Now that the domestic football seasons have come to an end (or a coming to an end) every single football fans attention is now turning to the FIFA world cup. The 2010 competition is set to take place in South Africa, after beating Morocco and Egypt in the bidding process. This is the first time that a World Cup has been hosted in an African nation since the competition began in 1930. The World Cup draw was held on the 4th December 2009 in Cape Town, in which the 32 teams were separated into 8 groups each consisting of 4 teams. They were as follows:
Group A - South Africa, Uruguay, Mexico, France
France caused one of the World Cup’s major controversies, and managed it before the World Cup even began. Thierry Henry’s hand ball which led to the goal which defeated the Republic of Ireland in their playoff game was a major talking point, calls for a rematch, for Ireland to replace France in the finals, and for Henry to be banned were all thrown around, though none of these things happened.
The current French squad is not the scariest based on past teams, but there is a good chance they could qualify, although Uruguay or Mexico could easily take advantage of the French squad being on poor form. South Africa should be the favourites, with the competition being in their home country they will have a huge following, and have looked very strong recently.
Group B - Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece
Argentina are former World Cup winners, and one of their most famous players, Diego Maradona is currently their manager, which gives him to opportunity to win the World cup as a player and a manager. However, Argentina struggled in qualifying, and very nearly didn’t qualify for the finals at all, but they should have the talent to make it through the group stages.
The other spot could be a bit of a dog fight, though Nigeria look like the strongest of the three teams, finishing third in the 2010 African Cup of Nations. Greece won the 2004 European Championship, but haven’t been in a World Cup since 1994, and Korea have never made it out of the first round of a World Cup, apart from a spectacular run in 2002 when they hosted the competition, reaching the semi final.
Group C - England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
With England’s strong qualifying campaign, in which they only lost one of their 10 games, they are sure to be favourites for this group. They are currently one of the strongest teams in Europe and should have no problem qualifying, as
the fans would no doubt be disappointed if they did not finish as winners of the group. The (probable) battle for second place should be between the USA and Slovenia. Slovenia also had quite a strong qualifying campaign, defeating a strong Russian side in a playoff match to qualify for the competition. However the Americans should not be counted out, with this being their 6th World Cup in a row.
However three of the last five times saw them eliminated in the group stage, although Slovenia’s World Cup track record isn’t anything to write home about, with it most likely going down to the final group game to decide who qualifies.
Group D - Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Germany are major contenders in the World Cup, reaching at least the Quarter finals in all but 1974, winning the competition 3 times and have never been eliminated in the group stage. This time should be no different. The talent the team has should walk over the other teams in the group. The other team I see going through is Australia. They have a strong team and easily qualified, and while Ghana will have a lot of support with them being an African team, I think Australia have the stronger squad to see them out of the group stage.
Group E - Holland, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Although Holland have never won the World Cup, they are still going into the competition as one of the favourites, winning all of their games. They had a very good squad, and should finish as winners of the group. Denmark and Japan also have rather strong squads, and I can see it being very close between the two teams to see who qualifies. While Cameroon have put up a good fight in previous campaigns they haven’t progressed from the group stages since 1990. I can’t see this competition being any different.
Group F - Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Italy have won the World Cup on 4 previous occasions, and are the current holders after winning the 2006 World Cup, and are one of the favourites for the competition. They usually have a very strong squad, and this is no exception for this campaign, and it will be a surprise if they do not top the group. Paraguay had a very strong qualifying campaign, finishing only one point behind Brazil, and 5 points clear of Argentina. While New Zealand and Slovakia will put up a good fight, I see Paraguay taken the second the group spot.
Group G – Brazil, Korea DPR, Ivory Coast, Portugal
The 2010 group of death. Brazil are the obvious favourites. They are the only team to have appeared in every single World Cup, and have won the competition on 5 separate occasions, if they do not win the group it will be a major surprise. Ivory Coast have a very strong team, including Didier Drogba, they will also have a very strong following as they are an African team. This, along with Portugal not having the best qualifying campaign, makes me think that Ivory Coast will take the second group spot, eliminating Portugal.
Group H – Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
Spain is currently regarded as one of the best teams in the world, and are currently ranked number 1 on the UEFA coefficient. They are one of the favourites for the competition, despite never winning the competition, and look likely to be the ones to top the table. I expect the second spot to go to Chile, who had a fantastic qualifying campaign, finishing runners up to Brazil, only one point behind them. Despite winning their qualifying group, I can’t see Switzerland being strong enough to make it out of the group stages.