Soccer: 2010 World Cup pools

An in-depth look at the pools drawn for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

Group A
South Africa (86)
Mexico (15)
Uruguay (19)
France (7)

It used to be the luck of the Irish but now it could be described as the bonne chance of the French. They controversially qualified in place of Ireland courtesy of the Hand of Frog and, while they missed out on being one of the top seven seeds, were handed a soft draw by being lumped in South Africa's group. The hosts are the lowest-ranked nation at the World Cup and have had a tumultuous year highlighted by the sacking coach Joel Santana. Mexico and Uruguay will be tricky opponents being seasoned World Cup finalists but France, who finished runners-up at the last World Cup, will be confident of getting out of their group by whatever means possible.

Group B
Argentina (8)
Nigeria (22)
South Korea (52)
Greece (12)

Diego Maradona must think he is the Blessed One (in fact, he's thought that for most of his life). He will probably go off on some foul-mouthed rant about the media and blame Fifa for denying him the chance to large it up in Cape Town at the draw (he has a two-month ban for a previous tirade) but the Argentinian coach should be well pleased with this group.

Nigeria are strong and will be difficult opponents but Greece don't deserve their high ranking. South Korea aren't as good as the side which made the semifinals when playing at home in 2002.

Group C
England (9)
USA (14)
Algeria (28)
Slovenia (33)

English football fans will be smiling from Doncaster to Dover and supping a few John Smith's in celebration. This is a good first-round draw, any way you look at it. The United States are a better side than most give them credit for and narrowly lost the final of June's Confederations Cup to Brazil but England should be too strong after going through qualifying with nine wins in 10 games. It just remains to be seen at which stage they get knocked out on penalties after someone is sent off.

Group D
Germany (6)
Australia (21)
Serbia (20)
Ghana (37)

Germany will progress to the second round (it's just what happens at World Cups) but any one of the other three can join them in what is a tough group. Both Australia and Ghana reached the second round four years ago, the latter after beating the Czech Republic and US. While they are competing at a World Cup as Serbia for the first time, the Europeans enjoyed plenty of success as Yugoslavia. English fans need to be wary if they top their group and Germany finish second - the two would then meet in the second round.

Group E
Netherlands (3)
Denmark (26)
Japan (43)
Cameroon (11)

A tricky group. The Dutch will be favourites after winning all 10 qualifying games but they have never won the Big Prize and they will play three teams with decent records. Denmark emerged from a difficult group that included Portugal, Sweden and Hungary, Cameroon are the highest-ranked African side and are motivated to do well on the Dark Continent and Japan have set the ambitious, perhaps unrealistic, target of making the semifinals. If nothing else, it will be a good party group, with the Orange Army expected to invade South Africa en masse.

Group F
Italy (4)
Paraguay (30)
New Zealand (77)
Slovakia (34)

Italy will be overwhelming favourites to progress from this group. At times they can struggle in the first round but, like Germany, know how to win football matches and proved that when lifting the World Cup four years ago. New Zealand will be rank outsiders but the draw has been kind and they have the chance of achieving their goal of being competitive.

Group G
Brazil (2)
North Korea (84)
Ivory Coast (16)
Portugal (5)

Poor old North Korea. They qualify for a World Cup for the first time in 44 years and get drawn with this lot. Brazil are five-time winners, Portugal were 2004 European champions and third in Germany and Ivory Coast are arguably the strongest of all of the African teams with the likes of Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure. It's not a group of death in the true sense of the phrase, but it's as close as it gets at this World Cup.

Group H
Spain (1)
Switzerland (18)
Honduras (38)
Chile (17)

Hardly a group to get the pulses racing. Everyone loves the Spanish and the way they play the game - and with a star-studded lineup including Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi, the world's top-ranked side look certainties to progress after going through qualification unbeaten. But none of the others really excite. Try naming two players from each of the other sides. Exactly.


- Herald on Sunday

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