Thursday, June 03, 2010


Nickname: Bafana Bafana (The Boys)
Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira
FIFA Ranking*: 83
Last 5 matches: v Jamaica (2-0), v Thailand (4-0), v Bulgaria (1-1), v Colombia (2-1), v Guatemala (5-0)
Past appearances: 3 - 1998, 2002 (Round 1), 2010 as host

The Squad:
GK 1 Shu-Aib Walters, 16 Itumeleng Khune, 22 Moeneeb Josephs
DF 4 Aaron Mokoena (c), 14 Matthew Booth, 3 Tsepo Masilela, 2 Siboniso Gaxa, 5 Lucas Thwala, 19 Anele Ngcongca, 20 Bongani Khumalo 21 Siyabonga Sangweni
MF 6 MacBeth Sibaya, 10 Steven Pienaar, 11 Teko Modise, 8 Siphiwe Tshabalala, 13 Kagisho Dikgacoi, 17 Surprise Moriri, 7 Lance Davids, 23 Thanduyise Khuboni, 12 Reneilwe Letsholonyane
FW 16 Siyabonga Nomvethe, 9 Katlego Mphela, 15 Bernard Parker

South Africa is the host nation for the first time and also the first African nation to host the biggest football event in the world, South Africa has a mountain of challenge to overcome. With their 83rd ranking in the world and not in the 80 years history of World Cup did a host nation failed to qualify to the second round, they need to prove something out of nothing. With them in Group A are Mexico, France and Uruguay, the Bafana Bafana should face a tough fight in this tricky group. Bad news are; top-scorer Benni McCarthy has been sidelined for injury and their last two appearance in World Cup only saw them stuck on Round 1. Out of six games in World Cup, they only won one - against Slovenia in 2002. They also failed to qualify for this year's African nation Cup - a major setback for the team. However the good news are; with their recent on-form and expected home support, they may emerge as a dark horse and the underdog in the group, seriously possessing threat to the underperformed French squad. Under the Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, the team is currently unbeaten in their last 11 matches, stretches back to 2009.

(L) Steven Piennar (Everton, 46 caps, 2 goals); (C) Katlego Mphela (Mamelodi Sundowns, 30 caps, 14 goals); (R) Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth, 100 caps, 2 goals)

Nickname: El Tri (The Three-colored)
Coach: Javier Aguirre
FIFA Ranking*: 17
Last 5 matches: v Angola (1-0), v Chile (1-0), v England (1-3), v Netherlands (1-2), v Gambia (5-1)
Past appearances: 14 - 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1978 (Round 1); 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 (Round of 16); 1970, 1986 (Q-Finalist); 2010

The Squad:
GK 1 Óscar Pérez, 13 Guillermo Ochoa, 23 Luis Ernesto Michel
DF 2 Francisco Javier Rodriguez, 3 Carlos Salcido, 4 Rafael Márquez (c), 5 Ricardo Osorio, 12 Paul aguilar, 15 Héctor Moreno, 16 Efraín Juárez, 19 Jonny Magallón, 20 Jorge Torres Nilo
MF 6 Gerardo Torrado, 8 Israel Castro, 18 Andrés Guardado
FW 7 Pablo Barrera, 9 Guillermo Franco, 10 Cuauhtémoc Blanco, 11 Carlos Vela, 14 Javier Hernández, 17 Giovani dos Santos, 21 Adolfo Bautista, 22 Alberto Medina

Mexico is undoubtedly the powerhouse of soccer in North America. Having won their eight CONCACAF Cup last year against the rival USA, there is no question on how excellent Mexico is. However, their records in the past World Cups have been mixed - achieving quarter-final in '70 and '86 while only in Round of 16 for the last 4 tournaments. Fortunately, Mexico is built from a mixture of great talents of young and old. Ranked 17th on FIFA ranking, 'El Tri' can place their hopes on their experienced players like Barcelona's defender Rafael Marquez, goalie Oscar Perez and striker C Blanco; although veteran Jared Borgetti - the nation's top-scorer will miss this edition. They also have Carlos Vela (Arsenal), Andreas Guardado and Efrain Juarez whom are having great forms recently. Under the reign of Javier Aguirre, they have won 15 out 23 matches and losing only to 2 European - England and Netherlands over the past one year. It is an impressive record following the failure of Sven Goran Eriksson's stinct to guide the Mexican to an inspiring status. The Mexican was at time proved to be a little bit inconsistent. Placed in the tricky Group A but if they can maintain their fine records particularly if able to hold the host in the opening match and particularly with France, they should be able to advance to the second round with ease.

