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Hosts South Africa drawn with France

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Host nation South Africa must face France, Uruguay and Mexico to get to the last 16
  • France secured their place in the World Cup finals after a controversial victory over Ireland
  • South Africa will play Mexico in the opening match of the finals on June 11 in Johannesburg
  • Group G appears to be the toughest group with Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea together

(CNN) -- Host nation South Africa must overcome Mexico, France and Uruguay if they are to get to the knockout stages of the World Cup finals next year.

The draw for the 2010 finals, hosted by actress Charlize Theron, was made at the Cape Town International Convention Center on Friday, with the 32 qualifiers split into eight groups of four nations.

France, winners in 1998 and finalists at the last tournament in 2006, reached the finals in controversial fashion after Thierry Henry's handball helped them defeat Ireland in their European playoff.

Soccer City in Johannesburg will stage the opening match of the tournament on Friday June 11 when the hosts take on Mexico with France and Uruguay playing each other in the day's second match.

"Meeting the host nation is never a gift on such an occasion," French national coach Raymond Domenech told the France Federation's official Web site.

"That said, to play against South Africa, the first African country to host a World Cup on its continent, is a great sense of pride for everything this match could be worth.

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The final of the tournament will also be at Soccer City on July 11 -- exactly a month after it begins.

Elsewhere, England and the United States will both fancy their chances of reaching the last 16 after being drawn alongside Slovenia and Algeria in Group C.

Meanwhile, the traditional "Group of Death" looks to be Group G with five-times winners Brazil set to face both 2006 semifinalists Portugal and Ivory Coast, considered the strongest of the African qualifiers.

North Korea, playing at the finals for the first time since their famous run to the quarterfinals in 1966, make up the quartet.

Group B sees double champions Argentina, who struggled to qualify under legendary player-turned-coach Diego Maradona, face Greece and Nigeria; all three countries were grouped together at the 1994 finals in the United States. South Korea, semifinalists in 2002, completed another tricky group.

Three-times winners Germany also face a tough test in Group D after drawing Serbia, who topped their European qualifying group ahead of France, and dangerous outsiders Australia and Ghana.

"We have lots of respect for Serbia and I have seen some of their games from the qualifiers on DVD and saw how they left France clearly behind them," Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters.

"And Ghana are not an outsider either. Along with Algeria and the Ivory Coast, they are one of the strongest teams in that section.

The Netherlands won all eight of their qualifying matches and will be favorites to qualify from a Group E section that also includes Denmark, Cameroon and Japan.

Meanwhile, two nations who will be happy with the draw are defending champions Italy and European champions Spain.

Italy have been paired alongside Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia -- who are making their first final appearance -- while Spain should have few problems negotiating a group that sees them face Switzerland, Honduras and Chile.

However, Italy coach Marcello Lippi played down the comparative easiness of the draw.

"I am neither worried nor satisfied," said Lippi. "We have to be realistic, they are all strong rivals. They are not easy nor difficult. I believe it becomes more difficult if you underestimate them."

Full Draw:

GROUP A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

GROUP B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece

GROUP C: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia

GROUP D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

GROUP E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon

GROUP F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia

GROUP G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal

GROUP H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile