2010 World Cup Preview: Group A

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Aside from Group G (the “group of death”), Group A may prove to be the toughest all-around group from top to bottom. France is favored to win the group but will have their hands full with the host country South Africa and two battle-tested squads in Mexico and Uruguay. In this article, we make our World Cup Odds, World Cup Futures Odds, and make our World Cup Soccer Picks

Game to watch: Watch all of them! But, if you had to pick one game to watch, it would have to be the first game between South Africa and Mexico. Mexico got the short end of the stick having to play the host country first. The annoying horns will be blowing and the crowd will look like the stage of the Lion King musical with everyone decked out in yellow and green. Mexico will be favored in this match, but with the fans on their side South Africa may be able to start off the World Cup with a bang.

by Justin Mertes-Mistretta

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Uruguay

Nickname: Los Charruas (The Sky Blue)

World Ranking: 18

Odds to win the World Cup: 100/1

Odds to win group: 4/1

Overview: Believe it or not, Uraguay is one of only five countries to win multiple World Cups. The other four are Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina. That’s not a bad list to be a part of. Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez form one of the most underrated frontlines in all of soccer. Diego Forlan, in particular, is a player to keep a close eye on. He is touted as one of the best players in the world that nobody talks about. Team captain Diego Lugano and Martin Caceres form a solid backline and bring a hard-nose mentality that is the trademark of Uruguay futbol.

Biggest question mark heading into the tournament: Success in recent World Cups or lack thereof. Historically speaking, Uruguay is a successful country in the World Cup but they won both of their Cups over 60 years. Unless they create some sort of hot tub time machine, that team will not be suiting up for this year’s World Cup. To add even more doubt, Uraguay hasn’t even made it past the knockout stage since 1970. Heck, they didn’t even qualify for the 2006 World Cup!

When it is all said and done: Diego Forlan and Uruguay will take Group A by storm, beating France and securing first place in the group. Once they advance past the knockout stage, the sky is the limit for Los Charruas.

Mexico

Nickname: El Tri

World Ranking: 17

Odds to win the World Cup: 80/1

Odds to win group: 7/2

Overview: Mexico is led by midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who is 36 going on 97. Manager Javier Aguirre, who took over for underachieving Sven-Goran Eriksson, brought Blanco out of retirement halfway through the qualifying round. This resulted in a 5-1-1 record the rest of the way through. With young, up-and-coming players such as Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Andres Guardado, Mexico could be that team that comes out of nowhere to make a deep run.

Biggest question mark heading into the tournament: Consistency. On their good days Mexico looks like a team that can compete with anyone in the world, but you just never know when Mexico will have an off-night. At home, Mexico is unbeatable, like Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but away from home it’s a different story. After the knockout stage, Mexico has been an underachiever in recent World Cups.

When it is all said and done: Mexico has made it out of the knockout stage every World Cup since 1986. I look for them to continue this streak, finishing second in the group. They will enjoy the high-altitude of South Africa, reminding them of back home. If Mexico didn’t have to play the host country in their first match, I would have them winning this group. They are that good.

France

Nickname: Les Bleus (The Blues)

World Ranking: 10

Odds to win the World Cup: 14/1

Odds to win group: 1/1

Overview: This just in: Thierry Henry got away with a handball to qualify France for the 2010 World Cup! I dare anyone to find an article discussing France on the internet that doesn’t mention this within the first two sentences. The most concerning part about the handball is not the play itself, but the fact that France needed that play just to qualify. When they are playing at their best, France is one of the toughest teams in the world. They won the ’98 Cup in France and made it to the finals in ’06 in Germany. Away from Europe is where they tend to struggle. This was most evident when they failed to score a goal in the entire 2002 World Cup in Korea. Their success in South Africa will depend on which team shows up.

Biggest question mark heading into the tournament: Motivation. On paper they have some of the world’s best goal-scorers, Nicolas Anelka, Theirry Henry and Franick Ribery. Unfortunately for France, the World Cup will not be played on an XBOX 360 this year. Henry is a shell of his old-self, playing in his fourth world cup. Nicolas Anelka has world-class speed and can score with the best of them but was horribly inconsistent in the qualifying round. Even Franick Ribery, who has become the face of the French team, is coming into the tournament with controversy of his own. Ribery was allegedly involved in a sex scandal with an underage prostitute (read the entire story here). Big Ben, I mean Ribbery, better get his act together quick if France wants any chance of making a run in the World Cup.

When it’s all said and done: France is limping into the 2010 World Cup harder than Dr. House. They have played too uninspired for too long. Les Bleus will have a case of the blues as they fail to make it out of the knockout stage.

South Africa

Nickname: Bafana Bafana (The Boys)

World Ranking: 90

Odds to win the World Cup: 100/1

Odds to win the group: 6/1

Overview: South Africa’s success will begin and end with star midfielder Steven Pienaar. Christiano Ronaldo calls Pienaar, “One of the best players in the World Cup.” Pienaar will have to be one of the best players in the Cup for South Africa to have any chance in advancing past the knockout stage.

A knock on previous African teams in the World Cup has been their poor coaching. Well, this is not the case for South Africa. Their coach, Carlos Parreira, has been to five World Cups and won it all with Brazil in ’94.

A host country has never fallen short of the Round of 16 in the history of the Cup, but Bafana Bafana will be hard pressed to keep that record alive.

Biggest question mark heading into the tournament: Overall lack of talent. Steven Pienaar is world-class midfielder and Siphiwe Tshabalala is considered by some to be even better, but from there the talent thins out. Defender Matthew Booth has potential, but hasn’t played up to it recently. There are many other players that are just not well-known. Could they come out of nowhere and prove to be more talented than people give them credit for? Sure, but on paper this team is the least talented in the group.

When it is all said and done: I hate to be a buzz-kill, but the home-field advantage will only go so far as South Africa will fail to record a win in the World Cup.

Interesting fact: The winner of the first match of the World Cup advances past the knockout stage 80 percent of the time, while the losing team only advances 5 percent of the time.

Predictions

1 – Uruguay (7 pts)

2 – Mexico (5 pts)

3 – France (3 pts)

4 – South Africa (1 pt)

Find more articles on the World Cup by Justin Mertes-Mistretta at http://www.percysperspective.com/

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  1. […] 2010 World Cup Preview: Group A – France is favored to win the group but will have their hands full with the host country South Africa and two battle-tested squads in Mexico and Uruguay. In this article, we make our World Cup Odds, World Cup Futures Odds, and make our World Cup Soccer … […]

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