Football: Spain face Dutch in 2010 repeat as England draw Italy

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (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 per cent 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 under-rate 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.

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