Brazil get Portugal; Easy draws for England, Italy

CAPE TOWN: Brazil and Portugal were propelled onto a World Cup collision course when the final draw was made here on Friday while Lady Luck smiled on Fabio Capello’s England.

The Brazilians and Portuguese will clash in Group G and will be joined by top African side Ivory Coast and unknown quantities North Korea in what will inevitably be dubbed the ‘Group of Death’. “It’s a very interesting group,” said Brazilian coach Dunga. “Against Portugal with their style of play and their players it will be like Brazil against Brazil. The big question mark is with North Korea. I will have to take a close look at them. Ivory Coast — they are very strong side.”

England coach Capello had reason to be happy as his men drew a relatively lightweight trio of the United States,

Algeria and Slovenia. Ironically it was David Beckham, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy, who pulled out the ball which paired up the Americans with England in the World Cup for the first time since 1950 when the US pulled off a shock 1-0 win.

Hosts South Africa were given a tough assignment, getting 1998 winners France, Mexico and Uruguay. Group B has Diego Maradona’s Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria and Greece, with Germany, Australia, Ghana and Serbia making up an open Group D.

The Netherlands fared well getting Japan, Cameroon and Denmark in Group E. Defending champions Italy also blew a sigh of relief bagging New Zealand, Paraguay and rookies Slovakia in Group F while in the final Group H, Euro champions Spain go up against Honduras, Chile and Switzerland.

The draw, which saw the 32 qualified teams split into eight groups of four for the first round stage of the June 11-July 11 tournament, laid down the battle lines for what will be the first World Cup to be played on African soil. With the eyes of the footballing world firmly focused on this historic city, it was an evening full of symbolic significance both for Africa and for South Africa, coming as it did just 15 years after the end of the apartheid era.

After a show that featured both traditional and modern African music, the stage was handed over to South African-born Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron who took on the duties of main presenter to be joined on

stage later by other sporting celebrities including Beckham.

First, as pre-arranged, out of the seeded Pot 1 were hosts South Africa who will be playing in just their third World Cup and who, at 86th in the world, are the lowest-ranking team in the competition. They were followed in turn by heavyweights Argentina, England, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Spain.

It was then a question of who would go up against them from the three remaining pots which had been assembled to ensure that teams from the same continent would be kept apart. The latter contained the two most dangerous floaters — France and Portugal — and when Portugal were flung in with Brazil the atmosphere turned electric.

2010 World Cup Draw

Group A: South Africa (hosts), Mexico,

Uruguay, France

Group B: Argentina, South Korea,

Nigeria, Greece

Group C: England, United States,

Algeria, Slovenia

Group D: Germany, Australia,

Ghana, Serbia

Group E: Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon, Denmark

Group F: Italy (holders), New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia

Group G: Brazil, North Korea,

Ivory Coast, Portugal

Group H: Spain, Honduras,

Chile, Switzerland