Group A: South Africa, Mexico, France, Uruguay
In a group that is wide open and all four teams having legitimate probabilities to advance, it is crucial for each squad to pick up three points right away. This group seems certain to go down to the last day and possibly even decided by tiebreakers.
France is certainly the favorites in this group with an obvious glut of talent, but a lame duck coach in Raymond Domenech that has lower approval ratings than British Petroleum right now. One gets the same feeling about France as that of their 2002 squad that massively underachieved and even if they do advance out of their group are certain to crash out early.
Mexico’s squad has been ignited by their young players recently and is finally starting to gel as a unit. Carlos Vela and Gio Dos Santos may be anonymous on the club scene, but are poised to have breakout World Cups, in addition to stud Javier Hernandez who might be the most exciting young player in this group.
Uruguay has firepower upfront in the form of Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, but may struggle defensively. Anything is possible for a squad with such superstars, but Uruguay may not have enough to get past the finish line in this group.
Don’t underestimate a reinvigorated Bafana Bafana that will be desperate to pick up three points in the opening match. My gut says that they will have just enough to get past Mexico in the opener and sneak out of the group. Look for Steven Pienaar to carry his nation on his shoulders with the help of a red-hot Katlego Mphela and Simphiwe Tshabalala, the man with as many tricks as Ronaldinho.
X-Factor: Franck Ribery–When Bayern Munich progressed to the Champions League final this May, it had everything to do with the exploits of Arjen Robben and Ivica Olic rather than Ribery. He has been injured for most of the year and has drifted in and out of the scene at Bayern, though they could have used his talents in the Champions League Final. Yet Ribery is arguably the most talented player in this group. If he can regain his 2006 form and stay healthy, he could once again drag France single-handedly out of this group.
Group Winner: Mexico
Runners Up: South Africa
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