World Cup 2010 is just around the corner. To make sure you're prepared, our favorite Brit writer David Smith (who is completely unbiased) created this rundown of all the teams and their chances. (Click on the image below for a large PDF version, or read the text version after the jump.)
The world’s biggest sporting event, the Football (Soccer) World Cup kicks off Friday, June 11 in South Africa. USA takes on England the following day at 3 p.m. Eastern, so get yourselves down to the pub and cheer on the Three Lions like good Americans. Here is a rundown of the teams involved — from an English perspective, of course...
SOUTH AFRICA / Nickname: Bafana Bafana
Possibly the worst host nation side, ever. No chance of getting through the group even with the mad support of the Rainbow Nation. I’d love them to beat the Frenchies — the host nation doing well is always good for a tournament, but I can’t see it happening. Everton’s Steven Pienaar is a decent player.
MEXICO / Nickname: El Tri
Mexico has struggled to qualify and has had more than 300 coaches in the last week. It relies heavily on their talismanic pensioner, Blanco, with the unpronounceable first name of Cuauhtemoc, but the newest coach, Javier Aguire, is bringing a lot of young talent in, so hopefully they will knock the frogs (French) out.
URUGUAY / Nickname: Los Charrúas
Uruguay won the first ever World Cup in 1930. It hasn’t done much since then, but I fancy the dirty buggers to progress to the knockout stages. If not, I’m sure they will break a few legs on the way out.
FRANCE / Nickname: Cheese eating surrender monkeys
This is a team chock full of egos and arrogance. Hopefully, it will get through the group so someone decent can massacre them. There are some decent young players like Benzema and Gourcuff, but no one who can head butt as well as Zidane.
ARGENTINA / Nickname: La Albiceleste
If you want to see the best player in the world, watch the Argies, but don’t expect beautiful football. They are dirty cheats who love to dive around like girls. It will likely knock England out on penalties, having got Wayne Rooney sent off for farting. Long live the Falklands!
NIGERIA / Nickname: Super Eagles
Nigeria is likely to be a tough team, but it’s probably not in contention for the later rounds. There are some very strong players and some promising youngsters like Ikechukwu Uche and Victor Obinna, but I can’t see them beating Argentina. The team has a Swedish coach, so expect them to be naked a lot.
KOREA REPUBLIC / Nickname: The Taeguk Warriors
Asia’s most successful World Cup nation is characterised by very high energy levels and never giving up — as well as excellent mullets. It also has two good players in Park Ji-Sung of Manchester United and Park Chu-Young. Korea caused quite a stir in the last World Cup, so don’t underestimate them, but do expect them to be bounced all over the field by Nigeria.
GREECE / Nickname: Galanoleyki
Apparently they couldn’t afford to fly to South Africa, so the Greeks hitchhiked through Africa. Greece won Euro 2004 under coach King Otto, but I’d eat my hat if it repeated that feat. Expect Theofanis Gekas to bag a few goals as he was top scorer in European Qualification.
ENGLAND / Nickname: Three Lions
If Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard stay fit, we can go all the way. We have one of the best coaches and one of the most impressive qualification campaigns of anyone, scoring the most goals — six more than second place Spain. No Beckham for the girls to purr over (he is injured), but they can at least look at beautiful Wayne ‘Shrek’ Rooney.
USA / Nickname: Stars and Stripes
Well drilled and organised by Coach Bob Bradley, USA is a solid international team. It lacks a bit of creativity to dominate games and has its usual easy ride through CONCACAF qualifying (Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, etc.) It lacks firepower to beat the big guns, as its top striker is Jozy Altidore of lowly Hull City in the English Premier League.
ALGERIA / Nickname: Les Fennecs
This is Algeria’s first qualification in 24 years after a nail biting and dramatic playoff with arch rivals Egypt. Strong in the midfield with Captain Yazid Mansouri, Karim Ziani and Mourad Meghni.
SLOVENIA / Nickname: unknown
Slovenia came through a very difficult group and playoff to reach the finals, much of which is due to a great defense. There are a few star players. Watch out for Robert Koren, who has been a good player for West Brom in the English Championship this year.
GERMANY / Nickname: The Erics
Hasslehof, Lederhosen, porn star moustaches, hairy armpits and sausages. Germany tends to be bloody good at football, though. Lahm, Ballack and Schweinsteiger are classy players, as well as a bunch of Polish lads they stole.
AUSTRALIA / Nickname: The Socceroos
Australia caused lots of problems for teams at the last World Cup and got knocked out in the last minute of its game against eventual winners, Italy. It has a different coach, but pretty much the same team. Tim Cahill scores a lot from midfield and their keeper Schwarzer is on good form.
SERBIA / Nickname: Beli Orlovi (White Eagles)
Serbia won its qualifying group in style over the Froggies in second place. Stankovic and Vidic are at the heart of the team and they have great technical ability on the ball, like most Eastern European teams.
GHANA / Nickname: The Black Stars
One of, if not the best African team in the competition, having won World Cups at under 17 and under 20 levels, so obviously Ghana has a lot of youthful talent to draw upon. It’s super strong in midfield with Essien, Muntari and Appiah.
