News / Africa

Excitement Builds as South Africa Gets Set to Open World Cup

Excitement among sports fans is building around the globe in anticipation of Friday's opening action at FIFA's 2010 World Cup football tournament in South Africa.

Enthusiasm is perhaps greatest in host nation South Africa, which is the first African country in World Cup history to host the event.

The 32-nation, month-long tournament opens with South Africa taking on Mexico at the newly refurbished Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.  South Africa's first post-apartheid president and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela, 91, is expected to make a brief appearance at the opening ceremony.

In addition to South Africa, six African countries qualified for this year's World Cup -- Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt, and Algeria.  South Africa automatically is in the tournament as host nation.

Italy enters the World Cup as defending champion, but Spain, the reigning European champion, and five-time former champion Brazil are considered strong early favorites to win the 2010 title.  

No single team is considered an overwhelming favorite to win, especially after key players on several teams recently sustained injuries that either ruled them out of the World Cup, or left them as highly questionable to play.

In the only other match Friday, Uruguay takes on France in Cape Town.  On Saturday, the United States opens its World Cup run against England in Rustenburg.

The World Cup is being played in 10 stadiums in South Africa -- including Soccer City and Ellis Park in Johannesburg.   The other venues are in Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, Polokwane, Rustenburg, Bloemfontein, and Nelspruit.

Former president Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with then-South African leader Frederik Willem de Klerk for their joint efforts to end apartheid and bring non-racial democracy to South Africa.

The first World Cup football tournament was played in 1930 in Montevideo with host nation Uruguay defeating Argentina for the championship.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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