FIFA World Cup 2010 Preview: Group A

Thursday, May 6, 2010 |


OVERVIEW: GROUP A

No host nation has ever been eliminated after group play in the history of the tournament, but that streak might be threatened by this year’s hosts. South Africa is the weakest host nation since the USA in 1994. The draw didn't help them much either as they'll be pitted against teams that have 41 appearances among them: two are former champions and the other last failed to advance past the group stage over 30 years ago.


SCHEDULE
June 11 - 10:00 AM EDT South Africa vs. Mexico
June 11 - 2:30 PM EDT Uruguay vs. France
June 16 - 2:30 PM EDT South Africa vs. Uruguay
June 17 - 2:30 PM EDT France vs. Mexico
June 22 - 10:00 AM EDT Mexico vs. Uruguay
June 22 - 10:00 AM EDT France vs. South Africa


TEAM ANALYSIS: SOUTH AFRICA



World Cup Appearances: 3 (South Africa made its World Cup debut against France in 1998. It was the second World Cup cycle for the Bafana Bafana after being reinstated by FIFA in 1992).
Best Finish: Group Stage, 1998, 2002
Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil)
World Cup Memories: South Africa got its first World Cup win in the 2002 finals (a 1-0 defeat of Slovenia). Unfortunately, it was not enough to advance to the second round.
Player to watch: With South Africa expected to take the field in a defensive posture, Steven Pienaar, the free kick specialist from Everton could provide a few surprises.

Summary: South Africa
The Bafana Bafana has a tall mountain to climb. They fared well in last year’s Confederations Cup, but Uruguay and Mexico present much tougher challenges than New Zealand and Iraq. Even though a host nation has never failed to advance past the group stages in the World Cup, it has happened in other tournaments, most recently Euro-08. Will home field Vuvuzuelas give the Bafana Bafana the energy it needs to pull off the upsets?

TEAM ANALYSIS: MEXICO

World Cup Appearances: 15
Best Finish: Quarterfinals, 1970, 1986
Coach: Javier Aguirre
World Cup Memories: Mexico finally made it to that elusive 5th game in 1986, thanks to Manuel Negrete’s scissor kick vs. Bulgaria.
Player to Watch: All eyes will be on recent Manchester United signing, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Mexico has a history of scoring woes. That could all change if Hernandez can build on his torrid streak.
Summary: Mexico
The last time Mexico was in the host nation’s group was 1966, where it was also grouped with France and Uruguay. Mexico has a handful of savvy veteran players, but Javier Aguirre will be relying more on youth than experience. Several players from 2005 U17 World Cup winning team will see plenty of action in South Africa. Mexico has always been a possession team, and this infusion of youth has added an element of speed that Mexico has never had.

TEAM ANALYSIS: URUGUAY


World Cup Appearances: 11
Best Finish: Champions, 1930 & 1950
Coach: Oscar Washington Tavares
World Cup Memories: Not long ago, the Charruas were the kings of the sport. Despite their lofty reputation, the Uruguayans were still underdogs to Brazil in the 1950 final at Rio’s new Maracana stadium. Uruguay prevailed 2-0, and the legend of the Maracanazo was born.
Player to watch: Teams who double Diego Forlan will do so at their own peril because Ajax’s Luis Suarez is more than capable of punishing teams who overload to stop Forlan.
Summary: Uruguay
Uruguay was once the preeminent world power. But that was more than 50 years ago. Lately they have been known for under-achieving and rough play. This collection of Charruas is different, though. They have the talent and the firepower to escape the group stage. No one questions Uruguay’s front line of Forlan and Suarez, but the rest of the team isn’t quite as formidable. La Celeste lacks a player who can link their defense to their attacking duo. They hope they may have found him in 20 year old Nicolas Lodeiro.

TEAM ANALYSIS: FRANCE

World Cup Appearances: 13 Best Finish: Champion, 1998
Coach: Raymond Domenech
World Cup Memories: France became the first host in 20 years to win the World Cup after their 3-0 defeat of Brazil. The victory set off celebrations that hadn’t been seen in France for 50 years.
Player to Watch: It’s hard to believe considering the talent level, but France may have issues finding the net. Their opponents will have definitely have problems getting balls by their goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, and that could be difference in tiebreakers.
Summary: France
It has been very hard for the French in the post Zidane era. They were disgraced in Euro 2008 and survived a tense playoff with Ireland to make it to South Africa. As if the French needed another distraction, several players are embroiled in a prostitution scandal. To put it plainly, France is a mess. Their play lacks passion, and their coach lacks flexibility. Players themselves have second guessed Domenech’s tactics, but it’s those same players that can turn France’s fortunes around.

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