A day of big breaking news for Star Sixes saw Sky Sports confirm they will show exclusive live coverage of the tournament – just moments before Robert Pirès and Michael Ballack performed the eagerly-awaited draw live on Sky Sports News HQ.
France captain Pirès and Germany skipper Ballack will meet in the group stage in one of many mouth-watering clashes – including England facing the Auld Enemy Scotland.
Brazil, starring Roberto Carlos, will also recreate their 1970 World Cup final against Italy when the inaugural Star Sixes – an international six-a-side tournament for former internationals – takes place at The O2, London, from July 13-16.
Every Star Sixes match will be shown live on Sky Sports.
Steven Gerrard’s England side, which includes Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and David James, have been drawn alongside Spain, Mexico and Scotland, who have Don Hutchison, Barry Ferguson, Dominic Matteo, Christian Dailly, Paul Dickov, Simon Donnelly and Rab Douglas in their squad.
Hutchison famously scored when Scotland last won at Wembley, and the former Liverpool and Everton midfielder will have the chance to repeat that feat when the Scots take on England on Friday 14 July.
England will kick off on Thursday 13 July against a strong Spain squad – containing Carles Puyol, Gaizka Mendieta, Luis García, Míchel Salgado, David Albelda, Pedro Contreras and Alfonso Pérez – before completing the group stage against Mexico on Saturday 15 July.
During the draw, eyebrows were raised when Ballack paired Pirès’ France with his own Germany side in Group C, which also includes Deco’s Portugal and Martin Jørgensen and Stig Tøfting’s Denmark – arguably the tournament’s ‘group of death’.
It also set up a repeat of last summer’s Euro 2016 semi-final, when Antoine Griezemann scored both goals as France beat Germany.
“This is a chance for revenge after losing in the Euros,” said Ballack, who will play alongside ex-Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann at Star Sixes. “We may not have the same rivalry now we are retired, but everyone is preparing for the tournament and will have that competitiveness again.”
Pirès, who will be partnered in the French squad by Marcel Desailly, Éric Abidal, William Gallas, Ludovic Giuly, Olivier Dacourt and Sébastien Frey, added: “We have three or four months to prepare, and for me and the other players it will be a privilege just to be out there playing again.
“It’s a smaller pitch so it will be very intense, and you need good reactions and skill. It should be really enjoyable for the fans. I am really excited to be playing against some great players again.”
Brazil, also featuring Juliano Belletti, were grouped with Jay-Jay Okocha’s Nigeria, China and Italy, whom they famously beat in the 1970 World Cup final.
The full Star Sixes group draw and dates of matches are listed below (the order of play on each day will be confirmed in due course).
Ballack added: “I don’t want to put us under too much pressure but if you play for Germany you have to reach the semi-finals, minimum. We have a good chance in that group.”
Pirès said: “When you play for your country you want to win the tournament. Of course, it will be very difficult, but we are very competitive and we have a good squad for the tournament.”
Presented by Pitch International (London), in partnership with Football Champions Tour, a leading sports management agency, Star Sixes will reunite the world’s greatest players in their national team colours to renew old rivalries over four days of intense competition.
Every Star Sixes player will be a fully-capped former international, and with each country selecting a ten-man squad, many, many more star names will be announced in the coming weeks.
The top two countries in each of the three four-team groups, plus the two best third-placed teams, will progress to the quarter-finals.
All group stage matches will be played during three ‘sessions’ on Thursday 13 July, Friday 14 July and Saturday 15 July (afternoon session). All 12 countries will play one 20-minute match in each of these sessions.
The evening session on Saturday 15 July will feature four quarter-finals – before Star Sixes reaches a pulsating conclusion the following day. With the silverware at stake, the Sunday 16 July session will include two semi-finals, a third-place decider and the Star Sixes final.
From, and including, the quarter-finals, all knockout-stage matches will feature two 15-minute halves, with a short half-time break. Matches that finish all square in the knockout stages will be decided by a penalty shootout.
Star Sixes will adhere to 11-a-side football rules as closely as possible, and will include: no restrictions on player movement; no head-height rule; no perimeter wall/barriers; rolling substitutions; kick-ins will replace throw-ins.
As well as world-class football action, a spectacular show will be built around the matches making this an unmissable occasion for the whole family.