COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) — 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.