COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) — Brazil escaped tough opponents in the group stage of next year's World Cup but will probably face a major rival as early as the second round.
Friday's draw put Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon in Group A along with Brazil, teams that really shouldn't keep the hosts and five-time winners from advancing.
But defending champion Spain or the Netherlands are lurking, likely to be the next opponents for the hosts in the second round. For that to happen, they need to finish as the top teams in Group B, which also contains Chile and Australia. The Dutch were runner-ups to Spain in 2010, when they eliminated Brazil in the quarterfinals.
In the quarterfinals, Brazil has a chance to play against one of the teams in Group D, which has world champions Uruguay, England and Italy, in addition to Costa Rica.
"We can't worry too far ahead past the group stage," coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "If you start thinking about the second round you forget about the teams in the first round, which are important. We have to worry about these teams first."
But Brazil hasn't had significant problems with its first-round opponents. Brazil played Croatia in its opening match in 2006, winning 1-0 in Berlin. It beat Cameroon 3-0 in the first round in 1994, when it eventually won its fourth World Cup title in the United States.
Brazil defeated Mexico all three times it played in the World Cup (1950, '54 and '62), and it also got past the Latin American rival in the group stage of the Confederations Cup this year, the warm-up tournament it won.