Might as well go back and start with Group A, which is of course made up with the hosts South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, and France. As you are aware no host nation has ever failed to make it out of their group. However no host nation has ever been as weak a side as the Bafana Bafana. With other host nations people have wondered if they had to qualify would they have made it? With South Africa we know that they wouldn't. That is because African Cup of Nations qualifying was tied in with World Cup Qualifying and South Africa didn't make the Cup of Nations.
There have been a few selection surprises with the squads in this group, South Africa left top scorer Benni McCarthy out of the squad, and Mexico dropped Jonathon Dos Santos. With McCarthy he obviously isn't in the best shape of his career, however he was viewed as someone that had to be on form for Bafana Bafana to get something out of this group. Jonathon Dos Santos wasn't expected to start any matches as far as I know, but what was surprising about his omission was that his brother Gio Dos Santos is know talking about quitting the squad. Gio Dos Santos is a starter on the Mexican side and they need to have him if they are going to progress deep into the tournament.
As I mentioned in the Group of Death Preview, I have been looking at the distance that teams have to travel, the elevation that they play their matches at and their build up to the World Cup. Here is how the teams of Group A break down.
South Africa start off in Jo'burg at 1753m. They then travel 62km to Pretoria and drop 539m in elevation. For their final match they move to Bloemfontain which is 459km away and 186m higher. In their buildup a lot has been made of South Africa's unbeaten run. They have had a few good games, particularly the one against Colombia, however a large number of the matches have been against poor teams. I think that the streak has helped with the confidence of the side, but it hasn't really sharpen their match skills.
Mexico start off in Jo'burg at 1753m. Next El Tri are off to Polokwane a distance of 322km and an elevation drop of 443m. Lastly Mexico head to Rustenburg which is 355km away and 190m higher than Polokwane. I really appreciate the matches that Mexico have arranged for their World Cup preparations, they took on England and Holland, and their last match before the tournament is against Italy. While they lost against both England and Holland they put in solid performances and both the English and the Dutch are stronger than any team in their group.
Uruguay begin in Cape Town at sea level. Next they are off to Pretoria which is 1471km away and 1214m higher. They wrap up in Rustenburg a short 104km away and 186m higher. Uruguay have only scheduled one warm up match against Israel which they won by a comfortable 4-1 margin.
France begin in Cape Town at sea level, then they go to Polokwane 1719km away and 1310m above sea level. Afterwards they go back across the country to Bloemfontain 717km away and 90m higher. France's build up has been atrocious they had to come from behind to beat Costa Rica, and then were held to a draw by Tunisia.
Here is how I see the matches in this group happening.
South Africa - Mexico
South Africa will have home field advantage and the crowd will be buzzing, literally. However they just don't have the quality to deal with the Mexicans. Short of food poisoning or dubious refereeing Mexico wins this easily.
Uruguay - France
Uruguay are hungry and have a lot of talented players that are looking for big money moves after the World Cup and need to prove themselves on a bigger stage. Luis Suarez is a perfect example. France have buckets of talent but have been underachieving since the World Cup in Germany. Last place in their group in Euro 08, second in their WCQ group and needed a handball to advance to South Africa. Looking at the teams in a vacuum France is better, looking at them in the real world, Uruguay win.
South Africa - Uruguay
Bafana Bafana take advantage of a much shorter commute and put in a solid performance, however Uruguay cruise to victory. Not a blowout, but a match that could only have one winner.
France - Mexico
Mexico are feeling good after their win over the hosts and now face France who have just made one of the longest commutes in the tournament. I think that after Mexico take the lead the French players will start thinking about Blanc's reign and Mexico win the group.
Mexico - Uruguay
Neither team had to travel a great distance for this match, and both are feeling good having already qualified. Normally you would expect them to field weaker sides in this match, however with the likely opponent in the next round for the second place team Argentina I think this will be one of the matches of the tournament. I have it as a 2-2 draw.
South Africa - France
This is South Africa's best chance of a point. A demoralised French team travelling back across the country and eliminated from the tournament, unfortunately for Bafana Bafana the gap in quality is too great and France win a close one.
So the group finishes thus:
Mexico - 7 points
Uruguay - 7 points
France - 3 points
South Africa - 0 points