Bishs Briefs - Englands dream path to World Cup Glory
Published: 08 Dec 2009 - 10:14:32
So England avoided the 'Group of Death' and found themselves plonked into the 'Group of Life'.
In the time it took Charlize Theron to understand the concept of the World Cup draw, England had gone from a side with their World Cup dreams shot to pieces, to second-favourites for the tournament, ahead of Dunga's Seleacao - five times winners of the World Cup.
The group stage should be a cakewalk for England, but it still doesn't deny the fact that to win the World Cup in Johannesburg's magnificent Soccer City stadium on July 11, England will still have to negotiate some of the world's finest.
What must be said is that if England are all the players talk themselves up to be, and they have the right to, after an impressive qualification campaign, there has not been a more open path to the last four since the one trod by an average German side in 2002.
On their way to Yokohama, the Germans, who lest we forget had been trounced 5-1 by England in Munich nine months earlier, faced Saudi Arabia, Rep, of Ireland, Cameroon, Paraguay, USA and South Korea - even England have not been that lucky.
The toughest game will undoubtedly see the meeting of LA Galaxy team-mates David Beckham (should he be included in Fabio Capello's squad) and Landon Donovan in Rustenburg on June 12. An England win is not as straightforward as some have suggested - Bob Bradley now has over seven months to plan for the opening fixture in Group C.
But if England are serious on success they should have no fears over taking on the US, despite the fact they beat Spain and led Brazil 2-0 in the final of last summer's Confederations Cup in South Africa, the traditional prelude to the main event.
As in 2006 the real victims of the draw are the Ivory Coast. Tipped as dark horses last time around to progress to the latter stages they were suffocated in a group containing Argentina, Holland and Serbia & Montenegro.
This time around, with players at the peak of their powers and the chance to be the totemic beacon for Africa as the continent stages it's first-ever World Cup, they find themselves landed with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.
The one part of the draw that falls in their favour is that they play North Korea last, with Portugal, potentially needing points against Brazil, where a growing ill-feeling has developed between the countries over the chosen nationality of several players in Carlos Quieroz's squad.
Should it all work out rosy for Didier Drogba and co they will likely face European Champions and bookmaker's favourites Spain in the Last 16 - a game the Spanish would certainly not fancy.
Fabio Capello will be hoping that Brazil finish the group in second spot to ensure that they face a Spain side who will surely top their group therefore eliminating one of the tournaments real pretenders.
With the cards stacked harshly, but still beatable for the Ivory Coast, a team tipped for a solid World Cup a few months ago by Capello, the chance awaits Ghana and Drogba's team-mate Michael Essien to be Africa's leading light.
With the chance to get some fresh tournament time together at the African Cup of Nations in January the Ghanaians will feel confident of progression themselves despite finding themselves with Germany, Australia and the highly talented and technically proficient Serbia in Group D.
The luck continues for Thierry Henry and France who found themselves the unofficial seeds of their group when they were drawn out in South Africa’s Group A along with Mexico and Uruguay although on current form that group could still be a struggle for the French.
Uruguay held the French to a goalless draw in 2002 when the holders crashed out at the Group Stage without scoring and with last year's European Golden Boot winner Diego Forlan in their ranks they will fancy their chances, as will Mexico.
Argentina's group throws together an interesting mix of footballing cultures and will revoke memories of one of Diego Maradona's many dark hours with the meetings with Nigeria and Greece who he faced in his two appearances at the 1994 World Cup before being banned for failing a drugs test.
The Albiceleste should progress, but any chance of Maradona finding himself alongside Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo in winning football's greatest trophy as a player and coach, remain far slimmer than his waistline.
Defending champions Italy, notorious slow starters, have plenty of time to slip through the gears in Group F and providing the Dutch navigate Group E safely both will fancy taking their places in the last eight.
But for all the best planning on wallcharts around the world - the World Cup very rarely goes to plan. Favourites often falter to failure, heroes have their lives changed forever and millions of dreams are created, cavorted and crushed.
For 31 days next summer, football's greatest showpiece ventures to Africa for the first time, as billions of people gather round televisions in cafes, squares and shanty towns with their eyes fixed on South Africa, centre of the earth for one magical month. I for one cannot wait.
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- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:andy bishop
- Having worked in radio, newspapers, magazines, internet and television I hope to now bring my passion for the game to your computer screens with analysis, comment and tongue-in-cheek humour on all things global in the world of football - from Barcelona to Boca and from Blatter to Berlusconi...enjoy!
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