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The road to South Africa

2010 World Cup draw and qualifiers

November 30, 2009
By John Brewin

• World Cup finals draw live application

• Pot 1: South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England, Netherlands

Brazil striker Luis Fabiano
GettyImages / FotoArenaBrazil striker Luis Fabiano

South Africa: In their first finals since 2002 and probably only by virtue of being hosts, South Africa are the draw that most in the three other pots may fancy pulling. Nevertheless, a stronger than expected showing in the Confederations Cup gives rise to hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

Brazil: As ever, likely to be favourites going into the tournament. Coach Dunga has them playing a more measured way than the teams of the past, but, in goalkeeper Julio Cesar and striker Luis Fabiano, they have two of the most in-form players in world football to add to the class of Kaka and co.

Spain: Europe's champions finally broke a 44-year silverware duck at Euro 2008 and are blessed with a wealth of midfield and forward options. Their defence may yet be their Achilles heel but few would not expect them to be in the shake-up in the latter stages.

Italy: The holders look awfully familiar to those who watched Germany 2006 and even have the same coach. Marcello Lippi took back the reins from Roberto Donadoni after a disastrous Euro 2008 and relies on his old soldiers. Age may catch up with them, as it did when 1982's champions flopped badly at Mexico '86.

Germany: Joachim Löw's team were losing finalists at Euro 2008 having ridden their luck to get there. The great leap forward that came with hosting the finals in 2006 has not quite borne the ripe fruit of success but the Germans are always a tournament team to be reckoned with.

Argentina: Qualified in truly chaotic style, with a miraculous last-minute goal from veteran Martin Palermo against Peru being the key moment. Blessed with potentially the best attacking talent in the world, with Lionel Messi the leading light, but coached by a madman in Diego Maradona. Will he be in charge when they kick off? He may yet enjoy again sticking his fingers up at the world.

England: The top scorers in European qualifying suffered a trouble-free progression to South Africa under the auspices of autocratic Italian Fabio Capello. He publicly states his team can reach the final but they have a poor record against the other elite teams. France, Brazil and Spain have all beaten them in friendlies.

Netherlands: Quarter-finalists in both 2006 and at Euro 2008, the Dutch breezed through qualifying with a 100% record, repeating the attacking football they displayed at the last European Championships. A lack of squad strength may cost them, especially in defence, but flowing football is bound to be on show.

• Pot 2: Japan, S Korea, N Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Mexico, Honduras

United States coach Bob Bradley
GettyImages / DonaldMiralleUnited States coach Bob Bradley

Japan: Football may be big business in Japan but they have only reached the knock-out stages once, and that was as hosts. Shunsuke Nakamura, one of the best deadball players in the world game, remains the star name of a group that is perhaps not as strong as in 2002 or 2006.

South Korea: The best team in Asian qualifying may fancy their chances of getting out of the group stages with hard work, as ever, the key to any success. Huh Jung-Moo bucks the trend of foreign - and indeed Dutch in Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat - coaches from the last two tournament, and captain Park Ji-Sung will hope to put injury problems behind him to match his best showings in a Manchester United shirt.

North Korea: The most unknown of quantities of any of the 32, and back in the finals for the first time since way back in 1966, few could predict much of them. Only two players - Hong Yong-Jo of Russia's Rostov and Kim Kuk-Jin of Switzerland's FC Wil - play outside Asia. They are anyone's guess.

Australia: Back in the finals at the next sitting after missing out for 32 years between 1974 and 2006, the Socceroos will rely on almost the same players who took them to the second round in Germany. Pim Verbeek is another Dutchman to replace Guus Hiddink and this athletic bunch will fancy emulating their showing last time out though a lack of fresh legs may cost them.

New Zealand: Perhaps the feelgood team of the finals, after a long absence since 1982, the All Whites are another unknown quantity. Few could blame them for merely enjoying being there for the ride but this proud sporting nation will expect unstinting effort at the very least.

United States: Bob Bradley's boys did not find qualification as comfortable as might be expected but will be cheered by their showing in the Confederations Cup. With many of their players being well rested for a few months in the MLS off-season, they can expect to be fresher than those counterparts playing in other leagues. The high number of US-based fans heading over will expect better than in 2006.

Mexico: It took three coaches to get them there but the Mexicans are in their fifth straight finals after Javier Aguirre stepped into Sven Goran Eriksson's huaraches to soothe the nerves of CONCACAF's traditional power. The minimum requirement will be the habitual reaching of the second round, but less desired will be the usual exit at that stage.

