World Cup 2010 South Africa: The Day Has Come

Every four years the planet is graced with an event that brings nations together. It is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world. According to FIFA’s own website 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 World Cup between France and Italy. A cumulative total of 26.3 billion sets of eyes focused in on the matches over the course of that years tournament. The moment I start counting down towards once the cup is awarded is finally here. It is the early hours of the morning in South Africa on the day that play begins.

The world cup is a grand stage where an upset can occur at any moment whether because of under rated talent, superior conditioning, gracious officiating, or simple luck. Here are my thoughts leading in to this years cup.

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

Despite qualifying for this years cup on the coat tails of a clear handball in their heartbreaking win over Ireland this past year, France is considered a favorite to make it out of this group. I can’t disagree with this. France has a rich history and a talented young squad leading in to the tournament and I expect them to do well.

In my mind the competition for spot number two from this group is up in the air. I give Mexico a slight edge, but either Uruguay or the home town side could stake it for their own.

Having spent considerable time in Uruguay and maintaining many relationships with friends from the tiny S. American nation, I would really like to see them do well. They have a rich World Cup history as every real Uruguayan will quickly inform you. They are after all the original World Cup champs.

South Africa is the home town side and the atmosphere and national support could carry them beyond most expectations. Every host nation in the history of the World Cup has made it out of the group stage and most have pushed deeper in to the tournament. There is a history of nations having their best performance during tournaments which they host. The question is not can but will South Africa continue this trend?

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece

Argentina is in my mind as close to a “shoo-in”  as you can get. That said Argentina was expected to do well in during the 2002 tournament in Korea/Japan. That years disappointment shocked  soccer fans all across the world.

Once again I think the second advancing position could be up for grabs. African teams such as Nigera; while lacking headline athletes, usually perform well on the world stage. My mind lingers back to that exciting run Senegal put together in 2002 by making it to the quarterfinals.

Korea may be the weakest in this group. They enter the stage without having been a certain qualifier in a less than powerful region. Greece on the other hand is coming off a recent (2004) European Cup title. Their World Cup performance has been lack luster as of late. It will be interesting to see if the nations economic and political upheaval will turn out motivating, distracting, or irrelevant.

Group C: United States of America, England, Slovenia, Algeria

This is the group my eyes are on. I believe England and the United States will both advance. I don’t want to dismiss the Slovenian or Algerian sides, but I believe they are outmatched in this group. I am glad we are in Group C.

To quote FIFA’s analysis:

USA: The United States contest their sixth successive finals and will fancy their chances of advancing from the group stage for the first time since their quarter-final run in 2002. Bob Bradley’s team can also take heart from their efforts at the FIFA Confederations Cup on South African soil in 2009 – they stunned Spain in the semi-finals and led Brazil 2-0 in the final before succumbing 3-2. They will hope centre-back Oguchi Onyewu will have recovered from his knee injury in time to join a squad that will again look to Landon Donovan for attacking inspiration in his third FIFA World Cup.

While Bocanegra is the team’s captain, I think a lot will depend on the leadership of  Landon Donovan who leads the team in both international appearances and goals by huge margin. I am also excited to see how the youngest players on the team, Jozy Altidore and Jose Torres handle the challenge of the biggest stage on earth. I expect great things from our side, and for the first time in history so does most of the world.

Group D: Germany, Ghana, Serbia, Australia

Some have dubbed this the “Group of Death” for this years tournament. There are no weak teams in this section. Any of the four could reasonably make it out of group play.

I will give Germany the slight favor do to a rich history of success, but it is really anyone’s group.

Yes, I know! Short winded, but this really will be an exciting group and I have no idea which way the chips will fall.

Group E: Denmark, Netherlands, Cameroon, Japan

I give Netherlands the top spot. I think they are going to rally after their disappointing showing in 2006. I believe the Dutch are motivated to prove themselves and they have the talent on both offense and defense to do it. Not only do I believe they will make it out of group play, I believe they will be a contender for the title.

I like Denmark for the second passport out of group play. They have a history of stingy defense and have been beating some of Europe’s biggest names over the past few years. John Dahl Tomasson is one of my all time favorites and the Danes have a patient disciplined style of play that gives them a good chance against any team in the world.

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia, New Zealand

Italy is coming off a title in 2006 and is hoping to capture back to back World Cup crowns for the second time in history. I’m not sure if they will pull off this feat, but I do expect them to do well. I expect they will hang around in to the late stages of this years contest.

I think Slovakia will edge out Paraguay for the second slot. Although this is their first final appearance as an independent nation, as a part of Czechoslovakia they have a positive track record with two second place finishes as well as two additional ventures in to the quarter final round. I expect them to play very well, although I admit their team is a bit of a mystery to me.

Group G: Brazil, Portugal, Côte d’Ivoire, Korea DPR

One……..Brazil

Two…….Portugal

This is about as sure of a thing as there is in World Cup soccer. Their strengths have been beaten to death in the sports media. I don’t think you need my paltry additions to the analysis.

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Chile, Honduras

La Roja qualified with a flawless 10-0 record in qualifying play. They are young, talented, and have never lost to Chile, Honduras, or Switzerland. Spain does how ever have an embarrassingly undecorated history in major international play. They are out to prove that their 2008 European Cup win was not a one time event. They are on my short list of favorites to win it all this time around.

Chile is my number two pick from Group H. They qualified in an extremely difficult group with ease falling short of number one qualifier Brazil by just one point. Chile may not be as well heard of as many of the other sides, but the teams of S. America must fight through the toughest qualifying region to make it to this stage. Chile could feasibly make it as far as they did in 1962 when they finished 2nd as the World Cup’s host nation

Picks for the Title

  1. Spain
  2. Brazil
  3. United States ( Yes, that’s right I think we are a contender)
  4. Italy

Tell me what you all think? What are your predictions?

USA!USA!USA!