The draw for the group stages of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was completed this morning, giving us some fascinating matchups to look forward to. Remember that after the round robin group stage (one game each with the other group members) the top two teams from each group advance to the knockout round.
Here are the group draws:
Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece.
Group C: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia.
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana.
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon.
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia.
Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal.
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile.
My initial reaction is that, despite what other commentators may say, there isn't really a "group of death" in this draw, by which I mean that there's no group containing three teams that clearly would be knockout rounders if they didn't have to play each other. Some are calling group G the toughest, based on FIFA rankings (Brazil, Portugal, and Ivory Coast are all in the top 16), but Portugal's form of late hasn't been what it once was, and Brazil should be able to defeat both opponents relatively easily. Group E could be just as close (where Netherlands should make it through, but Denmark, Japan, and Cameroon will likely have to slug it out). Group A is also interesting, as on paper France and Mexico should go through, but Uruguay can be a tough opponent and it's hard to count the hosts out in any Cup. Group D could also be tough, although Germany should win the group, as the contest between Ghana, Serbia, and Australia for second place will be fun to watch.
It looks like Spain and Italy lucked out with the two easiest groups in the Cup. I still believe that Italy's 2006 Cup victory was just as much the result of an easy knockout round draw as it was the result of good play. This time, assuming they win the group, they'll likely face one of the tougher initial knockout round games, as anyone coming out of Group E can make a game of it against them. Spain could also have their hands full with whomever comes out of Group G in second place.
My last observation is that this is a great draw for the USMNT to make the knockout round. England will be tough, but the U.S. should be able to beat Algeria and Slovenia to make it through (where they would likely face a tough opponent in Germany if we don't win the group). The England-U.S. tie could be one of the most interesting matchups of the group stage--a rematch of the 1950 upset victory by the Americans (highlights commentary in German, sorry!) the only other time the two teams have met in the World Cup.