With the start of the World Cup only nine days away, it’s time to start looking at the 32 teams making up the tournament. Today we’re starting with Group A: Mexico, Uruguay, France and South Africa, listed in order of projected finish.
This is a wide open group, one that should be the most competitive in the tournament. Mexico appears to be the favorite. After struggling early in qualifying under former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, El Tri brought back coach Javier Aguirre, who guided the team to five straight wins to earn a spot in South Africa. They’ve made it out of the group stage in their last four World Cup appearances and they seem to be the least flawed team in this group.
France reached the final in the 2006 World Cup, losing to Italy, thanks in part to Zidane’s famous head butt. Les Bleus are led by coach Raymond Domenech, aka “Le Crackpot,” who is known for basing his player choices on horoscope readings. Plus a few of the players have been in a spot of trouble back home. They won it all in 1998 but then struggled in 2002, not getting out of the group stage. But in this group, they should still have enough to advance, especially if they can pull out a win in the opener against Uruguay.
Uruguay has only one win in its last 14 World Cup matches, that coming in 1990. The team failed to beat Venezuela, Ecuador and Costa Rica at home during qualifying, so they may be a bit fragile mentally to advance. But if they can get their offense going, led by strikers Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, they could challenge in this group. Forlan lead Atletico Madrid to this year’s Europa League title, while Suarez has scored more than a goal per game for Ajax.
South Africa earned a spot as the host country, but that’s about all it has going for it. The team can’t score – it netted only two goals in five games in last year’s Confederation’s Cup. Even with an automatic invite, the team played in the African qualifying matches where they didn’t make it out of the group stage. The host nation has never been eliminated in the group stage, but enjoy Bafana Bafana while you can, because it looks to be three and out for the hosts.