Friday, 4 December 2009

Italy await draw for 2010 World Cup

World champions Italy are among 32 teams eagerly awaiting today's draw for the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

International Convention Centre, Cape TownThe star-studded ceremony, which gets under way at around 1700 UK time at Cape Town's International Convention Centre, will be watched by millions of fans around the world.

By the end of the draw, nations will know the identity of their group-stage rivals and the date and venue of every game next summer.

The tournament is set to kick off in 188 days time - on 11 June 2010, with the final exactly one month later.

But that final, which will take place at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium, seems a long way off for the teams as they prepare for a ceremony that has drawn the great and the good from the worlds of politics, sport and show business.

Revered former South Africa President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, one of the architects of the first World Cup to be held in Africa, will address the audience by video message at the age of 91.

Jacob Zuma, one of his successors as head of state, will kick off proceedings alongside FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

South Africa's Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron will bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the draw, alongside England and soon-to-be-again AC Milan midfielder David Beckham, Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie and Springboks rugby union captain John Smit.

And Makhaya Ntini, the first black cricketer to play for South Africa, and World Cup icons Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini, Eusebio, Luis Figo, Lucas Radebe, Ruud Gullit and Roger Milla will also be in attendance, with entertainment coming from the likes of the Soweto Gospel Choir and singers Angelique Kidjo and Johnny Clegg.

The President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) Giancarlo Abete and Azzurri coach Marcello Lippi lead an Italian delegation who will be monitoring the draw.

"I have no preferences over who we draw," said Lippi after arriving in Cape Town. "First we'll see who we get, then we can begin to analyse our opponents."

Representatives from the other participating nations will also attend but Argentina coach Diego Maradona is banned following an expletive-filled news conference earned him a two-month ban from all football activity.

Italy are among the top eight seeds in pot one for the draw, with the remaining three pots containing teams on regional boundaries.

Argentina, Brazil, England, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and hosts South Africa are the other seeded nations and they will all look to avoid the unseeded France and Portugal.

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.

A worst-case scenario would result in Lippi's Italy taking on fierce rivals France, Ivory Coast and the United States of America, while a far easier proposition on paper would have the four-time world champions facing Slovenia, Algeria and New Zealand.

Seeding pots
Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England.
Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania and North/Central America): Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Honduras, Mexico, United States of America, New Zealand.
Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay.
Pot 4 (Europe): Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland.

Source: FIFA

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