Finally the waiting is over and the action begins with hosts South Africa playing the opening game against Mexico at 15.00. The opening ceremony begins at 13.00 UK time and should be something to see so if you get the chance tune in to ITV to watch.
South Africa v Mexico looks an interesting game with both coming into the finals in good form, and being the home nation the South Africans will have a tremendous level of support. Back in 2002 this home support coupled with some home biased refereeing decisions allowed South Korea to progress all the way to the semi finals, but can Bafana Bafana repeat the feat or will they become the 1st home nation ever to fall at the 1st stages.
The draw has not been too kind to them placing them with France who were beaten finalists four years ago Mexico who look to have one of their best international squads ever, and the unpredictable but talented South Americans Uruguay. It could have been worse, but not a whole lot.
France have not looked the team of old recently and although they cant be written off they could be vulnerable and I wouldn’t dismiss the chance of a major 2002 style flop. Like that year they have Uruguay to play and Mexico look technically better than the Denmark team which ultimately knocked them out. If there is tobe a shock inthis group this could be it.
Uruguay have Diego Forlan who despite not making the grade at Old Trafford has proved to be a deadly finisher and given they are defensively sound they could always pull off a shock 1-0 win against one of their opponents.
Mexico look very good and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for them to reach the quarter finals. They will expect to take one of the qualifying places and could sneak the group.
Unfortunately for the hosts despite them being on a 12 match unbeaten run I really cant see how they can progress from this group and expect it to be unlucky 13 today as they lose to Mexico. A defeat will mean they will have to get something from Uruguay in their second game, then hope for a miracle against France.
As for a result prediction Its 2-1 to Mexico in the opener for me.
Two of the South American representatives in the 2010 World Cup had comfortable wins in their warm up games, with both winning by 3 goal margins.
Chile brushed aside a good Zambia side 3-0 thanks largely to Two goals from Udinese striker Alexis Sanchez and looked comfortable defensively, never really looking troubled against Zambia, who had some good possession in the opening half. However the losing quarter-finalists at the African Cup of Nations lacked quality up front and Claudio Bravo only had to deal with a handful of long range efforts.
Chile have a final game against Northern Ireland to come on Sunday and although this might pose a bit more of a test they should win that game too and enter the finals with their confidence high.
Uruguay arguably had a better result beating Israel 4-1 in a game they dominated from start to finish. Given that Israel are ranked 26 by FIFA such a comfortable win was impressive and their main striker Diego Forlan scored again showing he has carried his impressive club form on into the World Cup. They have a tricky group to negotiate and although this result will not send too many shock waves through their opponents France will do well to remember their ignominious early exit in 2002 when Uruguay helped put one of the nails into the coffin.
GROUP A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
The 2010 World Cup Finals will kick off on 11th June 2010 with two games from this group – host nation South Africa playing Mexico and France Playing Uruguay. This is an intriguing group and certainly has not done the hosts any favours.
France will be strong favourites to progress but one only has to look back to the 2002 Finals to see that things don’t always go according to plan. However they are not under the same level of pressure as they were in 2002 and they showed in 2006 that they are still a force to be reckoned with. Their Euro 2008 campaign was a bit of a disaster and they only just scraped past a plucky Republic of Ireland team thanks to a blatant hand ball, however it will be a major surprise if they don’t top the group.
Mexico came through the CONCACAF group in second place behind the USA and although they looked comfortable in qualifying they are a much better team at home than away as qualifying defeats in El Salvador and Honduras testify. They have also looked a little less than impressive of late with their last three games being narrow wins over New Zealand and North Korea and a 0-0 draw with Iceland. This is not particularly impressive form and being poor travelers their expected second place in the group is by no means assured.
South Africa who qualified as hosts will benefit from strong local support and will be well suited by the climate especially as a large contingent of the squad will be home based players and are in good form having gained a credible 1-1- draw away to Paraguay recently. They will be hard to beat and could take the second qualifying place if they can avoid defeat against Mexico in their opening fixture.
Uruguay struggled to qualify finally winning a playoff against Costa Rica to gain their place however they are an experienced team and given the population of Uruguay is only around 4 million they have done wonders to qualify. They are characteristically tenacious and in Marcelo Zalayeta and Diego Forlan have strikers who could snatch a goal against any team. They haven’t played any international matches since they qualified so their form is hard to assess but it will be a surprise if they get soundly beaten by any team.
So who will qualify? Well no prizes for guessing that I will predict France to go through probably as group winners, however this is one of the more open groups and any of the other three could qualify for the last 16, although it would be a major upset if they went much further. I just give the edge to Mexico who probably have the strongest squad of the three and they have the experience needed in tough groups such as this. Both Uruguay and South Africa will push them close but neither looks good enough to beat Mexico or France so the final Prediction is:
4 South Africa