World Cup 2010 kicks off Friday with Group A play: the hosts South Africa facing Mexico while Uruguay takes on France. They're the four teams that make-up the tournament's most even group, with any of the quartet capable of advancing to the Round of 16.
South Africa versus Mexico, Johannesburg, 10 a.m. EDT, ESPN
Where They Stand: First match of the tournament means each team sits on no points. South Africa could either be emboldened by home pitch advantage or be the team that Mexico, France and Uruguay need maximum points against, lest they be left behind. For South Africa, the event is more important than the result, which is not to say they don't want the points. It's a historic day for the country. The national team's performance is just one part of it.
Player To Watch, South Africa: Steven Pienaar is the Bafana Bafana's best player and may be the best player on the pitch. As an attacking midfielder, he may need to supply a couple of special moments if the hosts are to keep up with Mexico.
Player To Watch, Mexico: Giovani dos Santos is one of three young Mexican attackers who will be experiencing their first World Cup action. Gio, Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela make their World Cup debut in front of a partisan crowd of over 91,000. If dos Santos can replicate the form he showed in CONCACAF qualifying, South Africa will not have a way to stop him.
Uruguay versus France, Cape Town, 2:00 p.m. EDT, ESPN
Where They Stand: France has struggled in the run-up to the World Cup. Friendlies shouldn't be taken too seriously, but losing to China seemed to cause concern. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has hinted he will go with a defensive lineup in reverence to France's skill, perhaps conceding he would be happy with one point.
Player to Watch, Uruguay: Diego Forlán is nearly unstoppable when he's on his game, as Europa League opponents found out when he led the Atleti to that tournament's title. With a team-leading seven goals in qualifying, Forlán's shown himself capable of carrying his club form into the international realm.
Player to Watch, France: Frank Ribèry, if he plays to his potential, can carry a team. He will be on the left side of France's attacking three, and potentially freed up within a new formation, he may be the player to get the most out of central midfielder Yoann Gourcuff.