By Jayme Monsanto, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Group Draw for World Cup 2010 took place last Friday, December 4, at Cape Town, South Africa. Within half an hour of Charlize Theron reading the first name out of the hat, it became clear that Brazil’s path to the second round would be far from easy, while the host nation South Africa also found itself in something of a ‘Group of Death’.
With South Africa placed first in group A in order to play the opening match of the tournament, the results were far from encouraging. Their opponents are strong: Uruguay (two-time World Champions), France (1998 World Champion and 2006 runners-up) and in the first game Mexico, winners of the 1999 Confederation Cup. South African coach, the Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira, certainly looked like a man who will have his work cut out trying to take the home team past the groups stage as the images were beamed around the world.
In Group B, two-time World Champions Argentina will face South Korea, Greece and Nigeria. The South Americans should not have too much trouble qualifying to the Round of 16, although their opponents are not to be underestimated. Greece won the 2004 UEFA European Championship, while Nigeria’s biggest triumph to date has been claiming Gold in the 1996 Olympics, beating Brazil.
1966 World Champions England are the top seed in Group C, and were drawn alongside the USA, Algeria and Slovenia. Although the U.S have certainly improved over recent years (winning the Concacaf Cup in 2002, 2005 and 2007, and second place at the 2009 Confederations Cup), England have become second favorite for the trophy with bookmakers since the draw was announced.
Group D contains Germany, along with Australia, Ghana and a Serbian team making their first appearance at the finals. The Germans are three times World Champions but whilst their opponents in the group stages may not have a lot of footballing tradition, they won’t be fooled by that – all were first placed in their qualifying pools.
The Netherlands are the seeded team in Group E, sure to be one of the most hotly-disputed groups with Denmark, Japan and Cameroon all in with them. The Dutch may not have won many significant titles, but they have always had competitive teams and tend to perform well in the World Cup. Denmark won the 1995 Confederations Cup, and should never be underestimated, whilst Cameroon are one of the better African teams. They were the 2000 Olympic Champions, and in striker Samuel Eto’o and defender Alexandre Song have some individual talents that could make all the difference.
Current World Champions Italy reside in Group F, along with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia. Though certainly not one of the toughest groups, Italy will nevertheless face a decent Paraguay side with World Cup pedigree, and Slovakia had a surprisingly strong campaign in qualifying, finishing first ahead of Slovenia, Czech Republic, Poland and Northern Ireland.
Brazil heads up Group G, arguably the hardest group since it gathers three genuine title contenders. Portugal and The Ivory Coast have outside chances of lifting the trophy, and the former counts on the genius talent of Cristiano Ronaldo, while Ivory Coast has the individual star Didier Drogba in attack and finished their qualifying stage undefeated. Completing Group G are underdogs Korea DPR, in only their second appearance ever in a World Cup.
The last Group, Group H, comprises Spain, Honduras, Switzerland and Chile. 2009 European Champions Spain are clear favorites to lift the title, but the Chileans too have a strong team. They finished second in the South American Qualifiers, only a single point behind Brazil, and were five points ahead of the mighty Argentina.
The opening match of the 2010 World Cup will be South Africa versus Mexico, to be held on June 11 at the Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg as the world celebrates another edition of this spectacular tournament – a tournament set to be hosted by Brazil in 2014.