World Cup Fever Sets In
In 140 days' time, the world's biggest sporting event will begin in South Africa. Watched by an estimated global TV audience of over 26 billion combined viewers from more than 210 countries, the FIFA World Cup will showcase the world's greatest players over the course of four exciting weeks.
Amongst the various teams touted for success in South Africa are traditional powers Brazil, England and Spain, as well as emerging hopefuls, the USA. Brazil, drawn in a difficult Group G section along with Korea DRP, Ivory Coast and Portugal, are the only country to have taken part in all 18 previous World Cup tournaments (since 1930). Under current manager Dunga, the five-time World cup winners are again amongst the favorites to finish World Cup champions. With the likes of Kaka, Alexander Pato and Luis Fabiano heading the Brazilian attack and with the current impressive form of previous World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho, the expectations have been set high for yet another samba triumph.
Wayne Rooney will carry the weight of English expectations on his broad shoulders to South Africa, as long-suffering England fans travel south of the equator in search of a repeat of their country's only World Cup success more than 40 years ago (when England defeated West Germany, 4-2, in controversial circumstances during the 1966 Final). Bolstered by an experienced midfield line-up of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and David Beckham, Rooney will spearhead the England attack alongside lofty Peter Crouch and the explosive Aaron Lennon. England manager Fabio Cappello will have to ensure he picks the correct blend of experience and youth if England is to progress far and satisfy a demanding English public.
Drawn alongside England in Group C is a USA team brimming with confidence after finishing top of the CONCACAF qualifying section. Boasting a depth of quality and experience arguably unseen in any preceding USA World Cup team, Landon Donovan and company will fancy their chances of progressing ahead of other Group C rivals, Algeria and Slovenia, while providing England stiff competition for top spot in the group. USA vs. England on June 12 promises to be one of the most intriguing matches of the section; a match where the USA will need all guns blazing and each player fully fit.
Current European champions, Spain, head to South Africa on the back of a near-flawless qualifying campaign of 10 successive wins, scoring 28 goals and conceding just five goals in the process. Not surprisingly, Spain will arrive in South Africa as many people's favorite to win the World Cup for, remarkably, the first time in their history. With talent and depth in abundance at almost every position, manager Vicente Del Bosque will not be short of options if players are underperforming — an unlikely scenario given a talented crop that includes Xavi, Iniesta, Torres, Villa, Silva, Pique, Puyol, Sena and Casillas. Tasked with challenging Spain for the top spot in Group H are Spanish-speaking rivals Honduras and Chile. Switzerland, who also topped their respective World Cup qualifying group, completes the section.
The stage is set for June 11, when tournament hosts South Africa take on Mexico in the opening match of the 19th FIFA World Cup. The World Cup Final will be played four weeks later on July 11 to an expected audience of 750 million people from all over the world. Brazil, England, Spain and the USA will each be hoping they have done enough to be at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg on that day.
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