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Entries in Group A (3)


World Cup 2010: Group A Notes

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One Great Season

South Africa's beloved Bafana Bafana went into Wednesday's match against Uruguay on fairly high spirits after last week's 1-1 draw with Mexico that was pretty much a win for them. Uruguay, on the other hand, had to have beeen asking a lot of questions after their scoreless draw with France. It was a match that neither side did much to impress. All of Africa, and many neutrals outside, would be on Bafana's side, but as everyone saw Wednesday, Uruguay more than made up for their shortcomings in their first match with a thorough 3-0 thrashing.

Group A was all even after the first round of matches, with the four sides stuck on 1 point each, but Mexico and South Africa had the slimmest of advantages by way of having scored a goal in their openers. The Bafana boys play France last (which now is RSA's most important game ever) and didn't want to leave themselves desparately needing a win in that one. Uruguay needed to show that they are more than a team with two brilliant strikers. I know this gets tiring to hear before every single match, but this one was really important not to lose.

Going into this tournament, I would have picked Uruguay to give South Africa a difficult time, and they did ... and then some. The spirited first match by the RSA seemed a distant memory Wednesday. The South African midfield looked far better than Uruguay's in the teams' first matches, but the Uruguayans simply had too much class.

A 3-0 drubbing of the RSA that showed the return of Uruguyan scoring machine Diego Forlan. Uruguay was my darkhorse to win this group and they showed why on Wednesday. RSA was simply not able to handle the attacking style and midfield of their opponent. Uruguay, not normally known for their defense, did at least what they needed to in the defensive third. The only hope that RSA had was in counter attacking and strong goal keeping, but Bafana Bafana failed on both counts.

In the end, neither speed nor national pride could save South Africa. Look out for Uruguay, a team poised to do more than win the group. And as for RSA, well, let's hope they show up for the their final match and sneak a win to perhaps qualify for the next round. Nothing would please me more than to see France sent home early.


France's main problem in their most recent matches has been an inability to score goals. They have been very good at getting into positive positions but that's about it. Could it be that the Jabulani is giving them trouble? No, I don't think so.

The true problem lies within their lack of chemistry and ability to use each other. The famous and now infamous (from the 2006 headbutt heard 'round the world) Zinedine Zidane was more than critical of his country's team, stating that "there was a lack of teamwork and it was more a case of individual efforts," and I think that continues to be the case. Personally, I expect much of the same from the Frenchmen and possibly a group-stage exit, as Mexico will give them problems.

Mexico showed in their opening match against South Africa that they have fielded their most talented squad in years. Though their first game ended in a draw, they were clearly the superior squad and that should serve as a confidence booster heading into the France game. Giovani Dos Santos was, as I expected, awesome all match long against the RSA, creating chance after chance. Expect Mexico to change very little Thursday besides the amount of goals put on the scoreboard.

Both sides might feel they have something to prove after opening-round draws last week, but it's a hungrier Mexico team that seems more likely to get it done.

Despite Mexico's inability to put the ball in the net against the RSA lads, they impressed me. They not only created several scoring opportunities, but played some beautiful football with a togetherness reminiscent of Spain and Barcelona. Meanwhile, France seems to be in nothing but shambles and lost chances that leave themselves and their fans wanting. There are reports of disputes with the manager as well as sharp criticism from the media. France will need to score, preferably early, to build confidence against a dangerous opponent. I don't think they will.

Look for Mexico to put the French out of second-round contention. Mexico wins, 2-1, setting up a very interesting, winner-take-all final against Uruguay next week.

Click here for Wade's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Group A Recap: Day One Brings Two Draws

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Mexico, South Africa Tie;
France, Uruguay Finish 0-0

One Great Season

What an amazing scene it was in Johannesburg Friday -- a sea of green, yellow and red -- as the home fans -- and their continuous call of horns -- watched the host nation open the Cup at Soccer City Stadium with a 1-1 draw with CONCACAF member Mexico in Group A play.

South Africa will happily take the draw, as they were the heavy underdogs and very lucky to get a result like this with the way they played in the first half.

