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.
Some people may call the Brazil-Portugal-Ivory Coast group the Group of Death. It isn't. This group is, and it starts with Australia.
AustraliaGroup D THE BASICS
How They Got Here:
World Cup Pedigree:
2 World Cups ('74, '06), lost in the knock-out phase in '06.THE PLOT
Can the sequel to 2006's magical run ignite the same kind of passion and excitement in a country where soccer isn't amongst the top three sports?THE DIRECTOR
A disciple of mercenary coach Guus Hiddink (the world's greatest national team coach), Verbeek stresses defense and organization and fitness over everything else. Much like Bruce Arena did with the U.S., Verbeek favors European-based players ahead of national-league players (only two made the preliminary roster). Can he find the same angles Hiddink found in guiding the Socceroos to within a controversial penalty call from beating eventual champions Italy in '06?LEADING MAN
A solid attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, Bresciano is the most talented player in the Australian player pool and recently transferred from Italian side Palermo to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia. He will need to bring his goal-scoring boots to South Africa, as it is the one area that the Socceroos are woefully short. Very dangerous on set pieces.SUPPORTING CAST
Tim Cahill Lucas Neil Mark Schwarzer Brett Emerton
(midfielder, Blackburn) is another useful midfielder who has the ability to score goals (17 in 72 national team games).LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR
Born in Croatian and playing professionally for FC Nuremberg in Germany, Vidosic could very well be the solution to the Socceroos scoring issues.THE LIKELY VILLAIN
Australia will struggle to score goals, which is a problem that the man nicknamed "Jesus" shouldn't be able to save them from. The striker, who plays for Nagoya Grampus in Japan, once went 27 games without scoring a goal. Might be the Aussies Achilles heel.PRODUCTION NOTES
Verbeek likes himself some defensive football and will most likely set-up in a 4-2-3-1 with two defensive midfielders and Bresciano joining the lone striker when attacking.WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
"Endless Summer 2"
In '06, the country rode a gnarly wave (of euphoria). In '10, they'll try to hang ten on that same wave.TRAILER
DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
Australia ranks second in the world in pet fish per capita, only trailing Sweden.CRITICAL BLURBS
Best-case scenario? Realistic prediction?
A Mexican standoff in the standings: All four teams in the group finish with a win, draw and loss. Germany and Ghana advance on goal differential.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
Unlike most other British colonies, Australia broke free of the empire peacefully in 1931 and remained supportive of the empire ever since. On June 26, in Rustenberg, that could change. A second-place finish in the group could draw England (if they win Group C). And, pleasantries aside, you have to think the Aussies might be a little more up for this game than for any other game in their history.
Group A: South Africa Uruguay Mexico France
Group B: South Korea Greece Nigeria
Group C: Algeria Slovenia USA England
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook