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The World’s BIGGEST Sporting Event

After four years and hundreds of games, 32 soccer teams will battle for the championship of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa
Noah Davis
From the Print Edition:
Chris Noth, May/June 2010

(continued from page 5)

GROUP D
Germany
Australia
Serbia
Ghana

Only the strong will survive the so-called "Muscle Group." The foursome features some of the tournament's most physically imposing teams. The brutally efficient Germans should finish first, while the winner of the June 13 Serbia-Ghana match will place second. Take Serbia, but don't bet the house.

GROUP E
Netherlands
Denmark
Japan
Cameroon

Can the Dutch finally break through and win on the world's biggest stage? The 1974 and 1978 runners up will advance for the seventh straight time. Cameroon will battle Denmark for the final spot with Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner and Wolfsburg's Thomas Kahlenberg leading their European side into the Round of 16.

GROUP F
Italy
Paraguay
New Zealand
Slovakia

Traditionally, Italy starts poorly but wins their group (and often challenges for the trophy). The Vladimir Weiss father-son (coach-player) combo might have enough to help Slovakia to the promised land, but Paraguay's the pick if star Salvador Cabañas can return after being shot in the head outside a Mexico City bar in January. New Zealand will be happy to score a goal.

GROUP G
Brazil
Korea DPR
Côte d'Ivoire
Portugal

Korea DPR has no chance, but the other three teams could challenge late into the tournament. But first, they have to advance. Brazil is the favorite, while Côte d'Ivoire will make up for a disappointing showing in the African Cup of Nations and ride a friendly crowd to the second round.

GROUP H
Spain
Switzerland
Honduras
Chile

La Furia Roja will contend for the title and shouldn't struggle getting out of Group H. The Swiss are always strong defensively, but Chile and dark horse Honduras feature enough attacking prowess to penetrate their backline. Most will pick the South Americans to proceed into the knockout stage, but their neighbor to the north, Honduras, will slip through.

OUR PREDICTED WINNER

Spain waited 44 years between winning the European Nations Cup in 1964 and their second major trophy, the '08 European Championship. The country's next success will arrive much sooner. Just two years after hoisting the European crown, La Furia Roja will leave South Africa with their first World Cup.

From top to bottom, Vicente del Bosque's squad is loaded. Despite checking in at less than six feet tall, Real Madrid's Iker Casillas can lay claim to being the world's best shot-stopper in net. Of course, opponents struggle even to reach the goalie since Carles Puyol and his defensive mates shut down most attacking forays. The team conceded exactly half a goal a game during their 10 qualifying matches.

The midfield is even more impressive. To whit, Cesc Fàbregas-the playmaking general at Arsenal, one of the best clubs in the world-sits on the bench. Think John Stockton replacing Magic Johnson on the 1992 Dream Team. (Spain's reserves could beat some sides at the World Cup.) Xavi and Andrés Iniesta dominate the middle of the pitch and control the game like a pair of puppet masters, feeding the striking partners David Villa and Fernando Torres. Spain can score in bunches, netting nearly three goals per game in European qualifying matches.


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