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World Cup reaction

Soccernet says...

December 4, 2009
By Soccernet staff

The draw is done, and Soccernet has all the reaction from its correspondents.

• Richard Jolly: England

Renewing rivalries with the United States makes the events of the 1950 World Cup (Joe Gaetjens and all that) impossible to ignore next summer. Given the Americans' exploits in the Confederations Cup, it may also be the match that determines who wins the group. Otherwise, the draw could have been much harsher for England: while the play-off wins Slovenia and Algeria secured against Russia and Egypt respectively shows neither should be underestimated, Fabio Capello's side should be well placed to qualify for the knockout stages.

• Jen Chang: U.S.

The U.S. team and U.S. fans will be delighted with the way Group C played out. England represents a difficult matchup, with stylistic similarities, and aren't as vulnerable as CONCACAF region foes to the U.S. team's strength on set pieces. However, to advance, the U.S. can afford a loss to England so the onus will be on the Algeria and Slovenia games, both of which will be very different affairs. The Slovenia game will be tricky since the U.S. typically has trouble against teams that park the bus and play with a bunker mentality on defense and has to be wary of Slovenia's counter attack. Algeria will present a different set of problems with its pace and technical skill, but are likely to be exposed in the air defensively by the U.S.

• Ernesto Garrido: Brazil

Tough draw for Brazil. Leaving aside an opening easy match against the almost unknown North Koreans, the five-times World Champions will have to face Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. According to Kaká, "we didn't have much luck, this is the Group of Death". If all goes according to plan, at least three Brazilians will play for Portugal against their own country of birth: Chelsea's Deco, Sporting de Lisboa's Liedson and Real Madrid's Pepe. The contest against the former metropole brings Brazilians not very fond memories of the 1966 World Cup. In that occasion Eusebio defeated Pelé (3-1, the Black Panther scored twice); 44 years later Kaká has the chance to exact revenge over Cristiano Ronaldo. In any case, Brazil need to get through as top of the group to avoid Spain in their last 16 match. Portugal boss Carlos Queiroz put it best after the draw: "This will be the most fun World Cup group to watch… for the neutrals".

• Uli Hesse: Germany

Over here, they say that Germany always have the luck of the draw - and I see no reason to amend that statement following today's extravaganza in Cape Town. Yes, there are groups that look easier but also some that look tougher. The most important thing for me, personally, was that we have avoided Otto Rehhagel's man-marking, sweeper-fielding Greece and our good friends, Ottmar Hitzfeld's Swiss. After all, for any of the bigger teams, a World Cup draw is not about who you draw, anyway. It's about who you could meet in the next round. Answer: England.

• Sam Kelly: Argentina

As the only one of the 32 managers not to be allowed into the draw, Diego Maradona was represented instead by the man who took charge of him at Mexico '86, Carlos Bilardo. For all their talent, their most difficult opponents could be (assuming he's still in charge come June) their own manager. The press are confident - sports daily Olé's website immediately after the draw carried the headline "We we'll start in the second round". If Argentina can organise themselves competently, they should comfortably do exactly that. But if anyone's capable of organising a stellar team incompetently, it's Maradona, as he's already demonstrated. One parallel the press have already picked up on: South Korea were in Argentina's group at Mexico '86, and we all know what happened then. Of course, Nigeria Greece were also there at USA '94, and Maradona went famously bonkers on camera then, as well.

• Tom Adams: Ivory Coast

How cruel the World Cup draw can be. For the second tournament in succession, the Elephants find themselves in the Group of Death and again it could be a terminal blow to their hopes of progressing. In 2006 it was Argentina, Holland and Serbia and Montenegro. Four years down the line, Brazil, Portugal and South Korea are the barriers to the knockout stages. It is the harshest of luck for a team that many feel are carrying the hopes of a continent on their shoulders as Africa looks for a good showing in the first tournament to be held in the region. Beating North Korea should be a formality, but the Elephants also took three points from Serbia and Montenegro four years ago. Didier Drogba will of course be key to how they fare against the more refined talents of Brazil and Portugal. Taking second place from Carlos Queiroz's underperforming Portugal looks their best bet, and do not rule out such a scenario.

