Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Ten World Cup headlines yet to be written

By Matthew Weiner, CNN
  • South Africa seeking to maintain record of every host nation reaching second round
  • Will world player of the year Lionel Messi prove himself on the biggest stage?
  • Can European champions Spain win the World Cup for the first time?
  • Which team will prove to be the dark horse of the 2010 tournament?

London, England (CNN) -- What will be the major stories that dominate the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

Past tournaments have been memorable for incidents such as Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" in 1986, Zinedine Zidane's infamous head butt in the 2006 final and West Germany's "Miracle of Berne" of 1954.

Roger Milla's corner-flag dance for Cameroon in 1990 and Rivaldo's faking of an injury in 2002 will also echo down the ages.

CNN takes a look into a handy crystal ball to bring you the headlines waiting to be written come kick-off on June 11.

1. First African team to reach semifinals

Back in 1977, Pele predicted that an African team would win the World Cup by the year 2000.

Ten years on and his forecast is still unlikely to reach fruition, but the Ivory Coast could surpass the continent's previous record-setters Senegal, who made it to the quarterfinals in 2002.

Watch out World Cup, 'Dynamite' Drogba is ready to explode!

The Elephants' squad is packed with talent including Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and the Toure brothers. However, they'll need all their talented individuals to pull together as a team if they are to even qualify from a "group of death" which includes Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.

2. Messi flops!

He may be the world's best player but "the Flea" could be about to get squashed by the weight of expectation. His recent form has seen him compared favorably to Diego Maradona, now his international coach, but the odds could well be against him at the World Cup.

Not only did Argentina struggle to qualify with the unsteady "Hand of God" at the helm, but La Albiceleste play a counter-attacking style that doesn't fit Messi's abilities quite as snugly as Barcelona's possession play.

Who will be the World Cup's best player?

This summer, the world's best hatchet-men will be lining up to cut little Leo down. If Messi is going to dance past them, he'll have to shrug off all the fatigue caused by playing well over 100 competitive games in the last two years.

3. Americans stun England again in repeat of 1950 upset

Sixty years ago, the U.S. shocked the soccer world when a ragbag collection of semi-professionals defeated England, one of the mightiest footballing nations and one of the favorites for the title in the Brazil tournament.

The Americans have beaten their former colonial masters only once since then, at home in 1993, but come into the South African event having topped the CONCACAF qualifying group.

Fabio Capello's England defeated the U.S. 2-0 at Wembley in May 2008 ahead of a similarly successful qualifying campaign, but the Italian coach's preparations have been hampered by injuries to key players.

Subsequently, England's standing as one of the pre-tournament favorites is looking less solid than it did two months ago -- leaving the stage set for the Americans to cause another big upset in the Group C opener on June 12.

4. Spain win the World Cup

Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta may be struggling to be fit in time for the World Cup, but such is the quality of Spain's squad that they are still favorites to win.

Who will win the World Cup?

Apart from perhaps Brazil, no other team has the strength in depth that the European champions have. That's precisely why Spain secured all 30 points available during World Cup qualification -- a world record.

Grouped with minnows Switzerland, Honduras and Chile, Vicente del Bosque's team should build a nice head of steam before hypnotizing the rest of the competition into submission with their deadly passing game.

5. Ivorian 'out-Sambas' the Brazilians

Growing up, Gervais Yao Kouassi had so much talent his coach gave him the Brazilian nickname "Gervinho."

Now, this explosive Ivory Coast striker has the chance to put his skills to the ultimate test against the Samba Kings in Group G. Expect fireworks.

Become a CNN Super Fan: Why your country needs you!

How this lightning-fast forward still plies his trade in France's Ligue 1 is anyone's guess. But don't expect that to last much longer, as big European sides such as Arsenal and Bayern Munich are already queuing up to sign the 23-year-old.

6. Serbia the tournament's dark horses

Having topped a qualification group that included France, destroying Romania 5-0 along the way, Serbia are the team that no-one wants to face.

This will be the first tournament in the young nation's history, so the Serbs won't lack motivation (although having been drawn in a group with Germany, Australia and Ghana, they'll need all the help they can get.)

With Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic at the back, soon-to-be Liverpool man Milan Jovanovic on the wing and the giant 2.02-meter-tall Nikola Zigic at center-forward, the Serbs pack quite a punch.

Expect to see them drop some big names onto the canvas this summer, despite the shock 1-0 loss to unfancied New Zealand in the warm-up matches.

7. Let Mesut entertain you

Not since the days of Thomas Hassler and Mehmet Scholl have Germany been able to boast such a creative midfielder as Mesut Ozil.

In this 21-year-old schemer, the Mannschaft have finally found the player that will add an element of surprise to their traditional strengths of power, pace and sheer persistence.

The World Cup's missing men

This season at Werder Bremen, he successfully took over the No. 10 role from Diego after the Brazilian joined Juventus, scoring eight goals and supplying 11 assists.

But Ozil's most crucial moment came during the World Cup qualifier against Russia, when he created the goal that sent Germany through to South Africa.

8. Give video technology a chance

According to one financial expert, the Thierry Henry handball that cost Ireland a place in the World Cup also cost that country's economy $150 million.

As far as the Irish are concerned, one $500 camera on Shay Given's goal line would have been the greatest save of all time if it would have helped the referee to spot Henry's infamous appengage-assisted goal. "I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it," he later said.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has ruled out the use of such technology in South Africa, but with a nation's hearts -- and pockets -- on the line, the clamor will grow ever stronger should something similar happen again in June and July.

9. Uruguayan star gives France 'Les Bleus'

The Zinedine Zidane-less France will be casting admiring glances over at Uruguay's star man when they meet in Group A.

The fiery forward Luis Suarez has been in remarkable form for Ajax this season, sending him top of the Dutch Eredivisie scoring charts with an incredible 35 goals in 33 games -- a tally that includes a sensational six-goal haul in one match.

Combined with deadly marksman Diego Forlan, who scored 18 La Liga goals for Atletico Madrid this season, Suarez's quick feet and eye for goal could conspire to send France home early again this summer as he seeks to add to his tally of 45 in all competitions so far.

10. Ban the vuvuzela

It's been compared to a swarm of wasps and even an elephant passing wind, but nevertheless the vuvuzela remains dear to many South African fans' hearts.

However, don't expect everyone to take so kindly to the piercing sound of the stadium horn.

The pre-tournament campaign for FIFA to ban the instrument fell on deaf ears, which is ironic considering that recent research by the University of Pretoria revealed that the 140-decibel roar of a stadium full of horns will leave you with exactly that.

Part of complete coverage on
Psychic octopus to retire
Paul the octopus, who correctly predicted the outcome of eight World Cup matches in a row, is retiring from the forecasting business.
CNN's Twitter Buzz
Who's tweeting about what? Follow the World Cup trends and all the latest action from South Africa.
Are you passionate enough?
Are you a fanatical supporter of your national football team? Do you like to shout about your opinions? Become a CNN Super Fan!
Results and Standings
Check out all the scores, group tables and fixtures
CNN teams up with Foursquare
Let your friends know where you're watching the World Cup, and earn CNN badges while you're having fun.