The 2014 World Cup draw could have created an extremely lopsided field with several stacked groups and a few really easy groups. Instead, the talent actually got spread out quite well with only one true "Group of Death" and a couple other tough draws.
For the tournament, that's a positive outcome. Not only does it mean every team should head to Brazil with some confidence in its chances of advancing, but it will allow many of the top matchups to come in the latter stages of the event, as long as form holds for the main contenders.
With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the three most difficult groups that emerged from Friday's draw. Before taking that deeper dive, here's a breakdown of how the entire draw played out, which shows the eight groups for next summer.
1. Group G
For Portugal, the dangers of not getting seeded for the draw were readily apparent heading into Friday, and the result was a group Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. may struggle to survive. Portugal is joined by Germany, the United States and Ghana in the "Group of Death."
Not only are both European teams placed inside the top five of the FIFA rankings, but the United States is coming off a very solid 2013 campaign, and Ghana has reached the knockout rounds in each of the last two World Cups. So there isn't an easy result available, which sets the group apart.
While Germany and Portugal will be expected to advance, the United States or Ghana can provide a serious challenge if either one can win its opening matchup. The only guarantee is the two sides that go through will have certainly earned it.
2. Group B
The X-factor in this group will be Australia. If the Socceroos are able to elevate their play even slightly in Brazil, the group could reach the same difficulty level as Group G. If not, it will still be a very interesting three-team battle between Spain, the Netherlands and Chile.
Which group is the most difficult?
Spain and the Netherlands are known commodities. La Roja are one of the deepest teams in the tournament, and it wouldn't be a shock to see them capture the title again. The Oranje have plenty of star power, led by Robin van Persie, and would like to avenge their loss to Spain four years ago.
Chile isn't as highly touted but should pose a serious threat to the 2010 finalists. Playing the tournament in South America should help its cause, and the roster is filled with experience. So the battle to advance should come down to the final matches.
3. Group D
Whichever group showcased the European team which was switched into Pot 2 was going to be difficult. Group D definitely shows that, but it wasn't as troublesome as it could have been. A worst-case scenario could have seen three elite sides in the same group.
Ultimately, Italy was moved and drawn alongside Uruguay, England and Costa Rica. It creates another scenario like Group B. Three teams are likely to fight for the two berths in the next round, and it could get much more problematic if the fourth side (Costa Rica) plays well.
One player to watch closely in Brazil is Luis Suarez. He's been displaying some remarkable form with Liverpool at the club level and has the potential to carry Uruguay a long way. Italy and England hope he's fallen into a slump by next summer, which would be a major boost to their chances.