The draw for the 2006 football World Cup was held in Leipzig Germany on December 9th 2005. This is the greatest sporting event on earth after the Olympic games and has been eagerly looked forward to. The 32 teams were allocated into 8 groups of four in a televised ceremony that was watched live in over one hundred and sixty countries. The top two teams in each group will progress to the straight knockout stages.
The first team drawn from the balls was England, could that be an omen, could they possibly end the tournament finishing first? Fifa had controversially seeded them second, due in part to their recent thrilling injury time win over the old foe, Argentina.
Group A consists of Germany, Costa Rica, Poland & Ecuador
Group B consists of England, Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago, & Sweden
Group C consists of Argentina, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro, & Holland
Group D consists of Mexico, Iran, Angola, & Portugal
Group E consists of Italy, Ghana, the USA, & the Czech Republic
Group F consists of Brazil, Croatia, Australia & Japan
Group G consists of France, Switzerland, South Korea, & Togo
Group H consists of Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, & Saudi Arabia
The matches kick off in Munich on June 9th and will last a month, the final being played on July 9th in Berlin.
While it is easy to look at the groups and pick the likely two qualifiers, we all know that is not how it will turn out. Memories are fresh of the failure of the holders France to progress from the group stage in 2002, dumped out after barely scoring a goal by the likes of Senegal.
The odds makers were quick to cut England’s odds slightly to 6/1 to win the tournament on the back of what looks like an easier group. There will be hundreds of millions of pounds traded on this event worldwide before the winners are known. You can still obtain a free £20 bet on betfair.com by entering the promotional code 6CHE3VPWJ when prompted.
The favourites remain multi winners and current holders Brazil, but the usual suspects Italy, Holland, Spain, France, England, Argentina, & Portugal all have their enthusiastic followers. Don’t forget Germany too, for on their own soil they will be very hard to beat, even if on paper they do not have a great side this time. Trophies are never won on paper, and they will be there or thereabouts, they always are.
Groups C & E look the toughest to qualify through. The African challenge is greater and possibly stronger than ever before despite their two most successful nations, Nigeria and Cameroon, failing to make it this time. Can the Asian countries, particularly Japan and South Korea, maintain the huge progress they made in 2002, although of course that was on home soil, and it will be interesting to see how Australia perform. They have qualified for the first time since 1974 and they did recently beat England, albeit in a friendly game where England played two different teams through the match. Most of the Australian players ply their trade in the English premiership, so they will know many of the other players well enough, and vice versa.
I must mention first time qualifiers Trinidad and Tobago, the smallest nation to make it to Germany, and how delighted they must have been to draw England. Their talisman and former European Cup winner Dwight York will lead his nation with great pride. Most of the T & T players play their football in the English lower leagues, but that will make them only a more dangerous opponent, and England will certainly not take them lightly.
It promises to be the greatest football tournament yet seen, and certainly more overseas supporters will travel to Germany than ever before. Provisional figures suggest that England will take over 100,000 supporters alone, and when you consider that at some grounds only 30,000 tickets will go on open sale, it promises to produce a mighty scramble for them. Holland, France and Italy will also take huge followings, as will the Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden and Poland. German hotelkeepers are in for a very busy summer.
England hope to do well, though deep down everyone suspects yet another Brazilian victory led by their flamboyant star Ronaldhino, but an England versus Brazil final would be an attraction worth seeing. That’s the hope in England for sure.