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Thursday, 10 June 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup - One day to go!

2010 FIFA World Cup
The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off tomorrow when the host nation, South Africa, plays the opening match against Mexico. Football fever has gripped the nation, especially these last few days during the build-up to tomorrow's match.

"Gees"

Most teams and their fans have arrived in South Africa and the "gees" (spirit) in the streets have been uplifting, to put it mildly! Vuvuzelas are blaring everywhere; its distinct sound will undoubtedly be heard throughout the tournament. Some love it, some hate it. (Want to hear it?)

Yesterday Bafana Bafana (South Africa's national team) were cheered on by a huge crowd of around 185 000 in Sandton when they appeared in an open-top bus. Some serious nation building going on! It reminded me of the 1995 Rugby World Cup where I experienced a similar feeling of euphoria. The fact that I had a ticket to the final probably had something to do with it.

Readiness

South Africa is all set for this tournament. There were some serious doubts a few months ago when the pessimists were adamant that we wouldn't be ready but that notion has evaporated. Here's some high-quality photos of the preparation for the World Cup. All the major soccer stadiums are available in 3D with a 360 degree view inside, using Google Maps Street View.

There are people who allege that FIFA strong-armed the government and local businesses, resulting in severe loss of income for the local tourism industry. The big question always remains whether a country can get a return on investment after hosting such a huge tournament and whether the use of the new stadiums can be sustained afterwards.

Injuries

A number of star players have unfortunately been injured during the last few days, either during practice or friendly warm-up games which could affect those teams' chances of winning the tournament.

Didier Drogba (fractured forearm), prolific striker for Chelsea will be missed by the Ivory Coast; German captain Michael Ballack is out (ankle), Portugal - Nani (shoulder); Netherlands - Arjen Robben (hamstring); Spain - Iniesta (thigh); England - Captain Rio Ferdinand (knee); Ghana - Michael Essien (knee).

Predictions

There will be 32 teams at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and a total of 48 preliminary matches that are divided into 8 groups. Two teams go through to the second round in each group.

Bafana Bafana supporter
Group A - France and Mexico.
France is the most talented team in this group and Mexico showed good form the last few weeks, easily beating Italy in a friendly match a few days ago. South Africa automatically qualified for the tournament since we're the hosts(ranked 83rd in world at time of writing), will enjoy the local support but unfortunately the gap may be too big. Bafana Bafana is looking fit and had a good run going into the tournament, never losing under coach Parreira and also beating Denmark (ranked 36th) in a friendly a few days ago.
If we can somehow beat Mexico in the opener... who knows! Reaching the second round would be a phenominal achievement.

Group B - Argentina and Nigeria.
Argentina have Messi but struggled to qualify for the tournament. South Korea have Park Ji-Sing but Nigeria will have a lot of home support.

Group C - England and USA.
This is the weakest group and therefore England got an easy draw. They're favourites to end on top.

Group D - Germany and Ghana.
Germany have a good record at world cups and are ranked 6th in the world. Ghana is missing their star player, Essien, but could still edge Australia.

Group E - Netherlands and Cameroon.
Netherlands showed good form and were undefeated during the qualifying rounds. Cameroon has Samuel Eto'o.

Group F - Italy and Slovakia.
Italy are the reigning champions and should be the strongest in this group. Slovakia scored a lot of goals during qualifying but Paraguay could edge them for the 2nd spot.

Group G - Brazil and Portugal.
This is the Group of Death with three strong teams making it the most difficult to qualify. Brazil have a brilliant record at world cups, winning it five times. Portugal have Ronaldo and Ivory Coast lost their star player, Drogba.

Group H - Spain and Chile.
Spain should easily top the group. Chile ended second in South America's qualifying round.

Who will win it?

Spain's Capdevila, Villa, Hernandez and Iniesta
In my opinion the realistic favourites are Spain, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands and England. Brazil are ranked no.1 in the world, have the experience and have won it a record five times. Germany are always strong; England are a dark horse, have an easy draw and an astute coach, Capello, although I think they're sometimes overrated.

I want the Netherlands to win but without their talisman, Robben, it is less likely. I think Spain have the best chance of taking the Cup home. They've been in brilliant form the last two years and I believe they're the most talented, balanced team at the tournament.

Opening ceremony and first match

Tonight the FIFA World Cup celebration concert will start at 8pm (GMT+2) and will last for three hours. Headline performers are Shakira, John Legend, Angelique Kidjo, Alicia Keys and the Black Eyed Peas. Location: Orlando Stadium, Soweto, Johannesburg.

The official opening ceremony is tomorrow at 2pm (GMT+2) and will last 30 minutes with 1581 performers, at Soccer City, Soweto.

Waka Waka - The Official 2010 FIFA Song
(performed by Shakira and Freshlyground)



The opening match is on Friday, 11 June at 4pm (GMT+2) at Soccer City between hosts South Africa (Bafana Bafana) and Mexico. Good luck Bafana Bafana!

Related links
2010 FIFA World Cup Fixtures - SuperSport
2010 FIFA World Cup Groups and Teams - BBC Sport
Preparing for the World Cup - The Big Picture
2010 World Cup Stadiums - IOL
Widget: World Cup live on your desktop - Sport24

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