NETHERLANDS / Nickname: The Oranje
Ahh, the Dutch. Well supported in the local area, no doubt, the Cloggies are consistently one of the top teams in Europe, but often plagued by ego and a lack of team spirit. Could be one to watch this World Cup as they didnt drop a single point in qualifying, but only if they stop smoking marijuana and picking tulips. Robin van Persie is fit again and Arjen Robben is on good form for Bayern.
DENMARK / Nickname: Danish Dynamite
Denmark came through one of the toughest qualification groups, including the Swedes and Portuguese and has a lot of fighting spirit in the team. Its players are at many of the top European club teams, so there is a lot of experience, and the team won’t be overwhelmed by the World Cup stage.
JAPAN / Nickname: Samurai Blue
Japan has an excellent coach in Okada, who reads the game very well. It has solid players like Nakazawa, Okazaki, Nakamura and Honda (the midfield engine). The team has set its sights on the semi finals, but I will eat raw fish daily for the rest of my life if it makes it that far. Of course, they have crazy fans who scream like Beatlemania never happened, so it’s always nice to see Japan do well.
CAMEROON / Nickname: Indomitable Lions
With Eto’o of Barcelona and Webo, there will be problems upfront, but Cameroon is playing some old timers at the back that are lacking a little speed and mobility. Cameroon’s players were the pioneers of innovative goal celebrations — check out Roger Milla’s corner flag samba from 1990 on YouTube — hopefully they will score some goals and we can see how things have progressed.
ITALY / Nickname: The Azzurri
Once again, the Italians don’t look like they have much to offer other than being incredibly solid defensively and possessing a huge desire to win. However, they have won four World Cup’ playing like that. They still have the brilliant Buffon in goal, super defender Cannavaro and tireless Gattuso in midfield and not a bad player in the squad, but I don’t see a spark in the team.
PARAGUAY / Nickname: Albirroja
Paraguay had its best ever qualifying campaign, finishing ahead of the Argies, behind Brazil and Chile. Much of that was based on its home form and although it has made it to eight finals, it has have never got beyond the last 16. There’s have a chance to repeat that in this group, but I think that would be it.
NEW ZEALAND / Nickname: All Whites
Its second-ever World Cup! More famous for Rugby and Hobbits, New Zealand’s team is made up of Ryan Nelson, Shane Smeltz and some sheep. Qualified easily against some small island nations, but it does have a cool black alternate uniform.
SLOVAKIA / Nickname: The Fighting Jondas
Slovakia came through a difficult group to qualify for its first World Cup. Hamsik scores a lot of goals from midfield and Sestak is its top striker at the moment. It has a realistic chance to go further, the key game being the Paraguay game.
BRAZIL / Nickname: A Seleção
The royalty of football. Everyone likes to watch the Brazilians play — flowing and skillful, they play the game the way it was dreamed up to be played. Brazil is the only country to be at every World Cup and has won it a record five times. The Portugal match should be fun. Kaka looks like an Osmond, and their coach is Dunga, which translates as “poop-mover.”
NORTH KOREA / Nickname: Top Secret
Most of the team plays in North Korea, so we don’t know much about them. At least their supreme leader Kim Jung Ill will be happy and maybe stop throwing nukes around for a couple of weeks. Expect a few reprisal attacks against any team that beats them and me for what I just wrote.
IVORY COAST / Nickname: Les Elephants
A fine team. Drogba, Kalou, Kone, Kolo Toure, Eboue, Zokora, Yaya Toure. These fellas are my choice as THE team to cause a lot of upsets. No one will want to play them, and they have a much maligned, but excellent international coach in Sven-Goran Erikssen, provided he keeps it in his pants.
PORTUGAL / Nickname: A Selecção das Quinas
Portugal qualified by the skin of its teeth, a bit surprising when you look at the quality of its squad. They have Ronaldo, the crybaby cheat with the long neck, who is quite brilliant, on his day, maybe even better than Messi, and some excellent players in supporting roles, too.
SPAIN / Nickname: La Roja
Spain became European Champions after years of under achievement and joint favourites to win along with Brazil. Unlike Brazil, it has an easy group, with maybe only Chile to watch out for. For quick passing, one touch football at its best, watch Spain.
SWITZERLAND / Nickname: Nati
Switzerland was beat by Luxembourg (who?) during its uneasy qualification, so watch out for some odd results here. Can’t see them posing too many problems moving forward and I’d think the winner of their match with Chile will progress in second behind Spain. Switzerland has a good coach in Hitzfeld, so maybe he can get the team playing better than it looks on paper.
HONDURAS / Nickname: Los Catrachos/La Bicolor
Honduras inched through its group thanks to the USA drawing with Costa Rica, in what is a pretty easy qualification system. It has some top flight players in Palacios, Leon and Pavon, but also several weaker ones in the squad.
CHILE / Nickname: La Roja
Numerous away performances bode well for the Chileans and they like to get forward and attack. It has several players who will be looking to make an impression in the “shop window” of the World Cup. Expect some “tasty” defending, especially against the Spaniards.