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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (2nd left) and FIFA President Joseph Blatter (2nd right) are flanked by presenters Rodrigo Hilbert (left) and Fernanda Lima as a picture of former South African president Nelson Mandela is displayed on a screen a day after his passing, during the final draw of the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia state, Brazil, on Dec 6. (AFP)
Brazil, Croatia to open 2014 WC Homage to Mandela

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil, Dec 6, (AFP): Reigning champions Spain will begin their defence of the World Cup with a rematch of the 2010 final against the Netherlands, while England were paired with Italy in Friday’s draw. Spain, who won their first title in South Africa four years ago, start their Group B campaign against the three-time runners-up on June 13 in Salvador. They will also meet Chile, who they beat in the group stage in 2010, in Rio and Australia in Curitiba. Hosts Brazil were drawn to face Croatia in the opening game, scheduled for Sao Paulo on June 12 — assuming the venue is ready after a fatal accident last week delayed prospective completion until April. The Brazilians will then take on Mexico and Cameroon in a Group A that appears on the face of it unthreatening, if not easy. England, meanwhile, will start off with a Group D meeting against four-time champions Italy in the heat of Amazonian venue Manaus on June 14.

That match is a repeat of the Euro 2012 quarter-final, which Italy, who knocked England out of the 1978 World Cup qualifiers, won on penalties. “It’s a tough group, there’s no doubt about that,” said England coach Roy Hodgson, whose team also face Uruguay and Costa Rica. “In Italy and Uruguay it’s almost as though we have got two number one seeds in our group.” Hodgson’s side then take on Uruguay in Sao Paulo and Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte. “It’s a tough, tough group. Also we didn’t want to play in one of the hottest places where there is 99% humidity,” former England striker Alan Shearer told the BBC. A notable subplot will see Germany go up against the United States, now coached by former Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Also in Group G are Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Ghana. After a poignant homage to the late Nelson Mandela, the draw began to the exhilarating sound of samba at the northeastern beach resort of Costa do Sauipe.
The draw build-up had been dominated by news of stadium delays and anti-World Cup campaigners threatening public protest.

Yet Mandela’s death changed the tone as participants remembered how he saw in sport a means of fostering social progress. Friday’s lottery involved some complex juggling by FIFA to separate as far as possible teams from the same continent. And, while five groups unavoidably contained two European sides, given the Old Continent’s 13 qualifiers in the 32-strong field, they just about managed it. All eight former champions are taking part and only surprise package Bosnia-Herzegovina will be making their debut. France, champions in 1998 but forced to come through the playoffs, will meet Group E seeds Switzerland as well as Ecuador and Honduras in what should leave coach and 1998 winning captain Didier Deschamps generally optimistic.
Other groups threw up some mixed bags as Japan were lumped in with seeded Colombia, Ivory Coast and Greece in Group C while Bosnia have to impress against the might of two-time champions Argentina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F.

“It’s a good group for us,” said Nigeria assistant coach Daniel Amokachi. “Argentina are the world powers, but you cannot afford to underrate Iran or Bosnia. We will respect all the teams and take it game after game. Overall, it’s a good draw.” Group H, completing the line up, contains seeded Belgium, unpredictable Russia, South Korea — semi-finalists on home soil in 2002 — and Algeria. Meanwhile, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann has said he is relishing going up against his former assistant Joachim Loew when the Stars and Stripes play Germany at the 2014 World Cup. “That’s one of those crazy stories that football writes,” Klinsmann, who made 80 appearances for Germany, told German broadcaster ARD. Germany play the USA in Recife on June 26 in their final Group G game having also drawn Ghana and Portugal.

