next year that so far is yet to wow with its play like some of its great squads of the past, with jewels including Pele. Brazilian fans, like those from all the strongest nations, will pray their team isn't drawn in the toughest group, which is sure to be dubbed

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