On the 11th June at 15:00 GMT South Africa will kick off against Mexico to start the 2010 FIFA world cup, the biggest, most inclusive, glamorous, stupendous sporting spectacle in the planets history.
I'll preview the groups and predict the likely qualifiers - and update once the group stages are over.Group A - France, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay.
I'll go with France and South Africa here but this is a tough group. France have not been playing well and I'm only picking South Africa because the host nation has a good record. Mexico are technically a decent team
and Uruguay will as usual field a team of lank haired hatchet men - watch out for all sorts of sneaky painful assaults on opposition forwards at set pieces. Always a laugh Uruguay - I hope they do well.
Argentina and Nigeria to qualify. Argentina have the worlds best player and the worlds maddest manager but they should be far too good for this lot. I'm picking Nigeria again because being in Africa should give them the edge over a dour Greece and an entertaining but punchless South Korea.
Group C - Algeria, USA, England, Slovenia
England and USA to qualify. England have lost Ferdinand, but have enough in reserve to make up for it, It's not as if he's played that regularly this season and has often looked off the pace. England will look to Rooney as the talisman, but they have some other good talent, look for Joe Cole to have a very good tournament. The USA should be steady and proficient enough to qualify - Landon Donovan played well at Everton and looks a decent player. Nice to see Uncle Sam taking it seriously ' Dental hygiene fascists and incorrigible donners of khaki trousers who have to invent abstruse games to call themselves world champions '
Algeria are no great shakes and Slovenia whilst being a decent technical side are a bit toothless.
Group D - Australia, Ghana, Serbia, Germany
Germany and Serbia here. Germany always qualify and despite having no midfielders will find a way to get through here. They've also got a bruiser in the nets who likes doing kung fu kicks and is a great quote machine Serbia - I like Serbia even though our respective countries dropped lots of bombs on them in the nineties when they were a decade in front of anyone else in fighting islamo fascists. This slick easy on the eye languid seamless missile of a team could go far - no massive stars but all good technical players.
Ghana aren't good enough and if the Kangaroo shaggers get through I'll be upset.
Group E - Cameroon, Denmark, Netherlands, Japan
Netherlands will walk this, good enough to win the whole thing. Van Persie has spent most of the season injured and is now fully fit - the lack of games will see him very fresh. My tentative pick for the tournaments top scorer. Wesley Sneijder has a big mouth and a very foxy wife, good player though. As for the rest of them - I'll go for Denmark not they are any good, just the other two aren't either. Easiest group in the competition for Holland.
Group F - Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia
Italy to win and Paraguy to qualify. Italy are an aging team but know how to win and as always will have a mean outfit marshaled by the ever reliable Fabio Cannavaro. Won it last time and not much has changed, it's not like they run around a lot anyway relying on superior positional sense to stop opponents from scoring. Paraguay sailed through qualifying and this dark landlocked country should be rugged enough to travel with my aunt and progress to the next round. New Zealand is a peaceful beautiful place but very boring - expect the team to play the same but without the beauty. Slovakia are shit.
Group G - Brazil, Ivory Coast, North Korea, Portugal
Could be the most entertaining group of the lot. Brazil and Portugal to qualify of course. Kaka, Ronaldo both great players for their respective teams and Ivory Coast look in trouble now Drogba has picked up a serious elbow injury. The real entertainment will come from North Korea who are trying to bend fifa rules with a cunning plan that has backfired, the country that is trying to keep old fashioned Stalinism relevant will have nervous commentators reaching for the top shelf hours before they kick off. Look out for Jong Tae-se, known as the human bulldozer - not sure that's an admirable trait in a footballer but should be a great laugh anyway.
Group H - Chile, Spain, Honduras, Switzerland
Spain are worthy favorites for the competition, two great forwards, Villa and Torres, possibly the worlds best midfield schemer in Fabregas. They will be kicked into shape by the awesome figure of Carlos Puyol - a real leader of men. They've started winning now and all those regional factions that have dogged past Spanish teams in the past have been forgotten. Chile should take second spot, i don't know anything about Honduras and I can't be bothered looking anything up - Switzerland should stick to cuckoo clocks, chocolate and giving somewhere for organised crime to keep it's money, because they ain't that good at football.
so there we have it - not long to go now - let the show commence!