It almost goes without saying that Brazil, the five-times world champions, go into every FIFA World Cup™ heavily favoured to add yet another star to the legendary Amarelinha shirt. Having played for A Seleção at three editions of the global showpiece, coach Dunga will be fully aware that any outcome other than a sixth world crown will likely be considered a failure.
The fans' at times vitriolic reaction to Brazil's results and performances particularly early on in the qualifying phase illustrates just how demanding they can be. Despite ending the preliminary event on top of the standings, after recording nine wins, seven draws and two defeats, and having clinched a South Africa 2010 berth with three matchdays to spare, the Auriverde camp had been subjected to a torrent of abuse after successive goalless home draws against Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia. Dunga's charges really hit their stride from April 2009, however, racking up five wins in a row including two landmark away results: a 4-0 humbling of Uruguay in Montevideo and a 3-1 defeat of arch-rivals Argentina in Rosario. It was the latter which confirmed their passage to South Africa.
BRAZIL FOOTBALL FEDERATION
COACH: CARLOS DUNGA
BRAZILIAN NATIONAL TEAM
2. COTE D'IVOIRE
If an African team is to make a major impact on the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ finals in South Africa, Côte d'Ivoire are seen by many as the most likely candidates. And with world class talent throughout the starting 11, it's no wonder. Les Elephants also a point to prove after being eliminated in the first round at Germany 2006, albeit in an extremely difficult group, where they lost 2-1 to giants Argentina and the Netherlands before coming from two goals down to beat Serbia and Montenegro 3-2.
Befitting their status as one of the continent's powerhouses, Côte d'Ivoire strode through qualifying without losing a match, running away with their final qualifying group ahead of Burkina Faso, Malawi and Guinea. There only moment of genuine uncertainty came when they were on the brink of qualifying, although - as usual - Didier Drogba responded when his team needed him. The Chelsea man's decisive 70th-minute goal at Burkina Faso gave the side just enough insurance to hold off the Stallions 3-2 in Ouagadougou, and fittingly, it was his dramatic equaliser after coming off the bench against Malawi that gave the West Africans a 1-1 draw and the point they needed to reach South Africa. All told, the Chelsea man was top scorer for Les Elephants, with six goals in five matches.
COTE D'IVOIRE FOOTBALL FEDERATION
COACH: SVEN GORAN ERIKSSON
COTE D'IVOIRE NATIONAL TEAM
3. KOREA DPR
Korea DPR seemingly came from nowhere to storm into the Asian Zone's final round of qualifying, where they defied sizeable odds to take one of the continent's four automatic spots at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. In a sense they lived up to their long-standing reputation as Asia's surprise packages, their qualifying success marking a return to world football's top table for the first time since going all the way to the last eight in 1966.
To reach the 2010 showpiece, Korea DPR went through a gruelling qualifying campaign spanning 20 months and a whopping 16 games. They made light work of Mongolia in the Asian Zone's first qualifying round, winning both home and away to earn a bye to the third round as one of the 11 highest-ranked first-round winners. Once there, they finished second in their group behind southern neighbours Korea Republic to qualify for the final round.
KOREA DPR FOOTBALL FEDERATION
COACH: KIM JONG HUN
KOREA DPR NATIONAL TEAM
Finalists at UEFA EURO 2004 and semi-finalists at Germany 2006, Portugal have displayed some dazzling football in recent years, but without ever landing a major prize. Having never progressed beyond the semi-finals of a FIFA World Cup™, A Selecção das Quinas will be aiming to go all the way this time around.
Recording only one win from their first five group matches, Portugal quickly went from being group favourites to standing on the cusp of elimination. The second half of qualification brought a spectacular transformation, however, and they scored eight goals without reply in their last four group qualifiers to earn a play-off spot. Despite the absence of Ronaldo, their captain and talisman, for the two-legged tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina, they won home and away to clinch a comfortable 2-0 aggregate victory.
FEDERATION OF PORTUGAL FOOTBALL
COACH: CARLOS QUEIROZ
PORTUGAL NATIONAL TEAM
GROUP G MATCHES:
15 JUNE, TUE - BRAZIL V/S KOREA DPR [ EP, JOHANNESBURG ]
15 JUNE, TUE - PORTUGAL V/S COTE D'IVOIRE [ PORT ELIZABETH ]
20 JUNE, SUN - BRAZIL V/S COTE D' IVOIRE [ SC, JOHANNESBURG ]
21 JUNE, MON - PORTUGAL V/S KOREA DPR [ CAPE TOWN ]
25 JUNE, FRI - KOREA DPR V/S COTE D' IVOIRE [ NELSPRUIT ]
25 JUNE, FRI - BRAZIL V/S PORTUGAL [ DURBAN ]
FIFA WORLD CUP 2010 SOUTH AFRICA
FIFA WORLD CUP 2010 GROUP G PORTUGAL
FIFA WORLD CUP 2010 GROUP G BRAZIL