World Cup will be anything but predictable

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:30 PM ET

Warm up the vuvuzelas baby.

Get those Brazilian drums thumping and the samba rocking.

Can't you hear the English loosening up their vocal chords already?

The party is really warming up.

The 32-soccer nations learned their immediate fate Friday in South African when they were drawn into groups for the 2010 World Cup beginning in June.

When it was over, the matchups provided more than enough intrigue, anticipation and hype for what promises to be an interesting World Cup.

Whether it's the public relations machine working or simply the unknown of what South Africa holds for the football world, there is something about this tournament that shouts 'surprise!'

It starts with the Group of Death. It may not be the greatest group of death ever but Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea live up to what it means to be part of that scenario. A very good team is going out in the first round of the World Cup.

The feeling of this being unique could also be because the past four years following Italy's 2006 victory have been years of growth for football across the globe. Some of the so-called power teams - Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany - have gone through difficult spells.

African nations are being touted as potentially dangerous teams and well they should. Those nations are producing many international calibre players.

Nations that have struggled in the past in major tournaments - Spain, England, the Netherlands - appear to be at the top of their games.

This tournament has a smattering of good teams that play with great heart - the United States, Australia, Algeria - which means upsets may occur, as they will force their opponents to come to play.

The goal in the preliminary group phases of the World Cup is simple enough.

You want to qualify comfortably without sustaining injuries or suspension.

If you are going to find upsets in the World Cup, it is often in the quarterfinal rounds because teams will have been forced to expend a lot of energy to move on.

While there is still much to assess and dissect, the draw has provided some fascinating group games.

Few tears would be shed if the French made an early exit back to Paris.

France and Uruguay promises to be a clash of styles. The only slickness the French have shown in recent times is their sleight of hand to qualify for the World Cup. They may not survive tough-tackling Uruguay.

Argentina and Nigeria will see little defence. How good will Lionel Messi be if he's allowed to run the pitch?

England against the United States is a mouth-watering match. The Americans are already pumping themselves up by reliving their 1950 1-0 upset of England in the World Cup, even though that means nothing now.

The first round will see Brazil against Portugal, Portugal against the Ivory Coast, Ivory Coast against Brazil. The survivor may not have much left for the next round.

There is a possibility that favourites Brazil could meet co-favourites Spain in the second round. With Portugal and Ivory Coast also in Group G, it is guaranteed that at least two major powers will be eliminated before the quarterfinals out of these four teams.

Four African nations also have a legitimate shot at qualifying past the group stage.

You are smiling if you are Italy, England, Netherlands and Spain; sort of happy if you are Germany, United States, France and Argentina.

You are not very happy if you are anywhere in Group G or are South Africa, Algeria or New Zealand.

Let the surprises begin.


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