Missed opportunities by both teams prevented either side from walking away with 3 points. Mexico missed chance upon chance in the first half, most notably when, off a corner kick, unmarked forward Carlos Vela knocked the ball in. Vela was unmarked, however, because he was offsides, and the goal was disallowed.

Many observers spent the better part of Friday discussing and debating the call, but it was the correct one. Either way, Mexico squandered more chances than you can shake a stick at and should feel somewhat ashamed by their lack of ability to score on the world's biggest stage.

South Africa missed great opportunities as well toward the end of the game, including a breakaway shot by Katlego Mphela in the 89th minute that hit the post. Though tragic that he missed his heroic chance, it can easily be chalked up to the fact that RSA is a team not used to the big stage and one with just a single player who possesses world-class capabilities. In case you don't know who that is, just think "Get your hands of my Steven Pienaar."

The game was entertaining, flashy and a great way to kick-off the tournament. I was impressed by both teams at times but more often dissapointed by Mexico's showing. This is a very good and extremely fast Mexican side that seemed utterly beatable Friday. For South Africa, I think everyone has seen that they can be flashy and play with great skill.

This was a good draw for South Africa, who now goes on to play Uruguay on Wednesday, a game that will be very winnable for Bafana Bafana. It won't be easy, obviously, as Uruguay can punish you very quickly and though it's fanciful to think South Africa could get out of Group A, I still have my doubts.

Mexico goes on to play France, which is going to be the big matchup of Group A. Not big because they are the two best teams in the group, big because they are the two teams who I think will actually be the biggest dissapointments in the group.

Mexico needs to start shooting the ball and get themselves into gear or they won't get out of the group. South Africa now has hope; another draw and they are sitting pretty. Of the four teams we saw play Friday, South Africa showed the most promise and the most speed, and probably gave the most impressive overall team perfomance. This group is wide open, so if RSA wants it, it's theirs to take.

France 0, Uruguay 0

There isn't really much to say about this match except one thing -- Uruguay actually played some defense. If you read my tournament preview, you know that I very harshly questioned Uruguay's ability to defend. In this game, they pretty much abandoned their all-out attack mentality and packed it in against a French side that can attack quite well when they are on their game.

France appeared within scoring distance several times Friday, but like the classic first-round Frenchmen they are, they often found themselves running into a player with a light blue jersey. The theme repeated itself throughout the match -- Uruguay played solid defense, and France was unable to show any teeth on offense.

The only exciting moment of the match happened in stoppage time after the second half, on the last free kick for France. Thierry Henry, known for his fraudulent goal that saved France's World Cup bid, missed on his shot in the final seconds. Not only did the famous Frenchman fail to deliver a legitimate game-winner, but his errant effort kept France from gaining three points.

I'm staying with my prediction that France will not only not win the group, but Les Bleus won't even get out of it. Uruguay actually has a defense, but when they choose to play it they simply cannot attack. Both teams had better get themselves in order or they will find themselves watching Mexico and RSA move on to the knock-out stage.

Click here for Wade's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup Preview: Group A

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Mexico, Uruguay Move On;
Host Country Won't Advance

One Great Season

Group A seems to stand for "Group Ambiguous" in this installment of the World Cup.

With host South Africa (and its automatic bid) as the No. 1 seed for Group A, it was anticipated to be the easiest group from which to advance. However, the draw we all witnessed a few months back revealed the exact opposite.

Group A could be one of the most competitive groups in the Cup, regardless of the lack of a prominent world power as its No. 1 seed. The fact that the other three teams in the group all rank in the Top 20 of the FIFA world rankings provides the setting for a hard (but possibly boring) fight to the second round.

BIO: About Wade Murray

But let's be honest and talk on the real for why I will be watching this group with great excitement. Simply put, I want to see France get its ass kicked. My family is mostly Norwegian, but I have a little Irish in me and I am sure everyone who roots for Ireland is behind me on this one. From the Zinedine Zidane head-butt four years ago (which was actually pretty funny) to the French version of the hand-of-God in the qualifitying rounds that put France through, I am tired of that team. I wish the French a nice vacation but a speedy trip home.

