/ 25 November 2007

World Cup: Hard work ahead for SA

Despite qualifying automatically as hosts of the 2010 World Cup, South Africa got some of the toughest opposition possible as preparation in the 2010 World Cup draw on Sunday.

The draw, broadcast live to 170 territories, took place at the Durban International Convention Centre. South African President Thabo Mbeki and Fifa president Sepp Blatter addressed the gathered sport dignitaries from about 170 countries, and music acts such as Youssou N’Dour and Freshlyground provided the entertainment.

”It’s the kick-off, it’s the window to South Africa,” said Blatter at the start of the draw, which was attended by about 3 000 delegates as well as being watched by a worldwide television audience of tens of millions. ”Now there’s no doubt that the 2010 World Cup will be here, will be a big success.”

Mbeki said the tournament will be a ”significant catalyst, which will assist our efforts as a country and continent” in the post-apartheid era. ”Africa is ready, Africa’s time has come. Africa is calling, come to Africa in 2010.”

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke conducted the draw and was assisted by, among others, Orlando Pirates legend Jomo Sono, former South Africa and Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe and Marcel Desailly, a World Cup winner with France in 1998.

South Africa were drawn with Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone in Group 4. Although Bafana Bafana do not have to qualify for the tournament they will host, the African competition doubles as qualifying for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

Bafana Bafana played their first World Cup qualifier 15 years ago in Lagos and suffered a 4-0 drubbing from the Super Eagles. Nigeria reached three consecutive World Cup tournaments from 1994, while South Africa appeared at the 1998 and 2002 editions.

In another tough match-up, Senegal and Algeria were drawn into Group 6 with Liberia and Gambia.

Since the 12 group winners and the top eight runners-up advance, few of Africa’s biggest nations got a scare. Cameroon will face Cape Verde, Tanzania and Mauritius in Group 1.

Qualifiers will advance into a system of five groups of four teams. Each winner will qualify for the World Cup along with South Africa.

No African nation has ever gone beyond the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup, but home advantage could change that in 2010. Cameroon reached the quarterfinals at the 1990 tournament, losing to England in extra time. Senegal lost to Turkey in extra time in the 2002 quarterfinals.

Last year, Nigeria and Cameroon failed to make the final tournament, and of the five qualifiers, only Ghana made it in the second round, where they lost to defending champion Brazil.

Morocco and Nigeria are the only other African teams to reach the second round. Morocco did it in 1986, and Nigeria in 1994 and 1998.

In the Europe zone, England will play Croatia in qualifying, the team that stopped them getting to the 2008 European Championship.

Defending champions Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands and European champions Greece all received comparatively easy groups in the qualifying draw, while France are in what looks like the toughest alongside Romania and Serbia.

Meanwhile, China were drawn against Australia, Iraq and Qatar in Group 1 of the Asia zone while Japan must come up against Bahrain, Oman and Thailand in Group 2.

In an intriguing match-up in Group 3, North and South Korea were drawn together.

South America’s qualifying campaign, which got under way last month, is organised along the usual lines with the 10 countries in the region playing in one round-robin group with the top four qualifying automatically and the fifth-placed side playing off against a team from the North/Central America and the Caribbean (Concacaf).


Five nations qualify for finals, plus South Africa as hosts:

Group 1: Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Tanzania, Mauritius

Group 2: Guinea, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya

Group 3: Angola, Benin, Uganda, Niger

Group 4: Nigeria, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone

Group 5: Ghana, Libya, Gabon, Lesotho

Group 6: Senegal, Algeria, Liberia, The Gambia

Group 7: Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar

Group 8: Morocco, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mauritania

Group 9: Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Seychelles

Group 10: Mali, Congo, Sudan, Chad

Group 11: Togo, Zambia, Eritrea, Swaziland

Group 12: Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Djibouti

Twelve group winners and eight best runners-up go through to final qualifying stage where they will be drawn in five groups of four teams. The five group winners qualify for the finals.


Group 1: Qatar, Iraq, China, Australia

Group 2: Thailand, Oman, Bahrain, Japan

Group 3: Turkmenistan, Jordan, North Korea, South Korea

Group 4: Singapore, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia

Group 5: Syria, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran

All group winners and group runners-up advance to the next stage.


Group 1

1A: Dominica vs Barbados; United States vs winner

1B: Turks and Caicos Islands vs St Lucia; Guatemala vs winner

1C: Bermuda vs Cayman Islands; Trinidad and Tobago vs winner

1D: Aruba vs Antigua and Barbuda; Winner vs Cuba

Group 2

2A: Belize vs St Kitts and Nevis; Winner vs Mexico

2B: Bahamas vs British Virgin Islands; Jamaica vs winner

2C: Dominican Republic vs Puerto Rica; Honduras vs winner

2D: Canada vs St Vincent and the Grenadines

Group 3

3A: US Virgin Islands vs Grenada; Winner vs Costa Rica

3B: Suriname vs Montserrat; Winner vs Guyana

3C: El Salvador vs Anguilla; Panama vs winner

3D: Nicaragua vs Netherlands Antilles; Haiti vs winner


Group 1: Albania, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, Portugal, Sweden

Group 2: Greece, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Moldova, Switzerland

Group 3: Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Poland, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia

Group 4: Azerbaijan, Finland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Russia, Wales

Group 5: Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Spain, Turkey

Group 6: Andorra, Belarus, Croatia, England, Kazakhstan, Ukraine

Group 7: Austria, Faeroe Islands, France, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia

Group 8: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro

Group 9: Iceland, Macedonia, The Netherlands, Norway, Scotland

Group winners qualify; top eight second-place teams advance to play-offs for four more spots.


Current standings in the Oceania zone qualifiers for the World Cup:

Standings (played, points)

New Zealand 3, 9

New Caledonia 2, 4

Fiji 3, 1

Vanuatu 2, 0

Winners and runners-up play off over two legs with the winner of that taking on the fifth-placed-team in the Asia zone for a place in the finals.


Current standings in the South American zone qualifiers for the World Cup:

Standings after four rounds of games (played, points)

Paraguay 4, 10

Argentina 4, 9

Brazil 4, 8

Colombia 4, 8

Venezuela 4, 6

Uruguay 4, 5

Chile 4, 4

Ecuador 4, 3

Peru 4, 2

Bolivia 4, 1

First four qualify for World Cup finals, fifth-placed team goes into play-off against fourth-placed team from North and Central America