The Recife clash pits Klinsmann, who coached Germany to third at the 2006 World Cup, against Loew, who succeeded him as German head coach in 2006 having been his assistant at that year’s World Cup.
“So, we will be meeting old friends,” said Loew. “It’s already something special to have the USA in our group.
“Jurgen and I have had a very good and close relationship for a long time.
“We have always exchanged ideas on a regular basis, but that will certainly change before the World Cup match.”
Klinsmann’s USA team beat Loew’s weakened Germany 4-3 in a friendly in Washington DC last June, when most of his stars were involved in the Champions League final, but overall the Germans lead the series with six wins and three defeats.
“That is a tough group, which couldn’t have been harder,” added Klinsmann, who started coaching the USA in July 2011.
“The group is a real challenge, but we have built up our self-confidence over the last two and a half years and we have the most successful year in the 100 years of US football behind us.” The USA will also play Ghana in Natal on June 16 having twice lost to the Black Stars.
“Now is the time to beat them,” said Klinsmann.
In related story, Brazilian legend Pele said Friday he wanted to see Brazil lift the World Cup on home soil, remembering how his father cried after the 1950 shock final loss to Uruguay.
It was only eight years later that a 17-year-old Pele helped to secure the first of Brazil’s five titles to date and he told draw organisers he had never forgotten the “Maracanazo” shock dealt out by the Uruguayans.
“I don’t want to see Brazil crying at this Cup,” said Pele.
“I am sure Brazil are going to win,” Pele said just ahead of the 32-team draw at Costa do Sauipe, northeastern Brazil.
Luiz Felipe Scolari said his side would not be complacent following a World Cup draw Friday which put the hosts in Group A with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
The five-time champions, desperate to win the trophy on home soil for the first time — they lost out to Uruguay in 1950 in the final match in Rio and only broke their duck eight years later in Sweden — will meet the Croatians in the June 12 opener in Sao Paulo.
But although their group does not look daunting on paper, Scolari, who led the Selecao to their last title in 2002, told reporters the favourites must not count their chickens.
“I am satisfied with the draw. But we shall be paying close attention to the opening phase,” said ‘Felipao’, praised earlier by President Dilma Rousseff for his previous efforts in winning not just the World Cup but the Confederations Cup last June.
“That should give us an incentive,” said Scolari, who endured recent career flops at Chelsea and Palmeiras but who has galvanised the samba stars since beginning a second spell at the helm a year ago.
Asked if he had looked beyond the group phase, Scolari said no.
“I am not concerned with the second phase,” he told Brazilian television.
Brazil lost to the Mexicans in the Olympic final in London last year to leave them without the only title still missing from their collection.
Mexico “is a classic going way back,” Scolari said.
“I am happy with the match sequence,” added Scolari following a draw which sees Brazil start off in Sao Paulo before taking on the Mexicans in the heat of Fortaleza on June 17 and finishing with Cameroon on June 23 in Brasilia at the national stadium.
Former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, winning coach with the Selecao in 1994 in the United States and now assisting Scolari as technical coordinator, said the World Cup had now essentially begun.
“The Cup starts when you know who you are up against. The Cup starts now,” said Parreira, who dubbed the opening gambit against the Croatians as crucial.
“The opening game generates enormous pressure. Win the first match and you are well on the way to making it through,” said Parreira.
The Brazilians edged out Croatia in the 2006 group phase in Germany and the Croatians have not forgotten that as they target ‘revenge’.
“You beat us in Germany — but this is a second chance for us,” said Croatia coach Niko Kovac.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli remained positive as to his side’s chances despite a “difficult” World Cup draw which left the Azzurri in Group D with Uruguay, Costa Rica and England.
“It’s a difficult group,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told Sky Sport Italia. “It will be tough, but we’ll be going there well prepared and determined to do well.
“You never win matches on paper, it’s 11 against 11 and if we prepare well we can win all three of our matches.”
Prandelli, however, believes Italy’s participation in the Confederations Cup in Brazil earlier this year could give them the edge over England and Costa Rica.
