Tuesday, December 08, 2009

ATH: World Cup by the Numbers

From the US National Team Players Association

Ten 2010 World Cup Facts

By Clemente Lisi -- The World Cup is loaded with facts and figures. While Cape Town prepares to host the 90-minute final draw Friday with all the trappings of an Academy Awards ceremony (Oscar winner Charlize Theron will co-host) before a global TV audience of 200 million, the numbers reveal that the 2010 tournament will be one for the record books.

“We’re confident that our preparations for the tournament are going extremely well,” Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 World Cup, told FIFA.com. “Now, it’s time to focus on the teams and the stars coming to South Africa 2010, for the global football World to see who their teams will be up against and for our host cities and residents to gear up to welcome the teams that will be heading their way.”

With the final draw upon us and the World Cup 190 days away, here is a zero to 10 guide surrounding the tournament:


As in the number of times an African nation has hosted the World Cup. South Africa, a soccer and rugby-mad nation, will make history by being the first.


As in teams that will make their World Cup debuts next year. Slovakia is the only team in the 32-nation field to make its first-ever tournament appearance. The last time that occurred was in 1950, but there were only 13 participants at that edition. In 2006, six nations -- Ukraine, Ivory Coast, Angola, Ghana, Togo, and Trinidad & Tobago -- made their debuts.


As in the times Brazil has captured the World Cup outside its own continent (none of the other six winners have ever done so). It occurred twice: 1958 in Sweden (featuring a 17-year-old Pele) and 2002 in Korea/Japan. Most bookmakers favor Brazil to lift the trophy next year.


As in the number of bids South Africa had to overcome in order to get the World Cup. South Africa received 14 votes from FIFA’s executive committee in May 2004, while Morocco had 10 and Egypt 0. Tunisia and Libya withdrew after FIFA ruled it would not consider joint bids. South Africa lost to Germany when both bid for the 2006 tournament.


Thierry Henry’s blatant handball (one of the biggest injustices since Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England at Mexico ’86 and German defender Torsten Frings’ hand preventing the US from scoring in the quarterfinals of Korea/Japan 2002) may have helped France overcome Ireland in the European playoffs last month, but the striker could also become the first Frenchman to play in four finals if he makes the team’s roster next Summer. Truth is, Henry should be invited to the draw to handle the plastic balls.


As in the number of referees that were considered for each FIFA World Cup game. The proposal, following the Henry controversy, needed to be approved by the International Football Association Board, the sport’s rule-making body. Instead, it didn't get that far with FIFA leadership quickly taking the plan off the table.


All six confederations will be represented in 2010. The last time that occurred was Spain ’82 when New Zealand qualified for the finals. At the time, Australia was a member of Oceania. The Aussies switched confederation two years ago and are now part of Asia.


The 2010 tournament should be the most competitive ever given that all seven teams that have won the tournament in the past qualified this year for South Africa: Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Uruguay, England and France. The last time this occurred was Korea/Japan 2002. Brazil has qualified for all 19 finals – the only country to ever do so – and will keep that streak alive as host nation in 2014.


As in the number of seeded teams. FIFA (hush-hush about the system until Wednesday) has determined that South Africa will be seeded, along with Italy, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Holland and England. For the first time, the top eight were determined solely by October’s FIFA rankings, and not by performance at any previous World Cup. The Bafana Bafana have won just one game over the past seven months and are the lowest ranked team – currently No. 86 -- ever seeded. The US has only been seeded in 1930 and again in 1994 when they played host.


As in the number of cities that will host games over the 31-day tournament: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.


As in the number of stadiums that will host matches: Johannesburg (Soccer City Stadium and Ellis Park), Cape Town (Green Point Stadium), Durban (Moses Mabhida Stadium), Pretoria (Loftus Versfeld Stadium), Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Stadium), Bloemfontein (Free State Stadium), Polokwane (Peter Mokaba Stadium), Nelspruit (Mbombela Stadium) and Rustenburg (Royal Bafokeng Stadium). Soccer City Stadium, where the final will be played on July 11th, was built in 1987 and hosted a rally for Nelson Mandela following his release from prison in 1990.

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