The official dry run for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is upon us, as the 2009 Confederations Cup is under way.
ESPN and its family of networks will be showing every game of this competition of champions from every region of the planet.
Here’s what you need to know:
June 14 – South Africa vs. Iraq, 9:55, E2/360/EM
June 14 – New Zealand vs. Spain, 2:25, E2/360
June 15 – Brazil vs. Egypt, 9:55, E2/360/EM
June 15 – USA vs. Italy, 2:25, E1/360/EM
June 17 – Spain vs. Iraq, 9:55, E2/360/EM
June 17 – South Africa vs. New Zealand, 2:25, E2/360/EM
June 18 – USA vs. Brazil, 9:55, E2/360
June 18 – Egypt vs. Italy, 2:25, E2/360/EM
June 20 – Spain vs. South Africa, 2:25, E2/360/EM
June 20 – Iraq vs. New Zealand, 2:25, 360
June 21 – Egypt vs. USA, 2:25, E2/360/EM
June 21 – Italy vs. Brazil, 2:25, E1/360
June 24 – Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up, 2:25, E1/360/EM
June 25 – Group A runner-up vs. Group B winner, 2:25, E1/360/EM
June 28 – Semifinal Losers, 8:55, E2/360/EM
June 28 – Semifinal Winners, 2:25, E2/360/EM
Guide: E1 – ESPN, E2 – ESPN2, 360 – ESPN360.com, Mo-TV – ESPN Mobile TV
Except for the Iraq/New Zealand game on June 20, you can watch every game from your couch. And, on that day, you should probably be watching Spain anyway.
The champions of FIFA’s six regions, plus the World Cup holders (Italy) and host (South Africa) make up this tournament.
Spain, New Zealand and Iraq will join South Africa in Group A while Brazil, Italy, Egypt and the United States comprise a far tougher Group B.
Qualified: Euro 2008 winner
FIFA World Rank: 1
Players to watch: Fernando Torres (Liverpool), David Villa (Valencia), Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) and Cesc Fàbregas (Arsenal)
Skinny: Have to be considered the favorites, along with Brazil, to take the trophy.
Qualified: 2008 Oceania Cup winner
FIFA World Rank: 82
Players to watch: Simon Elliott (San Jose Earthquakes), Chris Killen (Celtic) and Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City)
Skinny: As the lowest ranked team in the field, the Kiwis have their work cut out for them. They are in a favorable group, however.
Qualified: 2007 Asian Cup winner
FIFA World Rank: 77
Players to watch: Younis Mahmoud (Al-Gharafa), Emad Mohammed (Sepahan) and Hawar Mulla Mohammed (Anorthosis Famagusta)
Skinny: Earned a 1-1 draw with Poland in South Africa in a friendly last week, and looked pretty good doing it. The Iraqis have a good chance of finishing second in this group.
Qualified: 2010 World Cup host
FIFA World Rank: 72
Players to watch: Steven Pienaar (Everton), Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn Rovers) and Rowen Fernández (Arminia Bielefeld)
Skinny: Not having Benni McCarthy in the side could spell big trouble for the Bafana Bafana. His 75 career caps and 31 goals will be sorely missed by a team that might end up lacking punch in this tournament.
Qualified: 2007 Copa America winner
FIFA World Rank: 5
Players to watch: Kaka (Real Madrid), Robinho (Manchester City), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) and Júlio César (Inter Milan)
Skinny: Has had mixed results under Dunga in recent months. The real question is this: Which Brazil side will show up?
Qualified: 2006 World Cup winner
FIFA World Rank: 4
Players to watch: Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Luca Toni (Bayern Munich), Gianluca Zambrotta (AC Milan) and Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
Skinny: The re-hire of coach Marcelo Lippi has done wonders for the Italians. And if that first match with the U.S. is anywhere near as goos as their 2006 World Cup clash, this tournament will be off to a fine start.
Qualified: 2008 African Cup of Nations winner
FIFA World Rank: 40
Players to watch: Ahmed Hassan (Al-Ahly), Mohamed Aboutrika (Al-Ahly) and Mohamed Shawky (Middlesbrough)
Skinny: No one’s talking much about Egypt, but any nation that wins the African Cup has to be worth its salt. Still, being without their best striking option, Zaki, hurts them quite a bit.
Qualified: 2007 Gold Cup winner
FIFA World Rank: 14
Players to watch: Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy), Tim Howard (Everton), Clint Dempsey (Fulham) and Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes)
Skinny: Some injuries to the back line and central midfield have coach Bob Bradley shuffling the lineup a bit. And playing Italy and Brazil right out of the chute isn’t going to help.
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