“The climactic conditions will be tough, but at least we might have a slight advantage in that we played the Confderations Cup,” he added. “Having 23 players fit and available to play will be crucial.”
Meanwhile, in Brazil’s World Cup stadiums next summer, soccer teams from around the globe will battle for the famous golden trophy. At the same time, another fight for global supremacy will be taking place — as Adidas takes on Nike in the next round of their tussle to be the world’s biggest sports brand.
Nike currently owns 14.6 percent of the global sporting goods market to Adidas’ 11.4 percent, and is whittling away at the German brand’s No. 1 position in Europe. Adidas held 13.2 percent of the western European sporting goods market in 2012 to Nike’s 12.4 percent, according to Euromonitor data.
When the whistle blows to kick off Brazil 2014 there will be everything to play for. “It’s not easy to evaluate (next year’s) collections. Adidas is definitely putting a lot of effort into winning lost ground, but a company like Nike won’t rest on its laurels,” said Hans Allmendinger, head of marketing for German sporting goods retailer Sport2000.
Adidas has for more than 40 years decorated soccer kit and shoes with its distinctive parallel lines logo. It has strong partnerships setting it up well for the coming challenge: a close relationship with German club Bayern Munich, of which it owns 9 percent, and with FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, for whom it designs official World Cup kit.
Adidas has forecast record 2014 soccer sales of over 2 billion euros and aims to boost group sales to 17 billion euros ($23 billion) in 2015. US Nike, meanwhile, only entered the soccer market in 1994. But already it has several major partnerships with clubs, including English champions Manchester United.
The owner of the distinctive ‘swoosh’ or tick logo, does not give forecasts for individual sport categories, but it is predicting group sales of up to $30 billion by 2015 — suggesting it thinks it can put in a sufficiently strong performance during the World Cup to stretch its global lead over the German company — and maybe beat it at home too.
In Nike’s first fiscal quarter of 2013, ended Aug.31, it posted an 8 percent jump in sales in Europe. Over the same period, Adidas’ European sales fell 7 percent.
Adidas is pulling out all the stops to make its presence felt in Brazil, where Nike sponsors the national team.
Brazil have won the World Cup a record five times and the country is a byword for stylish soccer, meaning there is a huge buzz around the tournament — and Nike’s designs.
Adidas is aiming to make its presence felt with players like Lionel Messi and Mesut Ozil, who play for Adidas-sponsored national teams Argentina and Germany — and the launch of the official match ball, the “Brazuca” — on sale for $160 but free to Brazilians born on its launch day.
Given the scale of the battle however it will also be using what is politely known as “ambush marketing.” Soccer watchers cite as an early example in this year’s World Cup campaigns the launch of a new soccer top for the Palmeiras club in the yellow, green and blue worn by the Brazil national team.
“That will be ruffling a few feathers,” said Berenberg Bank analyst John Guy. “They’ve certainly got a few tactical moves up their sleeves to consolidate their position against Nike and that’s good to see.”
Klaus Jost, president of the world’s largest sportswear retailer Intersport, said Nike’s roster of top soccer players like Frenchman Franck Ribery and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the reasons for Nike’s increasing sales in Europe.
“It’s much more about creating the right image,” he told Reuters. “Stars like Ribery, Ronaldo and (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic have such an attraction that many kids want to copy them.”
Big name endorsements are also responsible for Nike’s broader success.
Retailers say the US brand has gained market share this year thanks to well designed, comfortable products such as the top-selling Nike Free sneaker — and getting its performance-enhancing shoes on the feet of the biggest sports stars.
Nike’s impressive roster of sponsorship deals includes current names like soccer star Ronaldo, tennis player Roger Federer, golfers Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and legendary track and field athletes like Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.
“Nike has done a really good job of presenting themselves as the true brand for performance,” Tammy Smulder, managing director at marketing consultancy SCB Partners, told Reuters.
“Nike says, ‘We will be associated with the top athletes, whatever the sport’. You can’t dispute that,” she added. Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer said this week the group had made some mistakes, but added: “We believe we can grow the business by launching a lot of new innovative products. Our pipeline of new products is full.”

