'Bafana can expect favourable 2010 draw'

With literally billions of dollars at stake—not to mention the other vast implications of ensuring that Africa’s first World Cup is ultimately rubber-stamped a success—Fifa will ensure 2010 host nation South Africa emerges with at least a reasonably favourable opening round draw in Cape Town on Friday.

And, in what is considered another essential priority, top tournament draw cards among the 32 nations in the draw such as Brazil and England, will not travel to venues like Port Elizabeth, which will not be able to cope with the influx of as many as 25 000 or 30 000 overseas supporters accompanying such teams.

These were the “logical” views expressed on Tuesday by Nazeer Camroodien, the South African Football Association’s official travel representative, who will be at the forefront of transporting many of the anticipated 350 000 to 450 000 World Cup visitors round the country.

“What we know for sure at this stage,” said Camroodien, “is that South Africa will be the seeded team in Group A among the World Cup’s eight groups of four teams—and the hosts will play the tournament opener at Johannesburg’s awesome Soccer City Stadium on June 11.

“Also,” he added, “Bafana’s other two opening round games will be played at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on June 16 and at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on June 22.

Camroodien also expects universally popular, five-times world champions Brazil, to be the seeded nation in Group B , which would mean playing their opening game at Ellis Park on June 12, a second game in Johannesburg at Soccer City on June 17 and their third match at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on June 22

“But what is almost an essential proviso for the tournament to come up to its highest expectatations,” said Camroodien, “is for the currently frail Bafana to progress beyond the opening round.”

With this urgent eventuality in mind, Camroodien believes the Fifa executive and World Cup Organising Committee will devise a formula at high-level, vital meetings on Wednesday that will keep the World Cup’s most powerful playing nations out of Bafana’s opening round group.

“In the first instance,” he added, “the top seven seeds who will head the other seven opening round groups will automatically be separated from South Africa—and this means Bafana can rest easy over the prospect of having to face teams like Brazil, Spain, Italy, England, Germany, The Netherlands and Argentina in the opening round.

“But more to the point,” said Camroodien, “I’m sure a system will be devised whereby South Africa receives a favourable draw all-round.

“It happened for the World Cup ‘s Confederation Cup dress rehearsal earlier in the year when the rules basically ensured that South Africa was drawn in the same initial group as minnows New Zealand and Iraq and duly made their way into the semifinals.”

“It will be a draw conducted in accordance with prescribed rules,” added Camroodien, “and will therefore be construed as fair—but it should be just a little fairer for South African than for the others.”

And Safa’s travel agent predicts an opening round draw for Bafana in the nature of being pitted against the United States or Honduras, Denmark, Slovenia or Slovakia and North Korea or New Zealand.

“Even such a draw will be no formality for Bafana progressing into the second round as one of the two top teams in the group,” he added, “but it would make a lot of people sleep a lot easier over the next six months or so.”—Sapa


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