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Switzerland Team Profila 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

Switzerland will be appearing at the FIFA World Cup finals for the ninth time when next summer's tournament gets underway in South Africa, where coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and his men are aiming for more than just a supporting role.

The former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich boss took the national helm after Switzerland's disappointing showing at UEFA EURO 2008, and has now led them to their second FIFA World Cup finals in a row. The Swiss made it to the Round of 16 at the 2006 event in Germany, where they were unluckily eliminated on penalties by Ukraine.

The Swiss boast a healthy blend of youth and experience, combining talented younger players such as Eren Derdiyok, Tranquillo Barnetta and keeper Diego Benaglio with seasoned campaigners like Alexander Frei and Blaise N'Kufo. The current team is hoping at least to emulate the achievements of their forebears who made the last eight in 1934, 1938 and 1954.

Switzerland team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Hitzfeld and his team made a distinctly inauspicious start on the road to the 2010 finals. After conceding in the final minute to draw away to Israel, a disastrous 2-1 defeat to minnows Luxembourg in Zurich brought shame and embarrassment on the team.

However, the cringeworthy defeat ultimately acted as a wake-up call, and the Swiss duly reeled off five wins on the spin, against Latvia (2-1), Greece (2-1 and 2-0) and Moldova (2-0 and 2-0). They only dropped points again in a 2-2 draw away to the Latvians.

A comfortable 3-0 revenge victory in Luxembourg and a goalless draw with Israel in front of a delirious Basel crowd sealed top spot in European Group 2 and a confirmed place in South Africa for Frei and company.

The star players of Switzerland team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Alexander Frei is the undisputed chief on and off the field of play. The Basel striker, who is his country's all-time record goalscorer, was Hitzfeld's natural choice as national team captain. He finished the qualifying campaign on five goals.

That total was equalled by Blaise N'Kufo of Twente Enschede. The striker, who was born in Kinshasa (DR Congo), was first called up by the Swiss in 2000 and has struck up a productive attacking partnership with Frei.

The coach of Switzerland team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

Ottmar Hitzfeld is one of Europe's most highly regarded and most successful senior coaches. He is one of only two men to guide two different clubs to UEFA Champions League glory (Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich).

He became Switzerland head coach on 1 July 2008, and after a bumpy settling-in period, led his team to a direct qualifying berth for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The former Germany amateur international, who appeared at the 1972 Olympic Games, is no stranger to Switzerland after spending spells with Basel (1971-75), Lugano (1978-80) and Lucerne (1980-83) in his playing days.

Previous FIFA World Cups

  • In South Africa, Switzerland will be appearing at the FIFA World Cup for the ninth time.
  • The Swiss reached the quarter-finals in 1934, 1938 and 1954. They were knocked out in the Round of 16 at the 2006 finals in Germany.

Chile Team Profile World Cup 2010

Chile's recent renaissance has been capped by a return to the FIFA World Cup finals following a 12-year absence. In the international wilderness since France 1998, when Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano showcased their consummate finishing skills, La Roja believe they have the resources to emulate their illustrious predecessors and advance beyond the group phase.

Coached by the experienced Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa, the Chileans qualified for the finals with some ease, atoning for poor performances in the qualifying competitions for Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, when they finished ninth and seventh respectively. And having finally found talented replacements to fill the void left by the Za-Sa partnership, hopes are high that they can go on and excel themselves in South Africa.

Chile team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Bielsa's side, which boasts the youngest average age of all the South American teams, finished second in the continental qualifying group, just one point behind Brazil. That performance, their best since the group format was introduced, was rounded off in style with a spectacular 4-2 win in Colombia in October, a result that rubber-stamped their return to the world elite with one game remaining.

In total, La Roja would win 16 of their 33 points away from Santiago, an impressive statistic that underlines the resolve of the team.
Raising expectations further is the fact that the attack-minded Chileans ended the group as the second-highest scorers with 32 goals, including ten from top marksman Humberto Suazo, and recorded ten wins in all, more than any of their continental rivals.

The star players of Chile team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
As you might expect of a compact side that likes to get forward at every opportunity, Chile's star performers are to be found in advanced positions. Leading the line with distinction are Matias Fernandez, Alexis Sanchez and Humberto Suazo, three players who teamed up to great effect for domestic giants Colo Colo in 2006 and who have since gone their separate ways.

The scheming Fernandez and the explosively talented Sanchez form part of a new breed of Chilean footballer anxious to build reputations abroad, while the more experienced Suazo is a lethal finisher with a happy knack for appearing in the right place at the right time.

