It's South Africa vs Mexico in opener

Tough draw for hosts; Brazil grouped with Portugal; Italy comfortably placed in first round

It's South Africa vs Mexico in opener

 
South African actress Charlize Theron  cheers as FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke holds up South Africa’s name during the World Cup draw on Friday. ReutersBut if the hosts did not get the easy draw they were hoping for, neither did five times winners Brazil, who play their European cousins Portugal, Africa's strongest team Ivory Coast and North Korea.

The draw for the 32-nation tournament was made at the end of a 90-minute global television spectacular broadcast to more than 250 million people in a ceremony hosted by FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke and South African actress Charlize Theron.

The opening match will be staged on June 11 at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium with the final in the same stadium on July 11.  The hosts will face a hard time getting out of Group A and into the last 16 for the knockout rounds.

South Africa defender Matthew Booth, who took part in the draw, said afterwards: "It's a very tough group but we didn't expect an easy one."

Holders Italy, who beat France in the final four years ago in Germany, have a more comfortable looking ride in Group F with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia.
Germany have it a bit tougher with Australia, Serbia and Ghana standing in their way in Group D.

England meet the United States, who beat them in a shock result at the 1950 finals, Algeria and Slovenia.  Former England captain David Beckham, also taking part in the draw, said: "It's just an honour and a privilege to be at the first finals in Africa".

The slick and glitzy ceremony included a televised address to the world from former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Mandela said his country was humbled to host the soccer spectacular for the first time on the continent.

The country's current president Jacob Zuma appeared on stage to make the bold prediction that the trophy would stay in Africa after the continent staged the tournament for the first time.

International soccer greats,  Eusebio of Portugal, Roger Milla of Cameroon, Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and France's Michel Platini, who is the UEFA president, were also present at the draw.

As promised, the ceremony, had a distinctly continental flavour with African dance troupes and singers fronted by Angelique Kidjo from Benin.

The programme included a video apparently showing lions, elephants and other wild animals playing soccer in the bush.

Theron, dressed in a bright red ball gown, said she was proud to come home from America where she lives most of the time.

Mandela, now a frail 91-year-old and who spent 18 years on the bleak Robben Island prison offshore from Cape Town under white rule, said in his message:  "We must strive for excellence... to ensure the event leaves a lasting legacy for all our people.”

THE GROUPINGS

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