There are still three years to go before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ begins and although the hosts are not taking part in the qualifiers, that does not mean to say the country’s football stars are not already playing an active role in the competition.

A handful of them were on duty in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, lending FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke a helping hand as the Preliminary Draw was made.

Among them were youngsters Lucas Piazon, Neymar and Ganso and legends of yesteryear such as Zico, Cafu and Bebeto. And as found out, both the old hands and the new boys on the block were delighted to be taking part.

“I am thrilled to be taking part in the draw for the preliminaries,” said Neymar moments before going on stage with Cafu to draw the groups in the Africa zone. “I’m so excited that it’s happening here in my country and I’m very honoured.”

No less elated at the prospect of the second FIFA World Cup to take place on Brazilian soil, Zico teamed up with Lucas to decide the fate of the Asian teams, and had this to say: “We hosted the World Cup in 1950, when the sport wasn’t what it is today. It was after that competition that Brazil became what it is in football, and if any country deserves to stage the World Cup, it’s this one.” 

In contrast to the great Zico, Lucas Piazon is taking his first steps in the game and has just been representing his country at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011. The teenager joins Chelsea at the end of the year and perhaps not surprisingly, found Saturday’s show in Rio a little awe-inspiring: “I hadn’t realised the scale of this until now, but the fact is the World Cup starts here. Obviously I’m dreaming about Brazil 2014, though it’s still a long way away. First of all I’ve got to think about establishing myself at Chelsea and trying to fight my way into the team. If I can do that, then I’ll have a chance.”

Another young man with a similar dream is Flamengo fledgling Mattheus, whose father is none other than Bebeto and whose birth the former goalscorer famously celebrated when hitting Brazil’s second goal in a memorable quarter-final against the Netherlands at USA 1994.

I hadn’t realised the scale of this until now, but the fact is the World Cup starts here. Obviously I’m dreaming about Brazil 2014, though it’s still a long way away. 

Lucas Piazon, Brazilian midfielder

“It’s so wonderful to welcome the whole world to our country for the draw,” said the ex-striker. “I’m just sorry I never experienced this as a player, though I’m dreaming of seeing my son fulfil that dream for me. A lot of things are going to be happening in the run-up to 2014. A new player comes through every year and who knows, Mattheus might be one of them. I always think he was destined to do it as soon as I did that goal celebration.”

After the legendary Mario Zagallo and Fellipe Bastos determined who faces who in Oceania it was on to the most eagerly awaited part of the evening and the European draw, which was performed by Paulo Henrique Ganso and Ronaldo.

“All I can do now is cheer Brazil on from the sidelines,” said Ronaldo, who appeared in four FIFA World Cups and is the leading all-time goalscorer in the competition. “I’d love to play in a World Cup in Brazil but my time has gone.”