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World Cup 2010: Group A Notes

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One Great Season

South Africa's beloved Bafana Bafana went into Wednesday's match against Uruguay on fairly high spirits after last week's 1-1 draw with Mexico that was pretty much a win for them. Uruguay, on the other hand, had to have beeen asking a lot of questions after their scoreless draw with France. It was a match that neither side did much to impress. All of Africa, and many neutrals outside, would be on Bafana's side, but as everyone saw Wednesday, Uruguay more than made up for their shortcomings in their first match with a thorough 3-0 thrashing.

Group A was all even after the first round of matches, with the four sides stuck on 1 point each, but Mexico and South Africa had the slimmest of advantages by way of having scored a goal in their openers. The Bafana boys play France last (which now is RSA's most important game ever) and didn't want to leave themselves desparately needing a win in that one. Uruguay needed to show that they are more than a team with two brilliant strikers. I know this gets tiring to hear before every single match, but this one was really important not to lose.

Going into this tournament, I would have picked Uruguay to give South Africa a difficult time, and they did ... and then some. The spirited first match by the RSA seemed a distant memory Wednesday. The South African midfield looked far better than Uruguay's in the teams' first matches, but the Uruguayans simply had too much class.

A 3-0 drubbing of the RSA that showed the return of Uruguyan scoring machine Diego Forlan. Uruguay was my darkhorse to win this group and they showed why on Wednesday. RSA was simply not able to handle the attacking style and midfield of their opponent. Uruguay, not normally known for their defense, did at least what they needed to in the defensive third. The only hope that RSA had was in counter attacking and strong goal keeping, but Bafana Bafana failed on both counts.

In the end, neither speed nor national pride could save South Africa. Look out for Uruguay, a team poised to do more than win the group. And as for RSA, well, let's hope they show up for the their final match and sneak a win to perhaps qualify for the next round. Nothing would please me more than to see France sent home early.


France's main problem in their most recent matches has been an inability to score goals. They have been very good at getting into positive positions but that's about it. Could it be that the Jabulani is giving them trouble? No, I don't think so.

The true problem lies within their lack of chemistry and ability to use each other. The famous and now infamous (from the 2006 headbutt heard 'round the world) Zinedine Zidane was more than critical of his country's team, stating that "there was a lack of teamwork and it was more a case of individual efforts," and I think that continues to be the case. Personally, I expect much of the same from the Frenchmen and possibly a group-stage exit, as Mexico will give them problems.

Mexico showed in their opening match against South Africa that they have fielded their most talented squad in years. Though their first game ended in a draw, they were clearly the superior squad and that should serve as a confidence booster heading into the France game. Giovani Dos Santos was, as I expected, awesome all match long against the RSA, creating chance after chance. Expect Mexico to change very little Thursday besides the amount of goals put on the scoreboard.

Both sides might feel they have something to prove after opening-round draws last week, but it's a hungrier Mexico team that seems more likely to get it done.

Despite Mexico's inability to put the ball in the net against the RSA lads, they impressed me. They not only created several scoring opportunities, but played some beautiful football with a togetherness reminiscent of Spain and Barcelona. Meanwhile, France seems to be in nothing but shambles and lost chances that leave themselves and their fans wanting. There are reports of disputes with the manager as well as sharp criticism from the media. France will need to score, preferably early, to build confidence against a dangerous opponent. I don't think they will.

Look for Mexico to put the French out of second-round contention. Mexico wins, 2-1, setting up a very interesting, winner-take-all final against Uruguay next week.

Click here for Wade's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Group A Recap: Day One Brings Two Draws

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Mexico, South Africa Tie;
France, Uruguay Finish 0-0

One Great Season

What an amazing scene it was in Johannesburg Friday -- a sea of green, yellow and red -- as the home fans -- and their continuous call of horns -- watched the host nation open the Cup at Soccer City Stadium with a 1-1 draw with CONCACAF member Mexico in Group A play.

South Africa will happily take the draw, as they were the heavy underdogs and very lucky to get a result like this with the way they played in the first half.

