The route to a World Cup final can be set in the first matches. In the past, Germany have had easy draws. In 2006, they face Costa Rica in the opening match in Munich. Poland and Ecuador are the remaining opponents.
The 32 teams now know who they will face in the quest for the cup
On an evening in Leipzig of magic, song and clips of past World Cup games, the draw for the World Cup 2006 in Germany was as big as an event as many past matches. And 31 of the 32 managers from the participating countries were in attendance and the looks on some were of humor, relief and shock.
The hosts from Germany, led by Jürgen Klinsmann, will run into Central American dwarf Costa Rica on June 9. The two sides have never met on the pitch, so experts aren't able to yet predict how this match will go in six months time. In his first interview after the draw, Klinsmann was visibly excited about a group he said "could have been much worse" and that the task of advancing past the first stage would be "doable."
The "Ticos" coach Alexandre Guimeras admitted Germany are the favorites in the group but after that, they have as good a chance as any of being the second team to qualify for the knockout stage.
Pele and Lothar Matthäus exchanging their views about who might win the World Cup in 2006
Germany's second opponent is Poland, a side that the hosts know better with a long history, including the semi-final in 1974 when West Germany defeated the Poles in a match played under swamp like conditions in Frankfurt as torrential rains had made the pitch practically unplayable.
Ecuador must not be underestimated, said Klinsmann.
"After all they beat Brazil in the qualifications," he told German ARD television. Yet that along with their victory against Argentina in the quals, took place in the 3,000 meter (10,000 ft.) confines in Quito.
Brazil with possible cakewalk
While the opinion of the great majority was that the luck of the draw was with Germany, powerhouse Brazil under team head Carlos Alberto Parreira could also breathe a sigh of relief, if such a reaction is necessary for the world's current best troop. The five-time and defending World Cup champions will start their campaign to repeat the title in Group F against Croatia. They then play Australia before wrapping up group competition against Japan, against whom they only played to a 2-2 draw in the Confederations Cup last summer.
Brazilian team members in a familiar pose -- celebrating a title, this one the Confederations Cup
The tickets to a round of 16 match are never certain for a defending champion (for example France in Korea/Japan 2002) but it is hard to see how Brazil would stumble more than once in their first three games.
Group C and E teams face potential disappointment
The officials of the national associations in Groups C and E will already be chomping on their pencils, mulling over their potential luck after the 40-minute spectacle on Friday evening.
It may take more than kung fu for Ruud van Nistelrooy (l) and the Netherlands to move past their group
Confederation Cup runners-up Argentina, top seed in Group C, find themselves up against the Oranje from the Netherlands, whom they beat in the World Cup final in 1978, first-time finalist Ivory Coast with FC Chelsea star Didier Drogba, and Serbia & Montenegro.
In Group E, three-time World champs Italy come up against the always tough Czech Republic, another African country making its premiere appearance, Ghana, and the USA who have proved to be a tough nut to crack in recent World Cups.
England's Eriksson up against his home country
One team manager is facing incredible pressure heading to Germany, England's Sven Goran Eriksson. The Swedish chief could only shake his head and laugh when Sweden was drawn into his Group B. Many believe that this English squad has the makings of a victor. They will also do battle with Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago.
Lots is riding on the back of England's David Beckham (l) and Wayne Rooney
Chatting on the English FA Web site, Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham expressed confidence about the home country of soccer being able to add a second title to its collection.
"If we work hard and play to our potential we have a genuine chance of winning the World Cup," he said.
One large stumbling block could be a round of 16 clash with Germany.
France must face stubborn rivals
The French trio of Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry (from left) hope to lead France back to glory
Zinedine Zidane returned to France to help the l'equipe tricolore make it to the finals. The 1998 champs will renew their struggle with Switzerland with whom they played to two draws in the qualifications. Former French colony Togo are also in Group G and 2002 semi-finalists South Korea could prove to be a very worthy opponent.
In Group H, the highly-rated but always underachieving Spaniards received a friendly draw with Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.
Finally, in Group D, a hodgepodge of teams that have had little to do with each other in the past could provide some pleasant surprises. Top seed Mexico, Portugal, Angola and Iran will compete with two countries progressing.
The groups stand and soccer fans from around the world will start placing their bets, begin forming their dream draw once their team advances to the second round, and most importantly, go online to buy tickets from their national soccer federations so that they can experience first hand the thrills of the World Cup in Germany.