The coach of Chile team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

Marcelo Bielsa was the man in charge of Argentina's ill-fated bid for glory at the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002. While memories of La Albiceleste's shock first-round exit in the Orient linger, Bielsa has given himself a shot at redemption by engineering Chile's unlikely revival.

Nicknamed El Loco (The Madman) for his unique dedication to the game, the 54-year-old strategist enjoyed only a brief playing career but commands the respect of players, fellow coaches and reporters alike. The hard-working and principled Bielsa is a devoted student of tactics and an advocate of enterprising football, characteristics that have earned him huge popularity in his adopted homeland, where the fans are anxious for him to remain in the post for many years to come.

Previous FIFA World Cups

  • Chile will be taking part in the FIFA World Cup finals for the eighth time at South Africa 2010.
  • Their best performance to date came when they hosted the tournament in 1962 and finished third.

  • Guillermo Subiabre (1930), Leonel Ramirez (1962) and Marcelo Salas (1998) are Chile's top scorers in the finals with four goals apiece.

Honduras Team Profile World Cup 2010

Honduras reached the finals of the FIFA World Cup for only the second time in dramatic fashion, an equaliser in the dying seconds of the USA's clash with Costa Rica triggering frantic celebrations from Los Catrachos' fans thousands of miles further south. Yet despite having squeezed into the finals, coach Reinaldo Rueda's talented team will not be going to South Africa just to make up the numbers.

Honduras team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Rueda's men dug deep from the off to oust Puerto Rico 6-2 on aggregate to progress to the penultimate round of North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying. Once there they successfully negotiated a tricky section to qualifying for the final six-team Hexagonal round ahead of Mexico, Jamaica and Canada.

The decisive final phase could barely have got off to a worse start, however, with La Bicolor sinking to a 2-0 reverse away to fierce rivals Costa Rica. A 1-1 draw in Trinidad and Tobago and a 3-1 home win over mighty Mexico got their bid back on track, only for Honduras to suffer a narrow 2-1 defeat in the United States. A run which included wins over El Salvador (1-0), Costa Rica (4-0) and Trinidad and Tobago (4-1) and a 1-0 reverse on Mexican soil then gave Los Catrachos the opportunity to clinch their passage to South Africa in the penultimate round of qualifying against the USA.

Wasteful finishing and a resilient Stars and Stripes display contributed to a 3-2 reverse in San Pedro Sula, which meant that Honduras now had to win their final match in El Salvador and hope for a favourable result between United States-Costa Rica. And despite having clinched a 1-0 win in San Salvador, the Hondurans would have missed out on direct qualification had it not been for that last-gasp American equaliser.

The star players of Honduras team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Over and above the country's big-name stars plying their trade in the European game, Los Catrachos' key man in qualifying was evergreen 36-year-old forward Carlos Pavon. In typically clinical fashion, it was the well-travelled goalgetter who fired his side's winner in El Salvador to ensure their place at the African showpiece. Aided and abetted by the hugely talented David Suazo, Wilson Palacios, Julio Leon and Amado Guevara, Pavon would love nothing more than to crown his glorious international career with a goal-laden showing on the biggest stage of all.

The coach of Honduras team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
For Honduras, qualifying phases for the FIFA World Cup qualifying had become something of a recurring nightmare. Always among the pre-event favourites, La Bicolor invariably contrived to fall short at key moments - that is until the arrival of 42-year-old Colombian strategist Rueda.

After taking the job in early 2007, his professionalism struck a chord with the powers that be in Honduran football, who gave him the time to work denied many of his predecessors. Rueda repaid that faith by guiding his adopted country to South Africa 2010 on the back of sparkling attacking football and a solid backline.

Previous FIFA World Cups
  • Honduras return to global football's top table after 28 years away. Their only previous appearance at the finals came at Spain 1982.
  • Under the watchful eye of then coach Jose de la Paz, Los Catrachos surprised the world by drawing 1-1 with the hosts and then with Northern Ireland, before exiting the tournament after conceding a late goal in a 1-0 defeat by the former Yugoslavia.
  • On the scoresheet for Honduras at that FIFA World Cup were Hector Zelaya and Antonio Laing, against Spain and Northern Ireland respectively.