Missed opportunities by both teams prevented either side from walking away with 3 points. Mexico missed chance upon chance in the first half, most notably when, off a corner kick, unmarked forward Carlos Vela knocked the ball in. Vela was unmarked, however, because he was offsides, and the goal was disallowed.

Many observers spent the better part of Friday discussing and debating the call, but it was the correct one. Either way, Mexico squandered more chances than you can shake a stick at and should feel somewhat ashamed by their lack of ability to score on the world's biggest stage.

South Africa missed great opportunities as well toward the end of the game, including a breakaway shot by Katlego Mphela in the 89th minute that hit the post. Though tragic that he missed his heroic chance, it can easily be chalked up to the fact that RSA is a team not used to the big stage and one with just a single player who possesses world-class capabilities. In case you don't know who that is, just think "Get your hands of my Steven Pienaar."

The game was entertaining, flashy and a great way to kick-off the tournament. I was impressed by both teams at times but more often dissapointed by Mexico's showing. This is a very good and extremely fast Mexican side that seemed utterly beatable Friday. For South Africa, I think everyone has seen that they can be flashy and play with great skill.

This was a good draw for South Africa, who now goes on to play Uruguay on Wednesday, a game that will be very winnable for Bafana Bafana. It won't be easy, obviously, as Uruguay can punish you very quickly and though it's fanciful to think South Africa could get out of Group A, I still have my doubts.

Mexico goes on to play France, which is going to be the big matchup of Group A. Not big because they are the two best teams in the group, big because they are the two teams who I think will actually be the biggest dissapointments in the group.

Mexico needs to start shooting the ball and get themselves into gear or they won't get out of the group. South Africa now has hope; another draw and they are sitting pretty. Of the four teams we saw play Friday, South Africa showed the most promise and the most speed, and probably gave the most impressive overall team perfomance. This group is wide open, so if RSA wants it, it's theirs to take.

France 0, Uruguay 0

There isn't really much to say about this match except one thing -- Uruguay actually played some defense. If you read my tournament preview, you know that I very harshly questioned Uruguay's ability to defend. In this game, they pretty much abandoned their all-out attack mentality and packed it in against a French side that can attack quite well when they are on their game.

France appeared within scoring distance several times Friday, but like the classic first-round Frenchmen they are, they often found themselves running into a player with a light blue jersey. The theme repeated itself throughout the match -- Uruguay played solid defense, and France was unable to show any teeth on offense.

The only exciting moment of the match happened in stoppage time after the second half, on the last free kick for France. Thierry Henry, known for his fraudulent goal that saved France's World Cup bid, missed on his shot in the final seconds. Not only did the famous Frenchman fail to deliver a legitimate game-winner, but his errant effort kept France from gaining three points.

I'm staying with my prediction that France will not only not win the group, but Les Bleus won't even get out of it. Uruguay actually has a defense, but when they choose to play it they simply cannot attack. Both teams had better get themselves in order or they will find themselves watching Mexico and RSA move on to the knock-out stage.

Click here for Wade's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers

One Great Season is proud to announce it will be covering World Cup 2010 from start to finish. Group previews begin Thursday and once the games begin, we plan to update at least twice daily with match coverage, analysis and other news and notes. Please take a moment to get to know the nine contributors who will make One Great Season the only online destination you'll need for outstanding World Cup coverage.

Jeremy Brown

Jeremy Brown is a New York-based freelance writer. He's worked as a staff writer covering English and international football at UK and has contributed to several publications over the years, including the New York Post, Scientific American, Seed, Entertainment Weekly, Draft and Star. On Sundays he can be found groggily galumphing around not-always-trash-strewn pitches in the city's Cosmopolitan league, thankful that he never tried to go pro because man that looks like a lot of running. Jeremy will be covering Group B.

Mike Dick

Mike Dick got turned on to soccer by Pele's arrival in the NASL. Living in a virtual soccer vaccuum in Terre Haute, Ind., Mike's love of the game grew via broadcasts of Soccer Made in Germany and the odd NASL match, BBC World Service football coverage on shortwave radio and traveling to see live matches on occasion. He got to see Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Best and others in person in the NASL days, and as a semi-regular at matches of the Indianapolis Daredevils of the Amercan Soccer League, had the privilege to see an aged Eusebio as he pulled a Willie Mays at the end of his career. A former college goalkeeper, Mike enjoyed the 2006 World Cup in Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt. He supports Nottingham Forest and considers himself to be "the special one" when it comes to prowess on the barstool. Mike, a television producer in Louisville, Ky., will cover Group E.

