World Cup draw set to roll in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN: The battle-lines for the first World Cup on African soil will be laid down here Friday when the draw is made for the tournament separating the 32 qualified countries into eight groups of four.
The draw and a glittering build-up show, which will resonate to a distinctly African beat, gets under way at 1700 GMT at Cape Town's International Convention Centre and will be watched by millions of fans around the world.
By the end of the evening, the nations involved will know the identity of their group-stage rivals and the date and venue of every game during the June 11-July 11 showpiece tournament.
From record five-times winner Brazil to World Cup rookies Slovakia, the anticipation will be keen to discover which three teams will stand in their way for World Cup glory.
The draw itself sees the 32 teams divided into four pots of eight from which the eight groups that will contest the first round will be drawn.
The first pot will consist of hosts South Africa, and the seven top-ranking world teams -- holders Italy, likely favourites Brazil, former champions Argentina, Germany and England and two teams yet to hoist the World Cup in Spain and the Netherlands.
Pot 2 will have the four Asian qualifiers, the three from North and Central America and rank outsiders New Zealand representing Oceania.
Pot 3 sees the remaining five African sides grouped with the remaining three South American, while the final pot consists of the remaining European qualifiers.
Among the latter will be 1998 champions France and semi-finalists four years ago Portugal, and where they end up will likely go a long way to designating the inevitable Group of Death.
That will grab much of the headlines, but for such as England coach Fabio Capello, it matters little where his side ends up.
"I don't worry about that 'Group of Death'," the Italian said. "You have to play against all of the teams at some point, but of course if you play against the best teams it's not so easy to pass the first round."
It will all take 90 minutes and when it is over the talking will begin and is unlikely to stop until South Africa fittingly plays the opening game in Johannesburg on June 11.
But the occasion is more than just a sporting one representing as much to South Africans, just 15 years after the end of the apartheid era, as the Beijing Olympics did for Chinese last year.
Eighty years and 18 tournaments since the first World Cup was held in Uruguay, when only 13 teams took part, none of them African, an African nation is hosting the event for the first time with 32 countries, six of them African, vying for the biggest prize in sport.
It is a matter of huge pride and satisfaction not only in South Africa but also throughout Africa which would be capped on July 11, should an African country hoist aloft the gleaming World Cup trophy for the first time.
"The trophy is home," said Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee and the architect of the South African campaign seven years ago to win the right to host the event.
"This is the end of a long dream and the beginning of a new dream. We have been dreaming that one day some country is going to come here and compete for this trophy on the African continent, and that dream was dismissed, that dream was challenged," he said.
"Today as we say welcome to this trophy, we announce the death of doubt. There can no longer be any doubt."