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Ready to face-off in South Africa: deconstructing Group A

South AfricaA. Mokoena (C)The hosts have done well since being readmitted by FIFA in the 90s, having won the African Nations Cup once and appeared at two previous World Cups.

sports Updated: Jun 02, 2010 00:50 IST
Hindustan Times

South Africa
A. Mokoena (C)
The hosts have done well since being readmitted by FIFA in the 90s, having won the African Nations Cup once and appeared at two previous World Cups. The current squad has a number of players with clubs in Europe. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is an experienced campaigner, and even though he has dropped West Ham's Benni McCarthy from his final squad, there are a number of familiar faces, including Aaron Mokoena and Steven Pienaar. South Africa's strength has always been sped and technically gifted players.
They have also had consistently good goalkeepers, and this squad is no exception. The team's form in front of goal has been less than impressive though, with many friendlies and worm up games ending in goal less draws. The hosts will be looking for the home support to lift them through the group stages for the first time ever.
Key players: Steven Pienaar, Aaron Mokoena
Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira

T. Henry (C)
France crossed a new threshold in qualifying for the WC having never before graced the finals on four consecutive occasions. Les Bleus have become a regular presence in recent years, having earned a reputation as one of the leading teams since the late 1990s. The generation of players that included Zinedine Zidane, Laurent Blanc, Didier Deschamps and Fabien Barthez finally found a way past the obstacles that had blocked the route of earlier vintages. The fine team featuring Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernandez and Jean Tigana had stumbled at the semi-final stage in 1982 and 1986, but their successors went all the way to lifting the Trophy in 1998.
Despite a drop in standards in 2002 and 2006, France still came agonisingly close to grasping a second global title in the latter tournament, only losing out on penalties to Italy in the Final.
Key players: Franc Ribery, Yoann Gourcuff, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Florent Malouda
Coach: Raymond Domenech

D. Lugano(C)
Few nations have the footballing history of Uruguay. The country boasts an impressive collection of world, Olympic and continental titles and a record that compares favourably with the world's best. The glory years of Uruguayan football are but a fading memory, however, with La Celeste having made just two appearances at the last five FIFA World Cup finals. The man charged with the task of improving that record is Oscar Tabarez, who is now in his second stint as national coach, having taken the Uruguayans through to the last 16 at Italy 1990. El Maestro, as he is known in his homeland, certainly has the resources to do achieve those objectives. Sprinkled with players from Europe's major leagues, his young side are determined to impress and in Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez they have the quality to enter beyond the group phase and into the knockout rounds for the first time in two decades
Key players: Diego Forlan, Christian Rodriguez
Coach: Oscar Tabarez

R. Márquez (C)
After a turbulent couple of years that has seen three coaches come and go and more than sixty players pull on the famous green jersey, Mexico have returned to calmer waters under the steadying influence of Javier Aguirre. The former Atletico Madrid coach has put together a team comprising bright young talents and established stars, restoring their wavering confidence in the process. Mexico have qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals 14 times in all, more than any other side from the CONCACAF Zone. Their best-ever performances in the finals were as tournament hosts in 1970 and 1986, where they reached the quarterfinals on both occasions. South Africa 2010 is their fifth appearance in the finals in a row, and they have made it past the group stag on all four previous occasions. Mexico have a good squad, but with France and in form Uruguay, this will be a group to watch.
Key players: Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Carlos Vela, Giovani dos Santos, Rafael Marquez
Coach: Javier Aguirre

First Published: Jun 02, 2010 00:49 IST