When FIFA made the decision to grant the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, quite a few eyebrows were raised; was the nation ready to host a tournament? Could they afford the infrastructure? Would there be security for the players? The supporters? Only a few days before the tournament begins, FIFA reported that sponsors returned 90,000 unused tickets, leaving 160,000 tickets for the tournament unsold and prices plummeting. Hmm. Seems like the sponsors can’t get all of their clients to the games. Imagine that. Well, for all of the Western supporters looking down their noses at South Africa (while staring longingly at their bank statements, wishing they could afford to get there), think of the difficulty faced by most South African football supporters when Europe hosts World Cup after World Cup. It gets old to listen to the privileged few bemoan the strain on their wallets without having any idea how difficult it is for the rest of the world, so much of it impoverished, to even access the game. Let’s be real; African football is on the rise, giving us some of the greatest players in the game– Eto’o, Drogba, Essien, Muntari– and since the continent has continually been ignored in terms of its potential as a sporting/ arts/ international destination by the rest of the word, I am thrilled to see South Africa get its moment in the limelight. The nation, the continent, is finally given the chance to shine in front of the world for all the right reasons.
Steven Pienaar Carries The Dreams Of A Nation On His Shoulders
Which means, of course, that the South African football team will be playing with more than a little pride (and more than a little pressure) when they open the World Cup against Mexico on June 11. The host nation, always given automatic qualification to the tournament in Group A, headlines one of the more controversial groups in the tournament. Controversial because Group A houses France, who qualified for the Cup with a last gasp goal in a playoff against the Republic of Ireland, a goal that came as a result of a handball by French legend Thierry Henry, an clear infraction which was missed by the referee but which broke Irish hearts, hearts unlikely to ever, ever forgive or forget. In case you missed it:
Ouch! Sorry, Ireland
With France always dangerous and Mexico fielding a young and
dirty gritty team, South Africa will have all to play for in Group A. The sleeper in this group is Uruguay; lead by the fucking bastard in-form striker Diego Forlan (coming off of two injury time goals to win the semi-final and final in the Europa League for Atlético Madrid), Uruguay are as likely as anyone to come out of the group.
Uruguay Hit Man Diego Forlan
Who To Watch
For South Africa, it has to be the gifted midfielder Steven Pienaar, whose ability to boss the midfield will go a long way toward determining if the Bafana Bafana will move on; no host nation has ever failed to qualify for the second round of the tournament. For France, my eyes will be on two players, Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery and Bordeaux’s Yoann Gourcuff, both of them wizards on the ball who can change the game with their creativity and are guaranteed to dazzle. For Mexico, well, as much as I hate to watch them (as they are the main rivals of my own Team USA), the young striking duo of Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos (who may quit the team since his brother was left off of Mexico’s 23-man roster) are electric with the ball at their feet; the pair have underachieved in recent matches, but I imagine they’ll score some goals while their teammates make nasty tackles elsewhere on the pitch (*grumble*). For Uruguay, it is all about Diego Forlan, who has been banging in crucial goals for years now and who, at 31 years old, is still a game changer who can make Uruguay’s fortunes with a single strike.
Must See Match
Uruguay vs Mexico on June 22. If one of the two win this match, they are moving on to the second round. I expect both to lose to France and win/draw with South Africa, so this could be the match to decide second place.
Every Time Mexico Scores, God Kills A Kitten
Who Moves On
As much as I hate to do it, and as much as history is against this, I don’t see South Africa making it out of the Group. I think France, full of European professionals, will win Group A and Mexico, fielding one of their strongest teams in a long time, will squeak by Uruguay and into second place. All of that said, If Mexico lose or draw against South Africa, the group is blown wide open. So, we’ll know after the opening match how much water my predictions hold…
Ribery And Gourcuff Should See France Through…
Up Next: Group B