With the 2014 World Cup kicking off in just 187 days, the focus of the football world has turned towards Friday's draw for next summer's tournament, with national team coaches desperate to find out who their group opponents will be.
The highly-anticipated event - which can be watched live on Goal - will take place in Costa do Sauipe in the Brazilian state of Bahia, a wildly popular holiday location, and it should make for compelling and dramatic viewing.
The show is scheduled to start at 13:00 local time (17:00CET) and will be presented by Brazilian actors Fernanda Lima and Rodrigo Hilbert, with artists such as Margareth Menezes, Olodum, Alcione and Emicida providing the entertainment.
Additionally, World Cup legends Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Mario Kempes, Lothar Matthaus, Zinedine Zidane and Geoff Hurst will all be involved in the draw itself.
WHEN IS THE WORLD CUP ITSELF?
Next summer's tournament kicks off on June 12 in Sao Paulo with hosts Brazil already pencilled in as one of the two participants in the opening game.
The group stage comes to an end on June 26, with the final two Group H clashes to take place that evening.
The first games of the round of 16 will be held only two days later in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, with the first knockout stage of the competition set to conclude on July 1.
The four quarter-finals will then be staged on July 4 and 5, while the semi-finals take place on July 8 and 9.
The 2014 World Cup winners will be crowned on July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.
WHICH NATION IS IN WHAT POT?
The seven highest-ranked teams from October's Fifa World Ranking (Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay and Switzerland) plus hosts Brazil will all be seeded for the draw and will, therefore, be placed in Pot 1.
Pot 2 will will be made up of five African teams (Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon) and two from South America (Chile and Ecuador), while Pot 3 consist of four teams from North America (USA, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras) plus the four qualifiers from the Asia section (Japan, Iran, South Korea and Australia).
Finally, the remaining nine European nations (Netherlands, Italy, England, France, Portugal, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Russia) go into in Pot 4.
In order to create an even flow to the draw as Pots 1 to 4 are emptied, Fifa begins by drawing one ball from Pot 4 and placing it into Pot 2 to achieve an equal balance of eight teams in each pot. In order to ensure there will not be three European teams in the same Group, the following mechanism will be implemented:
1) The four seeded South American teams will be placed in an ancillary pot – Pot X.
2) One of the four teams will be drawn.
3) The Group of the South American team which is drawn will determine the Group which the European team from Pot 2 will join.
|Pot 2||Pot 4|
The make-up of the pots, as shown above, mean that a 'Group of Death' consisting of Brazil, USA, France and Portugal is a possibility.
Another high-profile pool would be one comprising of titleholders Spain, Asian champions Japan, Africa Cup of Nations winners Nigeria and 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands.
On the other hand, next week's draw could also see Switzerland, Honduras, Algeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina bracketed together in a group that all four teams would no doubt relish.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Although the World Cup will be without stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Gareth Bale (Wales) and Robert Lewandowski (Poland), there will still be plenty of stellar names.
All three favourites for the Fifa Ballon d'Or - Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Franck Ribery (France) - will be present.
Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie will be there for Netherlands, Italy have Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli in their squad, Germany boast Marco Reus and Mesut Ozil, Spain will take Andres Iniesta and Xavi, while players such as Neymar, Thiago Silva (Brazil), Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez (Uruguay) Radamel Falcao (Colombia) will all be there, too.
Not convinced just yet? How about Eden Hazard (Belgium), Yaya Toure (Cote d'Ivoire), John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) and Keisuke Honda (Japan)? The list goes on and on!
A total of 6,164,682 ticket requests had been received when the initial application period ended on Thursday, October 10, 2013.
Requests were received from 203 different countries, with tickets for the opening match in Sao Paulo (726,067 requests) and for the final (751,165) in the Maracana stadium on July 13 proving the most popular.
A total of 889,305 tickets were allocated to people from 188 countries during the random selection draw for the first phase of sales, while the remaining tickets available in the First Come First Served period (a total of nearly 1.1 million tickets) were sold out only seven hours after the window re-opened.
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