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10.06.2010 19:35

Marquez, Abidal and Henry involved in opening day


The 2010 World Cup finally gets under way in South Africa today, and there is Barça interest in the both of the opening day matches. Rafa Marquez’s Mexico face South African and Thierry Henry and Eric Abidal’s France take on Uruguay.

The vuvuzelas will be roaring louder than ever on Friday at 16.00 when Johannesburg’s Soccer City is the venue for the opening game of the biggest sporting event ever to be held on African soil. No fewer than 14 Barça players are involved in the event, including Mexico captain Rafa Marquez, who will be leading his side out to face the host nation.

Mexico under pressure

marqueztri.jpgGroup A is perhaps the most open of the lot, with no obvious weak links. No host nation has ever failed to make it out of the first round, and South Africa will be looking to extend that record. Unbeaten in 12 outings, it seems the Bafana Bafana have hit form at precisely the right time. But the Mexicans are also coming in to the World Cup on a high, having beaten Chile (1-0), Gambia (5-1) and Italy (2-1) in their final warm-up matches.

This will be Rafa Marquez’s third World Cup, but although he is a natural centre back, there are also suggestions that he might be used in midfield, an area where Javier Aguirre's squad has surprisingly few specialists. He is joined by another player with Barça connections, 21 year old Giovani dos Santos, who is appearing in the World Cup for the first time.

France to follow

titifrnace.jpgLater on, at 20.30 in Cape Town, the other two sides in the group begin their campaigns: 1998 champions France will be facing Uruguay, who return after failing to qualify for Germany 2006. There are kinds of rumours in the press of unrest in the French squad, and to make matters worse, Les Bleus lost to China in their final warm-up encounter. There are also doubts as to whether Thierry Henry, who is appearing in the tournament for the fourth time, will be in the starting eleven. Most pundits are convinced Raymond Domenech will be leaving ‘Titi’ on the bench, but there are now stories emerging that the players themselves are putting their manager under pressure to play the Barça striker from the start. Neither is Barça’s other Gallic international, Eric Abidal, guaranteed a place in the side. Traditionally, Domenech has preferred Manchester United’s Patrice Evra in the left-back role.

But despite the negative vibes, everybody knows that France is a side that usually shuns the adversities and rises to the big occasion. This game brings them face to face with a side that can boast such talents as Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez – and could be one of the highlights of the first round.
Marquez, Abidal and Henry involved in opening day
Barça’s World Cup
The next Barça man on stage will be Leo Messi, whose Argentina take on Nigeria on Saturday (16.00). The Ivory Coast and Touré Yaya face Portugal on Tuesday (16.00), followed later that day by Brazil and Dani Alves against minnows North Korea (20.30). Barcelona’s eight Spanish internationals have the longest wait. They don’t have a game until Wednesday at 16.00, when they take on Switzerland.

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