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Group A standings
There is an air of cautious optimism in South Africa as the Rainbow Nation prepares to write what is undoubtedly the most significant chapter of its short football history. A mammoth task lies ahead.
Recent years have brought ample disappointments, but Bafana Bafana have also shown, albeit in patches, that - given motivation and purpose - they can be a potent threat. And there can be no greater motivation than representing their country in a FIFA World Cup™ on home soil.
In 1996, four years after their readmission to international football, South Africa shot to prominence and stunned the African continent by claiming their maiden CAF Africa Cup of Nations trophy against Tunisia at Soccer City in Johannesburg. How ironic that, 16 years later, South Africa will return to the venue where they achieved this first major success, aiming to rewrite the script on an even bigger stage.
Their gallant performance at the FIFA Confederations Cup last June, when they lost narrowly to Brazil in the semi-finals and to Spain in the third place play-off, should certainly serve as a chilling reminder to their detractors that this team, when stretched to its potential, cannot be underestimated. That tournament witnessed several impressive performances strung together by the hosts, and ultimately it was only their inability to convert cleverly-tailored moves into goals that led to their demise.
After a turbulent couple of years that has seen three coaches come and go and more than sixty players pull on the famous green jersey, Mexico have returned to calmer waters under the steadying influence of Javier Aguirre. The former Atletico Madrid coach has put together a team comprising bright young talents and established stars, restoring their wavering confidence in the process.
Following the appointment of the man they call El Vasco (The Basque), the regional powerhouses shot up from fifth to second place in the final six-team qualification group in the CONCACAF Zone, winning five games, drawing one and losing just the one. Having safely made their way to the finals, their objective will now be to progress beyond the Round of 16, where they have been knocked out at the last four FIFA World Cup™ finals.
Rafael Marquez, Carlos Vela.
Few nations have the footballing history of Uruguay. Nestling on the northern bank on the River Plate, the country has a population of a little over three million yet boasts an impressive collection of world, Olympic and continental titles and a record that compares favourably with the world’s best. The glory years of Uruguayan football are but a fading memory, however, with La Celeste having made just two appearances at the last five FIFA World Cup™ finals.
The man charged with the task of improving that record and raising their profile once more is Oscar Tabarez, who is now in his second stint as national coach, having taken the Uruguayans through to the last 16 at Italy 1990. El Maestro, as he is known in his homeland, certainly has the resources to do achieve those objectives. Sprinkled with players from Europe’s major leagues, his young side are determined to impress in South Africa, and in Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez they have the star quality to advance beyond the group phase and into the knockout rounds for the first time in two decades.
France crossed a new threshold in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, having never before graced the finals on four consecutive occasions. Les Bleus have become a regular presence in recent years, having earned a reputation as one of world football’s leading teams since the late 1990s. Their fine displays at the first edition in 1930 marked them out as a good side and they have occasionally produced legendary talents, but only in the last decade or so have they evolved into a team that starts every major tournament with serious hopes of winning it.
The generation of players that included Zinedine Zidane, Laurent Blanc, Didier Deschamps and Fabien Barthez finally found a way past the obstacles that had blocked the route of earlier vintages. The fine team featuring Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernandez and Jean Tigana had stumbled at the semi-final stage in 1982 and 1986, but their successors went all the way to lifting the Trophy in 1998.
Despite a drop in standards in 2002 and 2006, France still came agonisingly close to grasping a second global title in the latter tournament, only losing out on penalties to Italy in the Final. The Zidane chapter came to a close that night in Berlin, but Les Bleus can still call upon some of the biggest names in world football, with a seemingly endless production line of young talents having unearthed the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Yoann Gourcuff in recent seasons.
Thiery Henry (C), Franck Bilal Ribery, Patrice Evra, Willian Gallas, Muhammad Bilal (Nicolas) Anelka, Florent Malouda, Abou Diaby, Bacary Sagna, Djibril Cisse,
Michelle Platini, Eric Cantona, Laurent Blanc, Zinedine Zidane (Included in All-time Legend)
Favorite Teams in Group A to Qualify the last 16.
France, Uruguay or Mexico (Based on Performance and Experience of the teams).