Soccer's Sweet 16

Dec. 14, 2009
Dec. 14, 2009

Table of Contents
Dec. 14, 2009


Soccer's Sweet 16

SI senior writer Grant Wahl predicts which teams (in bold) will advance from the group stage next summer

Group A

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.

Group B

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.

Group C

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.

Group D

Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

Coached by underrated tactical master Joachim Löw, 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.

Group E

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.

Group F

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.

Group G

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.

Group H

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.