Honduras: The Central Americans are back in the finals for the first time since 1982, and this is something of a golden generation for this small country. Tottenham's Wilson Palacios, Wigan's Maynor Figueroa, David Suazo of Inter and veteran Carlos Pavon, top scorer in CONCACAF qualifying, are national heroes after a dramatic qualification win over El Salvador. They may be playing for pride but are not lacking in a talent base.

• Pot 3: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay

Ivory Coast, led by Didier Drogba, celebrate qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals
GettyImages / IssoufSanogoIvory Coast, led by Didier Drogba, celebrate qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals

Ivory Coast: Though they are not African champions - Egypt will again be absent from the World Cup finals - their players possess a wealth of experience from some of Europe's best teams. Any team boasting Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and the Toure brothers will be difficult to face in their own continent.

Ghana: Back in the finals after making the second round last time at the expense of Czech Republic and USA, Ghana are a physically strong team to face with a midfield that includes Michael Essien of Chelsea and Sulley Muntari of Inter Milan. A lack of quality forwards may preclude their progression to the latter stages of the tournament.

Cameroon: As the first team to make an impact on the world game back in 1990, it is heartening to see the 'Indomitable Lions' back in the finals after they missed out on the 2006 party by virtue of a missed penalty. French coach Paul Le Guen will hope to add organisation to a team capable of thrilling attacking flair, with Samuel Eto'o the key man.

Nigeria: Drama is never far away where the 'Super Eagles' are concerned and so it proved in qualifying when a late surge against Kenya took them ahead of Tunisia into the finals. Notable absentees last time out in 2006, they are sure to be well supported and possess an experienced team.

Algeria: The 'Desert Foxes' survived the added drama of an unscheduled play-off with Egypt to hold their nerve in Sudan. Back in the finals for the first time since 1986, Northern Africa's only representatives are not just here for the ride and have already shown their steeliness.

Paraguay: A fourth finals in a row for this tough-to-beat group. Wins over Brazil and Argentina had them leading South American qualifying for some time before a late slump. A team whose sum is greater than its parts, this hardy group of campaigners will target the second round.

Chile: Finishing second from CONMEBOL qualifying is no mean feat and the country that provides the spine of South America is celebrating its first finals since 1998. Their strength in away qualifiers may reveal a comfort with playing on their travels, but Africa may prove difficult for them.

Uruguay: Two-times winners in the tournament's formative years, Uruguay always provide a touch of South American class matched with a taste for the tougher disciplines of the game. Finishing fifth in an undistinguished South American qualifying tournament is hardly a sign of great things to come but few teams will relish facing them.

• Pot 4: France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo
GettyImages / FranciscoLeongPortugal's Cristiano Ronaldo

France: Irishmen look away now. Les Bleus will take their place, via the helping hand of Thierry Henry, and can consider themselves fortunate visitors to South Africa. Coach Raymond Domenech is about as popular in France as Lance Armstrong and the smoking ban and internal rifts may yet derail hopes of equalling the triumph of 1998.

Portugal: Their presence in the finals was a soap opera that finally reached its happy ending without their leading man. An injury to Cristiano Ronaldo saw him forced to sit out the last three matches. Carlos Queiroz kept his coaching job as his team played their best football without Ronaldo, posing serious questions about the golden boy's showings for his national team.

Slovenia: In the finals for the second time, they needed the play-offs to progress. An away goal in Russia in the first leg proved crucial, but they still had to overcome Guus Hiddink's men at home to deny a highly fancied team a place. Teamwork and national pride is the name of the game here.

Switzerland: An efficient unit who have put their poor showing as co-hosts of Euro 2008 behind them. With a point proving enough on the final day, the Swiss lost only once - to minnows Luxembourg - during the qualifiers and came through as group winners. Greece: Coach Otto Rehhagel makes few apologies for the lack of style-points his team will win. Yet Greece's favourite German has already delivered European glory to his adopted country in 2004 and an unexpected play-off win over Ukraine showed his continuing ability to deliver results.

Serbia: Potentially a dark horse as their domination of a group containing France and Romania showed their mettle. Able to call on several experienced campaigners from Europe's big leagues, they are a daunting and not unskilful outfit capable of derailing the best. They will want to put a horrific 2006 finals behind them.

Denmark: Topping a group that also contained Portugal and Sweden shows their quality. Coach Morten Olsen preaches a passing game and Denmark and their fans will cherish their first finals since 2002. A mix of veterans like Jon Dahl Tomasson and youngsters like Nicklas Bendtner could be dangerous.

Slovakia: First finals for a country formed only in 1993, they made short work of qualifying. Though most would be expecting them to be playing for national pride, talents like Marek Hamsik and Vladimir Weiss, son and namesake of their coach, are tipped to impress.