Nations await 2010 World Cup draw

March 10, 2011
National League Central
by CST 13

Fabio Capello’s England are among 32 teams eagerly awaiting Friday’s star-studded draw for the finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The ceremony, which gets under way at 1700 GMT in Cape Town, will be watched by millions of fans around the world.

By the end of the draw, nations will know the identity of their group-stage rivals and the date of every game.

The tournament begins on 11 June, with the final on 11 July, but Capello has said he fears no-one.

“It will be a great test, the hardest test of me as a manager,” said the Italian.

“For me it’s the first time I’ve breathed this atmosphere of the World Cup, the sensation. I can taste it. The airport, the people, the Fifa World Cup, Bafana Bafana, it’s exciting.

“If you want to win you have to beat all the teams, but of course if you play against the best teams it’s not so easy to pass the first round.”

The draw, to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, suffered a security scare on Friday morning before being reopened.

But later on it will draw the great and the good from the worlds of politics, sport and show business.

Revered former South Africa president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, one of the architects of the first World Cup to be held in Africa, will address the audience by video message at the age of 91.

On Thursday, Fifa president Sepp Blatter and his executive committee staged a symbolic meeting on Robben Island, the notorious apartheid-era prison in Table Bay off Cape Town, where Mandela was incarcerated for many years.

Jacob Zuma, one of his successors as president, will kick off proceedings alongside Blatter, with former president FW de Klerk and archbishop Desmond Tutu also on hand.

South Africa’s Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron will bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the draw, alongside England midfielder David Beckham, Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie and Springboks rugby union captain John Smit.

Theron told on Friday: “I’m one proud South African today. This is a magical moment for all of us; for this young democracy and for all the people who have worked hard to make this country a better place.”

Makhaya Ntini, the first black cricketer to play for South Africa, and World Cup icons Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini, Eusebio and Roger Milla will also be in attendance, with entertainment coming from the likes of the Soweto Gospel Choir and singers Angelique Kidjo and Johnny Clegg.

But one star who not be allowed to attend the draw is Argentina coach Diego Maradona following an expletive-filled rant at a news conference which earned him a two-month ban from all football activity.

For all the celebrities on show, many eyes will be transfixed on the trophy itself, which arrived in Cape Town on Thursday after a 83,274-mile global journey that took in every African country.

“The trophy is home,” said Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the tournament organising committee.

“This is the end of a long dream and the beginning of a new dream. We have been dreaming that one day countries would come here and compete for this trophy on the African continent – and that dream was dismissed.

“Now as we say welcome to this trophy, we announce the death of doubt. There can no longer be any doubt.”

England can take a measure of relief from the fact that they were named among the eight seeded teams for the tournament, meaning they will avoid Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, holders Italy and hosts South Africa in the group stages.

However, England star David Beckham, in South Africa to help promote England’s 2018 World Cup bid, said: “It’s not about trying to avoid teams.

“Once you get to this point, if you want to go all the way in the competition you have to beat the best teams and the best players, so I think it doesn’t matter who you come up against in the draw.”

The 32 qualifiers will be assembled into eight groups but there are plenty of dangerous teams like Portugal, currently ranked fifth in the rankings, and France, who are seventh, who have not been seeded.

Portugal have eliminated England in their last two major tournaments, both times through penalty shoot-outs, while France, who controversially qualified in a play-off against the Republic of Ireland following a Thierry Henry handball in the build-up to the decisive goal in a 2-1 aggregate victory, won the tournament in 1998 and were beaten finalists last time in Germany.

The eight seeds will all be in pot one, with the remaining three pots drawn on regional boundaries.

Each seeded nation will face one team in pot two – a side from Asia, north or central America, or Oceania – one from pot three, which has five African and three South American sides, and one from the exclusively European pot four.

A worst-case scenario on Friday would result in Capello’s England side taking on France, Ivory Coast and the United States, while a far easier proposition on paper would have England facing Slovenia, Algeria and New Zealand.

Despite being seeded as hosts, South Africa are actually the lowest ranked team in the tournament and they are hoping for the rub of the green when the balls are drawn to decide the groups.

“The draw can produce anything,” added Jordaan.

“We hope for the luck of the draw. It is important for us as the host nation that our team must progress in the second round and we will keep our fingers crossed.”

Friday’s draw will be made in a 90-minute television spectacular, which will be shown in the UK on BBC Two and on the BBC Sport website.

There is also full commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and live text commentary starts online from 1200 GMT.

As with every World Cup since 1998, teams must finish in the top two in their group to qualify for the knockout phase.

Fifa announced on Thursday that the winners of the 2010 tournament will receive £18.6m (m) – an increase of 61% on the 2006 finals – with teams knocked out in group stage getting £5.4m (m).

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