Brazil, Portugal in World Cup Group of Death
Host South Africa will open the 2010 World Cup against Mexico in Johannesburg on June 11.
The Samba Boys are in tough in 2010, but they're not the only ones with a difficult path to World Cup glory.
Brazil was drawn into the Group of Death with Ivory Coast, Portugal and North Korea when the World Cup draw ceremony ended Friday in Cape Town, South Africa.
- Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.
- Group B: Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria, Greece.
- Group C: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia.
- Group D: Germany, Australia, Ghana, Serbia.
- Group E: Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon, Denmark.
- Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia.
- Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal.
- Group H: Spain, Honduras, Chile, Switzerland.
Five-time world champion Brazil, stacked with stars such as Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano and others, will fight to qualify for the knockout round in Group G against FIFA's reigning world footballer of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a very strong Portugal side.
"Having a difficult group like this is good because we'll be focused," said Brazil coach Dunga. "They won't be easy games. The group is undoubtedly balanced, but we're confident in our play."
The African squad from Ivory Coast is no slouch, either. Led by Chelsea stars Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, the Elephants have proven to be a difficult side to play against in recent years, bolstered by some great young talent since their World Cup debut in 2006.
Brazil is No. 1 in the FIFA world rankings, while Portugal sits in fifth and Ivory Coast is 16th.
North Korea (ranked 84th in the world) looks like the odd team out in this equation, but there is a track record of unknown teams pulling off massive World Cup surprises (see: South Korea in 2002, Croatia in 1998, etc.).
But these four teams aren't not the only ones in tough in 2010, and you can be sure a few will argue that Group G isn't even the hardest of the lot.
Group(s) of Death?
Consider: Host South Africa was hoping for some good fortune when the final group positions were decided. Instead, the Bafana Bafana will have to claw to the knockout round against Mexico, Uruguay and France in Group A.
The French will be especially irked by the draw result. The 1998 champions and 2006 runners-up to Italy were furious that they weren't seeded for the draw, and now find themselves in a group where qualification is nowhere near guaranteed.
"I'm not relieved. We have been drawn in the host country's group and it's never easy," said France coach Raymond Domenech. "We know how important it is to host in World Cup matches. It will be an away game [against South Africa]."
South Africa will open the 2010 World Cup against Mexico in Soccer City in Johannesburg on June 11, the site of the final on July 11.
Group D is another difficult one, as traditional powerhouse Germany faces upset specialists Australia and Ghana, who both advanced to the knockout round in 2006, and Serbia, who finished ahead of France in their European qualifying group to advance to South Africa.
"It's important to win the opening game [against Australia in Durban on June 13] and get the necessary confidence for the next two matches," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
The "Group of Death" phrase is believed to have been coined by former manager Omar Borras when his Uruguay side was drawn into a group with West Germany, Denmark and Scotland at the 1986 World Cup.
The designation was adopted by the media and soon entered the soccer lexicon to refer to the toughest World Cup group with the strongest teams, and subsequent World Cup tournaments have provoked the question, "Which group is the Group of Death this time?"
England will be very happy with its group draw, as the Three Lions are definitely favoured to qualify through Group C against the United States, Algeria, and Slovenia.
"We have to be careful with Algeria," said England coach Fabio Capello, who spurred an England side to a 9-1-0 record in qualifying. "I think it will be one of the surprises of the group."
Soccer aficionados might remember that the U.S. shocked England in the 1950 World Cup with a 1-0 victory, arguably the biggest upset in the tournament's history — and the last time the two sides faced each other on soccer's biggest stage.
"I think it will not be an easy game," said Capello.
Midfielder David Beckham, who took part in Friday's draw, is set to face many of the Americans he regularly plays alongside and against in Major League Soccer when he plays in Rustenburg on June 12.
Defending champion Italy will be pleased with its position in Group F with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia. Italy will be favoured to qualify along with either Paraguay or Slovakia.
"Being satisfied doesn't mean we consider it an easy group. You've got to go game by game," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said.
Current European champion Spain faces Switzerland, Honduras and Chile in Group H, while Argentina, which just squeaked into the World Cup with wins in its last two games, is with Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in Group B.
The Netherlands, undefeated in World Cup qualifying, is in Group E with Denmark Japan and Cameroon.
- In an earlier version of this story, we mistakenly said Serbia upset Russia in European qualifying to advance to the World Cup, when in fact it was Slovenia. We apologize for the error.Dec 04, 2009 3:33 PM ET
With files from The Associated Press