The balls are opened, the little papers are unraveled, and the group stage for the 2014 World Cup is set.
The Bayern Munich National team could have as many as 14 players realistically going to Brazil, along with three former FC Bayern managers in Louis van Gaal, Ottmar Hitzfeld, and Jürgen Klinsmann. Given how the draw unfolded, FC Bayern players could fight to the death (...of their national teams) eight times in the group stage and the Round of 16.
Here's how the draw stacks up for FC Bayern players:
The first game for Dante and the World Cup hosts is against Mario Mandžukić and his Croatian contingent. While his spot may not be secure, Dante will hopefully get at least one game in the group stage, and hopefully Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will allow the 28-year-old to bash around in the box with Mario Mandzukic. Both are phenomenal through the air, and both like to roam around the field a bit. The contest between the two could be a fantastic showcase.
The World Cup final from a year ago will be one of the first matches in the group stage. Arjen Robben was an integral part to the Netherlands 2010 World Cup Run, while Javi Martínez watched most of his country's games from the sideline or the stands. Now four years later, Martínez might have to mark Robben once or twice, although Spain's midfield depth might prevent that scenario once again. Meanwhile, if Thiago Alcântara can establish excellent form, Vicente del Bosque might include him as a last-cut type of player, but the number of options might ace Thiago out. For FIFA, though, this is a dream draw for their biggest competition.
The surprising seed of Switzerland allowed Xherdan Shaqiri and Franck Ribéry to face off against each other. A master-apprentice match-up, the two could occupy the same wing, depending on where former FC Bayern manager Ottmar Hitzfeld places Shaqiri on the pitch. Given that both are attacking players, Shaqiri and Ribéry might not do battle too many times, but given that each track back pretty well, they will butt heads a few times.
Round of 16
Brazil, Croatia, Netherlands, Spain
With the winners and runners up in Group A meeting that of Group B, that means Dante, Mandžukić, Robben, Martínez and Thiago could all face each other in the Round of 16. However, if Mexico shows up to play in Group A, then Croatia might have a hard time advancing, especially considering they needed to go to a playoff for the UEFA World Cup Qualifying. Still, a Dante-Robben match-up might be fun to watch, but the knockout stage could find the likes of Dante and Martínez on the bench.
One of these countries would have to finish second in order for this Round of 16 tilt to occur, but with Germany drawing Portugal, Ghana, and the United States, a few dropped points could mean a Red/Black/Gold flag derby. Daniel van Buyten started five matches in qualifying, but bench time could be in his future if/when Vincent Kompany comes back to full health. He might not get a chance to go against his German mates.
- The big one of course is Jürgen Klinsmann managing against his home country, managing against his former assistant, and managing against some of his former players. Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger played under Klinsmann on both the German National Team and for FC Bayern, so the reunion in Brazil will be an intriguing spectacle.
- FC Bayern and Real Madrid have met in the current iteration of the UEFA Champions League six times. With the quality and the squad depth of both sides, the odds that the two sides could meet for a two legged affair would not be too low. That means that Philipp Lahm and Christiano Ronaldo, arguably the best winger contest in the world, could go head-to-head three times at the highest level for club and country.
- The Boateng-brother-battle got more publicity from Kevin Prince transfering from AC Milan to Schalke 04. The bout reaches a whole different level in the World Cup, especially considering the siblings selected separate sides. Jérôme decided to go with his mother's country, Germany, and Kevin Prince decided to go with his father's country, Ghana. Now the two are matched up in their second group match for the second time in as many World Cups.
So happy that i can play again after the World Cup 2010 against my Brother Kevin and Ghana. pic.twitter.com/epZeeCe6qh— Jerome Boateng (@JB17Official) December 6, 2013