Saturday, December 5, 2009

2010 South Africa Draw Review

Saturday, December 5, 2009

At long last, the much-anticipated draw for next year’s World Cup in South Africa has concluded and the stage has been set for a mesmerising championship. 32 of the supposedly greatest footballing nations that grace the planet will descend on South Africa next year and throw up a great spectacle for fans worldwide, of which the script – meaning the draw that was held in Cape Town – has been written.

Here, I will air my personal thoughts regarding the draw, its consequences and implications, and together with that, some amateurish predictions that usually is associated with the job of the football pundits.

Before streaming into the details, let me first give a brief overview of the draw. South Africa had qualified beforehand by virtue of being the host nation, whilst the other 31 countries had to overcome an arduous qualifying campaign that was spread over the last couple of years.

The qualified nations, each fulfilling their regional quota, have now been broken out into eight mini-leagues, or rather groups, of which there of four teams to each group. Then, the knockout rounds follow, whereby the last one standing will emerge World Champions.

The Draw

Group A: South Africa (Hosts)
                Mexico (North America)
                Uruguay (South America)
                France (Europe)

Verdict: Raymond Domenech must be grinning ear-to-ear after navigating past football powerhouses in the first pot to draw South Africa, and France must be counting their lucky stars as a result. Everyone knows they barely deserve to be here after the Henry handball saga. They should however take top spot followed closely by the evenly-matched Mexico and Uruguay. Both of them have pretty decent squads but don’t count out South Africa though as home ground advantage and full support from their people might propel them into the next round.

Group B: Argentina (South America)
                Nigeria (Africa)
                South Korea (Asia)
                Greece (Europe)

Verdict: After a last-gasp qualification to the World Cup, Deigo Maradona must be itching to shut his critics up. A friendly draw has helped that cause be a tad easier. Nigeria, after their 2006 hiatus, will be gunning to make it past the group stages, but Greece and South Korea will make it tough for them. It is a close call there as any of the three teams can join Argentina, supposing they make the cut too, but African ground advantage may play into Nigeria’s hands.

Group C: England (Europe)
                United States (North America)
                Algeria (Africa)
                Slovenia (Europe)

Verdict: After a rather straightforward qualifying campaign, England’s title credentials will be tested by United States, no least after their commendable performance in getting third place in the Confederations Cup. This United States team have more bite than previous sides, but might lack experience. Algeria and Slovenia on the other hand will be out to prove that they are not just there to make up the numbers.

Group D: Germany (Europe)
                Australia (Asia)
                Ghana (Africa)
                Serbia (Europe)

Verdict: Arguably the second ‘group of death’ as all the teams have a strong hold in football. But experience may deem Germany worthy to advance to the second round and even further, but it will be anyone’s guess as to who will accompany them. Ghana will be banking to build on their second round appearance in 2006, whilst Serbia and Australia will be hard-pressed to set the record straight. This group will definitely promote attacking football and some mouth-watering encounters.

Group E: Netherlands (Europe)
                Denmark (Europe)
                Japan (Asia)
                Cameroon (Africa)

Verdict: Netherlands are undoubtedly in a class above the rest. Hence it will be trivial for them to advance past the group stages, and maybe even lift the trophy. Speaking of the Japanese, their coach boasted that his side has what it takes to reach the semi-finals, but we shall see how true that turns out to be. However, the services of Samuel Eto might not be enough to guide Cameroon to the latter stages of the World Cup as they lack all-round quality, whilst Denmark, albeit in quiet motion, lurk in the background.

Group F: Italy (Europe)               
               Paraguay (South America)
               Slovakia (Europe)
               New Zealand (Oceania)

Verdict: As reigning champions of the World Cup, it would be customary for Italy to do a good job here as well, hoping not to suffer the ignominy that 1998 champions France suffered after bowing out in the group stages in 2002. Paraguay have been consistent qualifiers in recent years, and a mediocre draw has made it possible for them to go far. Slovakia would aim to give Paraguay a decent fight, but the same cannot be said of a New Zealand side lacking any zeal. It looks like they will be on a holiday there.

Group GBrazil (South America)
                North Korea (Asia)
                Ivory Coast (Africa)
                Portugal (Europe)

Verdict: Group G has been officially dubbed as the ‘Group of Death’ by almost every online football resource. Brazil’s bid to be champions for the sixth time will be tested to the maximum here as Ivory Coast and Portugal have big aspirations too. However, North Korea seem lost as they are potentially the weakest side in the World Cup. They might get a hammering by the other sides. The crucial fixture will be when Ivory Coast face-off with Portugal as the winner there will most probably progress.

Group H: Spain (Europe)
                Switzerland (Europe)
                Chile (South America)
                Honduras (North America)

Verdict: Spain have been labelled as the over-whelming favourites to lift the crown for the first time following their European Cup exploits. Their brand of football is what every fan longs to see – intricate one-twos and sharp through passes. This group will hardly be a test for them. In 2006, Switzerland had the bragging rights to be the first nation to exit a World Cup without conceding a goal, so they, together with Chile, will square off for the second spot. Honduras will watch from the sidelines but do not discount them as they have some excellent footballers within their ranks.

So, who is your pick to win the World Cup? Well, I'd be cheering on Germany and Argentina, but as it has always been, the Brazillians, Italians, Spanish and English look to be the most formidable of sides to lift the World Cup trophy.
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