This is an article from the Dec. 14, 2009 issue
South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
South Africa will become the first host country to not progress from the first round. France has too much talent (despite its awful coach, Raymond Domenech), and Mexico travels well.
Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
Coach Diego Maradona doesn't get enough out of Argentina's lineup, but this is an easy group for likely World Player of the Year Lionel Messi (above) & Co. Look for Nigeria to benefit from its home-continent advantage.
England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia
A dream draw for the U.S. (see above) and England, which is on a roll under master coach Fabio Capello and will be considered (at least by its own media) a top contender to go all the way.
Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Coached by underrated tactical master Joachim L√∂w, Germany is the best team in this highly balanced group. Ghana has the most talent of the other three and will look to build on its second-round showing in 2006.
Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
The Dutch and the Danes cruised through qualifying and bring enough attacking flair to overpower Japan and Cameroon, though Africa's Indomitable Lions will make it close after failing to qualify in 2006.
Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Reigning champion Italy got a sweetheart draw and looks to repeat under Marcello Lippi. Slovakia won its European group, but Paraguay has been hardened by the crucible of South American qualifying.
Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal
At least one heavyweight won't survive the closest thing to a 2010 Group of Death. Portugal has 2008 World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, but Brazil is Brazil and Ivory Coast is a sexy sleeper.
Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
Spain has lost only once in the last three years (to the United States in June) and should win the group going away. But look out for Honduras, a swashbuckling side that will turn heads in South Africa.