Much interest is always taken in Group A. Not necessarily because it offers much excitement, but because it offers us the opening game, which we have far too long to build up to. As traditional, it will be the hosts, and South Africa will face off against Mexico.
This draw might just have left the Bafana Bafana weeping into their Vuvuzelas, though. It’s a really tough draw, and on paper they are to worst side in it. Having said that, you’d be a fool to put the hosts down because, as South Korea showed us in 2002, anything could happen.
France line up as the 4th seed, but the definite favorites. Les Bleus crept through qualifying by the skin of their
teeth, and then had the audacity to complain about not being seeded. No moans now though; by virtue of the host getting free seeding Raymond Domenech avoids all the big guns. The manager will be the major obstruction here. Raymond is a clown of the highest order; the man once chose his team using astrology. This is no walk through, oh no. A nervy opener against an excellent Uruguay side, and anything could happen.
The battle to seize second place is totally open. Uruguay are given by the bookies as getting it, but Mexico have the talent and the experience, while South Africa have a wall of sound.
Never, ever underestimate Uruguay. Just don’t do it. The entire of their national pride is tied up on the football pitch, and this country will stop for a month in the summer. Once the greatest team in the world, the reputation for passing football, so long held by Brasil, is perhaps now being recovered. Much credit must go to manager Oscar Tabarez, and in his second spell with his national team, he is basing the squad on youth development. An exciting brand of football is developing, reliant heavily on experienced defending and quick, creative forwards. This young squad’s time will come; why not this summer?
Mexico are a lot like Uruguay. They don’t have the heroic manager, or the depth of history, but the team loves to attack (as the US felt in qualifying) and have a short, pacey young attack headed primarily by Arsenal’s Carlos Vela and Tottenham’s Giovanni Dos Santos. They only trailed to the conquering USA in the CONCAF qualifying table, and, due to the lack of serious competitors in their area, have immense experience as a nation. Some years the Mexican team will come to something, sometimes not, and they are a wild card this time around.
South Africa are suffering from a lack of effective qualifying. They don’t have a great squad; it doesn’t appear strong enough to progress. But they surprised me with their tenacity and work rate at the Confederations Cup (which doesn’t mean a lot, really) and I have always rated Steven Pienaar, the linchpin for Bafana Bafana. For each game the hosts play, a Vuvuzela wielding army will descend into the stadia. The hosts could spring a surprise.
To refer back to the start, I think Group A really is interesting this year. Anyone could win it, anyone could come second. France had disastrous qualifying but are favorites, Uruguay are a popular tip to do well, Mexico are a perennial achiever and South Africa are the hosts. It’s a tough one to predict. I’m going with:
- Uruguay 6 pts
- France 4 pts
- Mexico 4 pts
- South Africa 2 pts
Group B is also hard to predict (Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece), and so the runner up of Group A could just as easily progress to the Quarters as the winner.
Possibly the most entertaining thing about Group A is that it will kick us off, and these teams will play first throughout the tournament. You’ve seen who I fancy to do well in this open group. How do you see the table finishing?
To read more from Oli Davies, this article’s author, check out his World Cup blog.