Fans’ final countdown begins

2009-11-28 00:00

FRIDAY’S 2010 Fifa World Cup final draw at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town will mark the beginning of the final phase of preparations for the 2010 World Cup.

The draw, coming more than three years after qualifying began and where 32 teams go into the hat to decide their placings in the eight first-round groups, will take place 188 days, or just six months, before the World Cup kick-off on June 11 at Soccer City, Johannesburg.

Once the completed schedule is known, then planning can begin around it, said 2010 LOC chief executive Danny Jordaan.

“It is only after the draw that we will get to know the profile of the fans who will be at a particular city and only then can we fine-tune preparations [around security, transport and accommodation]. After the draw, a lot of challenges will emerge,” Jordaan said.

After a highly successful preliminary draw held in Durban in November 2007 to decide the qualifying schedule, which was followed by the well-run 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup in June, Jordaan promised the best final draw ever.

The teams will be split into eight groups of four with the seedings and draw procedure only finalised next week, although no more than two European nations can be drawn together.

It seems likely that the system used for the 2006 World Cup in Germany will be retained, whereby a team’s world rankings over the past three years and performances at the last two tournaments are taken into account.

This would mean Brazil being top seeds, followed by Germany, Spain, Italy and England. Despite their 86th world ranking, South Africa should be seeded as hosts.

The 63 matches that follow between the kick-off and final on July 11, also at Soccer City, will span South Africa from Polokwane to Cape Town with 10 stadiums being used.

The journey so far has been dramatic.

It all began on August 25, 2007, in Oceania when just 60 supporters turned up to watch Samoa play Vanuatu.

Since then, over 20 million fans have flocked to stadiums to witness 204 countries whittled down to 32, with Uruguay the last to book their ticket.

Thirty-one of the teams have been here before, with Slovakia the newcomers. Minnows New Zealand made it through and North Korea qualified for the first time since 1966, when England last lifted the trophy.

England are one of the favourites to do it again, with Fabio Capello moulding a disciplined team whose morale is sky-high, with Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry his lynchpins.

The Italian taskmaster has told his players that reaching the final is the least he expects.

“Playing in the final would be success,” he said. “For now, playing in it will do, rather than winning it. But if people are asking me what my aspiration is, then it is to reach the final.”

Capello has identified Brazil as the team to beat, but their coach, Dunga, is reluctant to accept the tag of World Cup favourites.

“I think Brazil is in balance, technically and tactically, and also the physical conditioning of the players is very good,” Dunga said.

France are on the plane, but only just, with the run-up to the draw mired in controversy after the blatant Thierry Henry handball incident which put Raymond Domenech’s side into the hat at the expense of Ireland.

The fallout has been so severe that Fifa president Sepp Blatter has called a crisis meeting for December 2 in Cape Town to deal with the issue and also to discuss an ongoing investigation into match-fixing in Europe.

More than 3 000 international dignitaries are expected for the draw ceremony, with Blatter and South African president Jacob Zuma leading the festivities.

The draw starts at 7 pm and will last for 90 minutes.

More on the 2010 final draw in Talking Sport: pages 64 and 65

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