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.