World Cup Betting: Group A
Aguirre, Wrath of Squad: Mexico have lots going for them now that Sven Goran Eriksson's gone away.
Tobias Gourlay thinks Javier Aguirre has enough time to right the wrongs of Sven Goran Eriksson and take Mexico to the second round again.
Recommended Bets: Back Mexico at [4.7] to be Group Winner; lay France at [1.35] To Qualify
The 2010 World Cup begins with a match for the hosts in Johannesburg against Mexico. Hosting the competition is the only reason South Africa are in it at all - CAF qualifying for the tournament was combined with the same for January's Africa Cup of Nations and the Bafana Bafana were eliminated at the second stage of a three-stage process.
On their own patch, perhaps they can harness the ear-bleeding power of the vuvuzela, but the market still makes them [3.15] outsiders to qualify for the second round. They have Carlos Alberto Parreira in their corner - the first man to coach five different national teams at World Cups - but, a narrow tournament win with Brazil aside, he has not done particularly well. With other teams, his group-stage record is W0-D1-L7.
France fans might still trade him for Raymond Domenech, the coach who took them to the bottom of their Euro 2008 group. A recent friendly defeat at home to Spain suggested their position relative to Europe's best has not improved. Les Bleus struggled in the group stage of the last World Cup, before Zinedine Zidane took charge of things. Without him, other talented players have shown little inclination to work themselves into a coherent system, leaving this preview with an inclination to oppose Group A's favourites.
History shows host nations have never failed to get out of an initial group stage or at least win a match, but, in an age when inclusivity not footballing prowess determines who those host nations will be, it's perhaps best not to bet on the strength of that record alone.
What of Uruguay and Mexico? The former have some high-scoring attackers - Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez - and someone should keep an eye on Suarez's playmaking new Ajax team-mate, Nicolas Lodeiro, but they needed a playoff to get this far. The latter are markedly changed from Sven Goran Eriksson's time and, having got to the second round of each of the last four World Cups, are the value bet, either to qualify from or to win Group A.
Javier Aguirre, who won a 2002 World Cup group containing Italy, took charge again last June. He won 5/6 qualifiers to get El Tri here and lifted the Gold Cup last summer, thrashing a (weak) USA team 5-0 in New Jersey. Aguirre has already set up a camp for domestically based players and if he can successfully blend the old - Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Rafael Marquez - with the young - Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela - El Tri might well have the 'historic World Cup' he has predicted for them.