5 Things to know about the World Cup draw schedule
Costa do Sauipe, Brazil • Three matches in tropical beach resort cities. Staying in the cooler south with minimal travel between matches. Flying around the vast country with a trip deep into the Amazon in the middle.
The World Cup draw is Friday, setting the match schedule for the 32 teams. Some slots are clearly more desirable than others.
Here are some of the ups and downs for the teams, many having already chosen their training camps regardless of where the draw puts them:
As if facing Brazil in the tournament's opening match in Sao Paulo is not tough enough, that country will then face one of the most grueling travel schedules. Next up is an afternoon match in Manaus, almost 2,400 miles from Sao Paulo. The third fixture is a further 2,800 miles east in the coastal city of Recife.
This fate awaits whichever of Brazil's three group rivals is drawn into position A2 in the schedule. And if that same team finishes runner-up to Brazil, its second-round match will be a 1 p.m. start in the steamy heat of Fortaleza.
EAST COAST DRAG
Even seeded teams can get a difficult shake in this often-criticized World Cup schedule, which takes in the maximum 12 host cities allowed with long travel times across the vast nation.
The seed drawn into Group D will ping up and down the country from Fortaleza to Sao Paulo, more than 1,800 miles down the east coast, then almost the same distance back up to Natal for a closing match in the 1 p.m. heat.
For a European seed such as Belgium or Switzerland, this slot shapes up as one worth avoiding.
HEAT IS ON
Staying in that group, the team allocated position D4 is the only one of the 32 that will have back-to-back matches kicking off at lunchtime in the tropics. Oh, and its first match is scheduled in Manaus as the Saturday night late show that kicks off at 3 a.m. Central European Time. That late slot was required because opening day, June 12, has only the Brazil match instead of the two games scheduled at the 2010 World Cup.
It's not all steamy heat and long-haul travel, at least not for the lucky seed in Group H. This is perhaps the best slot in the entire draw.
Three matches in temperate southern cities Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo with trips of fewer 300 miles between each. In fact, the whole six-match Group H schedule stays in the south, with no matches in Manaus or the north-eastern beach cities.
In addition, finishing runner-up in Group H will earn an extended stay in the south, with a second-round match in Porto Alegre.
The Group G seed will have perhaps the happiest fans. They get to stay by the Atlantic Ocean for the whole group program with games in Salvador, Fortaleza and Recife a nice round trip around the northeastern coast.
The flip side for the players is that the first and third games start at 1 p.m.
Salvador also offers a warm welcome for this team in the second round if it finishes runner-up in the group.