COSTA DO SAUIPE - World Cup hosts Brazil might not admit it but they will already have one eye on the last 16 and a potential clash with holders Spain or Netherlands after a favourable draw on Friday.
Brazil's Group A opponents came out as Croatia, who they face in the opening match on June 12, Mexico and Cameroon and they are hot favorites to qualify in first place.
If they do they will face the runners-up in Group B, which contains world and European champions Spain plus Netherlands, who lost to the Spanish in the 2010 final, Chile and Australia.
The winners of Group B will face the Group A runners-up.
"We have to work with the players' heads because expectations are going to be so high," said Branco, a fullback with the Brazil team that won the trophy in 1994.
"It's going to tough, because we could end up facing the Netherlands, Spain or Chile."
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari predictably played down any mention of the knockout stage.
"We have to get past the first round," Scolari said. "Everyone thinks about the second round and forgets that the first stage is important...
"My players are going to be ready for the first stage and then we'll worry about the other teams."
That first round pits Brazil against three teams they have played before at the World Cup.
Brazil open the tournament in Sao Paulo against Croatia, who they beat in their first match of the 2006 finals in Germany.
After a short 300 km trip back to their Rio base they then face a three-hour, 2,250 km return flight to Fortaleza for the second tie on June 17 against Mexico, who they played the last time Brazil hosted the tournament in 1950.
Their third match is in Brasilia on June 23 against Cameroon who they defeated in the group stage in 1994.
"It's always good to start off against a European team because they have to go through an adaptation period in Brazil, and there is a series of things they'll need to implement," said Scolari.
Captain Thiago Silva also talked up their first round opponents.
"We ended up in a strong group, one that gives you goose bumps," the defender said.
"A strong African side, perhaps one of the best. And Mexico has been a tough adversary for us and Croatia is a strong team physically. It's very difficult but we're ready.
"It doesn't matter if we face a strong team early on or later in the tournament, Spain or the Netherlands," he added.
Brazil ended up in the toughest half of the draw but they will still be confident about their chances, having lost only twice in 19 games since Scolari took over in November.
They have scored in all but one of those matches.
Scolari has introduced a solid spine to the team, with Julio Cesar in goal, David Luiz and Thiago Silva in defence, Paulinho the anchor in midfield, and Fred his preferred choice up front.
He has also given his side a self-belief they lacked under his predecessor Mano Menezes and has rallied the often fickle fans behind them. Many players have said the raucous singing was instrumental in helping Brazil win the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Last week Scolari confidently declared, "Brazil are going to win the World Cup in 2014." Now all he has to do is deliver.
Next page: Reaction to World Cup draw
Reaction following Friday's draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil:
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari
"It's always good to start off against a European team because they have to go through an adaptation period in Brazil and there are a series of things they'll need to implement," he said of the tournament opener against Croatia on June 12.
"It will be a balanced first match but we live here, we work here and we know this country better than anybody."
Croatia coach Niko Kovac
"Having been drawn in such a tough group we will be delighted to open the World Cup against the host nation. Little Croatia against the big and mighty Brazil will be quite a match-up. A huge motive for my players and a very special occasion for us.
"We are going there to play entertaining football and do the best we can to make an impact but I can't promise passage into the last 16. The most important thing is that we prepare well and leave nothing left to chance in terms of fitness."
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera
"We have three hard opponents. We have to work hard to compete properly but we have to be realistic.
"It is a hard group and the potential Group B opponents (in the knockout stages) are even harder. But we want to achieve certain aims."
Cameroon coach Volke Finke
"Any team in the preliminary round with Brazil knows that it is more than just a normal group game. You are playing against the emotion of an entire nation and in a stadium where as the underdog you certainly won't have it easy.
"Despite that it is especially attractive. Of course it's not an easy group and Brazil are the deserved favorites for the tournament.
"Nonetheless you try to get what would be a bonus point against them."
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque
"I don't think it is the 'group of death', there are very strong opponents in other groups. But yes it is a tough one.
"We will have to be prepared right from the first day, focus ourselves.
"They will demand the very best from us but it is in our own hands too and doesn't just depend on our opponents."
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli
"This is a very complicated group considering the rivals. Obviously, playing against two very important Europeans including the defending champions, is always going to be (tough).
"One assumes that the rivals are difficult because of their history but when it comes time to play we hope Chile can play big games like we did against England and Spain."
Chile beat England 2-0 at Wembley last month and drew 2-2 against Spain in Switzerland in September.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou
"We're a young nation in football terms so it is our chance to make headlines.
"It's a tough group, an exciting group. All the teams play good football."
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal
"As far as opponents are concerned it is a tough draw. The conditions are even tougher. We are playing the world champions, we've never won against Australia and Chile are no slouches. We play in tough venues, it is certainly not easy at all."
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman
"It's a balanced group, we have one African team, one Asian and one European. We've shown we can compete with any team with a lot of character."
Greece coach Fernando Santos
"It might not look like it but this is one of the most difficult groups because there are four teams with good chances to qualify.
"Colombia are very strong in attack, Ivory Coast are an experienced side with great players like (Didier) Drogba and Gervinho and Japan want to surprise on the world stage. But Greece have every chance to reach the round of 16."
