All eyes on Rio as World Cup 2014 comes into view

RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) – The first major World  Cup milestone on the road from Soccer City to “Soccer Country”  will be reached tomorrow when the draw for the preliminary  round of the 2014 finals takes place in the home of five-times  world champions Brazil.

Little more than a year since Spain beat Netherlands in the  World Cup final in Johannesburg, the world champions’ name will  go into one of the dozens of Perspex bowls to be used as they  discover who they will face in the defence of their trophy.

A total of 824 matches will take place before the identity  of the 31 nations joining hosts Brazil in the finals will be  revealed by November 2013.

The days when the draw consisted of middle-aged men in suits  sitting at a desk pulling balls out of velvet bags are long gone  of course and Saturday’s 100-minute ceremony has cost more than  $30 million and will be broadcast live around the globe.

It will take place in a specially constructed auditorium at  Marina da Gloria not far from the Sugar Loaf mountain because  there was no other suitable building in Rio available to house  more than 1,000 attending dignitaries.

“All the planning for this event began over a year ago and  it has taken two months to set everything up. We are hoping to  put on a great event that makes Brazil proud and shows the world  we are ready to host the World Cup,” Joana Havelange, the  director of the local organising committee and the  grand-daughter of former FIFA president Joao Havelange, told  reporters.

Ten former and current Brazilian international players  including World Cup winner Ronaldo and current young hopes  Neymar and Ganso will assist with the draw for five of FIFA’s  six confederations.

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