Now, that said, let's talk about the teams individually:


France has had some underwhelming group stage performances in the past but this group is honestly its to lose. The Mexico/Uruguay showdown has conveniently been scheduled for the last day of Group A play. I find this just as convenient as the referees during the Ireland qualifying game unable to see the most obvious handball of all time, which is to say not convenient at all.

MORE: Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers

On paper, the defending runners-up seem to be in a good position to make a run at a title in this Cup. But the qualifying process dogged the French team and I for one think it is ripe for a tough time in South Africa. Injuries during qualifying almost got the best of France, only getting by with the help of one of the most controversial handball non-calls in recent history, which has the entire island of Ireland hunting for Frenchies still to this day.

Thierry Henry's near-blunder sent France into the finals on a wave of altercation. Let alone the verbal warfront sent by Ireland, many people had already been questioning the ability of the French side to play with the best. Its poor form in qualifying has prompted concern about France's form in the main event this month.

However, if any team has the ability to turn its path around, it's Les Blues. France can peak at the right time, coming together right at the beginning of the group stage and blazing a way to the finals, whether I like it or not.


One of the most explosive teams in the finals, Mexico also enters as one of the Cup's most inexplicable. At points, El Tri seems to be able to make a run deep into the tournament. Though it's had its ups and downs in the last few years, the Mexicans are a well-balanced team that's shown an exceptional ability to score in bunches.

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However, that same offense has turned at times anemic, yielding near disaster on occasion. The defense seems to be holding up quite well, but the lack of offensive consistency is the real problem for Mexico, causing great distress and even multiple coaching changes in recent years.

Giovani Dos Santos, however, could be the savior for the Mexicans this summer. The talented and speedy young attacker showed sheer brilliance in qualifying.

El Tri is a relatively young team with great speed, and if it can overcome some consistency issues, it will be an all-around scary side that is fully able to push out of the group stage and into the round of 16.

South Africa

Goals will be hard to come by for the hosts in this group. Bafana Bafana have a long road ahead if it wants to advance to the group stage. The South Africans lack star power or the cohesiveness to really make an impact in such a difficult group unless some very odd things transpire.

However, the Bafana Bafana have three distinct advantages going for them.

  1. Home-field advantage, which has proven to be a valuable force in recent Cups
  2. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and his tactics may fit South Africa very well, using the lack of talent to keep the ball in the middle third and play the occasional long ball to the likes of Stephen Pienaar
  3. Its momentum. South Africa hasn't lost a match since October and has dropped only two of its last 10 matches. Bafana Bafana have played well and proven they can compete against higher-level competition

There is an entire nation behind this squad, and if it gets a couple of breaks, we might see an improbable advancement from the South African team, but I honestly doubt it.

If nothing else, I suggest you all support superstar striker Stephen Pienaar for having one of the coolest names in the Cup. We are making t-shirts to honor this great name if anyone would like one. It says "Get Your Hands Off My Pienaar" in honor of his attacking ability.


One of the most overlooked teams in the Cup, Uruguay has a real chance to advance out of the group stage and continue to advance.

Sporting an amazingly talented front line with players like Diego Forlan, Uruguay boasts an attacking prowess that most teams only dream of. At any point in time, Forlan can explode into a goal-scoring frenzy. Although he leads a massive attacking force, Uruguay hasn't really competed against the dynasties of CONMEBOL like Brazil and Argentina, and didn't fully capitalize on playing smaller, less competitive teams during qualifying.

COMING FRIDAY: Jeremy Brown Breaks Down Group B

The defensive side of the ball could be Uruguay's downfall this month. Rarely does Uruguay play through a game without letting up a goal. This could be troubling because although advancing out of a group full of decent opponents is very possible, such a tendency likely would catch up to the Uruguayans in later rounds against more difficult adversaries.

The only hope is for Uruguay's prolific front line to attack enough to keep the other teams on their heels. But, you heard it here folks, I like Uruguay and see this team doing very well.


  • Group Winner -- Mexico
  • Group Second Place -- Uruguay
  • Group Best Game -- France vs South Africa
  • Group Bitch Slap Goes to -- France, which can go to Hell