This year marks the 19th FIFA World Cup in history. Taking place between June 11th and July 11th in South Africa, it will be the culmination of a qualification process that started all the way back in August of 2007 and involved all but four of the FIFA national teams. Only the 2008 Summer Olympics have had as many competing countries.
There is something special about 2010: it’s the first year that the tournament has been hosted by an African nation. South Africa beat out Morocco and Egypt in the bidding process 14-0. There had been some speculation over the past couple of years about whether South Africa was keeping up with preparation and rumors even circled that the location would be changed by FIFA. They pulled it out, though. The draw for the finals took place on December 4, 2009 in Cape Town.
As the host nation, South Africa automatically qualifies for the tournament. However, they still took place in the CAF qualifiers as it was also the qualifying tournament for the 2010 African Cup of Nations. No host has participated in preliminary qualifying since 1934. Although Italy are defending champions, they were not given an automatic berth and also had to participate in qualifying. The following teams qualified for the tournament:
From the AFC, Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic. From the CAF, Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa. From the CONCACAF, Honduras, Mexico, United States. From the CONEMOL, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay. From the OFC, New Zealand. And from the UEFA, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland.
This is the first World Cup where there is no first-time qualifiers, although Serbia and Slovakia have only participated as parts of other countries in the past. We could have easily seen Ireland take France’s place since during their qualifying game, France’s Thierry Henry illegally handled the ball leading up to scoring the winning goal. It was unseen by the referee.
Controversy also surrounded the Costa Rica-Uruguay game and the Egypt-Algeria game. Even with all this talk about referees, FIFA has decided to stick with the usual one referee, two assistants, and a fourth official during the World Cup. Referees from each conference were chosen to officiate the World Cup and almost every country is represented.
The ten venues for the World Cup games were announced in March of 2006. They include Soccer City in Johannesburg, Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town, Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, Lotus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, Peter Mokaba Stadium in Potokwane, Royal Bakofeng Stadium in Rustenburg and finally Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. Five of these stadiums are new while the other five were upgraded.
The final draw and seeding were set in December of 2009, bases on the FIFA World Rankings in October 2009. Pot 1 has the host nation along with the top seven seeds. Pot 2 includes Asia, North America, and Oceania. Pot 3 is Africa and South America. Pot 4 is Europe.
Geographic areas were taken into account so that teams that are near each other do not get drawn to play each other. For example, South Africa will not play another African nation. The only exception to this rule is Europe. The group draw was held a couple days after the final draw, splitting the teams into groups of four for the bracket.
Each team is composed of 23 players with their final roster being confirmed on June 1st. Substitutions can be made only in cases of serious injury and they must occur 24 hours before the start of the game. 11 players are on the field at one time. This is an important number this year. The match ball is being made by Adidas for the 11th time and it features 11 different colors, one for each player on the field. There are also 11 official languages in South Africa. This year, the match ball will be called Jabulani which means “bringing joy to everyone” in isiZulu.