Fabio Capello and his players will be delighted with the result having avoided a potential Ã¢â‚¬ËœGroup of DeathÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ involving the Ivory Coast and either France or Portugal and will be kicking off their campaign against the USA in Rustenburg on June 12.
They face Algeria in their second game before completing their round of group fixtures with a clash against Slovenia in Port Elizabeth on June 23.
The toughest groups thrown up by Friday eveningÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s draw are Group D consisting of Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana, and Group G, the Ã¢â‚¬ËœGroup of DeathÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, which pits favourites Brazil against North Korea, Ivory Coast and Portugal.
GROUP A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
Any conspiracies regarding FIFAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s involvement with favourable draws for host nations were blown out of the water with this one.
Hosts South Africa will face an uphill battle to reach the latter stages of the tournament with France favourites to top the group, despite Raymond Domenech remaining as national boss. Mexico and Uruguay will pose a threat and the Bafana Bafana will need to be at their best to finish second.
GROUP B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
Diego MaradonaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Argentina should be a shoe-in to win Group B but, with the unpredictable and perhaps unstable coach at the helm, anything is possible.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria with a host of Premier League stars, including ChelseaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s John Obi Mikel and Everton’s Yakubu Aiyegbeni, in their squad will be tipped to qualify for the knockout stages in second place, but expect South Korea to challenge them all the way.
GROUP C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
Capello will demand a first-place finish and the fans expect it. Victory over the USA in the opening group game should send England comfortably on their way to the latter stages.
Following an impressive Confederations Cup in the summer, the USA should possess enough experience and ability to see off Algeria. Slovenia may prove a tougher task having overcome Russia in the play-offs on away goals to qualify for the finals.
GROUP D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Should England qualify from their group they will face the winners or second-placed team of the incredibly tight Group D in the round of 16 knockout stage. Germany will be favourites to finish on the top of the pile but should expect a tough challenge from Serbia and Ghana.
Australia performed admirably in World Cup 2006 and reached the latter stages before being eliminated by a controversial penalty awarded to Italy and converted by Francesco Totti in the dying seconds of stoppage time. I would expect another proud but ultimately unsuccessful effort from the Socceroos.
GROUP E: Holland, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Only Holland and Spain qualified for next summerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tournament with 100 per cent records so expect the Flying Dutchmen to soar into the knockout stages.
Cameroon will be considered second favourites to qualify from the group with Samuel EtoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢o leading their attack against an ageing Denmark side and an inexperienced Japan.
GROUP F: Italy Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
The current world champions Italy have been handed a dream draw and they need it following some lethargic performances of late. Their group opponents should allow the Azzurri to find a rhythm in time for the knockout stages, expect FiorentinaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Riccardo Montolivo and VillarrealÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Guiseppe Rossi to make an impression.
New Zealand must be considered the weakest of the nations in the finals and both Paraguay and Slovakia offer a case for escaping the group.
GROUP G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal
Considered the 2010 World Cup Ã¢â‚¬ËœGroup of DeathÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Brazil will be expected to top the group but will face stern tests against both Portugal and the Ivory Coast.
Les Elephants are considered by many as dark horses to win the tournament and could condemn RonaldoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Portugal to group stage elimination. However, if they do they could face Spain in the next stage. North Korea will be expecting a rough ride.
GROUP H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
Joint favourites alongside Brazil to lift the coveted World Cup trophy in Johannesburg, Spain will be delighted with their draw and will shock many should they fail to top the group.
Chile will provide the European champions with their toughest task and boast a squad full of talent, including UdineseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s explosive winger Alexis Sanchez. Expect the South Americans to progress through to the knockout stage where, if the tournament follows the form guide, they will face Carlos DungaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Brazil.
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