National managers are whittling down their squad lists to the 23 players they think will give them the best chance to do well at the tournament.
Players are either smug or nervous.
I am still excited.
So risking internet ridicule, I am going to make some predictions on who I think will be the two teams to escape from each group.
Obviously France look to be the favourites and this is going to be the final tournament under the leadership of funny man Raymond Domenech. Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc will take over after the World Cup. Domenech famously proposed to his girlfriend after France were eliminated from the European Championships in 2008, what surprises will he have in store when France get knocked out this time? I think they will get through this group but I can’t see them going any further…
The next three teams are harder to separate.
Hosts South Africa have a good manager with World Cup experience and the excellent Steven Pienaar in midfield, however apart from some of the best player names (Surprise Moriri, Macbeth Sibaya and er…Bernard Parker) that is all they have on the field. The deciding factor may be the support from the stands. World Cup hosts traditionally perform better than they should do and the fans at the first World Cup to be held in Africa will certainly create an atmosphere that would inspire anyone. If the players don’t get sick of those bloody vuvuzelas….
I would love to see South Africa continue in the tournament even if it means I have to watch with the volume turned down. I think African teams will go far in this World Cup but unfortunately I don’t think it will be South Africa.
The problem is that I think Mexico have a better team than South Africa (despite only picking 5 midfielders…) and I think they should qualify along with France. They played excellently despite losing against England last week and will make it hard for anyone to beat them. They play the hosts in the opening game on June 11th and a good result here should stand them in good stead to qualify. New Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez will be hoping to impress and Alex Ferguson says his price would have risen substantially after the tournament as he expects him to play well.
Uruguay missed out on the last World Cup and had to qualify through a close play-off against a disorganised Costa Rica side this year. Uruguay haven’t made it past the knockout round since 1970 and, despite having two of the best players in this group in Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, I think they will struggle to make it out of their group this year.
So I am going for France and Mexico to qualify, sorry South Africa…