A controversial playoff win over Ireland gave France a place in the tournament but might have cost it a seeding in group play. The near-debacle in qualifying also showed that France is still rebuilding and could be a first-round casualty in a well-balanced group. Only captain Thierry Henry remains from the 1998 championship team.
Mexico has reached the quarterfinals only twice, both times when the tournament was played at altitude, a good omen considering El Tri will play all three group matches above 4,000 feet. Striker Javier Hernandez could be a World Cup revelation — or a nonfactor if Mexico's inconsistent midfielders don't get him the ball.
No host team has ever failed to make it out of group play, but South Africa faces a challenge to advance. Last summer's Confederations Cup, in which South Africa narrowly lost to Brazil and Spain, offers reason for hope. Key to the offense will be the creative abilities of midfielder Steven Pienaar.
The high-scoring South Americans made it to South Africa by edging Costa Rica in a playoff for the final qualifying berth. Thanks to talented strikers Diego Forlan and Luis Sanchez and defense-minded captain Diego Lugano, Uruguay has the potential to do some damage in group play, though it's unlikely the team will go much further.
Mexico vs. South Africa, June 11, 7 a.m.
Uruguay vs. France, June 11, 11:30 a.m.
South Africa vs. Uruguay, June 16, 11:30 a.m.
Mexico vs. France, June 17, 11:30 a.m.
Mexico vs. Uruguay, June 22, 7 a.m.
South Africa vs. France, June 22, 7 a.m.
The next round: The top two teams from this group advance to the round of 16.
All times PDT.