One of the ways Adidas is hoping to grow sales is by using the cushioning technology in its Boost running shoes for other categories such as basketball. That could enable it to increase sales of Boost shoes to 15 million pairs in 2015, after having only introduced the line earlier this year. It has signed big names in sports other than soccer in a bid to gain market share from Nike. But its partnership with US basketball star Derrick Rose has run into difficulties as a result of Rose suffering several injuries that have kept him off the court for months. The biggest challenge in the battle of the brands is to win the crown of cool — something far more difficult than simply designing a new product. At the moment, say market watchers and consultants, Nike seems to be stealing a march on Adidas thanks to early adoption of new technologies which it is then harnessing to a bigger social media presence. “They have a good hunch for the next wave that will define a generation,” Lea Simpson, strategy director at digital strategy agency TH_NK, told Reuters.

“In the 1980s, it was fitness, now it’s tech and sustainability.” Nike has almost 2.5 million Twitter followers to just over 570,000 for Adidas. It also has higher Facebook engagement rates, showing its fans interact better than Adidas fans with posted content. Its Nike+ Fuelband and other apps track training and can then post results on social media sites — a far more powerful demonstration of brand involvement than a Facebook ‘like’, Simpson said. Adidas CEO Hainer said this week that the company would shift “much more money” into digital and social media. Garth Farrar, global head of digital at Repucom, noted Adidas had already been producing more Vine clips, Facebook posts and tweets over the last months. He said Adidas’ social media campaign looked geared to “give the brand more cultural relevance beyond Europe .. and help protect the brand from any ambush stunts from Nike around the World Cup.”

World Cup Brazil Draw/Fixtures

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil, Dec 6, (RTRS): A run down of the eight groups following Friday’s World Cup draw in Costa do Sauipe with provisional kick off time local (Kuwait):
First Round
Group A
Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon
Fixtures
June 12
Brazil vs Croatia, Sao Paulo (2200)
June 13
Mexico vs Cameroon, Natal (1800)
June 17
Brazil vs Mexico, Fortaleza (2100)
June 18
Cameroon vs Croatia, Manaus (2000)
June 23
Cameroon vs Brazil, Brasilia (2200)
Croatia vs Mexico, Recife (2200)
Group B
Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
Fixtures
June 13
Spain vs Netherlands, Salvador (2100)
Chile vs Australia, Cuiaba (2300)
June 18
Spain vs Chile, Rio De Janeiro (0000)
Australia vs Netherlands, Porto Alegre (1800)
June 23
Australia vs Spain, Curitiba (1800)
Netherlands vs Chile, Sao Paulo (1800)
Group C
Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Fixtures
June 14
Colombia vs Greece, Belo Horizonte (1800)
Ivory Coast vs Japan, Recife (0000)
June 19
Colombia vs Ivory Coast, Brasilia (1800)
Japan vs Greece, Natal (0000)
June 24
Japan vs Colombia, Cuiaba (2100)
Greece vs Ivory Coast, Fortaleza (2200)
Group D
Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy
Fixtures
June 14
Uruguay vs Costa Rica, Fortaleza (2200)
England vs Italy, Manaus (0200)
June 19
Uruguay vs England, Sao Paulo (2100)
June 20
Italy vs Costa Rica, Recife (1800)
June 24
Italy vs Uruguay, Natal (1800)
Costa Rica vs England, Belo Horizonte (1800)
Group E
Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras
Fixtures
June 15
Switzerland vs Ecuador, Brasilia (1800)
France vs Honduras, Porto Alegre (2100)
June 20
Switzerland vs France, Salvador (2100)
Honduras vs Ecuador, Curitiba (0000)
June 25
Honduras vs Switzerland, Manaus (2100)
Ecuador vs France, Rio De Janeiro (2200)
Group F
Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
Fixtures
June 15
Argentina vs Bosnia, Rio De Janeiro (0000)
June 16
Iran vs Nigeria, Curitiba (2100)
June 21
Argentina vs Iran, Belo Horizonte (1800)
Nigeria vs Bosnia, Cuiaba (2300)
June 25
Nigeria vs Argentina, Porto Alegre (1800)
Bosnia vs Iran, Salvador (1800)
Group G
Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA
Fixtures
June 16
Germany vs Portugal, Salvador (1800)
Ghana vs United States, Natal (0000)
June 21
Germany vs Ghana, Fortaleza (2100)
June 22
United States vs Portugal, Manaus (2000)
June 26
United States vs Germany, Recife (1800)
Portugal vs Ghana, Brasilia (1800)
Group H
Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea
Fixtures
June 17
Belgium vs Algeria, Belo Horizonte (1800)
Russia vs South Korea, Cuiaba (2300)
June 22
Belgium vs Russia, Rio De Janeiro (0000)
South Korea vs Algeria, Porto Alegre (1800)
June 26
South Korea vs Belgium, Sao Paulo (2200)
Algeria vs Russia, Curitiba (2200)
 

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