  • Prior to the 3-2 defeat by the United States in San Pedro Sula, Honduras had racked up an eight-game unbeaten home run in South Africa 2010 qualifying.
  • Honduras conceded just 11 goals in the final Hexagonal, the best defensive record in the section.
  • Veteran sharpshooter Pavon was Los Catrachos' most prolific scorer in qualifying, helping himself to an impressive seven goals in nine appearances.

Côte d'Ivoire Team Profile World Cup 2010

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.

With more experience, and a little more luck in the draw, Didier Drogba and Co are certain to be a handful in attack as they look to cement their emerging pedigree on the international level at South Africa 2010.

Côte d'Ivoire team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
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.

The star players of Côte d'Ivoire team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Les Elephants feature top-drawer talent throughout their side, with the Chelsea pair of Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou a formidable duo up front. Sevilla's Didier Zokora and Barcelona's Yaya Toure provide bite in midfield alongside Marseille's diminutive Bakary Kone, while the England-based pair of Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure combine with Stuttgart's Arthur Boka to form one of the best defences in Africa.

The coach of Côte d'Ivoire team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Vahid Halilhodzic took the reins of his first national side when he assumed control of Côte d'Ivoire after the 2008 CAF African Cup of Nations. However, the Bosnian only made it through the next edition of the continental contest when he was sacked after a disappointing quarter-final finish at Angola 2010. After Guus Hiddink and Bernd Schuster were both linked with the job, Sven-Goran Eriksson was given the helm just months before the start of the finals.

South Africa 2010
will be Eriksson's third FIFA World Cup after leading England to the quarter-finals at both the 2002 and 2006 finals. He had an unsuccessful stint with Mexico in the first half of qualifying for 2010, but he was sacked after less than a year. He is a vastly experienced club coach, having led Gothenburg to the UEFA Cup in 1982, and leading teams in Portugal, England and Italy.

  • Côte d'Ivoire were the only nation at Germany 2006 whose squad was made up of players entirely based at clubs outside their home country.
  • They are the only team to never failed to score in a FIFA World Cup match.
  • Côte d'Ivoire conceded early goals in all three of their 2006 matches, with all six of their goals against coming before the 40th minute.

Korea DPR Team Profile World Cup 2010

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.

After spending nearly 30 years in wilderness, the past decade saw the revival of the nation's footballing fortunes. With their women's football teams running riot at all levels on the international scene, the men's side came close to qualifying for Germany 2006 before successfully negotiating the road to South Africa 2010.

Korea DPR road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
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.

There they got off to a brilliant start by defeating UAE 2-1, before holding Korea Republic to a 1-1 draw. Despite losing to Iran 2-1 in the next game, they bounced back with a 1-0 home win against Saudi Arabia. Even a 1-0 loss to Korea Republic did not dent their chances too badly, followed as it was with a draw against Iran which kept them in second place. Needing just a point against Saudi Arabia in the closing game to qualify, they bravely held on for a goalless draw to seal their passage.

The star players of Korea DPR team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Two-thirds of the squad come from domestic clubs, though their small overseas-based contingent are vital cogs in the Korean machine. FC Rostov's Hong Yong-Jo was in lethal form up front, the 27-year-old goalgetter scoring four times in as many games. Playing alongside him is Japan-based Jong Tae-Se, who has the power and pace to breach any rearguard. Home-based midfielder Mun In-Guk is the man who makes the team tick, while keeper Ri Myong-Guk's safe hands and agility can be relied upon between the sticks.

The coach of Korea DPR team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Coach Kim Jong-Hun was only ten years old when the Chollima made history at England 1966 and now, 43 years on, he was the man who guided them back to the pinnacle of world football. Given his squad largely consists of domestic-based players lacking in international experience, the strategist favours a pragmatic and defensive approach based around discipline and teamwork.

Previous FIFA World Cups
Going into the global showpiece as debutants in England in 1966, the unfancied East Asians undid European heavyweights Italy with a single-goal victory to march into the quarter-finals. In what remains one of the all-time classic encounters in FIFA World Cup history, they flew into a three-goal lead against Portugal within 25 minutes, only for Eusebio to go on to strike no fewer than four times in a 5-3 comeback win for the Selecção das Quinas.

  • Korea DPR reached the last eight in their last and only previous appearance at the finals of a FIFA World Cup.


Slovakia Team Profile World Cup 2010

Appearing for the first time in a major international competition, Slovakia have been striving to relive the glory years enjoyed by the former Czechoslovakia since going it alone in 1993.

While their team is hardly filled with household names, Slovakia can nonetheless rely on a well-organised collective with plenty of admirable qualities. Likewise, their continuing progress gives them good reason to be optimistic about their voyage to South Africa.

