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What to Expect: GROUP A

South Africa:
Games: vs. Mexico (June 11, Johannesburg); vs. Uruguay (June 16, Tshwane/Pretoria); vs. France (June 22, Mangaung/Bloemfontein)

How they qualified: Being the host, South Africa is granted an automatic bid. Played numerous friendlies and lost in the Confederations Cup Semifinals to Brazil, who eventually went on to win.

World Cup History: They played in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups but failed to advance in both. They have an overall record of 1-2-3. Their only win was in 2002 over Slovenia, 1-0. The national team was greatly affected by the violence of the apartheid as teams were not allowed to mix racially. They were suspended by FIFA in 1976 and reinstated near the end of the apartheid in 1991. They won their first game back against Cameroon.

Player to Watch: Steven Pienaar. He is a midfielder and plays for club team Everton in the English Premier League. He has started nine league games this season, and had two goals and seven assists last season during league play.

Prediction: 0-2-1, group stage.

Games: vs. South Africa (June 11, Johannesburg); vs. France (June 17, Polokwane); vs. Uruguay (June 22, Rustenburg)

How they qualified: Finished second in Concacaf final round with a record of 6-3-1, right behind the United States. Won a big game on August 12 in Mexico City 2-1 over the US. Even with a musical chairs of coaches since the 2008 Olympics, managed to go 11-5-2 in all of qualifying.

World Cup History: Reached the quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986. They have appeared in the world cup 13 times. Mexico has qualified for seven straight tournaments but was suspended by FIFA in 1990 for fielding ineligible players in the 1988 Olympic qualifiers.

Player to Watch: Giovanni Dos Santos- 20 year old Brazilian born player, considered the future of Mexican soccer. He is quick, shifty and has great ball skills. His creativity makes him dangerous on all parts of the field. Currently on Tottenham's first team, but has had his struggles there. Has been highly praised by Thierry Henry. "He can, in two, three, or four years, be one of the best players in the world."

Prediction: 1-1-1, group stage

Games: vs. France (June 11, Cape Town); vs. South Africa (June 16, Tshwane/Pretoria); vs. Mexico (June 22, Rustenburg)

How they qualified: Beat Costa Rica in two game aggregate playoff. Finished 5th in South American qualifying after losing to Argentina 1-0 on October 14 for the 4th guaranteed spot in the world cup.

World Cup History: Won in 1930 and 1950. One of seven nations to ever win it all. Ten total appearances. Did not qualify for the last world cup. They have also finished fourth twice, in 1954 and 1970. Early world powerhouse that has struggled to qualify in recent decades.

Player to Watch: Diego Forlan-Plays for Spanish Premier Division's Atletico Madrid. He has six goals in 11 league games this year. Last season, he received the golden boot for scoring the most goals by any European division player, with 32 goals. He led Uruguay with 7 goals in qualifying and looks to display his scoring prowess on the greatest soccer stage in the world this summer.

Prediction: 2-0-1, Lose to England in quarterfinals

Games: vs. Uruguay (June 11, Cape Town); vs. Mexico (June 17, Polokwane); vs. South Africa (June 22, Mangaung/ Bloemfontein)

How they qualified: Thierry Henry's hand of God was barely enough for the French. They beat Ireland in the qualifying playoff series, which was under much scrutiny. They struggled early in qualifying, but won important games late to finish second behind Serbia in their qualifying group.

World Cup History: Won in 1998, runners-up in 2006 to Italy, 12 total appearances. A world powerhouse with great expectations. Despite world cup final red card in '06 Zinadine Zidane is a national football hero after winning the championship on home soil in 1998.

Player to Watch: Franck Ribery-Coming off of injury, Ribery did not play much in qualifying games. He plays for Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga, where he is a creative and aggressive midfielder. In the 2008-09 season, he scored 9 goals and had 8 assists in league play. According to France great Zidane, Ribery is "the jewel of French football."

Prediction: 1-1-1, Round of 16 loss to Argentina

This post first appeared on Road To The World Cup: South Africa 2010, please read the originial post: here

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What to Expect: GROUP A


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