The countdown to the ninth FIFA Confederations Cup, one of the most keenly awaited in recent times, began in earnest on Saturday, when the Draw for the competition was held at the Anhembi Convention Centre in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Presented by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, the Draw ceremony revealed who will face who in the group phase of the Festival of Champions, which takes place in Brazil on 15-30 June 2013.

Group A: Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Italy.

Group B: Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti, the next African champions

The national team coaches in the audience looked on intently as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil learned they will face Japan in the opening match of the competition, to be played on 15 June at Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional.

That game is not the only group-phase encounter we will be waiting for expectantly in the coming months. Brazil and Italy will clash in a re-run of their epic encounters in 1970 and 1982, while Spain and Uruguay, who both reached the sem-finals at South Africa 2010, will lock horns.

Meanwhile, the identity of Africa’s representatives will be revealed at the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, to be played on 10 February in South Africa.

Stars on parade
The draw also revealed the close ties that bind Brazilian culture and the sport of football. World-famous supermodel Adriana Lima and the celebrated chef Alex Atala both lent a helping hand on the stage, where they were in very good company. Stars of the calibre of Bebeto, Ronaldo, Cafu, who presented the official tournament matchball, and Marta rubbed shoulders with local personalities from the worlds of politics and entertainment. Helping the show go with a swing were musical acts Arlindo Cruz, Maria Gadu and Meninos do Morumbi, who kept the guests very well entertained.

“In this FIFA Confederations Cup, we have no less than 12 FIFA World Cup stars, so it is not a rehearsal competition, only to look at the possibilities of Brazil," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. "It’s an authentic Festival of Champions. I am sure Brazil will deliver a wonderful competition and will follow it up with a great FIFA World Cup.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff added: “Today we start the countdown for the FIFA Confederations Cup and we’re all aware that Brazil has a double responsibility in this tournament: to show off a beautiful brand of football that honours the Brazilian traditions and to accomplish another mission off the pitch, that is, to organise a tournament that’s unforgettable because of our organisation and the way we will welcome the seven national teams and their fans. Our six host cities will be ready and will show that Brazil gathers all the conditions to host the World Cup in 2014.”

The event, which ran for a little over an hour, set the perfect tone for the 2013 Festival of Champions, a tournament that will give the world’s best the chance to exhibit their skills on the very same stage that will host the FIFA World Cup™, the greatest footballing show on Earth, one year later.

The public ticket sale will start on Monday, 3 December at 12:00 CET (09:00 Brasilia Time) on

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