Slovakia team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Fourth in their section in qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup France, third on the road to Korea/Japan 2002 and runners-up ahead of Germany 2006, Slovakia continued their rise by sealing top spot in Group 3. Vladimir Weiss's side booked their historic place on 14 October 2009, upsetting a number of predictions that they would struggle to cope with a difficult pool.

Their passage was far from smooth, but slowly and surely Slovakia mounted their bid, losing only to closest challengers Slovenia. Their nearest rivals proved a real thorn in their side, downing them 2-1 in their second outing and, above all, prevailing 2-0 in Bratislva in the penultimate round of matches, yet Slovakia's desire to experience a FIFA World Cup finals shone through in the end. Needing to prevail in Poland in their final outing, they duly triumphed 1-0.

The star players of Slovakia team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Solid at the back for Premier League heavyweights Liverpool, Martin Skrtel is a central figure for his country, while midfielder Marek Hamsik has both a knack of scoring goals for Napoli and the welcome habit of shining for the national side. The latter is unlikely to go unnoticed in South Africa and the same applies to Stanislav Sestak, who finished top scorer for Slovakia with six strikes in qualifying and is eager to continue in similar fashion.

The coach of Slovakia team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

Born in 1964, former Slovakian international Vladimir Weiss was appointed in June 2008, taking over from Jan Kocian after his predecessor failed to take the side through to UEFA EURO 2008.

Blessed with a strong personality, Weiss learnt the coaching ropes at Artmedia Bratislava, leading the unfancied Slovakian outfit into the UEFA Champions League group phase in 2005/06. The following season, he opted to boost his credentials with Saturn Moscow Oblast in Russia, before celebrating a triumphant return to Artmedia with the Slovakian league title a year after. All that remained was a tilt at leading the national team and, given his previous successes, who knows how far they can progress together?

Vladimir Weiss is also the son of... Vladimir Weiss, a former Czechoslovakian international. In fact, he is the father of Vladimir Weiss too, with his son plying his trade at Manchester City and often called up to demonstrate his worth in a national team shirt.

Previous FIFA World Cups

While this may be Slovakia's first appearance on the global stage, the country's footballing past is naturally tied up with that of the former Czechoslovakia, who participated in eight finals overall. Czechoslovakia even reached the final in 1934, losing 2-1 after extra time to Italy, and 1962, when they succumbed 3-1 to Brazil. They also advanced as far as the last eight in 1990.

Honours (as Czechoslovakia)
  • 1 UEFA European Championship (1976)
  • 1 Olympic Football Tournament (1980)

New Zealand Team Profile World Cup 2010

After a disastrous campaign four years ago, New Zealand bounced back in emphatic fashion under coach Ricki Herbert to qualify for their first appearance on the world stage in 28 years following a debut showing at Spain 1982. Herbert, and assistant Brian Turner, were both key figures in the campaign nearly three decades ago.  The duo have turned the All Whites into a solid unit whose rearguard, the fifth-placed Asian nation Bahrain was unable to breach over 180 minutes of the intercontinental play-off.

Four years after elimination by the Solomon Islands, the Kiwis claimed the Oceania crown to earn a trip to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, where they showed solid form after a poor opening against European champions Spain. The dramatic South Africa 2010 play-off victory against Bahrain united the Rugby-mad nation behind the All Whites like never before, resulting in a national record crowd in the capital Wellington for the decisive qualifier.

New Zealand team road to 2010 World Cup South Africa
New Zealand topped their Oceania qualification group comfortably winning their first five games before an inconsequential defeat in Fiji with many of the first-team regulars were unavailable. The Kiwis then had an 11-month wait before a two-legged meeting with the fifth-placed Asian nation. Bahrain saw off regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia to earn the right to play New Zealand, having also reached the same stage four years ago, only to fail against Trinidad and Tobago. In exhausting heat, New Zealand battled gamely in the first leg to earn a scoreless draw in Manama. The second leg was poised on a knife-edge throughout, with New Zealand triumphing courtesy of a thumping header from Rory Fallon in the final minute of the first half, though goalkeeper Mark Paston will equally be remembered in the years to come for his penalty save five minutes into the second half.

