2014 World Cup Draw: Looking Ahead to Most Intriguing Group-Opening Matchups

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2014 World Cup Draw: Looking Ahead to Most Intriguing Group-Opening Matchups
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

After a mass of hype and an extravagant presentation, the World Cup 2014 draw is complete and all 32 teams now know their path to the knockout stage in Brazil next summer. 

While host nation Brazil drew a favorable group that now has them at 3-1 odds to win it all, the United States fell into the Group of Death with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, who have knocked the Americans out of the past two World Cup tournaments. 

But with opening ceremonies more than six months away, it's time to turn our attention to the tournament's early matchups.

Below we'll take a closer look at the draw results and look ahead to three must-see group openers.

*Information according to FIFA.com.

World Cup 2014 Groups and Knockout Stage

Credit: Bleacher Report
Credit: Bleacher Report

Group B: Spain vs. Netherlands

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

When: June 13 at 4 p.m. ET

Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil

It's crazy to think that Group B play will begin next June with a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final.

Nearly four years after topping the Dutch 1-0 in extra time in Johannesburg, South Africa, defending World Cup champions Spain will battle the Netherlands in a pivotal group opener. With Chile and Australia rounding out Group B, the winner of this matchup will be in excellent shape to reach the knockout stage.

There'll also be no shortage of world-class individual talent on display in this game. 

In addition to Spain's star-studded midfield, brilliant Dutch playmakers like Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben will take center stage in what's sure to be a very entertaining back-and-forth battle.

Group D: England vs. Italy

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

When: June 14 at 6 p.m. ET

Location: Arena Amazonia, Manaus, Brazil

Group D is loaded with top-flight squads, highlighted by South American powerhouse Uruguay. But with La Celeste set to open up against Costa Rica, it'll be the group's other opener that generates the most headlines next summer.

World Cup 2006 champions Italy and 1966 winners England will square off in Manaus with each looking to get off to a fast start. 

What makes this heavyweight matchup so interesting, though, is the fact that both teams will be surrounded by question marks coming into 2014. While England has developed a reputation for underachieving at big events like the European Championship and World Cup, Italy must answer questions about its attack, which at times appears to rely far too heavily on the mercurial Mario Balotelli.

With so much at stake and so much history on each side, this is one opening match you definitely won't want to miss.

Group G: Germany vs. Portugal

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

When: June 16 at 1 p.m. ET

Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil

Group G's opening match in Brazil will pit two of Europe's most dominant and explosive squads against one another as Joachim Low's high-powered German team takes on Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.

Which of these openers intrigues you the most?

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Arguably the world's best player at the moment, Ronaldo single-handedly powered Portugal past Sweden in their playoff qualifier in November, scoring all four of his side's goals. His standout performance included a remarkable hat trick to stave off the Swedes in the second leg.

But Germany has plenty of talent as well, including Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze, who'll be making his World Cup debut. The 21-year-old blossomed into a versatile star during his time with Borussia Dortmund, helping lead the German club to the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League final last spring.

As far as the stakes are concerned, with the United States and Ghana both looking to advance from Group G as well, this opener will carry significant weight.

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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