COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) — Thirty-two teams, a world of possibilities.
The 31 countries that qualified for the 2014 World Cup and host nation Brazil will be hoping for the luck of the draw Friday. That's when their names are plucked from bowls in a globally televised extravaganza to determine where, when and, most important, who they will play in Brazil next June at soccer's showcase tournament.
Will Brazil be paired in a tough opening group that could sink its bid for a sixth World Cup victory, souring the tournament that is costing the nation nearly $11 billion?
Who will triumph if four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi of Argentina is drawn against Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, his nemesis in soccer's most intense individual rivalry.
Could defending champion Spain be drawn to play its opening game against the Netherlands? That repeat of the ill-tempered 2010 final would also cause sharp intakes of breath.
With the world title at stake and because of soccer's deep sporting, historical and political rivalries, the transparent bowls holding the teams' names are bound to produce alluring matchups.
Around the world, eyes will be trained on 1998 World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane and other former stars from the eight nations that have won the trophy as they select balls containing slips of paper bearing the teams' names.
The 90-minute ceremony will be televised live to more than 190 countries. Even in the 177 soccer-playing nations and territories that didn't qualify for the monthlong tournament, fans will be hoping for encounters worthy of this showpiece.
Bosnia-Herzegovina will get its first taste of the nervous excitement of a World Cup draw, having qualified as an independent nation two decades after its war that killed more than 100,000 people. Other nations are old hands: Seven have qualified for each of the last seven World Cups — Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the United States.
Although it likes to consider itself the fun-loving soul of soccer, Brazil will field a team next year that so far is yet to wow with its play as did some of its great squads of the past, with such jewels as Pele. Brazilian fans, like those from all the strongest nations, will pray their team isn't drawn in the toughest group, which is sure to be dubbed the "Group of Death," a label of questionable taste that soccer is fond of.
Brazil will be using the tournament as a window to the world. Keen to show it has more to offer than sandy beaches, samba and soccer, the world's seventh-largest economy has built and renovated 12 stadiums and poured billions more into other public works.