The star players of New Zealand team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Captain and centre-back Ryan Nelsen is undoubtedly the highest profile and best credentialed member of the squad. The resolute defender has been a regular at Blackburn Rovers for a number of years, and is the only New Zealander to achieve such longevity in the English Premier League. At the other end of the pitch, the All Whites have a number of key attacking options led by the prolific Shane Smeltz. Oceania Player of the Year and Australian A-League top-scorer Smeltz has an all-round finishing ability, and is deadly in the air or with his feet. Celtic target-man Chris Killen is a perfect foil for Smeltz, while Fallon and teenage giant Chris Wood both possess quality aerial ability.

The coach of New Zealand team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Ricki Herbert is one of New Zealand football’s most-famous figures, having been a regular member of the Spain ’82 squad and then becoming one of the first Kiwis to play in England which he did with Wolverhampton Wanderers. After assuming the reins of the national team in 2005, Herbert has for several seasons also been the coach of New Zealand’s only professional club, Wellington Phoenix who compete in the A-League. Well regarded across both New Zealand and Australia, Herbert has formed the All Whites into a solid working unit who produce consistent performances.

Previous FIFA World Cups

New Zealand have appeared on the world stage just once, with the qualification for the 1982 FIFA World Cup™ considered one of the country’s most famous sporting achievements. The squad attained stunning results including away wins in Australia, Saudi Arabia and China over a then-record 15-match qualification campaign. Featuring a teenage Wynton Rufer, who went on to become New Zealand’s most well-known export, the All Whites lost all three matches at Spain ’82, but were not disgraced in a high-quality group featuring Brazil, Soviet Union and Scotland.

  • Coach Ricki Herbert is set to claim the rare honour of featuring at the FIFA World Cup as a player and as a coach in the nation’s only two FIFA World Cup appearances.
  • New Zealand are the second consecutive Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) member to qualify for the FIFA World Cup after Australia achieved the same feat in 2006.

Cameroon Team Profile World Cup 2010

Though their light may have faded somewhat since they brightened up the world stage at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Cameroon are not a side to underestimate at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The top African nation in FIFA’s rankings, they also bring Africa’s richest pedigree to the finals. They have appeared a continental-best five times in the World Cup, and no other African side has yet eclipsed their historic run to the Italy 1990 quarter-finals – though Senegal equalled the achievement in 2002.

However, the team have not managed to advance past the group stage in three finals appearances since then, winning just once in their nine matches. They lost out on Germany 2006 entirely after missing a penalty kick in the final moments of their last qualifier against Egypt. But the long road to the 2010  FIFA World Cup has forged considerable momentum behind what many Cameroonians are hoping is the right mix of players, and a new generation of Roger Millas and Francois Omam-Biyiks.

Cameroon team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Though the 2-0 victory in Morocco that clinched their qualification was straightforward enough, Cameroon had in fact completed an impressive turnaround in a campaign that started with just a draw from their first two matches. Two victories in four days over contenders Gabon were followed by a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Togo, and Cameroon’s four consecutive wins were more than enough to reach South Africa. In the end, the team, led from the back by the likes of veterans Geremi Njitap, Rigobert Song and goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni, gave up just two goals in six final round contests.

The star players of Cameroon team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Eto'o scored a total of nine goals in 11 qualifiers, and the world class striker will be the first player opposing coaches try to stop. The promising Pierre Webó is the other main threat up front, while Jean Makoun, Stephane Mbia and Alexandre Song give the midfield a classy but rugged edge in front of mainstays Song, Geremi and Kameni.

The coach of Cameroon team in 200 FIFA World Cup South Africa
The reversal of fortune for Cameroon coincided with the arrival of no-nonsense 45-year-old coach, Frenchman Paul Le Guen, who took over from German veteran Otto Pfister after the slow start. Le Guen had previously taken charge of big clubs Lyon, Rangers and Paris St. Germain, and he brought a sea change in attitude and professionalism to the side. His controversial decision to hand the captaincy to three-time African player of the year Samuel Eto'o in place of long-time captain Rigobert Song turned out to be just what the two players and the team needed.

  • Cameroon were eliminated at the group stage of Spain 1982 despite not suffering a defeat. They lost out to Italy for second in the table on the goals scored ti-ebreaker after three draws.
  • Cameroon have played in 17 FIFA World Cup matches, the most of any national team from Africa. Their 1-0 defeat of holders Argentina to kick off the 1990 FIFA World Cup is one of the great upsets in the history of the event.
  • Roger Milla was a record 42 years and 39 days old when he scored for the Lions against Russia in the 1994 World Cup. He was also the first African to play in three World Cup finals.

