Yesterday (Friday), the nabobs of FIFA gathered to draw lots and determine who will play who in the World Cup, to be held starting next June 11th in South Africa. Let's see where the chips fell, okay?
Group A: South Africa (host), Mexico, Uruguay, France
South Africa automatically qualified as the host side, and they do have a good chance in this group. However, Mexico is a powerhouse in the CONCACAF, and may make things difficult. I am watching to see if karma is lying in wait for France. Washing out of the first round would be sweet justice for Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
I watched Greece play a match or two in the last Cup, as well as in the UEFA Euro tournament. They're steady and even a bit boring. Argentina is flashy, so it'll be an interesting matchup.
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
Best chance we've had in years. Expect another six months of reminders that we beat England 1-0 the first time we met in the World Cup, back in 1950. An excellent chance for Team USA to advance to the second round.
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Ouch. Not quite the Group of Death, but close enough. Germany has a good record in championship play, but Ghana is a strong side in Africa. Ought to be fun to watch (I recall watching Serbia play back in 2006, and watched the fans dancing around bonfires - in the stands).
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Netherlands is third-ranked in the FIFA standings, and has come in #2 in the Cup final. Expect good matches in this group.
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
I can only hope that Paraguay and Slovakia manage to keep the Azurri out of the second round. It's what the divers deserve, really.
Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal
The Group of Death, plain and simple. Brazil's a powerhouse and a perennial contender, with Cote d'Ivoire being the strong second in the group. When these two meet, you can expect some good play. North Korea will be a bit creampuffy, and Portugal can be competitive.
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
Spain will likely win this group, in my opinion, with Honduras hard on their heels. Honduras and Chile don't share a border, so we won't expect war to break out if either side washes out of the first round.
Team USA opens against England on June 12, 2010. It'll be fun!