This is the silly season for World Cup soccer.
It’s a lot like baseball’s spring training. Every team’s fans think they really have a chance to win – even though they don’t. The press is all geared up with little to report so every minor story gets blown way out of proportion. How players perform in the exhibitions leading up to the Cup receive extensive analysis – even though, like spring training, they don’t mean much of anything unless someone gets injured.
So it goes with the squad announcements this week emanating from the 32 participants in next month’s tournament. The only “surprises” tend to come from the enlistment of marginal players who are going to make the squad – the equivalent of baseball’s 24th or 25th player. And even the provisional squads announced this week have to be pared some more before the tournament opens.
With all these caveats in mind, we’ll begin to look at the squad announcements and other recent developments in the days ahead, beginning today with Group A – Mexico, South Africa, France, and Uruguay. (As background, we’ve already done an extensive analysis of all the groups in our book, “World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics,” so we’ll also be referencing that from time to time.)
GROUP A – MEXICO, SOUTH AFRICA, FRANCE, URUGUAY
This is the most wide-open group in South Africa with all four countries having a real shot at making the cut. Three have talent and South Africa has home tourney advantage – which counts for a lot at the World Cup. What makes the group difficult to call is that the three with talent are among the least consistent teams in the world’s upper echelon. In our predicted order of finish (more on that later), here’s the latest on surprise selections:
To continue reading, click here: