The first game on 11th June is between South Africa and Mexico and the England campaign kicks off on Saturday 12th June with a match against the USA.
The competitions starts off with a total of 32 countries which are divided into 8 groups of 4, England is in Group C with USA, Slovenia and Algeria. The top two of each group proceed to the knockout stage.
Looking into my crystal ball it is fairly easy to come up with a limited list of countries that would appear to have a realistic chance of lifting the Trophy on 11th July.
After their Euro 2008 triumph, Spain are the tournament favourites, ahead of Brazil, England, Argentina and Italy.
No one can deny that Spain’s national team consists of many quality players, around 80% of the squad ply their trade in the country’s domestic league. In addition their key players are in excellent form and this suggests that the favourites’ tag is well-deserved, and with the likes of Fernando Torres, David Villa, Andrés Iniesta and Carles Puyol in their ranks, they’ll be a tough team to beat. Add Cesc Fabregas to that list, and Vicente del Bosque has a formidable line-up to take on the world.
However both Fabregas and Torres have suffered recent injuries and while declared as being fit and this could have a significant impact on their campaign. There is always a risk in selecting a player for the World Cup short of match practice and fitness over 90 minutes, both may struggle to hit top gear on the world’s biggest stage after missing the final games of the Premier league run-in.
Brazil are always one of the teams to beat at the World Cup, and will feature the usual array of big players with only one name, such as Lucio, Robinho and Kaka. They have a tough group and will need to overcome Portugal in order to emerge as group winners, but only a brave man would write them off.
Likewise Argentina, where the hopes of a nation will be pinned on Lionel Messi of Barcelona, and of course we should not forget about Italy, France, Germany, Portugal and Holland, who always challenge for the title.
England should be real contenders if Wayne Rooney is fully fit after his recent injuries, the rest of the team are firing on all cylinders and Fabio Capello prevents the team from self-destructing. These are nervous times for all football fans.
Finally a hint as to one of the places that is guaranteed to have a great atmosphere and to show all the top games – the Lamplighter in Mulcaster Street – see you there.
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