Monday, December 7, 2009

The world is waiting

The Final Draw of the FIFA World Cup™ is an occasion that the fans of the 32 qualifying nations and football lovers in general always look forward to, though the same cannot be said of the national coaches involved. That same blend of anticipation and dread will be in evidence once more on Friday evening when the Final Draw of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The show gets under way at 19.00 (local time) and no matter who gets drawn with who, there are sure to be some coaches smiling at their good fortune and others who might be more inclined to burst into tears.

The whole of South Africa has been eagerly awaiting this moment since it was given the honour of being the first African country to organise the finals in May 2004. The tournament hosts will be hoping that actress Charlize Theron, one of the country’s best-known ambassadors, will bring them luck when she joins FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke in presenting the Final Draw.

Bafana Bafana are one of the seeded teams and will be in good company in Pot 1, where they will be joined by five former winners of the competition with 15 wins between them: Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina and England. Completing the elite octet are Spain and Netherlands.

France and Uruguay, the two other former champions, will be feeling slightly more nervous about their prospects ahead of the big night. The illustrious duo only scraped their way into the finals at the last minute following close-fought play-off matches and subsequently find themselves in Pot 4 and 3 respectively.

African hopes and old hands
In addition to the hosts, five other African teams will be hoping to avoid a tough draw to increase their chances of impressing on their home continent. Algeria, Cameroon and Nigeria are all back in the finals after absences of varying lengths, while Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are both making immediate returns.

For their part, the Ivorians are no doubt praying for better luck this time around after being pitched in a devilishly difficult section four years ago. “In 2006, we had the hunger, but we lacked experience. Another thing is, we were given a tough group,” Elephants midfielder Yaya Toure told in a recent interview. “We don’t know who will be our opponents this time around, but I guess that is something we cannot control. We will have to play against whomever our opponents turn out to be.”
In 2006, we had the hunger, but we lacked experience. Another thing is, we were given a tough group.
Côte d’Ivoire midfielder Yaya Toure

The coaches who will be attending the ceremony or following events live on TV or know full well that no matter what the Final Draw holds in store, their teams will still have to go out and beat the best if they wish to win the coveted Trophy. Four of the band of 32 have experienced that unique sensation during the course of their careers.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi was the man who guided them to glory at Germany 2006, while South Africa’s recently reinstalled manager Carlos Alberto Parreira achieved similar success with Brazil at USA 1994. And it was at that tournament that Seleçao coach Dunga had the pleasure of lifting the Trophy as the winning captain, an honour that also fell to Argentina’s Diego Maradona at Mexico 1986.

One big show, 32 little balls
Dunga and El Diez are aiming to emulate Franz Beckenbauer’s achievement in winning the FIFA World Cup as both a player and coach. Der Kaiser is just one of the celebrities from the football world who will be on show at the International Convention Centre, along with other luminaries such as Michel Platini, Eusebio, Luis Figo, Roger Milla, Lucas Radebe, Ruud Gullit and David Beckham. Helping them make the occasion even more memorable will be a clutch of stars from other sports as well as a host of eminent public figures and well-known South African personalities.

Taking place on a huge wooden stage with a typically African backdrop, the Final Draw will be preceded by a ceremony featuring a series of speeches and a dazzling array of live music and dance performances.

Once the evening’s colourful entertainment is over, however, the audience’s attention will turn to four glass bowls containing 32 tiny little balls. All in all, it promises to be quite an occasion.(


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