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Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. Imagine for a moment that you are Liechtenstein. You’re all revved up for your first Euro 2012 qualifying match, and feeling confident. Sure, you’ve taken some beatings, but remember – in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, you beat both Latvia and Iceland. Not too shabby for a little guy. Then you look at your first opponent, and it’s World Cup champions Spain. That has to take a little wind out of your sails.

Or imagine for a moment you are the Most Serene Republic of San Marino. Due to your tiny size and ridiculously… Continue reading

With all the World Cup action over and all the votes tallied, the World Cup awards can now be handed out. And there’s a lot of gold to go around. There’s the Golden Ball for best player (plus silver and bronze for runners up), the Golden Boot for top scorer, the Golden Glove (just one, this ‘aint boxing) for best goalkeeper and the not so golden but still prestigious Best Young Player award (the Golden iPod?)

Read on for an overview of who won what:

Golden Ball for best player: Diego Forlan (Uruguay) FIFA drew up the shortlist… Continue reading

THE BIG PICTURE Many will be shocked to see Uruguay still alive and kicking, and just one win away from the World Cup final. Theoretically South America’s fifth best team (based on World qualification) la celeste have outlasted Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina to be CONMEBOL’s sole remaining representative. Some might even be annoyed at Uruguay’s presence here, since it’s a direct result of Luis Suarez’ handball (since Adiyiah’s header was definitely going in). Good news for those people is that Suarez is suspended for this game as a result of that handball, which breaks up that fearsome Forlan/Suarez combo… Continue reading

THE BIG PICTURE This is it. After years of planning and worrying, the first World Cup on African soil starts here, with hosts South Africa taking on Mexico. No host country has ever failed to advance past the first round, and with France on the horizon, the Bafana boys may very well need something from this game to keep that record going. But Mexico has reached the knockout rounds of the last four World Cups, something only three other countries can say. Should be a cracking start to the tournament.WHAT’S AT STAKE Group A:The first match of the group stage sets the tone, and a win or at least a point is vitally important. For both teams, obviously, but maybe more so for South Africa. If the hosts make a losing start then all that pre-tournament optimism starts to deflate. If they avoid defeat it increases. Big question will be: Where do the goals come from? All time top scorer Benni McCarthy was not selected, but Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela has found the net regularly in recent friendlies. If he can keep that going, South Africa are suddenly a much more dangerous team. Read our South Africa team profile for more.

For Mexico it’s all about the youngsters settling in and oldsters keeping up: How quickly will starlets like Carlos Vela, Gio dos Santos and Javier Hernández settle into their first World Cup? How long will the grand old man Cuauhtémoc Blanco last before tiring? Read our Mexico team profile for more.

As well as the on-field events, there’s the perception of this World Cup at stake. What will the crowds be like? Will the vuvuzelas be enjoyable or intolerable? Will everything go smoothly? Let’s hope for a great start to a great World Cup.

Bet on South Africa v. Mexico

SQUADS

 

South Africa: GK: Khune, Josephs, Walters; DF: Gaxa, Ngcongca, Mokoena, Booth, Khumalo, Sangweni, Masilela, Thwala; MF: Modise, Davids, Letsholonyane, Sibaya, Khuboni, Dikgacoi, Pienaar, Tshabalala; FW: Moriri, Parker, Mphela, Nomvethe; Coach: Carlos Alberta Parreira

 

Mexico: GK: Perez, Ochoa, Michel; DF: Marquez, Osorio, Rodriguez, Salcido, Moreno, Aguilar, Juarez, Magallon, Torres Nilo; MF: Guardado, Torrado, Castro, Giovani dos Santos; FW: Barrera, Bautista, Medina, Blanco, Vela, Hernandez, Franco; Coach: Javier Aguirre

KEY MATCHUP Steven Pienaar is Bafana Bafana’s most gifted player. For South Africa to succeed, they need Everton midfielder Pienaar to have an influential game and make something happen. Bad news is that if Pienaar plays right wing for South Africa (as he often does) then he’ll be up against Mexico’s very accomplished and very experienced Carlos Salcido, who plays in the Eredivisie for PSV. It’s a stretch to say the match turns on that matchup, but it will definitely be a factor. Unless Pienaar plays more centrally. In which case the key matchup is still Pienaar vs whoever is marking him. He’s that important.

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In South Africa Rio Ferdinand will be the tenth man to lead England out at a World Cup since 1950. By captaining his country at a major international tournament, he will have achieved something that the majority of professional footballers only dream of.

Since the 1950 tournament in Brazil, defenders have accounted for the majority of England’s World Cup captains. The legendary Billy Wright took us into three World Cups in 1950, 1954 and 1958, while  Bobby Moore famously lifted the cup in 1966 and led our defence in 1970. Mick Mills stepped in for the injured Kevin Keegan… Continue reading

Today, as you probably know, Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title with a 8-0 hammering of Wigan at Stamford Bridge. Of those eight, three belonged to one Didier Drogba, making his season total an impressive 29 league goals. Wayne Rooney added none to his total, also 26 going into the final round, and so Drogba will be the Premier League golden boot winner.

The question is: Will he also be able to outscore Rooney in the World Cup? Which do you think has the better shot at the honor of top scorer in South Africa?

Drogba certainly has added… Continue reading

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