South Africa World Cup 2010: World Awaiting Friday's Draw
On Friday, the World Cup draw will be beamed to over 190 countries as the world waits with baited breath for the greatest show on Earth to officially begin.
But only those lucky final 32 will be biting their nails, hoping to avoid that dreaded "Group of Death" that every tournament seems to throw out...
The opening ceremony will begin at 1700 GMT in Cape Town's International Convention Centre, where over 1000 members of South Africa's security forces will protect their prized guests, as well as Sepp Blatter, FIFA's President.
By the end of the evening, each country participating will know the identity of its group-stage rivals and the date of every game, and those not competing will only wonder at what could have been.
The tournament will commence on June 11, 2010, and will run until July 11, with approximately 500,000 fans descending upon one of the oldest civilisations on Earth.
The opening ceremony will begin with a live telecast of Nelson Mandela, at the age of 91, who will speak of the great honour that hosting the prestigious tournament will give his homeland.
The former prisoner and president was influential in bringing the World Cup to South Africa.
In a symbolic gesture, FIFA's president and committee met on the infamous Robben Island with Jacob Zuma.
For the opening ceremony, South Africa will wheel out all of its celebrities and former leaders, ranging from FW DeKlerk to Desmond Tutu to Charlize Theron.
Unbeknownst to Blatter, Theron is the partner of Irishman Stuart Townsend, and in the rehearsal for the draw she called "Ireland" as the first ball out of the bowl!
The 32 qualifiers will be assembled into eight groups of four, and thanks to FIFA's unusual seeding system for this particular tournament, there is a very good chance that certain groups will need to be avoided.
The eight first seeds will all be in pot one, with the remaining three pots drawn on regional boundaries.
Each seeded nation will face one team in pot two—a side from Asia, north or central America, or Oceania; one from pot three, which has five African and three South American sides; and one from the exclusively European pot four.
Despite being seeded first as hosts, South Africa are actually one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament, and they are hoping for the rub of the green when the balls are drawn to decide the groups.
It also remains to be seen how FIFA will carry out the draw; in previous years, countries from the same continent were kept apart, except for European teams.
There are many permutations for the "Group of Death" that will invariably be drawn, and a worse case scenario for a first seed team could look something like United States (14), Ivory Coast (16), and France (7).
The French Football Federation (FFF) are said to be furious with not being seeded, especially because they have recent pedigree, they won the tournament in 1998, and were beaten finalists in 2006.
Commentators in France have been quick to blame FIFA for a conspiracy after France luckily claimed a spot in the finals on a controversial goal against Ireland in the European Playoffs.
Their world-renowned striker, Thierry Henry, deliberately handled the ball and set up his country's winning goal with his next touch, as cameras around the world recorded the incident. Click here to read about the incident.
The handball incident and the FAI's subsequent complaints threatened to take away from the upcoming World Cup draw, and FIFA have been poor in dealing with the situation thus far.
But that is neither here nor there; the draw is upon us.
Pots for Friday's draw: eight groups of four countries to be drawn, each group containing one country from each pot.
Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa (74), Brazil (2), Spain (1), Netherlands (3), Italy (4), Germany (6), Argentina (8), England (9)
Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania and North/Central America): Japan (34), South Korea (42), North Korea (116), Australia (29), New Zealand (82), United States (14), Mexico (15), Honduras (40)
Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Ivory Coast (16), Ghana (37), Cameroon (11), Nigeria (22), Algeria (28), Paraguay (18), Chile (17), Uruguay (19)
Pot 4 (Europe): France (7), Portugal (5), Slovenia, Switzerland (24), Greece (20), Serbia (20), Denmark (36), Slovakia (44)