Saturday, June 6, 2009

It's hard to believe that despite it being a year away, the 24 teams that will play in the 2010 World Cup are already starting to take shape.

After today's matches, 5 of the 32 teams are now already known with Australia, Japan, South Korea and Holland joining the hosts South Africa in the pot for December's draw after clinching their qualification today.

The Asian contingent may look close to completion after this (I still find it hard to think of Australia being in the Asian section) but there's still a lot to play for with North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran battling for the last automatic qualifying places from the region, as they battle to qualify from Group 2.

The two third place teams in each group will then play off for the right to play Oceania winners New Zealand for a 5th place from Australasia.

North Korea are currently sitting in pole position to join their southern counterparts in the final, but with all the current political wrangling around their nuclear aspirations, it will be interesting to see any repercussions that may follow if North Korea make it through to South Africa. Who knows what the world's relationship with the country will be by that time.

It's always a disappointment to me when it's the same countries that routinely qualify for the World Cup from particular areas, like Asia. It's always nice when Africa, for example, throw up first time participants.

For that reason alone, AFTN will be rooting for the third place finishers from Group 1 to make it through.

Bahrain look favourites to claim that place but have a hard game against Australia next, who may field a weaker side, and that could throw up a winners take all game against Uzbekistan.

If you want romance of the Cup, a team like Uzbekistan getting to the World Cup finals is right up there!

And as we've seen before, stranger things have happened in football. Well, ok, maybe not that strange!


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