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World champions Spain to play France in World Cup

World champions Spain will play former world champions France in their qualifying campaign to reach the...

Teammates celebrate with Spain's defender Carles Puyol (R) after a goal that saw the team advance to the finals of the World Cup. Picture: AFP.

World champions <country-region w:st="on">Spain</country-region> will play former world champions France in their qualifying campaign to reach the finals in <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Brazil</country-region> in 2014 following Saturday's gala preliminary round draw.

<country-region w:st="on">Spain</country-region> were the last name drawn in the European qualifying group and will also play <country-region w:st="on">Belarus</country-region>, <country-region w:st="on">Georgia</country-region> and <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Finland</country-region>.

The <country-region w:st="on">Netherlands</country-region>, who lost last year's final to <country-region w:st="on">Spain</country-region> in <country-region w:st="on">South Africa</country-region>, will face <country-region w:st="on">Turkey</country-region>, <country-region w:st="on">Hungary</country-region>, <country-region w:st="on">Romania</country-region>, <country-region w:st="on">Estonia</country-region> and <country-region w:st="on">Andorra</country-region> as they bid to return to South America where they lost the 1978 final in <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Argentina</country-region>.

A total of 166 teams were involved in the draw for five of six FIFA's confederations with no draw for the South American zone as their nine teams play in one league. Hosts <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Brazil</country-region> have qualified automatically for the first finals they will stage since 1950.

<country-region w:st="on">South Africa</country-region>, who hosted the last World Cup face neighbours <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Botswana</country-region> as they attempt to reach the finals again.

Asian champions Japan face Uzbekistan, Syria and North Korea in their section while African champions Egypt should coast through to the next round of their competition after being paired with Guinea, Zimbabwe and either Comoros or Mozambique who play in a preliminary qualifier.