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European nations begin World Cup preparations

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012, 16.33CET
European and world champions Spain return to action for the first time since their UEFA EURO 2012 win as a host of countries start their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying preparations.
European nations begin World Cup preparations
Vicente del Bosque will be hoping to lead Spain to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil ©Sportsfile

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012, 16.33CET

European nations begin World Cup preparations

European and world champions Spain return to action for the first time since their UEFA EURO 2012 win as a host of countries start their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying preparations.

European and world champions Spain return to action this week as a number of countries take part in friendlies to prepare for 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, beginning in September.

Fresh from their UEFA EURO 2012 triumph, Spain play Puerto Rico on Wednesday. La Roja then meet Georgia in their qualifying Group I opener on 11 September as they bid to add back-to-back World Cups to the defence of their European crown. France, Belarus and Finland make up the section.

Runners-up in Poland and Ukraine this summer, Italy will hope to go one better in Brazil in two years' time. The Azzurri warm up for their first qualifier in Bulgaria with a game against England – the team they beat on penalties in the quarter-finals en route to July's Kyiv final – in Berne, Switzerland.

World Cup winners on home soil in 2000, France launch a new era under Didier Deschamps against Uruguay, who finished fourth in South Africa last time out. Les Bleus have made several changes to their squad for the friendly, with the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Philippe Mexès, Adil Rami, Yohan Cabaye, Alou Diarra, Florent Malouda and Yann M'Vila all omitted.

Russia also start life under a new coach following Dick Advocaat's departure. The Dutch trainer left to join PSV Eindhoven after UEFA EURO 2012 and has been replaced by former AC Milan, Real Madrid CF, AS Roma, Juventus and England boss Fabio Capello. The Italian's first fixture is a friendly against the Ivory Coast on Wednesday before he embarks on a Group F qualification campaign involving Portugal, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.

There is an exciting all-European tie taking place in Belgium, where Marc Wilmots' men welcome the Netherlands. The Red Devils failed to get to Poland and Ukraine but are widely tipped to do well in World Cup qualifying thanks to a squad featuring Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, Moussa Dembélé and Marouane Fellaini.

Brazil, who qualify automatically as World Cup hosts, will provide the opposition for Sweden, a side keen to bounce back from a disappointing summer in eastern Europe. The Blågult are in qualifying Group C alongside Joachim Löw's Germany, who welcome another South American outfit in Argentina.

UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, meanwhile, will attempt to build on those performances in World Cup qualifying Group H. First, though, they have friendly engagements against Estonia and the Czech Republic respectively.

2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying groups

Last updated: 24/01/13 10.57CET

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