Japan Team Profile World Cup 2010

Boasting one of the strongest squads in Asian football, Japan, winners of three of the last five editions of the AFC Asian Cup, have high hopes for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa - their fourth appearance at the global showpiece.

First on the agenda is an improvement on the disappointing showing at Germany 2006, when the Samurai Blue exited at the first hurdle after a 3-1 reverse against Australia, a 0-0 draw with Croatia and a resounding 4-1 defeat by Brazil. Japan will also be facing their first finals without iconic midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata. The former Roma schemer featured in each of the national side's games at France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006 before hanging up his boots after the latter event aged just 29.

Japan team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

Having comfortably reached the fourth and final stage of Asian Zone qualifying for South Africa 2010, Japan won four, drew three and lost just one of their eight matches in Group 1. A 2-1 reverse in Australia and a frustrating 0-0 at home against the same opponents were the lowlights of this final phase, though coach Takeshi Okada's charges still finished well clear of Bahrain, Qatar and Uzbekistan in the five-team section.

The star players of Japan team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Japan's biggest star is former Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura, who in the summer 2009 made the switch from Glasgow to La Liga with Espanyol. Another European-based performer is young midfielder Keisuke Honda, at Eredivisie outfit VVV Venlo and like Nakamura a gifted left-footer. Leading from the back is 31-year-old defensive rock and captain Yuji Nakazawa, who with over 90 senior caps to his name is Japan's third-most capped player of all time.

The coach of Japan team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
National supremo Okada is widely considered to be one of the finest Japanese strategists around. He was at the helm during the Samurai Blue's first FIFA World Cup appearance at France 1998, having successfully negotiated a tricky play-off meeting with Iran, and later enjoyed spells at club level with Consadole Sapporo and Yokohama F Marinos.

The 53-year-old former international defender's time in Sapporo included taking the team from the second division into the top flight, while the tactician led Marinos to successive J.League titles in 2003 and 2004. Having stepped away from his role in Yokohama in 2006, he picked up the reins of the national team for a second time a year later - following the stroke suffered by previous incumbent Ivica Osim.

Previous FIFA World Cups
South Africa 2010 will be Japan's fourth FIFA World Cup finals, and their fourth in a row. Their best finish came as hosts at Korea/Japan 2002, when they topped Group H ahead of Belgium, Russia and Tunisia to advance to the knockout stages for the first and so far only time. Once in the Round of 16 they put in a brave fight only to go down 1-0 against eventual third-place finishers Turkey, the goal coming after 12 minutes from Umit Davala.


  • At his first finals as Japan coach, back at France 1998, Okada's charges lost each of their three group games, scoring once and conceding four times in the process.
  • Masashi Nakayama scored Japan's first ever FIFA World Cup finals goal, netting in the 74th minute of the 2-1 reverse against Jamaicaon French soil.

Ghana Team Profile World Cup 2010

The only African side to get out of the group stage at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany and the first to qualify for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, Ghana are anxious to prove themselves as the cream of the continent. Though this will be only their second appearance at the finals, the Black Stars have enjoyed considerable success at all levels of international football. They have won four CAF African Cup of Nations titles, though none since 1982, as well as two FIFA U-17 World Cups, and they became the first African team to lift the FIFA U-20 World Cup when they beat Brazil on penalties in October 2009. With added experience since their 2006 adventure, where they lost to Italy and Brazil but beat the Czech Republic and USA, Ghana are set to be a major threat at Africa's first FIFA World Cup.

Ghana football team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Ghana guaranteed their place in the finals after going unbeaten through their opening four matches of the final round. They did not concede a goal in the group until a shock 1-0 defeat at Benin, but that came after they had already qualified. The key stretch for the west Africans came in June 2009 when they won 2-0 away to both Mali and Sudan, with Germany 2006 veteran Matthew Amoah scoring a goal in the first match and both in the second. Ironically, Ghana were shakier in the previous round of qualifying, only topping the group on goal difference over Gabon and Libya after losing a match to both teams.

The star players of Ghana in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Although Ghana lack the attacking firepower of many African sides, they rely most prominently on a world class midfield led by Michael Essien. The Chelsea man usually pairs with Sulley Muntari and captain Stephen Appiah to form a formidable engine room capable of both stifling attacks and creating them. Two of the trio Asamoah Gyan, Junior Agogo and Matthew Amoah usually operate in attack, while the England-based duo of John Mensah and John Paintsil keep the back tight in front of another Premier League player, goalkeeper Richard Kingson.

