World Cup 2010 Preview Group A: The Great Unknown

01 June 2010

As I start my 10 days of previews for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, there's only one logical starting point: group A. With South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and France making up this group, all I can say is that this is a group of the great unknown.

Looking at this group in full, only Mexico qualified without needed to go through the playoffs. South Africa are here as hosts of the competitions, Uruguay needed a playoff against Costa Rica, and as for France...the less said about their participation here the better.

Now there will be some bump for South Africa in the World Cup: the only question is how much of a bump will they actually see? South Africa is in a similar spot to the United States in 1994, with the only major difference being they already had a domestic league. They will be very dependent on Aaron Mokoena to keep their defensive shape, Steven Pienaar to be the link to the attack in the midfield, and hope that the combination of Pienaar in the midfield and Katlego Mphela up top to find goals. While South Africa has looked confident in their friendlies leading up to the World Cup, I don't think the likes of Jamacia, Thailand, Bulgaria, Columbia, and a second string Guatemala side are the type of foes that will strike fear for the rest of their group mates. The one thing South Africa will do is find a way to keep games close and try to steal points at the end.

Mexico is about the only team that I am confident can get out of this group. Javier Aguirre pretty much has his starting eleven in mind, and used a long string of May friendlies to weed out his squad. One omission that has surprised a few people was Jonathan Dos Santos. His brother, Geovanni, and father have already had some choice words to say about this move, but frankly he just isn't ready yet. Ochoa is strong in goal, while Magallon, Marquez, and Salcido are rocks in defense. With Pavel Pardo's injury causing him to miss out, Torrado, Guardado, and Geo dos Santos will be the keys in the midfield. One issue Mexico has had of late is finding goals, something Carlos Vela will have to remedy quickly. Despite their lack of scoring, Mexico will frustrate even the most veteran of teams, but show have no problem getting out of this group.

Uruguay's biggest issue coming into this World Cup will be finding the right mix of defense to their goal scoring threat of Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. When Forlan and Suarez aren't on form, Sebastian Abreu can be a game changer late. Walter Gargano will be the key piece in the midfield linking defense to attack, while Sebastian Eurgen is a respectable box to box midfielder. At the back, the likes of Diego Lugano, Diego Godin, Maxi Pereira and Martin Caceres will have to help steady the nerves of their goal keeping core who have had a combined 17 caps between them. If they are tested early, they can be beaten. However, the one thing that either be their biggest help or the hindrance that sees them go home is their streaky nature up top. If they find the goals, they will advance and could be a dark horse threat for the quarterfinals. If they don't find goals, the words three and out will apply.

That leaves France, and the fact this team is set up for another shocking World Cup like the one seen in 2002. The players are not at all happy with their manager. Raymond Domenech has adjusted tactics ten different times since UEFA Qualifying began for the World Cup, and just doesn't know if he wants to go 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. Player for player, they have a sound team. Lloris in goal is sound, and Sagna and Evra are respected defensive backs. Gallas and Abidal are sound center backs. Their midfield is a mix of who's who's with Govou, Diarra, Toulalan, Malouda and Ribery all looking to get starting time. Up top, Anelka, Benzema, and Henry can all score goals (even if Henry has to use his hands from time to time setting them up). Despite all the quality names in this squad, the one thing that I feel will lead to their undoing is their manager.

I think this group is just too unpredictable to sort through. But, since that doesn't make for good reading, this is how I see the group playing out: Mexico and Uruguay will win their openers. South Africa will share the spoils with Uruguay while Mexico and France will do the same. In the final match day, I see Mexico and Uruguay playing to a score draw while France just gets by South Africa. When it's all said and done, I have Mexico on 5 points, Uruguay on 4, France on 4 and South Africa on 1. Based on goal difference, I have Uruguay advancing out of the group ahead of France. While I don't think South Africa will be badly outplayed in any of the three games, I just don't think they will have enough to get a win in their home country.

What are your thoughts on Group A? Leave them in the comments below. Tomorrow, I'll be back to look at Group B.


Anonymous June 2, 2010 at 2:52 AM  

We can learn from history in pro sports especially footy - the host nation will get thru by hook or by crook...

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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