Killian Woods analyses the teams from each confederation competing for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, holding special reservation for New Zealand…
Eighty years after the tournament’s inauguration, we will finally see the first ever FIFA World Cup hosted on African soil when South Africa play host to some of the world’s finest football stars. Even after some minor scares in qualifying, all the coined ‘big nations’ have qualified for the prestigious competition with no major absence from any team to note.
Although much has been said about the possible capabilities of Ivory Coast and Ghana, the draw for the group stages was hardly kind to them. Ivory Coast being pitted against Brazil, Portugal and North Korea seems to be a step too far for the Elephants and even with Sven–Göran Eriksson at the helm, a group exit could be on the cards.
Likewise for Ghana, who will have to overcome Germany and Serbia to progress, so the possible African fairytale story could come from Nigeria or Cameroon. Cameroon have a good spine to their squad with the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Alex Song, where as Nigeria have an expert coach leading the way in Lars Lagerbäck. Unfortunately, South Africa and Algeria are too weak for this level and early group exits are definitely on the cards.
It is not beyond possibility that the winner could originate from this pool of thirteen teams. Spain are touted as being the main contenders from this confederation, with their attractive and ruthless style of play from Euro 2008 expected to ease them through the competition. However, a strong push could be made by a host of European countries.
It is always dangerous to write off the Germans as they have proven in the past two World Cups. France could also pose a threat to any team and have a host of players who have performed well all season such as Florent Malouda and Franck Ribéry to call upon. Hysteria around England’s chances are building, while Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo, a game-changing player who could be the difference in tight situations.
One team that could become a tricky opponent come the knockout stages is Serbia. They don’t boast many stars, but have a solid style of play that doesn’t see them concede many goals. It is likely that a European team will progress from at least seven of the eight groups – among them the Netherlands, who always flatter to deceive in the group stage with little end product.
The five South American representatives that have qualified for the tournament have won the competition nine times between them – equalling the European total – and two teams in particular could tip the records in their favour yet again. Brazil have developed into a menacing counter attacking side that can soak up pressure and pick off their opponents, while Argentina have finally created a settled team full of individually talented players.
Apart from Uruguay, who find themselves in a tricky group with Mexico and France, all South American teams should qualify from their groups. There is also a slight worry hanging over Chile, due to their lack of match practice coming into the tournament. Their recent friendly matches were called off after the devastating earthquake, while a game against Germany was also cancelled following the death of German keeper Robert Enke.
Habitual qualifiers Mexico and United States will yet again compete at the World Cup. This tournament will mark the American’s sixth consecutive World Cup, compared to Mexico’s fifth. The other qualifier from this region, Honduras, make their first appearance since 1982 and will probably be mere attendees. USA are expected to qualify from their group, but Mexico will play second fiddle to France and Uruguay.
Asian and Oceania Football Federations
The five teams from these two confederations have found themselves in very difficult groups, and a spout of group stage eliminations could be expected. Nonetheless, these teams are all included in very tight groups that could arguably see a team progress with three draws or a solitary win. However, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for New Zealand.