(L) Carlos Vela (Arsenal, 27 caps, 8 goals); (C) Rafael Marquez (Barcelona, 90 caps, 10 goals); (R) Javier Hernandez (Manchester United, 11 caps, 7 goals)

Click Read More for more on Group A - after the jump - Uruguay and France

Nickname: La Celeste (The Sky Blue); Charruas
Coach: Oscar Tabarez
FIFA Ranking*: 16
Last 5 matches: v Argentina (0-1), v Costa Rica (1-0), v Costa Rica (1-1), v switzerland (3-1), v Israel (4-1)
Past appearances: 11 - 1930, 1950 (Champion); 1954, 1970 (S-Finalist); 1966 (Q-Finalist); 1986, 1990 (Round of 16); 1962, 1974, 2002 (Round 1) ; 2010

The Squad:
GK 1 Fernando Muslera, 12 Juan Castillo, 23 Martin Silva
DF 2 Diego Lugano (c), 3 Diego Godin, 4 Jorge Fucile, 6 Andres Scotti, 16 Maxi Pereira, 20 Mauricio Victorino, 22 Martin Caceres
MF 5 walter Gargano, 8 Sebastian Eguren, 11 Alvaro Pereira, 14 Nicolas Lodeiro, 15 Diego Perez, 17 Ignacio Gonzalez, 18 Egidio Arevalo Rios, 21 Alvaro Fernandez
FW 7 Edinson Cavani, 9 Luis Suarez, 10 Diego Forlan, 13 Sebastian Abreu, 19 Sebastian Fernandez

Uruguay, was the winner of the first ever World Cup back in 1930. Those were the only glorious days they ever had . Back then, Uruguay was a powerful squad, having earned themselves with Olympic gold medals and football policy-maker. Slowly, their performance had declined and faced huge uprising from the neighbouring rivals - Brazil and Argentina. Currently 16th on the FIFA ranking, there are still many for the Uruguayan to prove out. Their qualification to the World Cup has not been outstanding. 24 points from 18 qualifying matches spoke for itself the truth in their struggle to perform. They failed to qualify for the 2006's edition at the expense of Australia but hey manage to squeeze in this time following a controversial playoff match with Costa Rica. The real disadvantage for the team may seems to be the fact that they are merely just an average team. Coach Oscar Tabarez has little option to choose from but he shouldn't find himself despair because the Uruguayan still have some key player that can carry the team forward, although not much! Diego Forlan (Athletico Madrid) has proved himself a useful goal machine in the Spanish club. Another hitman, Sebastian Abreu has an equally fine finishing too in Brazil local league. With the on-off performances, I am not surprise if Uruguay might need to struggle again if they want to reach Round of 16. But do not discount them yet, because they might still inflict some surprises this time. After all, Group A is an open group.

(L) Diego Forlan (Athletico Madrid, 61 caps, 24 goals); (C) Diego Lugano (Fenerbache, 43 caps, 4 goals); (R) Sebastian Abreu (Botafogo, 56 caps, 30 goals)

Nickname: Les Bleus (The Blues)
Coach: Raymond Domenech
FIFA Ranking*: 10
Last 5 matches: v Ireland (1-0), v Ireland (1-1), v Spain (0-2), v Costa Rica (2-1), v Tunisia (1-1)
Past appearances: 13 - 1998 (Champion); 2006 (Finalist); 1958, 1986 (Third Place); 1982 (Fourth Place); 1938 (Q-Finalist); 1930, 1934, 1954, 1966, 1978, 2002 (Round 1); 2010

The Squad:
GK 1 Hugo Lloris, 16 Steve Mandanda, 23 Cedric Carrasso
DF 2 Bacary Sagna, 3 Eric Abidal, 4 Anthony Reveillere, 5 William Gallas, 6 Marc Planus, 13 Patrice Evra, 17 Sebastian Squillaci, 21 Gael Clichy
MF 8 Yoann Gourcuff, 10 Mathieu Valbuena, 14 Jeremy Toulalan, 15 Florent Malouda, 18 Alou Diaeea, 20 Abou Diaby, 22 Franck Ribery
FW 7 Sidney Govou, 9 Djibril Cisse, 11 Andre-Pierre Gignac, 12 Thierry Henry, 19 Nicolas Anelka

France used to be the champion - 1998 on their soil. Since then, France experienced a fluctuating performance. Strong in 1998 to win the mighty Brazil, then an embarrassing exit on Round 1 in 2002, lost finalist in 2006 although the headlined back then was the head-butting by Zinedine Zidane. Zidane's day has over, as much as the many 1998 squad like Lilian Thuram, Didier Deschamps, Emmanuel Petit and David Trezeguet. The younger crops has failed to shine like it used to be under Aime Jacquet.They bowed out early in Euro 2008 and their inclusion in this World Cup has been marked by controversy that no one will ever forget - a handball goal by Thierry Henry in which many dubbed as Hand of Henry. The current helm under Raymond Domenech has been much criticized for the lack of inspiration and quality. For those and their inconsistency, fans are worried over the French team. History however may repeated - means, it is either France continue to spell the doom or stings up a surprising rundown like what they had in 1998 and 2006. The fact that the French players did well in their respective clubs. Can Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry shine in what would be their last World Cup? They seriously need an inspiration, hopefully not to the extent requiring odd miracles. Perhaps, the young Karim Benzema exclusion from the squad is a little surprising!

(L) Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea, 66 caps, 14 goals); (C) Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich, 44 caps, 7 goals): (R) Patrice Evra (Manchester United, 29 caps, 0 goal)

So, for my amateur prediction on which teams should advance to Round of 16 (knockout stage); I would say Mexico is a safe side if they can work out on the same consistency and solitary they are having now. France could be a tip of iceberg ahead of South Africa but it is not a surprising to see the latter sting up some upset. Uruguay might struggle in the group stage yet again. To the Round of 16....MEXICO and FRANCE

Tomorrow we will have more analysis on Group B that comprises Korea Republic, Greece, Argentina and Nigeria.