South Africa here they come

The 32 teams that will compete in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa have now been determined. They are:
Italy
Germany
Holland
Spain
Denmark
Switzerland
England
Slovakia
Serbia
Portugal
Greece — upset winners over Ukraine in today’s play-in match in Donetsk
Slovenia — shock winners over Russia; the former Soviet Union states are shut-out
France — overtime winners over Ireland, a victory accomplished via a blatant hand-ball
Brazil
Paraguay
Chile
Argentina
Uruquay
Mexico
United States
Honduras
Ghana
Ivory Coast
Nigeria
Cameroon
Algeria
South Africa
Australia
Japan
South Korea
North Korea
New Zealand
At this point, Brazil and Spain stand head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. Not only did they win their respective continental championships two years ago, but as a result they were able to play in the Confederations Cup this summer, won by Brazil, where they continued to jell. Their respective victories of England and Argentina in “friendlies” on Saturday confirmed how well they have come together as teams. And both are brimming with talent. The rest of the pack has a good deal of catching up to do over the next six months.
Watch out for the African teams, though. For once, the strongest black African teams all made it through the preliminary rounds — there will be no Togos competing next year. And with the competition in Africa, I expect more to see more than the usual one African team in the final 16, and quite possibly one in the final 4 for the first time.
On Saturday, we’ll know the composition of the eight groups that will compete in the first round to determine who advances to the round of 16.
CORRECTION: The “draw” will occur the first week of December, not this coming Saturday.

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