FIFA.com has certainly been busy during the Preliminary Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. As well as providing comprehensive coverage from the International Convention Centre in Durban, which included live commentary of the Draw, the team's editorial network also tracked down the likes of Marco van Basten, Kasey Keller and George Weah for a series of exclusive interviews.
Weah, one of the assistants for the Draw, spoke candidly to the world's football website about how he would like to be remembered, the impact of his team-mates as well as his favourite goal. "I don't need to think too hard about that one," he smiled. "It would be a goal that I scored for AC Milan against Verona at the San Siro in 1996 (from a Verona corner, Weah won the ball in the Milan penalty area before advancing the entire length of the pitch and scoring). That goal had everything: technique, speed and precision; and every single one of my manoeuvres in the build-up was deliberate."
US goalkeeper Keller was more focused on the Draw and who he viewed as his team's toughest opponents. "We've had the edge on Mexico of late and I'd have to say that going on recent form we're the ones to beat. But home advantage counts for a lot in our region, though. They win at their place and we win at ours."
Coaches in reflective mood
When the Draw was made, Keller's coach Bradley was fairly philosophical, pointing to a transitional time for his team and the ever-improving teams in the CONCACAF region. "It's fair to say that teams in CONCACAF are getting better across the board," he said. "If we end up meeting Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba we could be in for a very hard test. They are teams that we know well, and we know they are very talented opponents. 2007 has been a lot about bringing in new players to the US national team and I think that we are doing a good job of encouraging the newer guys to step up and try to fill the gaps left by the retirement of Brian McBride, Eddie Pope and Claudio Reyna."
Swedish coach Lars Lagerback was left to reflect on a tough draw, which pitted his team with Portugal, Denmark, Hungary, Albania and Malta. "I've not really analysed the other draws but I am quite sure that ours is one of the toughest," he commented. "We obviously know Denmark extremely well, they're our neighbours, and it will be tough to face them again, as it has been in the EUROs. And then you have Portugal, who have some quite superb young players coming through. It's a very tough group but Sweden has a good record of qualifying for World Cups in recent and hopefully we can make sure that continues."
Meanwhile, former striking legend Marco van Basten, now coach of the Netherlands, told FIFA.com that meeting Scotland, Norway, Macedonia and Iceland would represent a different challenge for his troops. "It's not easy, that's for sure," he said. "In the last qualifying groups we've had, it's been against teams in the south-east of Europe. Now we're facing teams in the north-west and that brings something different in terms of our opponents' way of playing. We have to prove we can beat them too even though they are really good teams. Scotland are very dangerous at the moment, especially over the last two years, and we have to be very careful playing against them. But it was a nice experience in Germany last year and we hope very much that it will be possible for us to be here in South Africa in 2010."
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