Marketplace Scratch Pad

189 days till the World Cup!

Scott Jagow Dec 4, 2009

In South Africa today, they drew the match-ups for the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament. 32 countries. 8 groups. Charlize Theron. David Beckham. And one very intriguing host country.

London’s Daily Telegraph has a nice introduction to South Africa from one of its correspondents covering the Cup:

So it is in this new South Africa, confluence of the Third World and the First World. An economy, an infrastructure, a dynamic business community that is the match of anything you will see in Australia, Canada, even Europe.

And with it, existing almost in a parallel universe, is the rough-hewn reality of frontier Africa with its institutionalised corruption, its harsh, uncompromising criminals for whom a life has the same value as a BMW 5 Series with fuel injection, and the Wild West ethics that you would more associate with all those other African countries that are so broken and malfunctioning that they could never contemplate staging a competition like the World Cup.

It’ll be fascinating to see if/how the World Cup changes the world’s view of Africa and what kind of lasting effect it might have for the host country and the continent. There are still many who doubt South Africa can pull this off successfully. I think it can, and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

Some photos from today’s draw:

I’m guessing Charlize is reacting to the powerful French getting into the same group as the underdog host country:

Charlize with David Beckham’s latest haircut:

Click here to see a list of the groups and the preliminary schedule of games.

The US got a pretty good draw. It’ll face Algeria, Slovenia and England. England should be a heckuva game.

I attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany (a complete blast I highly recommend). At one of the games, I met some great people from Ireland (even though Ireland wasn’t in the WC). There was a sign that read “Ireland 2010 World Cup!” So I’ve been pulling for the Irish to make it in. Sadly, they did not.

The Irish got hosed in their final qualifying match when the referee failed to spot an intentional hand ball by French striker Thierry Henry on the winning French goal. So much for the luck of the Irish:

With the Irish economy in meltdown and everyone throughout the country feeling the financial pinch, the prospect of a World Cup summer in 2010 would have been the ideal tonic and yet it is lucky France who ended that dream as they bundled their way to South Africa by foul means.

Marketplace’s resident Irishman, Paddy Hirsch, predicts on his Whiteboard what will happen to the French in South Africa:

France will doubtless breeze through (their group). And then?

They’ll beat South Korea (2nd in Group B) in the second round, then go on to play Germany in the quarters. Germany by this time will have narrowly defeated England, and they will systematically destroy the French, extracting sweet revenge for Thierry Henri’s deployment of the hand of God against the Irish in the qualifiers.

And after that? I can enjoy some jolly good sport.

The World Cup is definitely jolly good sport. It’s also much more than that — an amazing event that brings together many cultures and captures the world’s attention like nothing else. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it in some way.

Even if you’re Irish.

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