2010 FIFA World Cup: Power Ranking All of the Stadium Venues
With the countdown to the 2010 FIFA World Cup shifting from weeks to days, South Africa is preparing to welcome the world to ten world-class stadium venues—some brand new, some extensively face-lifted; some already known to soccer fans, and some scrambling to be ready for the massive event kicking off June 11.
Here's our power ranking of South Africa's ten stadium venues of World Cup 2010.
10. Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane
The new Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane was constructed specially for World Cup 2010, replacing an older version. Located in Polokwane in the northeastern Limpopo province, Mokaba Stadium will host only group stage matches, the most prominent being France v Mexico on June 17.
The stadium design incorporates references to the baobab tree common to the area. The baobab is such a symbol of local culture, Limpopo even has a pub built inside a huge, hollow one—"The Big Baobab Pub" at Sunland Farm.
9. Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit is named for a siswati word meaning "many people together in a small space." At nearly 43,000 capacity, it's hardly a broom closet, but it is the smallest of the ten World Cup 2010 venues. That—coupled with the groovy zebra stripe design, a tip to nearby Kruger National Game Park—should make for a fun, intimate setting.
Mbombela, like Mokaba, will not host any knock-out stage matches; but will be host to Italy, Ivory Coast, and Ghana during the group stage.
8. Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Loftus Versfeld is one of the oldest stadiums in Africa, originally built in 1903. That puts it on par with many of the iconic stadiums of the UK, coincidentally including Loftus Road (no relation), home of Queens Park Rangers.
Loftus has been extensively upgraded over the years, and now seats 50,000. It will play host to South Africa's own Bafana Bafana taking on Uruguay in the group stage on June 16.
7. Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
American fans will fondly remember the Free State Stadium from the 2009 Confederations Cup, when it was the site of Team USA's historic semi-final victory over European champions Spain.
Free State will be the venue for South Africa's group stage match against France on June 22, when the home side will likely be fighting to stay in the tournament. The support in the sports-loving heartland of Bloemfontein promises to be rousing.
6. Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is Port Elizabeth's first purpose-built soccer stadium, constructed for World Cup 2010. With 46,000-capacity and a stunning waterfront location, the stadium will host the third-place match on July 10, in addition to group stage matches, a round of 16, and a quarter-final.
5. Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
Royal Bafokeng Stadium in the Northwestern province is set to play host to the much-anticipated England v USA face-off on June 12, and will also host the round of 16 match involving that group's winner.
The Bafokeng is located in one of the more rural areas for venues, but is no more than a half-hour's drive from Johannesburg and the world-famous Sun City entertainment complex.
4. Moses Mabhida stadium, Durban
Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban is the most ambitious new stadium built for World Cup 2010. Seating 70,000, the Mabhida will host seven matches, culminating in one of the semi-finals, on July 7.
3. Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
As we close in on the top World Cup 2010 venues, the stadiums start getting grander—and Ellis Park in Johannesburg has a unique stature among world stadiums: it was the site of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final immortalized in the movie "Invictus."
Ellis Park also has a respectable soccer pedigree, as home to the celebrated Orlando Pirates and venue for last year's Confederations Cup final between USA and Brazil. The 62,000-seater will host seven matches this World Cup, including one quarter-final.
2. Green Point Stadium, Cape Town
Situated in one of the most dramatic vantage points in the world, Cape Town's Green Point Stadium has iconic Table Mountain as a backdrop. Perched on headland between the ocean and the city center, Green Point promises to be one of the best stadiums of World Cup 2010, and ultimately one of the greatest venues in the world.
Newly finished, the stadium seats 70,000 and was built with state-of-the-art technology, including noise-reducing cladding that allows it to be placed so centrally in the city. Green Point will host the other World Cup semi-final, on July 6.
1. Soccer City, Soweto
It takes a lot to beat Green Point, but the number one venue of World Cup 2010 has got to be Soccer City. The July 11 World Cup final venue, Soccer City is the African continent's largest stadium, with 94,000 capacity.
Located in the football-mad township of Soweto just southwest of Johannesburg, the stadium is the country's premier soccer venue. Soccer City (formerly FNB Stadium) was designed in the 1980s as South Africa's first international soccer stadium. It has been completely renovated for World Cup 2010, including its distinctive mosaic-like cladding, designed to echo the contours and light of an African cooking pot on the fire.
Soccer City is without a doubt the jewel in South Africa's World Cup 2010 stadium venue crown.