2010 World Cup draw sets up soccer’s biggest stage

Nayib Moran

Cape Town hosted the 2010 World Cup Draw this past Friday and ignited the start of next year’s important athletic event. Nelson Mandela, who was responsible for South Africa’s election as host for the World Cup, urged his countrymen to do their best with this huge opportunity in an opening statement viewed by 200 million gloal television viewers.

Group A: Tough Luck for the Host Country

Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium will host the first game of the World Cup June 11, 2010 as South Africa plays Javier Aguirre’s Mexico. Mexico will play its sixth inaugural game in its nation’s history. This is South Africa’s second World Cup appearance, coached by Carlos Alberto Parreira, a Brazilian native who led his own national team to the World Cup in 1994. France, led by Thierry Henry’s handball, is the top seed in the group. Raymond Domenech, France’s coach, has players such as Franck Ribery, Yoann Gourcouff, Samir Nasri, Jean-Pierre Gignac, and Karim Benzema, who should allow “allez les bleus” fans to be optimistic about their national team. Uruguay is the last member of the group, and with top class forwards like Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, the team should give battle to all of their opponents. Expect France and Mexico to advance to the next round.

Group B: Argentina Can Play to Tango’s Beat

With the world’s best player, as confirmed by prestigious French soccer magazine France Football, in its starting 11, Argentina should be able to advance from the group stage. Lionel Messi is aware that his moment will be in South Africa, and with the help of teammates like Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, and Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina should finish first in this group. Argentina will be accompanied by Nigeria, who will make its fourth World Cup appearance. Also in Group B is Greece, who shocked the world in 2004 when it won the Euro in Portugal, and the Republic of Korea, who reached the semi-finals in 2002. Nigeria has the upper hand to finish second, for it has advanced twice to the Round of 16 in 1994 and 2002.

Group C: Father vs. Son

In 1950, the United States defeated England 1-0. Sixty years later, they will meet again, but will the result be the same as it was in Bello Horizonte, Brazil? England has been enlightened by Italian coach Fabio Capello and hopes to win its second World Cup, the first one occurring in 1966. Joining them is Algeria, who battled Egypt to win Africa’s last ticket and has not attended a Word Cup since 1986. And Slovenia, after booting Guus Hiddink’s Russia out of World Cup contention in a hard fought playoff, will battle the United States for that second spot in the group. Considering Charlie Davies will not play the World Cup, the States’ aspirations are difficult. The game against Slovenia will be vital and will determine second place.

Group D: The Balanced One

With three championships in its repertoire, Germany intends to dominate this group. It will probably be the last World Cup for players like Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose, but Germany is always a championship contender. They are joined by Serbia, who attended the last edition of the World Cup as Serbia and Montenegro. The other two teams that comprise the group are Australia, who advanced to the Round of 16 in 2006, and Ghana, the best African national team in the last World Cup. Expect Germany and Ghana to advance to the next round.

Group E: Dutch on the Doorstep

The Netherlands have disputed two finals and lost both: one in 1974 against Germany and again in 1978 against Argentina. The Dutch were the first ones to qualify to the World Cup and finished undefeated in the qualification stage. The “tulips” are accompanied by lucky Denmark, who prevented Sweden from making its third straight World Cup appearance and forced Portugal to play a playoff. Samuel Eto’o and Cameroon return to the grand stage after missing the 2006 World Cup, and Japan will try to advance to the Round of 16 like it did in 2002. The Netherlands should be accompanied by Cameroon to the next round.

Group F: Bello for Italy

Italy won’t really be tested until it plays the Round of 16 game. The defending champs seem to have an easy group, and its only serious opponent could be Paraguay, who finished second in CONMEBOLs qualifiers and has a core of players who are regarded as the best in history.

Joining them will be Slovakia, making its first World Cup appearance, and New Zealand, who is making its second. Without a doubt, Italy and Paraguay should have this group in the bag.

Group G: The Group of Death

In a press conference held in Madrid, Kaka baptized this group as the “group of death”. Expect fireworks when Portugal plays Brazil. Though Portugal has in its starting 11 the second best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo, Ivory Coast has the upper hand to advance alongside Brazil to the next round. Ivory Coast is one of the strongest of the African nations and is favored to at least reach the quarterfinals. The last memberof the group, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, will make its second World Cup appearance since 1966. Brazil and Ivory Coast should advance to the Round of 16.

Group H: La Furia Roja’s Golden Generation Intends to Make a Statement

Spain’s golden opportunity has come, and it is imperative to dominate the group stage. This group is also called the “se habla español” group, for Spain is joined by Honduras and Chile. The last member is Switzerland. Honduras is making its second World Cup appearance since 1982, in which it played a game against Spain and tied 1-1. Chile, coached by Argentinean Marcelo Bielsa, will return to the World Cup after its appearance in 1998. Spain and Chile should complete the list of the world’s 16 elite.