Sepp Blatter confirmed South Africa as hosts for this year’s World Cup as far back as May 2004… so long ago that few recall the controversial nature of his declaration. Blatter is full of surprises – a few months ago FIFA surprised many by introducing seeds for the World Cup qualifier play-offs amidst accusations of favouring established nations.
When FIFA decided that this year’s edition of the World Cup should be awarded to an African nation it was another surprise and the result of a new policy dictating that future World Cup hosts would be rotated among the football federations.
As custodians of the game FIFA can move the goal-posts at will. At the time, few eyebrows were raised about this new egalitarian rule and the Confederation of Africa Football was duly chosen to host the 2010 tournament. Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Libya/Tunisia (as a joint bid) all threw their respective hats into the ring but to many observers (perhaps disgruntled European nations?) none of these countries had the infrastructure or know-how to host a World Cup.
FIFA threw out the joint bid leaving Egypt, Morocco and South Africa in the final vote. Morocco polled 10 votes, Egypt 0 and South Africa 14. Blatter achieved his aim of bringing the World Cup to Africa and FIFA’s new ‘rotating hosts’ rule was quietly dropped in 2007. Conspiracy theories apart, South Africa had a gargantuan task ahead preparing for this event.
The hosts will have five new stadiums finished by next summer and will have upgraded five more from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria. Billions more have been invested in transport and accommodation improvements but the biggest challenge is undoubtedly around security.
No Olympic Games or World Cup has ever taken place in Africa and over Ã‚Â£100m will be spent on security measures that include 41,000 police. The “Rainbow Nation”, Africa and FIFA are on trial but there is plenty of room for optimism – this is ‘the beautiful game’ after all.
Moreover, South Africa have hosted rugby and cricket world cups without incident and the recent Confederations Cup was the now standard dress-rehearsal for the real thing. It worked well with the tournament producing some fantastic games.
In the final match Brazil triumphed against an impressive United States 3-2 after trailing 2-0 in front of 52,000 fans. If this was a precursor to next’s summer’s World Cup then the 500,000 fans predicted to travel to South Africa, will have the time of their lives.
FIFA will announce the criteria for the World Cup draw on December 2nd and the draw two days later on December 4th. It’s likely to be modelled on their existing ranking system with only two European teams allowed in any one group. Four years ago Fifa drew from one pot of seeded nations, one unseeded nations (from South America, Africa and Oceania), one further pot of eight Europeans nations and a final pot of seven nations from Asia and Concacaf.
If FIFA use their current ranking to find seven more seeds alongside hosts South Africa then six more teams will come from Europe (possibly not England, currently ranked 9th) and Brazil. Somehow I think that Fifa may spring a few surprises. All we know for certain is that the hosts are seeded – I’m not sure why but perhaps FIFA can be forgiven for offering South Africa favourable conditions.
The hosts can be backed at 120.0 to win the tournament and 21.0 to reach the final. I’m not certain why the odds are so far apart but it matters little as it’s the stuff of fairy tales. Nevertheless, South Africa’s seeding position does give them an excellent chance of progressing from the group stages.
They’re a well-drilled team, industrious but hardly prolific in front of goal. Home support will undoubtedly boost their efforts and it even took Brazil 88 minutes to score before beating them 1-0 in the recent Confederations Cup.
The longer South Africa stay in the tournament, the longer the romantic story of Africa’s first World Cup will linger. It’s impossible to imagine that one of the old guard will not win the tournament but I suspect that South Africa’s footballers will leave a lasting impression on the 2010 World Cup for all the right reasons.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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