South Africa 2010: Eagles battle Argentina

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will battle Argentina, Korea Republic and Greece. This was the result of the draws at the just concluded FIFA World cup draws in South Africa. The Super Eagles of Nigeria will play Argentina in the opening match 

eagles3The group’s draws are as follows

 Group A – South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and FranceGroup B – Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic 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, Korea DPR, Cote d’Ivoire and Portugal
Group H – Spain, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

South African actress Charlize Theron reacts as FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke draws South Africa during the 2010 World Cup draw in Cape Town, Friday.

The United States received a favorable draw for the 2010 World Cup on Friday and will be expected to advance to the second round of the soccer world championship, which will begin June 11 in South Africa. Anything short will be considered a major disappointment.

The Americans drew a top seed in England, the 1966 World Cup champion, but avoided a second European power and a top African team, instead being placed in a group that includes Slovenia and Algeria.

“We feel this is a group that gives us a real fair chance to move on,” Bob Bradley, the United States coach, said in an interview with ESPN at the draw in Cape Town.

Brazil, a five-time World Cup champion, was drawn into the so-called Group of Death with the Ivory Coast, which is led by perhaps the world’s top striker, Didier Drogba, and is considered to be the first African contender; and Portugal, which finished fourth at the 2006 World Cup and features another great forward in Cristiano Ronaldo.

North Korea, which pulled off the greatest World Cup upset with a victory over Italy in 1966, rounds out that group but is not expected to be a threat. Only two teams will advance from each of the eight four-team groups, meaning that one team from among Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal will go home early.

If the Americans advance, as expected, they will face a difficult second-round matchup against an emerging team from a group that includes powerhouse Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana.

Italy, the reigning World Cup champion, was placed with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia. Spain, the world’s top-ranked team, was grouped with Switzerland, Honduras and Chile. Argentina heads a group that includes Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.

South Africa may become the first home nation not to advance beyond the first round, having been placed in a forbidding group with France, Mexico and Uruguay.

The final group, headed by the Netherlands, also includes Denmark, Japan and Cameroon.

The United States is 2-7 over all against England, but it achieved perhaps its greatest World Cup victory with a stunning 1-0 win at the 1950 World Cup. That was more than a half-century ago, of course, but the current Americans will not likely be unnerved by playing the British.

American stars like goalkeeper Tim Howard, midfielder Clint Dempsey and forward Jozy Altidore play in the English Premier League and are accustomed to the physical, incessant, long-ball style played there.

“We know their team,” Bradley told ESPN. “You look forward to big challenges. We are excited about this one. We believe in playing our game, in playing at a good tempo. We believe in the fact that we have the kind of players that can be dangerous against very good teams.”

The two teams will open tournament play against each other on June 12 in Rustenberg, northwest of Johannesburg, where the Americans defeated Egypt in the Confederations Cup. The last time the teams played, England won, 2-0, in a friendly last year.

“I think the next game will be different,” Fabio Capello, the England manager, said in an interview with ESPN, noting that the United States had played well in the Confederations Cup last summer, defeating Spain and taking a two-goal lead against Brazil before losing, 3-2, in the championship game in South Africa.

“I think it will be not an easy game. Another thing important, the U.S.A. will have more time to prepare for the World Cup. They will be staying together. It’s very important the first game. The U.S.A. knows, we know, if you win the first game, it’s easier to play the other games.”

England’s team will include the great striker Wayne Rooney and top stars like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Among other intriguing matchups, the game against the Americans may also feature Landon Donovan versus David Beckham, teammates on the Los Angeles Galaxy who got off to a rocky start last season after Donovan criticized Beckham’s leadership and effort.

Even if the Americans lose to England, they should still be able to advance, though Slovenia and Algeria are not considered pushovers. Slovenia defeated Russia in a playoff to reach the World Cup and Algeria defeated the African power Egypt.

The United States has never played Slovenia or Algeria. The Americans will meet Slovenia on June 18 in Johannesburg and Algeria on June 23 in Pretoria. One thing should be noted about the Slovenia matchup: The Americans are 1-9-2 against European teams in the World Cup since 1990.

Even though the draw was favorable to the United States, the opponent may be a lesser issue than the health of the team, which has had some significant setbacks since the Confederations Cup.

Forward Charlie Davies is said to be making an encouraging recovery from a broken leg, a broken elbow and facial fractures sustained in a car wreck, but he remains unlikely for South Africa. The Americans would sorely miss his threatening speed in the World Cup and his hopeful partnering up front with Altidore.

Oguchi Onyewu is expected to be out another four months after having an operation to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee. He gives the United States an imposing defensive anchor, but his availability for the World Cup remains uncertain. His absence could prove troubling, especially against England and its strength on set pieces.

There is at least more encouraging news about center back Jay DeMerit, who played solidly in the Confederations Cup and, according to news accounts, may rejoin his English club, Watford, this weekend after undergoing a corneal transplant.

Midfielder Jermaine Jones holds promise and has returned to training with his German club, Schalke 04, but he has struggled to overcome a hairline fracture in his left shin.

Much of a squad that seemed poised for a promising run at the World Cup is now unsettled. Dempsey seems likely to move up front in Davies’s absence, but Dempsey is still inconsistent with the national team, the way Donovan once was, imposing in one match and largely uninvolved in the next.

Perhaps the speed and insistence of Robbie Findley of Real Salt Lake, champion of Major League Soccer, will make him a candidate to replace Davies. Or maybe Eddie Johnson will re-emerge with fulfilled promise.

Edgar Castillo remains a possibility at left back, although he played quietly in his debut in midfield in a recently exhibition loss to Denmark.

Another factor in South Africa will be the altitude of some cities. Johannesburg, for instance, is more than a mile high at 5,750 feet, while Pretoria is at 4,478 feet. Many of the American strengths — running hard, counterattacking, playing physically — may be compromised in thin air.

Perhaps a more possession-oriented style will be necessary to succeed in the World Cup. The United States was breathing heavily as it blew a 2-0 lead to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final in Johannesburg.

“I think we ran out of gas, more than anything,” Carlos Bocanegra, the American captain, said after the game. 

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