Group A: South Africa, Mexico, France, Uruguay
Group A is one of many intriguing groups in this World Cup where the top two places will really be fought over. Traditionally the hosts are handed a favorable draw, however South Africa received no such favors this time around as Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side were dealt a difficult section. France may have squeaked in just, however they will be the favorites in this group. That is not to say that Mexico and Uruguay won’t be fighting it out for the top two spots. South Africa is arguably one of the weakest hosts in recent memory, but no host has ever failed to qualify for the knockout round so history is on their side.
What Should Happen
France should claim top spot in the group based on the quality of their team on paper. However Raymond Domenech’s team have flattered to deceive all through qualification and needed the Hand of Henry incident in order to advance to South Africa at the expense of Ireland.
Mexico are slight favorites to finish ahead of Uruguay for second place. After a tumultuous qualifying campaign that appeared doomed at one point, Mexico got their campaign back on track with the appointment of Javier Aguirre as coach. Now they look to be in decent form heading into the tournament.
Uruguay can’t be underestimated and though they needed a play-off victory over Costa Rica to advance to the World Cup have proven they will be a strong side at the World Cup with a decent defense and some superb options in attack such as Diego Forlan.
South Africa has been tipped to finish last by many observers in this difficult group. Though home support could yet prove to be of huge importance, the feeling is that there is just not enough quality in the squad to make it out of Group A against battle-hardened World Cup teams.
What Might Happen Instead
Just like 2002, it’s not inconceivable for France to make a Group Stage exit. The talent might be there, though there is a feeling that this team are there for the taking and out of all the traditional powers in the tournament Les Bleus appear to be the one that is most vulnerable to go three and out.
If France were to struggle early then the door would be open for the other sides to finish atop Group A. South Africa in particular, riding a wave of home support, could be the real surprise in the group. A quick start against Mexico could be the catalyst for a good run in the competition. Mexico and Uruguay meanwhile have just as much chance as topping Group A as they do in finishing last. It all could depend on which team hits form at the right time in a group which is so close to call.
The World Cup opening match between South Africa and Mexico will not only be one of the highlights of this tournament, but also of great interest in Group A. A win by South Africa could really shake things up, while a draw would perhaps complicate matters and ensure that this a group that gets decided on the final day. A win for the Mexicans conversely would put them in good position for the knockout rounds.
Players To Watch
France will be hoping for inspiration from the superb wing play of Frank Ribery, while Uruguay supporters will be banking on goals from the prolific Diego Forlan. Mexican hopes will be given a boost if Giovanni Dos Santos’s recent form holds up, while South Africa may taste success if Steven Pienaar can create chances for his teammates on the flanks.
One Game, One World Prediction
In the end we may some big surprises in this group. Our prediction is that the big shock will come from France who will bow out of the competition early. South Africa will ensure that the record of every host qualifying for the knockout round remains intact, while Mexico will top Group A thanks to their vast improvement during Aguirre’s time and the mix of experience and exciting youngster they possess. Uruguay won’t lie down for anyone, however this time we just see them as not having enough to gain a top two finish.
- South Africa
What do you think? Are we crazy for picking France for the early exit? Will South Africa really make it through? Let us know what you think!