2010 World Cup one to remember

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

The 2010 World Cup promises to be one of the most unpredictable and enjoyable tournaments in the massive event's history.

There are still 11 months to the start of the South African tournament but everything points to a unique event with most of the powerful nations present and some of the so-called minnows prepared to mess with what's often a predictable finale.

This will be World Cup No. 19. Five nations have won multiple World Cups with Brazil leading with five, Italy next with four and Germany with three, Argentina and Uruguay twice each. France and England are the only nations to win it once.

Why expect anything different this time around?

The recent Confederations Cup played in South Africa offered enough proof of what's become an ongoing trend. There are no longer any easy games. Sure Brazil won the tournament but they needed a huge comeback against the United States and had their hands full against Egypt. The tournament saw the United States upset Spain, a loss that cost the Spaniards the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Egypt, for an intents and purposes, eliminated Italy by beating them. South Africa was agonizingly close to defeating Spain for third place.

Yes, it's an exhibition tournament but by the end of it, they were playing as if a major trophy was at stake and winning and losing meant everything. To nations that are not considered football powerhouses, beating a Spain or Italy and giving Brazil all it can handle, means invaluable experience and confidence.

There are few nations in the world that do not export their best football players. As a result, players from small nations are gaining tremendous international experiences and adding strength to their national sides.

South Africa is a venue that is rife for upsets. The weather should be ideal for all nations to play their best football. The World Cup begins in June, the winter season for the nation. That usually means moderate temperatures.

African nations have improved their standard of football and playing in their home turf will give them added incentive to perform. There is no further proof needed than the South African team itself. In the months leading up to the Confederations Cup, many football experts felt South Africa would be embarrassed. By the end of the tournament, their style of play and amazing improvements leave experts believing the home team may cause some problems for everyone.

Qualifying for the World Cup is still ongoing. Some well-known football powers are in trouble. In Europe, the top teams qualify automatically and the second-place teams go into a playoff. Portugal is third in the group. France is second but not playing particularly well.

In South America, Argentina is in fourth place, the last automatic qualifying place for South American teams.

Some teams have already qualified or are almost certain to qualify. They include Netherlands, Germany, Spain, England, Serbia, Brazil, South Africa as the host and Australia. Italy is close as is Denmark. Hungary is another nation that might make it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Hungary could regain some of its luster as the Magical Magyars of the 50s with Puskas, Kocsis, Budai, a team often called the greatest of its time.

North Korea has qualified for the first time and only time since the 1966 World Cup in England.

North Korea was the revelation of the tournament that year. It staged one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, defeating Italy 1-0, eliminating the Italians and sending then home to a shower of vegetables and fruits.

To show it was no fluke, North Korea then led Portugal 3-0 in the quarterfinal, only to be buried by a four-goal effort by Portuguese legend Eusebio in a 5-3 defeat.

North Korea's style of play was open and exciting. It was called chollima after a mythical winged horse that can leap 150 miles. Chollima was a symbol of North Korea's spirit.

This North Korean team has no chollima. It is a conservative defensive-minded team.

There is no certainty what it will produce.

Much like the rest of the 2010 World Cup. It will be unpredictable and startling.


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