The coach of Ghana in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
With Claude Le Roy's departure after a relatively disappointing third-place finish at the 2008 Cup of Nations on home soil, Milovan Rajevac took over leadership of the Black Stars. A former defender that played his career in Yugoslavia, the Serbian was best known for a brief coaching stint with Red Star Belgrade as well as leading perennial Serbian strugglers FK Borac to their first-ever qualification for a European tournament.


  • Ghana were the youngest team at Germany 2006, with an average age of just under 24 years.
  • Asamoah Gyan scored the fastest goal of the 2006 FIFA World Cup after 68 seconds in their 2-1 win over Czech Republic. It was also Ghana's first-ever goal in the finals.
  • Ghana lost 3-0 to Brazil in the second round of Germany 2006, but they were without the talismanic Michael Essien, who was suspended.

Serbia Team Profile World Cup 2010

Serbia played their maiden international, independently, on 16 August 2006, winning 3-1 away to Czech Republic. They did, however, former part of two now disbanded teams: Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro.

The former participated at nine FIFA World Cups between 1930 and 2002, and finished runners-up at the UEFA European Championship twice. Then, at Germany 2006, Serbia and Montenegro lost all three matches in a competitive group to fall at the first hurdle.

While Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montengro wore blue shirts, Serbia adopted a red jersey and the nickname Beli Orlovi (White Eagles).

Serbia team road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
When the draw for the first phase of European Zone qualifying was made, the consensus was that Austria, Romania and Serbia were competing for second place behind France. However, although Les Bleus edged the Beli Orlovi 2-1 in Saint-Denis in their second outing, Radomir Antic's team won their next five preliminaries to establish a four-point lead atop of the section. They retained it by drawing 1-1 at home to the French. That result left Serbia needing victory from their penultimate qualifier with Romania to make sure of a place at World Cup South Africa 2010, and they achieved it in emphatic fashion with a 5-0 success in Belgrade.

The star players of Serbia team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world, Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic is a rock at the heart of the Serbian backline. Fierce in the tackle and strong in the air, the 28-year-old was named the 2008/09 English Premier League's player of the season. Multifunctional midfielder Dejan Stankovic has played international football since 1998 and now captains his country, while Marko Pantelic and Milan Jovanovic carry a threat in attack.

The coach of Serbia team in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Radomir Antic's playing career included an impressive eight-year spell with Partizan, and stints in Turkey, Spain and England, but it was at the coaching reins that he truly began to excel. He led Zaragoza, Real Madrid and Oviedo prior to landing at Atletico Madrid, who he improbably guided to a La Liga/Copa del Rey double in his first season in 1995/96. Antic had three spells at the Atletico controls, but had been out of the game for four years when he was appointed Serbia coach in 2008. However, thanks to his tactical expertise and ability to elicit the best from his charges, the Serbians charged through to South Africa 2010.

Previous FIFA World Cups
  • Serbia will be appearing at the FIFA World Cup independently for the first time in South Africa.
  • They formed part of the Yugoslavia side that appeared at nine editions of the competition, and the Serbia and Montenegro team that competed at Germany 2006.

Slovenia Team Profile World Cup 2010

Slovenia is a nation of just two million people, Slovenia have already punched above their weight to secure a place at this 2010 FIFA World Cup. When one considers that they knocked out Poland, Czech Republic and, finally, Russia - population 142 million – to take their place in South Africa, the achievement becomes near-miraculous. Yet 2010 is, in fact, this fledgling football nation’s second appearance on the game’s biggest stage, and they are determined to continue defying the odds when they square up to the world’s best.

Slovenia team road to 2010 FIFA Wold Cup South Africa
When the Preliminary Draw was made, most observers envisaged Group 3 being dominated by Czech Republic and Poland, two teams who had successfully qualified for both Germany 2006 and UEFA EURO 2008. As it was, the anticipated favourites melted into the background as the section developed into an enthralling two-way battle between Slovenia and Slovakia.

The Slovenians’ success was based on a defence that was arguably the meanest in the entire European Zone. True, the Netherlands just edged them in statistical terms, but Bert van Marwijck’s side also played two games fewer than a Slovenia team who conceded just four times in 10 group matches. Indeed, Matjaz Kek’s outsiders took their bid for top spot down to the final day, only to be denied when Slovakia – a team they had beaten home and away – somehow dug out a 1-0 win away to Poland.

