One of the more intriguing groups of the tournament in my mind with hosts South Africa joined by Mexico, Uruguay, and everyone's favorite - France. While nobody gives Bafana Bafana any chance of moving on, including yours truly, France's recent run of play means the final three teams will have a dogfight on their hands to get out of the group.
Led by wily veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco (37 years old), and the young fresh legs of Giovani Dos Santos and Arsenal starlet Carlos Vela, Mexico makes its 7th consecutive appearance in the World Cup. Andres Guardado will also bring his extremely gifted midfield play into the mix. Getting here was a different story - 3 coaches and advancing into the final round of qualifying by overtaking Jamaica on goal difference. They can keep the ball very nicely but will need the young players to step up and finish off scoring chances. You simply can't rely on the old farts to do it for you all the time.
Joining them in the group from the Americas is Uruguay - who qualified in a play-off against Costa Rica for the last World Cup spot allocated to the Western hemisphere. Uruguay could very well be the sleeping giant in this group. Amid a cast of European based players, their front two strikers are arguably the best in the tournament. Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) and Luis Suarez (Ajax) have combined to score over 80 goals this past season. Um, that is a shitload of goals. And how can you not love a team that rocks the powder blue kits? Mission #1 for any other team in this group will be to minimize the amount of Uruguayan goals, which quite nicely brings me to France...
Man, talk about underachievers. This team sucks. With the roster they have, there is no reason they shouldn't be preparing for at least a semi-final birth. Instead, this column is leaving them to scrap to get out of the group. First off, they don't belong here. We all remember Henry's quintuple hand-ball to get France into the tournament - which promptly resulted in numerous offers from the NBA and Globetrotters. They were piss poor in qualifying in a group that featured the likes of Lithuania, Faroe Islands, Romania, and Austria. And on top of all that, they are playing for a man they have no respect for in Raymond Domenech, and that was before the French Football Association announced he'd be fired after the tournement.
And the hosts South Africa!! They may not stand a chance, and they may also force everyone on this planet to watch the games on mute, but at least tune in to watch Steven Pienaar. One of the most underrated wingers in the English Premiership, this guy can flat out play. He will be joined by Benny McCarthy as well - a man with plenty of goals to his name in his career.
HOW IT WILL PAN OUT: At the end of the day, France will find a way through to win the group. They just have to, right?? I like Uruguay to take second. You need to score goals in these tournaments and Uruguay can do that better than anyone else, especially Mexico. Cheers to South Africa. It will be the first time in a while the host team hasn't gotten out of the group stages (I believe our own Yanks did it back in '94). But the national pride and racial barriers this tournament has already knocked down deserve the world's appreciation and they should be commended for it.
GAME OF THE GROUP: You don't have to wait long. Day 1 next Friday. France vs Uruguay.