It would not be surprising if Group A turned into one of the most competitive out of the first round groups. Three of the teams are ranked in the top 20 of the FIFA World Rankings, and the host nation, South Africa, also holds its place here.
France is ranked 10th in the world and is filled with lots of big name players like Franck Ribery and Thierry Henry. It will be Nicolas Anelka’s first World Cup appearance, and he will be looking to make it an impressive one. The entire French back line is strong as well. For all of these reasons, many are choosing France as finishing first in Group A.
Mexico is currently ranked 17th in the world. In the past four World Cups, Mexico has advanced past the group stages each time, but they have then been eliminated in the Round of 16. They are a young team, which creates problems for their opponents, as their stamina will outdo many others. For this reason, they could possibly take Group A.
Rafael Marquez is one of the top defenders in the World Cup and is team captain. Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, and Giovani dos Santos will be integral 21-year-olds.
Even though South Africa is the host nation, it would be a long shot if they made it past the first round, as their world ranking is set at 90. Aside from the home crowds, one of their only assets is their coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira. He won a World Cup championship as a player with Brazil in 1994.
Uruguay used to be a soccer powerhouse, but no more. They’re ranked 18th in the world but only have two players to really watch out for—Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. They are one of the best forward pairs with 53 goals combined last season.
Argentina, to the blind eye, could be a shoo-in for winning this group. While this is likely, it is not a certainty. They are ranked seventh in the world and have Lionel Messi, the reigning FIFA Player of the Year. The key will be for coach Diego Maradona to get the most out of his players. The roster is loaded with talent, so let’s hope they don’t underachieve.
This year is Greece’s second World Cup appearance, but the European champions from 2004 are extremely difficult to score on, and that’s how they got here. Ranked 12th in the world, they boast a great defensive man, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who can also score goals occasionally. Also, Theofanis Gekas led the European Qualifying Zone in scoring. Getting goals past their six-and-a-half-foot goalkeeper Konstantinos Chalkias could be a challenge.
The Korea Republic team doesn’t have many big name players, and they aren’t as talented as the team who went to the semifinals in 2002. Park Ji-Sung could score a goal or so, but this team isn’t much of a threat to make it past round one.
Nigeria, although ranked lower than Greece, could give them a run for second place in this group. They have a very entertaining way of playing the game, and their scorers, Obafemi Martins and Yakubu Ayegbeni, have already proven themselves at the top club level and internationally.