Earlier today the draw for the 2010 World Cup Finals was held. Matches begin June 11 in South Africa, with soccer's World Cup being the most watched sporting event in the world. 32 teams were in the field: 31 had qualified through regional matches, plus the host team (South Africa) always gets a berth. For the first round, the 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four teams each. The basic rules of the draw:
1. The 32 teams were divided into 4 pots, based on seed, host status, and geography.
2. One team was drawn from each pot for each group.
3. In turn, a number was drawn for which numerical slot in the group the team was to get.
4. To prevent "continental clashes" in the first round, two teams from the same continent couldn't be put in the same group through the first three pots. (The fourth pot was made up of unseeded European teams.) For practical purposes, that meant in drawing from the third pot, Group A (which had host South Africa) had to get one of the three unseeded South American teams (Uruguay) rather than one of the five African teams.
The draw itself didn't produce the anticipated "Group Of Death":
Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, and France.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, and Greece.
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, and Slovenia.
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, and Ghana.
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, and Cameroon.
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia.
Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, and Portugal.
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, and Chile.
I watched the draw on ESPN2. Some observations:
1. Pandemonium broke out in the television studio when the USA was drawn to be the second team into seeded England's Group C. Like the cheer after a made penalty kick, things erupted again when the USA drew "C2". That means we play the bloody limeys in our opener (June 12 in Rustenburg).
Anticipation then turned to who would join us in Group C. The next draw was Algeria, a side that barely qualified. Finally there was Slovenia. While Slovenia is the smallest country population-wise in the World Cup Finals, the Slovenians did eliminate the Russians.
Overall, a pretty good group for the USA.
2. Consensus was that the toughest group is Group G. Both Brazil and Portugal are soccer superpowers, while the Ivory Coast was one of two African countries (along with Nigeria) to go undefeated in qualifying.
North Korea need not unpack their bags, as they won't be in South Africa long.
3. Going in, most believed the draw rules benefited host South Africa. Alas, they drew both Mexico and 2006 World Cup semifinalist France into their Group A.