Brazil kicked off the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in typically exuberant style with a festival of music and football at the Preliminary Draw show on Saturday 30 July in Rio de Janeiro.
The beautifully decked-out Marina da Gloria provided the perfect setting for Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, who took to the stage to declare: "Brazil has now been admired for a lot more than its football, its music and its popular celebrations. I invite people from the whole world to meet Brazil and the Brazilians.
"Whoever comes here will find a country perfectly prepared to host the FIFA World Cup. You may be sure that this new Brazil will be perfectly ready to enchant the world in 2014, with its joyful, generous people that loves not only football, but also freedom, social justice and peace."
I'm happy to say today: 'Let the 2014 FIFA World Cup begin'.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter had earlier opened proceedings, saying: "We are very happy to be back in Brazil 61 years after the last FIFA World Cup here, in a country whose heart beats with football. Brazil has always produced stars who make world football richer.
"The world is expecting a wonderful FIFA World Cup and for that we will have the support of everyone, in particular the 190million football lovers. Brazil is not only about football, it's also a multicultural country with a rich culture and a booming economy, now ranked seventh in the world. I'm happy to say today: 'Let the 2014 FIFA World Cup begin'."
The show, hosted by model and actress Fernanda Lima and TV presenter Tadeu Schmidt, then moved on to the main event: the draw. Former Brazil captain Cafu had been asked to conduct the draw for Africa, and the 2002 world champion made his way onto the stage accompanied by the rising star of Brazilian football, Neymar, fresh from scoring an incredible goal for Santos just a few days ago. The pair took to their task with relish, and when matters had been decided, Côte d'Ivoire and Morocco were left rueing their luck at being handed such a tough group.
*Australia, Japan face challenge in Asia *Legendary playmaker Zico was next up, accompanied by another new talent fresh off the Brazilian production line, Lucas, to conduct the draw for the Asian Zone. This time around it was Japan and Australia who found themselves facing a stern qualifying challenge.
Now two musicians took centre stage to the delight of the audience. Ivan Lins, the first Brazilian to win the album of the year at the Latin Grammy Awards, back in 2005, and Ana Carolina, one of the most celebrated singers of the last decade, provided the perfect musical interlude.
Then it was the turn of 1994 world champion Bebeto to take a bow, along with young Lucas Piazon, striker for the Brazil side that reached the semi-finals of the recent FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011. Their job was to pick out countries for the North, Central America and the Caribbean Zone, and under the watchful eye of master of ceremonies FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, Mexico were handed a potentially tough draw.
Pianist and composer Daniel Jobim, grandson and rightful heir to the great Tom Jobim, provided another beautiful passage of music before Mario Zagallo and Felipe Bastos were called up to conduct the draw for Oceania.
Next it was the turn Ivete Sangalo to thrill the assembly with a delightful perfomance. The Bahia-state native, who has won a host of awards overseas for her music, was accompanied by the Heliopolis Symphonic Orchestra, which was set up by the Baccarelli institute in 1996 to provide grants to muscians from disadvantaged backgrounds to enable them to pursue their love of music.
Spain and France drawn together in Europe
The recently retired Ronaldo, top scorer in FIFA World Cup history, was last up, accompanied by the young prodigy from Santos and A Verde e Amarelo, Ganso. By the time they had finished pulling out the European countries, the likes of Croatia, Spain and France, all of whom find themselves in hard groups, were probably wishing they hadn’t bothered.
A final video promoting sport as a source of hope for a better future marked the end of a memorable show that set the seal on the qualifying procedure for football’s greatest showpiece. Let Brazil 2014 begin!