December 4th, 2009
12:44 PM ET

No easy games in World Cup draw

Thirty-two teams, eight seeds, four pots from which eight groups of four will be drawn. No two teams from the same qualifying region may be drawn together, with the exception of Europe, which may have two representatives in each group. Those are the facts for Friday’s World Cup draw in Cape Town, South Africa.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter ahead of the World Cup draw in Cape Town.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter ahead of the World Cup draw in Cape Town.

The prelude to the greatest show on Earth always reminds me of election night, when you sit round the TV watching the political landscape develop one result at a time. And just like in the political arena, the outcome will set the tone for what is to come when the real business begins next June.

Of course, the process will be meticulous, to avoid any accusation of unfair “stage management”.  But if I were coach of any of the seeds - which include hosts South Africa, reigning champions Italy, Argentina, Brazil, England, Germany, the Netherlands and reigning European champions Spain - there are several teams I’d certainly hope to avoid.

Top of my list would be France. Unseeded but ranked seventh in the world, the French have their pride at stake. After an embarrassingly early exit from last year’s European Championship, they struggled through the World Cup qualifiers, drew the wrath of the world with a controversial play-off victory against Ireland, and have, in Raymond Domenech, a coach under siege.

In short, Les Bleus, who let’s remember have made two of the last three finals, winning in 1998, are a wounded tiger. So beware.

As we all know, this is Africa’s first World Cup. And, though Africa is a continent not a country, I believe that most Africans, regardless of nationality, see this tournament as theirs, and will back every African team against all-comers. So, home advantage will go to all six African teams not just South Africa.

And the two teams tipped to make home-advantage count are the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The Elephants, as the Ivory Coast are known, qualified impressively without losing a match. They boast a squad drawn substantially from the cream of European football, and are spearheaded by one of the most feared strikers in the game - Didier Drogba. They also want to atone for 2006, when they went out in the first round. So, my expectation is that the Elephants will charge.

Ghana might also be a team best avoided by the big guns early on. The Black Stars were the first team to qualify for the finals; are defensively sound, (belying the hoary old criticism that African teams lack defensive discipline); and are riding the crest of a wave after winning the Under-20 World Cup. What’s more, despite having made the finals for only the second time, Ghana is regarded as a sleeping giant of African football, which may be about to awaken.

Chile and Paraguay would also be on my by-pass list. In the unusually tight South American qualifiers, they finished second and third respectively, each with only one less point than five-time World Champions, Brazil. Chile is a quality side that scores a lot of goals. And, as the youngest team to make it from South America, tend to play without inhibition. Meantime, Paraguay is a well balanced team, strong in defense with a new found potency in attack.

Mind you, looking through the field there are few teams I’d consider pushovers. Would you fancy taking on Australia in the first-phase after they ran eventual champions, Italy, so close in 2006? They also dominated their group in the 2010 qualifiers despite switching regions from Oceania to a tougher Asian section.

And what about the unpredictable USA? While their only World Cup of note was in 2002 when they made the quarter-finals, they proved in this year’s Confederations Cup Final against Brazil that they can test the best on their day.

As the cliché goes, there are no easy games in international football, and I can’t wait to see who meets who in 2010.

If you’d like to follow the draw along with analysis via Skype from CNN's expert panel, make sure to visit the Connect the World Web page later today and click on "join the chat." All you need to get involved is a Skype username. We look forward to hearing your opinions as each country discovers its fate.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Phil

    Hoping for anybody but the disgraced French cheeters to win the World Cup!

    December 4, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  2. Sayan Majumdar

    Terry, do not underestimate Serbia, full of raw talent and a potential giant killer.

    Sayan.

    December 4, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  3. wayne

    I think France should drop out, it wud show the world they have respect for the sport, and save there integrity. The world know they cheated to advance, how can they play with pride and respect is beyond me.

    December 4, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  4. Eric

    France could end up winning the soccer world cup and it will send mixed signals to the biggest game in the world.

    December 4, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  5. Musa muhammed rabiu

    I have the strong believe that spain will take the lead in 2010 south africa.they are indeed my favourite.

    December 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  6. Williams jay

    I wish france a early exit in the 2010world cup,i think they dont deserve to be there.williams from nigeria.

    December 4, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  7. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    All teams have their strengths and weaknesses. There are no minnows at the highest level. There could be shocks galore. Best of luck to the 32 in their efforts to take Jogo Bonito to the next and a higher level.

    December 6, 2009 at 7:34 am | Reply
  8. Kevin Viegas

    France should be ashamed to be in the final 32. It is a disgrace to have a team with the likes of Thierry Henry play in the world cup final. I just hope they do not make it through the first round.

    December 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Reply
  9. JAY

    France doesn't deserve to be there, no one likes france, they are a bunch of cheaters and morons.

    December 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  10. Jaime R

    I believe people need to get over the France issue. If you are to blame anyone don't blame Henry, blame the refs as it is their JOB to catch such things. Players get away with fouls say... in 70% of games if not more? What about all the uncalled ones inside the penalty box? How many times have offisdes not been called? I would be safe to assume ANY player, specially in such a decisive game as France-Ireland, wouldn't hesitate on doing the necessary to get their team thru. Before this incident I bet most of you regarded Henry as one of the top players after his runs in Arsenal and Barca! The groups have been made, leavee the fate of France to fate and stop your nonsense.

    P.S. Spain will be Wold Champs😉

    Fuerza Espana!!!!

    December 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  11. M.H

    France is an embarresment to football world wide. No way should they be allowed to play in the most prestigious event in the whole world, when they cheated to advance,

    December 11, 2009 at 12:20 am | Reply
  12. L.L

    Wish people would get over the France thing.
    Cheating is encouraged in Football and has been for decades.
    The Irish cheated against Georgia otherwise they wouldn't have even been in the playoff.

    December 11, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  13. RGA

    France does not deserve to be in the world cup tournament, thats true, but that is thanks to the organization and the reffs ofcourse. I really dont understand why FIFA does not use cameras to make accurate decisions in critical situations such as this last incidence with Henry's handball. Referees can not see well enough what happens, because they arent wacthing at that specifict moment in time, and because it all happens so fast. Whats the hold up with watching it again from different angles? Only adds fairness.

    All in all, france is not an embarassement to football world wide. they are just not good haha.. but its really not their fault the reffs didnt call the fault. its not their fault fifa decided to let france play in the world cup. Blame the organization.

    December 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  14. vic

    The French!!

    Gee, must be good for something...no??

    December 12, 2009 at 9:26 am | Reply
  15. Fritz W. L.

    CNN, BBC, ARD, TV5 and all the other western Medias. I know that you don’t like Cameroon. Just wait and see. Cameroon is going to prove you all wrong in South Africa.
    There is no need to talk much about it. This is going to be your biggest embarrassment when Cameroon wins the cup in South Africa.

    December 22, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  16. Dennis

    i agree with u seyan majumdar .. people have always neglected serbia but i advice they watch them closely cuz they are certaing going to surprise the world. They're very strong and can unleash terror on any of these big names. they've got all it takes.

    December 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  17. Emmanuel

    I think the mighty Brazil will win the title again.
    Go the Brazil

    January 15, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  18. clayton

    everyone does need to forget the france thing, its not the first time and surely wont be the last. as for the winner that goes to the germans this year, they have been so close for awhile now and i believe this is finally their time to shine, or england, take your pick

    January 27, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Reply
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