Monday, February 1, 2010
World Cup 2010, Volume 3: The Group of “Life” - Group A
There have been six World Cup champions that have been able to win the prestigious event in their own country. South Africa will try to be the 7th country to do so. I’ll tell you why they have a chance because they are in an open group, “The Group of Life” where any team can move on.
You can certainly say that about any group, but usually there are favorites and powerhouses like Brazil, Germany, Italy standing in your way. This group has 4 teams that can move on and they might be the weakest group on paper. Group A is wide open to advance. Ironically joining South Africa are two teams that have won the World Cup in their home country. The first team to do it was Uruguay who won the first ever World Cup on their home soil. France was the last team to celebrate a World Cup title in front of their countryman when they did so in 1998. Mexico rounds out the group.
For those skeptics out there that ask what about France? I think Mexico, Uruguay or South Africa can beat “Les Bleus”. In my opinion France doesn’t even belong in the tournament. (Due to Henry’s blatant hand-ball that gave them a win over Ireland) France struggled to qualify and it was not pretty. I know the Official didn’t see the handball but thats a huge mistake and I feel for the Irish fans. That being said they are a very talented team and will not be an easy out. The stars to watch for are Franck Ribery who is their midfield playmaker and Nicolas Anelka who is as dangerous a striker as there is in the tournament. Henry, their captain is in the latter part of his career and will hopefully have a better showing than France’s last Captain.
Mexico has the most World Cup appearances in the group, 13, and find themselves refocused while playing some of their best soccer in the past 10 years. The Mexicans are led by veterans, Cuauhtemoc Blanco (36) and Rafael Marquez (31). One “star” in my book that will hopefully emerge from play being a household name is Giovani dos Santos who will most likely play on the right side and hopefully showcase his brilliant playmaking and blazing speed.
There is no smaller country (3 million) with a richer soccer history than Uruguay. They have had one of the more exciting runs through qualification earning a “play-off” with Costa Rica for one of the last spots in the tournament. If Uruguay makes it past the group stage, it will be the farthest they have progressed in thirty years. The Uruguayans are strong up top with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Forlan as their leading scorer. Forlan scored 7 goals on the way to South Africa and will be their most targeted player (defended by the other team) which is a reason you should keep your eye on Luis Suarez, an emerging star.
South Africa is a difficult team to write anything on because I didn’t get to see them in qualifying because as host, they are automatically in the tournament. Apart from seeing them in last year’s warm up cup (FIFA Confederations Cup) against Brazil and Spain, I haven’t see much from them. They lost both games but played well above expectations. You can never count out a country’s pride. South Africa may be the weakest team in the tournament based on rank. They have the biggest advantage being able to play in front of a country that has advanced more than any other country in the last 20 years, socially and economically.
We are are little more than 130 days away from the biggest party ever held in South Africa.