Had great fun on our World Cup draw live blog earlier this afternoon – I hope you guys enjoyed it too. After the gospel choir, the goofing around and what seemed like an interminable wait for the actual balls to be picked out, the draw left me feeling like a little kid. The giddy excitement of knowing who’s playing who makes the prospect of South Africa seem that much more real even if we’ve still got to wait more than six months for kick off.
Draws might firm things up but, as Radio 5 Live demonstrated tonight, any predictions based on the draw itself are entirely worthless. For a start, sides that look really useful now might be out of form, devoid of confidence or missing key players by the time the tournament gets underway. The hype has already begun though. Barely had the balls being pulled out of the bowl and people were talking about an easy group for England. There’s no doubt that Capello’s initial task could have been far harder, but an opener against the USA is not my idea of straightforward.
Bob Bradley wasted little time in pointing out that the Americans have a 100 per cent record in World Cups against England. A repeat of Belo Horizonte would certainly quieten his critics, but the USA should make it through from Group C. Algeria have been impressive in African qualifying with Fulham old boy Hameur Bouazza to the fore and Slovenia beat Russia in a play-off to reach the finals. Neither will be as easy as some of the pundits have been pointing out. Projecting opponents from that point out is always risky, but the prospect of Serbia or Germany (or maybe a meeting with Mark Schwarzer or John Pantsil) in the second round might make Capello think a little bit as would a meeting with France in the quarter finals.
The French themselves have had another stroke of luck. Rather fortunate to be in the finals, they have one of the easiest groups facing the hosts (somewhat laughably given a top seeding), Mexico and Uruguay. Brazil probably have the toughest group of the lot with Ivory Coast, Portugal and North Korea (I wonder how the state media will report the World Cup, especially as matches which the North Koreans lose won’t be broadcast). It’s all going to be very interesting indeed.
Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
Group B: Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria, Greece
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
Group D: Germany, Australia, Ghana, Serbia
Group E: Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon, Denmark
Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia
Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Cost, Portugal
Group H: Spain, Honduras, Chile, Switzerland