Despite the Slovenians’ impressive efforts, it was clear that Russia could barely contain their glee being paired with them in play-offs, with Alexander Kerzhakov among those describing it as “a favourable draw” for Guus Hiddink’s team. How wrong they were. Everything looked to be adhering to the expected script when the Russians raced into a two-goal lead in Moscow, but their unheralded visitors refused to lie down and set up a thrilling return meeting when Nejc Pecnik fired home with just two minutes of the first leg remaining. The stage was set, and Slovenia rose to the occasion with a performance in Maribor worthy of any arena, one justly rewarded by a decisive Zlatko Dedic strike that secured one of the great qualifying upsets of recent years.

The star players of Slovenia team
Household names are conspicuous by their absence in this Slovenia squad. Yet although his team’s success has been built on collective strength and spirit, Kek is not without talented individuals to call upon. Arguably the best known is Cologne striker Milivoje Novakovic, who scored five times during qualifying and, at 30, is approaching this 2010 FIFA World Cup at the peak of his powers. The Ljubljana-born striker describes himself as making up one third of Slovenia’s “backbone”, with goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and captain Robert Koren, a talented attacking midfielder, identified by Novakovic as comprising this key triumvirate.

The coach of Slovenia team in 2010 FIFA Wold Cup South Africa
A player renowned more for his leadership skills rather than any great natural talent, Matjaz Kek was already in his 30s by the time he won his one and only Slovenia cap in 1992. It was at Maribor, the club with which he won three successive titles in the twilight of his playing career, that Kek was given his first managerial post eight years later. After a moderately successful six-year stint, Kek moved on to Football Association of Slovenia in 2006, initially taking charge of the national U-15 and U-16 teams. By January 2007, however, he had been promoted to the position of senior coach, and has since gone on to exceed all expectations by leading his unfancied team back to the game’s greatest stage. As Kek himself said after seeing off the Russians: “Slovenia has realised a dream.”

Algeria Team Profile World Cup 2010

Algeria will end a 24-year absence from football’s top table when they kick their first ball at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Les Fennecs (the Desert Foxes) may have won the CAF African Cup of Nations since appearing at Mexico 1986, but they spent a long time in the wilderness before slowly working their way back as a competitive force at the start of the century. The current crop of players feel stronger than ever, with enough belief to put in a historic performance in South Africa.

Algeria road to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Until finally sealing their place via a one-off play-off match with Egypt in Khartoum, Sudan, on 18 November, Algeria both suffered and impressed in their qualifying campaign. They won all six of their home games in the second and third qualifying rounds but lost three of their away visits, while drawing twice and winning the other game. As a result, they finished one slender point ahead of Gambia, Senegal and Liberia in their first qualifying group, before ending on equal terms with the Pharaohs in their second, and bringing about the need for a play-off on neutral terrain. The duo nonetheless came in eight points ahead of Zambia and 11 ahead of Rwanda.

The star players of Algeria team
Scorer of the goal that took Les Fennecs through to South Africa, Antar Yahia is one of the pillars at the back for his team, a status he shares with Madjid Bougherra, Nadir Belhadj and goalkeeper Lounes Gaouaoui, although back-up custodian Fawzi Chaouchi is now making serious claims on the gloves. Midfield is Algeria’s strength, meanwhile, with captain Yazid Mansouri spreading the ball around and forward-thinkers Karim Ziani and Mourad Meghni the most likely players to spark danger. Lastly, striker Karim Matmour has steadily been proving himself more than useful on the right wing.

The coach of Algeria in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Following a modest playing career in his homeland and briefly in France, ‘Cheik’ (the Elder, the Wise or the Master) Rabah Saadane quickly tried his hand at coaching. He soon found employment with the national association, first taking charge of various youth teams. In 1982, he was part of the coaching staff as Algeria disputed the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. Four years later, he took over the reins of the national side but paid the price for poor results at the global showcase. He took up the post again for a short while in 1999, then from 2003 to 2004 and began his current stint in 2007. In the club game, the veteran trainer notably lifted the CAF Champions League with Raja Casablanca in 1989 and the Arab Champions League title with ES Setif in 2007.

Previous FIFA World Cups
South Africa will mark Algeria’s third appearance at a FIFA World Cup finals, and they will be looking to graduate from the group stage for the first time in their history. In 1982, they made history by defeating West Germany 2-1 and Chile 3-2, only to lose 2-0 to Austria. Four years on from their debut, with a certain Saadane in the dugout, they shared a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland before losing 1-0 to Brazil and 3-0 to Spain.

1 CAF African Cup of Nations (1990)

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