2014 World Cup kicks off, qualifying groups drawn



RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The 2014 World Cup has begun, with African nations learning which teams they will play in hopes of reaching the showcase tournament in Brazil in three years.

The qualifying draw in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday is the first major World Cup event in Brazil since the South American nation was awarded the competition for the first time in 64 years.

The African teams were divided in 10 groups for qualifying matches beginning in November. South Africa, last year’s World Cup host, was drawn in Group A along with Botswana. Ghana, the best African team last year, is in Group D with Zambia and Sudan.

As host, Brazil is the only nation that doesn’t have to qualify. But 166 other teams are having their fate decided in the draw.

Also Saturday, strong wind has damaged part of the auditorium holding the qualifying draw. No injuries were reported.