• Phil Ball: Spain

The initial reaction of the Spanish media to the Group H draw for Spain was 'Easy group, deathly crossing', which is a poor translation (sorry) for the fact that if Spain get through, they could meet any two from the Group of Death. Indeed, any two from Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast could be waiting at the crossroads, and we still don't really know what North Korea are going to be like. But let's not sell the bear skin before the bear's been hunted, as they say here in Spain. As David Beckham diplomatically remarked, there are no easy games 'at this stage', but Spain should be confident of winning their group, and therefore avoiding Brazil until the final - or so the easy logic goes. The bookies have already proclaimed them the favourites at 4/1. Will they enjoy being the overdogs?

The first game for Spain, on June 16th in Durban, will be against Switzerland, and whilst Ottmar Hitzfield's side are capable of losing to Luxembourg, they have improved a lot in recent seasons and acquitted themselves well in the last World Cup and during Euro 2008. It's a potentially awkward opening game. Honduras have some useful players (Winston Palacios comes to mind) but shouldn't be much of a worry, and Chile - a side that like to play like Spain, have a notoriously poor defence and may suffer. Yes - Spain to get through as top of their group, but the last 16 meeting promises to be very interesting.

• Ernst Bouwes: Netherlands

A sigh of huge relief swept over the country when Denmark came out of the bowl and not Portugal. No less than three times this century the Portuguese hurdle has been too big to take for the Dutch team. The Danes play our style of football as do the Japanese. Both open and attacking, which is a game the Dutch like. Cameroon is very much the dark horse in this group with their performances on the World Cup ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, sometimes within days. They never seem to be interested in the third group match, which is exactly the moment they face the Dutch.

• Don Peters: South Africa

South African fans have had a mixed reaction to Bafana Bafana's Group A opponents: Mexico, Uruguay and France. Some believe it tough, primarily because they face three teams in Fifa's top 20, while others believe the task at hand will force the World Cup hosts to raise their game. Given the advantage of playing at altitude, South Africa will be disappointed to meet Mexico in the World Cup opener on 11 June for the Latin Americans' capital Mexico City lies some 500 metres higher than Soccer City in Johannesburg. Bafana Bafana's second game sees them take on a solid if unspectacular Uruguayan side, precisely the sort of opponents South Africa will find hard to break down, while coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's heart must have sunk when France made a late entry to the group. South Africa must try to win their opening two matches before their final clash with the French, who are packed with class despite their qualification battles, in Bloemfontein on 22 June.

• Paul Marshall: France

At the dry run for the World Cup draw, Charlize Theron - WAG that she is - announced 'Ireland' when France was pulled out of the hat. Following the real thing, the Irish will be even more disappointed they failed to see off les Bleus as Raymond Domenech's men were handed arguably the easiest of introductions into the competition. The opening game against Uruguay will revive haunting memories of their catastrophic 2002 tournament when Thierry Henry was sent off against the South Americans as France fell at the first hurdle, but a dose of déjà vu - even with all their current problems - is surely out of the question. Mexico will provide a stiffer if not insurmountable test in the second match, but even the fervent backing the hosts are certain to receive will not be enough to stop the French come the final group game. L'Equipe claimed 'France is worried' in one of its Friday morning headlines. It won't be any more.

• Brett Taylor: Australia

The initial feeling Down Under is that we've been handed a tough but fair draw. It could have been easier, given any of the four teams in our Group D are good enough to progress, but at least the Pot 4 heavyweights Portugal and France were avoided. Group D has a similar feel to it as Australia's group in 2006, when Brazil was the standout ahead of the evenly matched Australia, Japan and Croatia. This time, we'll be hoping Germany can take full points from the matches against Ghana and Serbia, which could mean four points from those teams will be enough, even if Germany proves too strong for the Socceroos. Having the Germans in the opening match is a disadvantage, given the tournament big-guns are always desperate to ease pressure with a winning start. It will be great to be part of the African party with the Ghana match. The physicality of all three teams doesn't suit Australia, particularly with our small centre of defence. Serbia's Nikola Zigic could be a danger man. Looking ahead, the mouth-watering prospect of a Round of 16 meeting with England gives Australia more than enough motivation to spring a surprise and qualify behind Germany.