In a world, where every four years, 32 nations gather to determine a champion, only one team can hoist the World Cup trophy. [Cue the massive explosions.]
With apologies to "Iron Man 2," "Twilight" and whatever other blockbusters are headed to theaters this summer, none of them can compare to the most dramatic event of 2010: The World Cup.
The World Cup, in addition to being the only truly world championship outside of the Olympic Games, is the only tournament capable of providing the full range of human emotion:Anger
. The best screenwriters couldn't script some of those things.
To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.
The most talented team in the Group of Disorder...
MexicoGroup A THE BASICS
Green and white with a hint of red
•How They Got Here:
Qualified second in CONCACAF.
•World Cup pedigree
: 14 World Cups, advanced as far as the quarterfinals only twice ('70 and '86, when they were hosts).THE PLOT
Can a rag-tag bunch brimming with young talent find the right balance of defense and discipline to overcome their historical shortcomings?THE DIRECTOR
Javier Aguirre (Mexico)
Aguirre took over the beleaguered El Tri after former England coach Sven Goran-Eriksson was dumped mid-campaign. Aguirre recalled World Cup vet Cuauhtémoc Blanco and installed Guillermo Ochoa as the starting 'keeper and immediately settled the side. They went 5-1-1 after he took charge.LEADING MAN
Giovani Dos Santos (midfielder, on loan to Galatasaray from Tottenham)
There will be lot of pressure on the one-time Barcelona project at this Cup. The positives? He's easily Mexico's best attacker and was awarded the Adidas silver ball as the second-best player in the 2005 U-17 World Cup. The negatives? He couldn't stick at either Barça or Tottenham.SUPPORTING CAST
(midfielder, Veracruz) is a veteran of two World Cups and, at 37, isn't going to be a 90-minute player, but he's Aguirre's choice to play the role of "Mexico's Zidane";Ochoa
(goalkeeper, Club America) is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and is only 24;Rafael Marquez
(defender, Barcelona), if he recovers from knee surgery, is the team's strongest defenderPOTENTIAL BREAKOUT STAR(s)
(forward, Arsenal) andAndrés Guardado
(winger, Deportivo de La Coruña) are both electric attackers looking to announce themselves on the world's biggest stage.THE LIKELY VILLAIN
Marquez. He may have apologized, but many US fans won't forgethis qualifying red card
What starts as a 4-4-2 often becomes a 4-1-5. The forwards are Vela and Guillermo Franco, but Guardado, Dos Santos and Blanco will spend more time in and around the penalty box than they will at the half-line. That will put a ton of pressure on holding midfielder Gerardo Torrado (which is a fun name to say five times fast).WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
"The Bad News Bears"
It's almost eerie how well this fits...TRAILER
DO WITH THIS WHAT YOU WILL...
According to theNew York Times
, Mexico holds the record for the most mariachi musicians ever gathered in one place (549) and the most people gathered at one time together to dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (12,937).CRITICAL BLURBS
The "El Tri" that finished qualifyingshould be
considered the favorite to win the the group. ... The "El Tri" that began qualifying would've headed home after the first round. ... They have the best goalkeeper in the group (Ochoa) and have three of the best five attackers (Dos Santos, Vela, Guardado) in the group as well. ... Mexico is often rattled on the road and is prone to losing its collective cool. The first game against host country South Africa will go a long way towards showing the world how Mexico will do. ... Best case scenario? Easily walking through this group and marching through the quarterfinals and into the semis. ... Realistic prediction? A quarterfinal loss to England.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
Mexicans probably won't admit to this, but the true measure of their success these days is how well they do against their northern neighbors. If Mexico can advance to the quarterfinals (by finishing second in the group and beating likely Group A winner Argentina) and the United States can follow suit (second in the group, beating likely Group D winner Germany), El Tri will get a chance to avenge their World Cup disaster from 2002. It would be a dream scenario for both CONCACAF squads... which is why it will never happen.
Group A: South Africa
, Mexico, France
South Korea, Greece, Nigeria, Argentina
Algeria, Slovenia, USA, England
Serbria, Australia, Ghana, Germany
Japan, Cameroon, Denmark, Netherlands
New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay, Italy
North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Brazil
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook