U.S., Jamaica in same group for Cup qualifying

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RIO DE JANEIRO --- World champion Spain was drawn on Saturday with 1998 winner France, Georgia, Belarus and Finland in qualifying for the 2014 tournament.

Brazilian soccer player Lucas (right) reaches for a ticket during the preliminary draw for the 2014 World Cup that will be played in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil does not have to qualify.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Brazilian soccer player Lucas (right) reaches for a ticket during the preliminary draw for the 2014 World Cup that will be played in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil does not have to qualify.

Officially kicking off proceedings for what will be the first World Cup in Brazil in 64 years, the draw pitted England with 2012 European Championship co-hosts Ukraine and Poland in Group H.

The United States was drawn with Jamaica in qualifying for the North, Central America and Caribbean region. The other two teams in Group A will come from preliminary qualifying matches that include Haiti, Guatemala, the U.S. Virgin Islands and five other nations.

Italy will meet Denmark and the Czech Republic in Group B, while Germany faces Sweden, Austria and Ireland in Group C.

The draw in Rio de Janeiro determined the path of 166 teams in their bid to qualify for the tournament in three years' time. It was the first major World Cup event in Brazil since the South American nation was awarded the competition in 2007. As host, Brazil is the only nation that doesn't have to qualify.

"We are happy to be back in Brazil," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said.

Fifty-three European nations were divided into nine groups, with the winners automatically qualifying and the eight best group runners-up advancing to a playoff. The European qualifying matches will begin Sept. 7 and end Oct. 15, 2013.

Spain is in a difficult Group I.

The Netherlands, last year's runner-up in South Africa, was drawn in Group D with Turkey, Hungary and Romania, while Portugal will have to face Russia and Israel in Group F.

Group A has Croatia, Serbia, Belgium and Scotland. Greece will play Slovakia in Group G, while Norway was drawn in Group E with Slovenia and Switzerland.

Mexico is in Group B with Costa Rica, while Cuba and Honduras are in Group C. All three group winners and runners-up will advance to a final qualifying round, beginning February 2013.

The World Cup will be played from June 12 to July 13, and the complete match schedule will be announced in October.


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