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World Cup Host South Africa Set to Play Second Match


As the eighth and last four-team group at football's World Cup is set to play its first matches Wednesday, host nation South Africa will take the field for its second game.

Group H, the last one at the 2010 World Cup to play its opening matches, features three Spanish-speaking teams - Spain, Chile and Honduras. How rare is that? The only other time it has happened was at the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, when Chile was in a group with Argentina and Mexico.

Spain opens against Switzerland, in Durban, the other team in Group H. Ranked number-two in the world, Spain is the clear favorite in this group. The Spaniards' only loss in their last 45 games came here in South Africa last year at the Confederations Cup, a 2-0 shock defeat in the semifinals to the United States. Switzerland barely missed reaching the quarterfinals at the last World Cup.

Chile opens against Honduras, in Nelspruit, which is in its first World Cup since 1982. Chile last played in the finals in 1998. The 18th-ranked Chileans actually won one more game than first-place Brazil in qualifying second from South America. Honduras just made it in thanks to the U.S Soccer team's last-minute draw against Costa Rica in the closing qualifying match, played in Washington.

In the last game of the day Wednesday, host South Africa will take on Uruguay in Pretoria. These are the first two teams to take the field for a second time at this World Cup. In their Group A openers, South Africa played Mexico to a 1-1 draw, and Uruguay battled to a scoreless draw against France. So all four teams are level with one point.

That means this second match could prove critical to the hopes of the host nation to reach the second round.

South African midfielder Steven Pienaar knows the 16th-ranked Uruguayans will be a difficult challenge.

"I know that the Uruguay team is a really physical team and well organized in the back. They play with three center backs, and they've got good attacking players, so we know it's going to be a tough game for us," said Pineaar.

South African defender Sibonisa Gaxa says the way the Uruguayans clog the middle of the field will dictate how his team plays offense.

"For us, we have to use the sides instead of going inside because there are too many people, you know, for them," said Gaxa. "So we have to use our fullbacks and wing players to attack them." The other two teams in Group A, Mexico and France, play one another on Thursday.

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