Ben Jackey

Ben Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television news journalist from Louisville, Ky. He is a soccer addict who didn't pick up the game until World Cup 2002. Since then, he has travelled to watch and cover the USMNT and was producing a soccer documentary before he left the TV business this year. He is an avid supporter of Aston Villa FC of the English Premiership and may be the only person on the planet with cornhole boards adorned with the Villa crest. Up the Villa! It's important to note that Ben is a Leo, is fun at parties and is a great dancer. Ben, now a communications specialist in Louisville, will cover Group G.

Mike Marshall

Having played football continually for 28 years in some form, fashion or level in six countries — with teammates and competitors hailing from more than 50 nations — no other game could have given Mike Marshall a better perspective both on the human condition and how it might be changed for the better. With interests in history, international relations, anthropology, and design, Mike finds time for kick-ups whenever possible. Professionally he is the principal behind Marshall Arts, a graphic design and other creative works company. Mike will be covering Group F.

Mike Mudd, an assistant sports editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal, is a lifelong competitive soccer player, coach and fan whose claim to fame was making the second team Indiana all-state team in high school in Jeffersonville, Ind. Mudd covered college soccer while a student at Ball State University in the early 1990s. He also gets asked a lot about the time he scored four goals in a varsity match back in 1990. Mudd has watched every World Cup since 1986 and is more of a fan of South American soccer than European, though he has a soft spot in his heart for England. Mike will cover Group C, and can be followed on Twitter @mudd4goals.

Wade Murray

Wade Murray learned to play soccer at an early age while growing up in Iowa. He was a Division III All-American player at Luther College, then played semi-professionally in Minnesota and New York. His favorite national team is the US side, of course, but on the club level he roots for Everton. Wade is currently a digital marketing professional in New York City, and his favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. Wade thinks Ronaldo is simply the smoothest son of a #$%^ he's ever seen, although he dives waaaay too much. Wade will be all over Group A.

Bruce Sholl

Bruce Sholl started playing pickup soccer as a kid on the dirty streets of Toledo, Ohio. He then went on to captain the Upper Arlington Golden Bears in Columbus, Ohio, and started for the men's club team of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He currently plays for The Barnstonworth Rovers third team, a New York City club group. Along with being a fan of his hometown Columbus Crew, he has traveled abroad to play and watch, most notably the Man U-Man City Derby in 2008 and Espanyol vs. Villarreal this year. His aggressive style of play has translated well to the pub when watching matches and head-butting. Bruce, a retail marketing specialist, is on the general assignment beat.

Steve Susi

Steve Susi is founder and chief creative officer of Brand Spanking New York, a NYC branding and creative consultancy. Steve has attended numerous Premiership matches over the past two decades — most of which involving his beloved yet hapless West Ham Hammers — attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany (watch the video) and is a devout Ohio State and all-teams-Cleveland fanatic. Mr. Susi will spend the second week of World Cup 2010 watching the national teams of Germany, Holland, Denmark and England at pubs located in those countries' respective capital cities, and reporting/photographing the proceedings for One Great Season. Check out for more about Steve and follow him on Twitter at @brandspankingny. He'll be covering Group D.

Jake Yadrich

Jake Yadrich has worked in the video production industry since 2004, spending mroe than five years as a videotape editor for FOX 4 News in Kansas City. While at FOX 4, he and the station's film critic earned acclaim at the 2009 and 2010 LA Press Club National Entertainment Journalism Awards for their weekly interview segments with Hollywood's biggest stars. In January 2010, Jake obtained what he considers a dream job in becoming the head of video operations for the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer. Jake is an avid soccer fan, his favorite team being Barcelona, and brings an industry insider perspective to One Great Season's coverage of the 2010 World Cup. Jake will be covering Group H.