On June 14, South Africa will kick off its tournament with the defending Asian Cup winners Iraq at 10:00 at the Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg. They will be joined in Group A with South Africa and New Zealand.
On that date, the South African hosts will look to prove that they can compete with some of the best teams in the world and to prove that they can also host the event successfully. Their automatic qualification for the World Cup (and Confederations Cup) has been questioned, but given the draw this team can do great things. And being at home has always done wonders in the World Cup (and Confederations Cup) for the hosts. Let's take a quick look at this stat: 12 out of 19 hosts have made it to at least the Semi-Finals or farther. And that's the World Cup, not the Confederations Cup. 5 out of 8 hosts have made it to the Semis or farther for the Confederations Cup. Now let's look at the rosters.
Strength- I'd say the crowd, but that's too simplistic. And the simple fact is that if things starting going bad, then the fans may or may not root for them anymore. I've seen it before, it could happen (especially against a team like Iraq or New Zealand). The midfield is a huge strength for South Africa. It has the likes of Steven Pienaar of Everton in England, Elrio van Heerden of Blackburn in England, and Teko Modise of Orlando Pirates back home in South Africa. So, the midfield for South Africa is going to be very strong.
Weakness- Just as the midfield is strong, the defence is pretty weak. Captain Aaron Mokoena is the only defender to have strong European experience. The rest of the defence is based in South Africa with teams such as Kaizer Chiefs, Supersport United (who are perennial champions), and Mamelodi Sundowns. If the defence can play well (and I think they will), then South Africa can make a run and do their fans very well.
Player to Watch- This one isn't going to be one that most of you know of. It's not Pienaar, McCarthy (he's not even on the squad because he's a bit of a baby), or Fernandez. It's a guy named Teko Modise.
Modise, a 26-year old, is a very underrated footballer that honestly should have been in Europe a long time ago now. A man linked with Aston Villa, he is easily the wild card that could guide them deep in the tourney. With his attacking vision from the center of the field, he will drive Pienaar and company into one of the top midfields in South Africa. Watch out for the wild card Teko Modise.
Prediction- The hosts rampage into second place in the group and a Semi-Final spot.
It's been Keeper and I'm out. To check out the SoccerNation Report, click here.