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SA to face off against Iraq in 2009 Conf Cup opener

by Michael Appel
on 23 Nov 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Surrounded by eight beauty queens from around the world, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke on Saturday evening announced South Africa would play against Asian champions Iraq in the opening match of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

The official draw for the tournament, known as the "Festival of Champions", kicked off amid a colourful display of dance moves integrated with some skill with the football.

In a brief address to a packed Sandton Convention Centre, 2010 Local Organising Committee (LOC) Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza said: "As Africa, we are proud to host the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup which will feature the reigning world champions [as well as continental champions] which will prove to be a spectacular success on African soil.

"Africa was always known as a dark continent, but not today and not tonight," the chairman said.

Dr Khoza expressed his deepest thanks to FIFA for their trust and support in South Africa and Africa to host such a prestigious tournament as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and assured FIFA that South Africa would not let them down.

The eight teams competing in the tournament include 2006 world champions Italy, South Africa as the host of the tournament, and continental champions the United States of America, Spain, Brazil, New Zealand, Egypt and Iraq.

The eight teams were divided into two pots, with South Africa place in Team Pot 1 along with the three most highly ranked teams in the competition, Spain, Brazil and Italy.

Egypt, New Zealand, Iraq and the USA made up Team Pot 2.

According to FIFA, "as two African teams shall not be drawn into the same group, Egypt, the winner of the Africa Cup of Nations 2008, shall be drawn into Group B.

"The two European teams shall not be drawn into the same group [either], therefore, once either Spain or Italy is drawn, the others will be drawn to the opposite group."

According to the official draw, which saw the eight reigning beauty queens from the prospective countries assisting Mr Valcke, Group A will comprise of:

* South Africa A1
* Iraq A2
* New Zealand A3
* Spain A4

Group B was drawn as follows:

* USA B1
* Italy B2
* Brazil B3
* Egypt B4

Commenting after the draw, LOC Chief Executive Officer Dr Danny Jordaan told media, "It was slick, professional and highly insightful of our rich South African culture.

"What we saw tonight shows that our organisational capabilities are comparable to anything, and is proof that there is no contradiction between African and world class.

"It is a show that will have given the world confidence that the 2010 FIFA World Cup is in good hands and it has also made us South Africans more confident.

Commenting on South Africa's group, which will see the host nation take on Spain, Iraq and New Zealand in the group stage and escape the likes of Italy and Brazil, the CEO said that South Africa had a good chance to get through to the semi-finals of the tournament.

The actual draw could have been worse, Dr Jordaan said, highlighting though that the draw is in South Africa's favour.

"[However], we should not underestimate Iraq and New Zealand, who are both competitive teams that have fought hard to be here.

"The home ground advantage should give us a good chance of getting into the next round. This will lift the spirit of all of us and will be wonderful for the country," said the CEO.

The tournament, taking place from 14 - 28 June 2009, will be played in four venues around the country namely Loftus Verfeld in Pretoria, Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, and the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. - BuaNews

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