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni
"It's a shame we've been grouped with the best African side but we haven't been hit with another European team. It's one thing having to take on Greece and another facing up to Holland or France.
"We'll be playing in the heat but we have the experience of playing in the 2013 Confederations Cup."
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli
"We're not worried about the group. I would have been worried if the media had started saying that it was an easy group.
"The conditions (in Manaus) worry me because it's not just about taking on these teams but how you do it.
"We maybe have a slight advantage over the other teams - apart from Uruguay - because we know the difficulties that we had to face in the Confederations Cup."
England coach Roy Hodgson
"It's a tough group, there's no doubt about that. A lot of people are saying they are in tough groups but there is no doubt that in Italy and Uruguay we've almost got two number one seeds because Italy were very unlucky not to be seeded among the first eight.
"There is a lot of travelling to be done in a lot of the groups and our great advantage is that being based in Rio de Janeiro we've only got the one long trip (to Manaus).
"The other two trips to Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte are relatively short trips to the same neck of the woods."
Uruguay forward Diego Forlan
"In comparison with what other teams have got, it's the hardest group of this World Cup. But you have to play the matches and at the last World Cup we were in a very complicated group but came through well."
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto
"We have done well to get here and we are not just here to make up the numbers. It is a tough group but we believe in ourselves - every group for us was going to be a tough group.
"We will prepare, we have faith and we will see what happens but it is not a foregone conclusion that we cannot go on in the competition."
France coach Didier Deschamps
"It could have been more complicated. Beyond the name of our opponents the other good thing is that we won't play in the northern towns where the temperatures are high, we'll stay in our zone.
"We know Switzerland well, they were seeded so obviously are the toughest opponents. We don't know Ecuador and Honduras that well and it will have an influence on our preparation. We'll play at least one pre-tournament friendly against a South American nation."
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld
"A very tense and level group with different mentalities.
"European teams facing teams from South America and from Central America. It's a very interesting group to play in. France are very effective opponents but no need to complain. We must use the time that we have to prepare for the conditions that we are going to face."
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda
"The humidity issue? Ecuador does well in that type of climatic situation.
"To face Honduras (who Rueda coached at the 2010 finals) it does help a lot. We know each other and it's a match we have to play intelligently."
Honduras coach Luis Suarez
"I leave with a good taste in my mouth with one exception. I didn't want to face Ecuador. Not only for Reinaldo (Rueda) but also for the country - they mean a lot to me.
"Ecuador helped me develop my career, I owe them many things."
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella
"We didn't get the group of death and we got a geographical area playing in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre, that is in general terms positive.
"Everyone knows I'm a great admirer of Brazilian football, on top of that they're the home side, which is a double edged sword.
"Brazil (who Argentina could meet in the knockout rounds) have a great coach and great players who will make being at home an advantage."
Bosnia coach Safet Susic
"Argentina are the group favorites and it will be a very special occasion for us to play our opening match against them at the Maracana Stadium.
"We should have an even chance alongside Nigeria to clinch the runners-up spot although no one should underestimate Iran either. We have a fair chance of reaching the knockout rounds."
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz
"We are here to play against the best in the world and, to have the opportunity to play against Argentina early on, well, we could not ask for more."
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi
"We keep playing Argentina every time at the World Cup. It's good, we'll see how we go this time. Not knowing Bosnia is a difficult thing but they are a good team.
"I think I've seen them once or twice on TV. Iran, I've never seen them, but for them to be here means they are a good team."
Germany coach Joachim Loew
"We will be meeting old friends. It's already something special to have the US in our group. (Coach) Juergen (Klinsmann) and I have had a very good and close relationship for a long time.
"We have always exchanged ideas on a regular basis but that will certainly change before the World Cup match."
Portugal coach Paulo Bento
"It looks like a pretty balanced group to me with a favourite that is Germany.
"We also started the last European Championship against Germany, we lost 1-0 but put in a good match.
"The US and Ghana are also very organised sides with many players having European football experience."
Ghana coach James Kwesi Appiah
"It's nice to meet Germany and also the US who we beat in the last 16 in 2010. We are a better team than in 2010 and I'm sure there will be a lot of surprises in this group."
United States coach Juergen Klinsmann
"I had a feeling in my stomach we'd get Germany. It's one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw. Including having Portugal and (their top striker Cristiano) Ronaldo ... it couldn't get more difficult or any bigger.
"But that's what the World Cup is about and we'll take it. Hopefully we'll surprise some people there. We're going to be prepared, we're going to be confident."
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots
"It's an interesting group. There are no world class players within our opponents. I'm not saying it will be an easy group but our first objective to reach the round of 16 is still the same."
Russia coach Fabio Capello
"The physical stature of two of the teams worries me. South Korea are physically strong and Belgium have excellent players who are also very quick."
South Korea coach Hong Myung-bo
"We played a friendly against Russia in November but we will have to study them again, things change. People may think it's an easy group but it's not true. We should not underestimate any of our opponents, they are all strong and can go through."
Algeria manager Vahid Halilhodzic
"We could have had a much more difficult group but there's no easy group or no group of death. Belgium are a big football nation with a lot of quality and, in my opinion, could well be one of the surprises of the tournament.
"I also know Russia well, they have a great coach. Korea are also very skilful and have lots of movement. We'll come to try and surprise. We won't come as tourists but it will be very difficult."