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FIFA World Cup 2010 – A Poignant Sporting Celebration on a Mystifying Continent

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FIFA World Cup 2010 – A Poignant Sporting Celebration on a Mystifying Continent
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south_africa_fans.jpgThe beautiful game of Football is a religion that unifies the people of the world. Millions of devout fans will embrace for the first time, an African celebration of the Gods of the game. A galaxy of the finest exponents of this often spiritually enchanting game will all descend on the mountains and plains of South Africa to contest the greatest prize on offer. The blessed fans will arrive in numbers to chant euphoric prayers and hail their Gods as a galaxy of stars light up the lush green pitches that will host the multitude of contests.

The 19th FIFA World Cup kicks off in the 'Rainbow nation' of South Africa and the 'Dark Continent' prepares to celebrate the brightest sporting spectacle on the planet, with unprecedented colour and revelry. The month long festival will open on June 11th and close with the grand finale on July 11th.

Thirty two of the best football nations will compete for the most coveted of trophies, the erstwhile Jules Rimet Trophy, now known as the FIFA World Cup Trophy. These nations have earned their place in the draw after a lengthy qualification battle that is played out during a three year period, as the most successful nations from each group earn their spots reserved on the basis of an often contentious geographical allocation to different continents.

The first World Cup was held in Uruguay after the passage of an historic vote in 1929 to institute an international competition by the then FIFA President Jules Rimet. Since then the event is a much awaited quadrennial fixture that has seen 18 glorious editions of mesmerising football. Of course there was a drought of twelve years including during the Second World War, when there was no event in 1942 and 1946. That though, is an aberration long forgotten.

Uruguay were the first ever champions, winning 4-2 at home against Argentina in front of an incredible 93,000 people in Montevideo, 1930. Only seven nations have had the honour of lifting the prized trophy, with Brazil being the most prolific of all having won the cup on five different occasions. They have also finished runners-up on two occasions.

The Italians have won four times and the Germans have triumphed thrice as 'West Germany'. A unified Germany though, is yet to win a World Cup; they have finished runners-up in Korea & Japan 2002. Uruguay and Argentina have won twice, while France and England have won in 1998 and 1966 respectively.

The finals have seen many a legend, none greater than Edison Arantes do Nascimento, better known simply as Pelé. The great man was a member of the Brazilian teams that won the 1958, '62 and '70 World Cup, the only man ever to have achieved such a feat.

One cannot forget the prodigiously prolific Just Fontaine who scored 13 goals in 1958. Despite his brilliant finishing, France could only muster third place behind Brazil and Sweden. It is an unmatched performance, but how wasteful that must have felt is best known to the gifted Frenchman alone.

Germany's Franz Beckenbauer (1974-Player/1990-Coach) and Brazilian Mario Zagallo (1958, 62-Player/1970-Coach) are the only two men to have won the biggest prize, both as player and coach. Italian coach Vittorio Pozzo is the only man to have successfully coached two world cup winning teams, back in 1934 and 1938.

World Cup 2010 will feature 32 teams divided into eight groups. The draw was held on December 04th 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa. Each team will play three matches and the top two teams in each group will proceed to the pre-quarter finals, from where the tournament will enter the knock-out phase.

The Draw

Group A consists of South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and 1998 champions France. The hosts Bafana Bafana have a tough draw and a mountain to climb in order to reach the knock out stages. However, Les Bleus have been in shaky form and that should encourage both South Africa and Uruguay about their chances. On paper, The Mexican El Tri should make it to the second round without too much drama. France though has the best odds in this group at 16-1, Mexico maybe worth a few quid at 80-1. The hosts are offered 100-1 odds, tough to argue with that.

Group B consists of two-time champions Argentina, Nigeria, Korea and Greece. La Albiceleste will start the obvious favourites from this group while there isn't too much that separates the other three nations at this stage of the competition. Ladbrokes offer Argentina at 7-1 behind Spain, Brazil and England. All eyes are on the magical Lionel Messi and their coach Diego Maradona, the brilliance of the young man on the pitch and the ability of the mercurial senior off it will be weighed in high regard. 'The Super Eagles' should be able to just about hold on to second place, given the premier league pedigree in the side, but Korea could challenge these notions.

Group C has 1966 winners England, United States, Algeria and Slovenia. England has received a soft draw and are once again inspiring very short odds at 6-1, the third best among the participating nations. The Lions have made a fine habit out of inspiring hope only to betray their fans in tournament football. It will be interesting to see what they could make of this latest campaign under Fabio Capello and Rio Ferdinand. The Americans will look to have a leg up on Algeria, because Slovenia have gotten the better of Russia in the play-offs and could prove to be a much tougher deal.

Group D is an intensely competitive group with Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana forming a formidable quartet. The absence of Ballack may yet prove to be a factor in Germany's performance, while they are expected to head this group they will be pushed hard by Serbia and an Essien-less Ghana.