The time has almost come, where the top 32 nations come together to compete in the world’s most popular sport. The 2010 World Cup kicks off this Friday, host country South Africa is pitted against Mexico in the inaugural match of this year’s festivities. Being the first African nation ever to host a FIFA World Cup, South Africa or Bafana Bafana (the boys) as they have been referred to has the pressure of their entire country on their shoulders. There seems to be no lack of drama or storylines in this year’s World Cup, the anticipation has been building as we draw closer to the start of this once in every-four-year-event.
Teams, to watch? Host nation South Africa might have the best chance of going the farthest this year, in no means did Bafana Bafana get an easy draw, facing the likes of France, Uruguay, and Mexico, it will take a lot of the young South African team to advance past the first round. The biggest issue with this team seems to be the lack of scoring, and their ringleader/midfielder Steven Pienaar might have to get this team to jump through hoops especially with their best striker Benni McCarthy missing in action right now. Expect France and Mexico to find a way out of this draw since it seems as though they always find a way out of the first round.
Defending champs, Italy, showed what a team who was offensively challenged but dominant on defense could do. They’ve retrieved a favorable draw, grouping against New Zealand, Slovakia, and Paraguay, expect them to dominate this group fairly easily. The sleeper nation is Paraguay led by their Argentine head coach, Gerardo Martino, and superstar, Roque Santa Cruz, this team may go farther than some think. With arguably the best coach in the world, Marcello Lippi, and maybe the strongest defense in the field, expect a lot out of the Italian team this year.
After their second place finishes in last year’s FIFA Confederation Cup, the United States nation team has never seemed more in line for a big-time run than in this year’s tournament. Coach, Bill Bradley, has a young and eager American team led by no other than, Landon Donovan, who seems to be surrounded by more talent than ever with the likes of Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey. Will the tragic loss of Charles Davies, who after a car accident broke his leg, affect this U.S. national team? There will have to be a lot of questions answered and a lot of production needed if this team is finally going to be taken as a serious contender against the rest of the footbol playing world.
Player Updates: It seems as though the 2010 World Cup has been flooded by a rash of high-profile injuries. Previously mentioned Charlie Davies hasn’t been the only star player bitten by the injury bug. The Ivory Coast’s own, Didier Drogba, arguably their best player is in danger of missing the tournament after breaking his arm in a friendly match against Japan. The team’s success is greatly hinged on the health of Drogba. Fellow African, Michael Essien will miss this summer’s matches after a year plagued by knee and hamstring injuries, seriously injuring the hopes of Ghana’s national team. Nani, Portugal’s fantastic winger will miss this summer’s big event leaving the prettiest man in sports, Christiano Ronaldo, missing his right-hand man. Let’s see if the mastery of Ronaldo is enough to overcome this huge loss. No country may have been affected more by injuries than the U.S. first round opponent, England. Not only do they lose a legend in David Beckham, who would of most likely been participating in his last World Cup ever, but they lose their team captain, Rio Fernand. It looks like it’s up to superstar, Wayne Rooney, to carry the scoring and leadership role for England.
Prediction: Whenever we talk about the sport of soccer, we are compelled to speak of the Brazilians and their dominance. They are again the favorite to win a star on their jerseys in 2010. Watch out for Spain after a strong showing at the Confederation Cup last year, they are also a strong contender to win it all, but the best player in the universe, Lionel Messi coached by legendary Diego Maradona, possess a strong, experienced national team that is poised to win it all in 2010.