Only two names were left in the pot at the end of the qualifying draw for the 2014 finals in Brazil - England and Spain, with the prospect that one of those would go into Group I with France.
As it turned out, the former Brazilian striker Ronaldo picked England to go into Group H, avoiding Europe's big-hitters and instead facing Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino.
World and European champions Spain will have to battle it out with France, to the chagrin of Les Bleus coach Laurent Blanc.
Blanc said: "I don't understand why France is in the second group? Why are Greece, Norway and Croatia ranked higher?
"Spain is the world champion. Barcelona won the Champions League. I know everything about them but the qualifiers start after 2012. I've got time to improve my team."
England's qualification task should be straightforward for Fabio Capello's successor - he leaves the job as England manager after the Euro 2012 tournament - and the Italian said emerging players such as Arsenal's Jack Wilshere would provide a good backbone for the World Cup qualification campaign.
Scotland and Wales will have to play each other in Group A with some strong-looking opponents - three from the Balkans - in Croatia, Serbia, Belgium and FYR Macedonia.
Northern Ireland have some long-distance trips in Group F with Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.
The Republic of Ireland are in Group C with Germany, Sweden, Austria, the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan.
The draw in Rio de Janeiro took place exactly 45 years since England won their one and only World Cup - and 81 years since Uruguay triumphed in the very first World Cup final - and Capello said the future for England was bright.
He said: "I am confident as we have some really interesting young players and the future will be them.
"Some young players will play more at Manchester United, some like [Kieran] Gibbs will play more games at Arsenal, Wilshere is the future, and [Jordan] Henderson and [Andy] Carroll at Liverpool."
Capello knows from experience that Montenegro are resilient - they drew 0-0 at Wembley in October in the Euro 2012 qualifier.
He added: "It is not an easy draw. You have to be really, really focused and play every game like a final - but that will be another manager's job.
"We know Montenegro very well and we have to play against them again. Poland are improving and will be really focused and will be a tough game.
"With Ukraine I remember the game we lost against them in the last match during the qualification for South Africa.
"Moldova is not so strong and San Marino the same."
Rio Ferdinand insisted that England should be aiming to top the group.
The defender said on Twitter: "The qualifying group is similar to most qualifying campaigns, some tricky away games but have to be looking to qualify top."
The winners of the nine groups qualify automatically and the eight best runners-up play off for the four places remaining.
All the home nations did avoid the toughest draw, Group I where Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia and Finland will battle it out.
The draw took place against a background of bickering between organisers and the Government, concerns over preparations and a protest by those who claim the tournament is adversely affecting the livelihoods of thousands.
A crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the draw taking place at the Marina da Gloria, and the protest's organisers said in a statement: "While the 20million dollar party for choosing the qualifying groups for the 2014 World Cup is happening, thousands of the city's residents are being removed from their homes in preparation for the tournament, street vendors are prevented from working and the vast majority of the population will not have enough money to pay for tickets to the World Cup."
The Brazilian government have not seen eye to eye with the local organising committee headed by Ricardo Teixeira, the FIFA executive committee member and head of the CBF, the Brazilian football federation.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter opened the ceremony by insisting the world governing body had confidence that Brazil would overcome delays in preparations.
Blatter said: "We need the support of the government of Brazil, the state governments, the organising committee and the 190 million fans of football that is the population of Brazil.
"It is a matter of trust and confidence and FIFA have trust in Brazil and are confident of its abilities.
"Football is the beating heart of Brazil. It is a multi-cultural country of joy and celebration blessed with natural beauty and a booming economy ranking number seven in the world."