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COSTA DO SAUÍPE, Brazil — Costa Rica and 31 other teams will learn their World Cup fates when the draw for Brazil’s problem-plagued 2014 showpiece takes place Friday as governing body FIFA plays down concerns over stadium delays.
The draw will follow a ceremony starting at 10 a.m. Costa Rica time (1 p.m. local time) and will involve some complex juggling to separate as far as possible teams from the same continent.
Costa Rica faces the strong possibility of ending up in a “Group of Death,” against multiple powerhouse opponents. Other regional teams – the United States, Honduras and Mexico – also likely will see a tough draw. Costa Rican Football Federation President Eduardo Li headed to Brazil earlier this week to participate in the draw. Before leaving, Li told the daily Al Dia that he’s not worried about Costa Rica ending up in a Group of Death. But he’s hoping Costa Rica will draw Brazil and therefore play the opening match of the 2014 World Cup on June 12.
Li added Costa Rica will have at least two more friendlies before going to Brazil. One warm-up would take place March 5 and the second in May.
The presence of all eight former champions – and the only newcomer, Bosnia and Herzegovina – could produce some ultra-tough groups during the draw.
Brazil could theoretically face two European former champions in France and Italy, for example. Some of the eight groups will have to contain two European sides, with the continent having 13 of the 32 qualifiers.
England coach Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, indicated where a team plays could be more important than whom they face as the team drawn second in Brazil’s group faces a marathon travel schedule and having to play in sweltering heat in the north.
Those considerations mean European teams are likely to struggle while a South American side is likely to triumph, England legend Geoff Hurst predicted.
“There has to be some realism for the European team,” said Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the 1966 final win over Germany and will assist in Friday’s draw.
“Brazil must be looked upon as favorites. Anyone wanting to win will have to beat Brazil to do it,” he said.
Despite fears over stadium delays, a host of stars insist Brazil will rise to the challenge.
“Everyone wants to come to the World Cup, where they will see the passion of Brazilians for football,” said Ronaldo, who scored both goals in Brazil’s 2002 final win over Germany.
“A month’s delay won’t jeopardize things. There is no chance an arena won’t be ready – all will be ready for the World Cup.”
Last week’s fatal accident at the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo, in which two workers died, forced organizers to put back the stadium’s completion date.
But FIFA president Sepp Blatter insisted he was confident the venue would still be able to host the opening match on June 12.
Tico Times correspondent Matt Levin contributed to this report