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Dutch repeat for Spain, Italian heat on England

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil -- Dealing up an intriguing World Cup draw, FIFA fired the starting gun Friday for a Brazilian extravaganza which will see the hosts kick off against Croatia before defending champions Spain open their campaign against the Netherlands, whom they beat in the 2010 final.

The mouth-watering start for the Spanish was just one twist in the draw at Costa do Sauipe, a northeastern beach resort, as England must meet Italy when the pair brave the heat of Manaus — just what England manager Roy Hodgson did not want.

FIFA, confident Brazil will overcome stadium delays which will see the opening match venue Sao Paulo completed only in mid-April, will Sunday open the next stage of ticket sales — all tickets for the opening match and the July 13 final have already been snapped up.

And FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Brazilian officials, who have not always seen eye to eye on preparations that the game's world body has seen as laggardly, both used the draw to tell the world the event will be the best ever — “this will be the Cup of Cups” as Brazil President Dilma Rousseff put it.

England have a tough task on paper, drawn in a group containing three former champions — themselves, four-time winners Italy and twice winners Uruguay — as well as Costa Rica.

But Spain, who won their first title in South Africa four years ago, also have a difficult Group B as after they play the three-time runners-up Dutch on June 13 in Salvador they then take on talented Chile in Rio before facing Australia in Curitiba.

“I said to people this morning we were going to get Holland and we did, in the first game no less,” said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.

“Holland will demand that we start at our highest level.”

Brazil, bidding for a sixth title but a first at home after losing the 1950 final match to Uruguay, take on Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12 — assuming the venue is ready after a fatal accident last week delayed prospective completion for another four months.

The Brazilians will then take on Mexico and Cameroon in a Group A that appears on the face of it unthreatening, if not easy.

“We must pay close attention to the opening phase,” said Brazil's 2002 title-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

“We must play every game as if it were the final right from the outset.”

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 — though it is at least an evening kick-off.

That match is a repeat of the Euro 2012 quarterfinal, which Italy, who knocked England out of the 1978 World Cup qualifiers, won on penalties.

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Ducks hand defending Cup champs Blackhawks their third straight loss
A picture showing the countries of the groups A to H at the end of the final draw of the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup is seen in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia state, Brazil on Friday, Dec. ...

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