The world eagerly anticipates the 2010 World Cup draw

Friday, December 4, 2009

In many ways, the World Cup draw is much like Selection Sunday for the NCAA basketball tournament: Coaches, players and supporters gather around TVs and computers with bracket sheets and venue information, an excruciatingly drawn-out proceeding that will lead to endless debate and dissection. Unlike the basketball drama, however, the 32 World Cup participants have already been determined and, instead of a sequestered committee spending long nights attempting to create balanced matchups, a largely random draw will be conducted at Cape Town's International Convention Center before a global audience of an estimated 200 million television viewers. Because of the arbitrary nature, the anxiety for Argentina, a two-time champion, is as high as for Algeria, which is making its first appearance since 1986. For a mid-level team like the United States, a favorable draw is critical to its hopes of advancing to the knockout stages of the tournament.

Where: Cape Town.

When: noon.

TV: ESPN2, Univision.

Pot 1 (seeded teams): South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain.

Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania, North/Central America/Caribbean): Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, New Zealand, Honduras, Mexico, United States.

Pot 3 (Africa, South America): Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay.

Pot 4 (Europe): Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland.

World Cup dates: June 11-July 11.

World Cup venues: 10 stadiums in nine South African cities.

Best-case scenario for the United States

South Africa. Despite being the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, Bafana Bafana ("The Boys") was an automatic top seed because it is the host.

Uruguay. Only its second appearance in the past five tournaments, 1-2-2 all-time record vs. the Americans, narrowly defeated Costa Rica in a special playoff.

Slovenia. Since the country gained independence 18 years ago, the team has reached the World Cup or European Championship twice and not won a game.

Worst-case scenario for the United States

Brazil. Ranked No. 2 in the world behind Spain (which lost to the Americans last summer) and 14-1 all-time against the U.S. team, including two victories last summer.

Ivory Coast. Led by Chelsea forwards Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, the Elephants, along with Ghana, are the best hope for African success on the international stage.

France. Although they've fallen from glory since reaching the 2006 final and battled internal issues, Les Bleus still offer a prime lineup that includes Thierry Henry and Franck Ribery.

My prediction: United States, Italy, Cameroon, Switzerland.

-- Steven Goff

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