Q. Can the United States get healthy in time?
A. The United States lucked out by drawing a relatively weak opening round group of opponents (England, Algeria, Slovenia). But the team, led by captain Carlos Bocanegra and Landon Donovan, is grappling with injuries to key starters such as defender Oguchi Onyewu and striker Charlie Davies.
Q. Will Chile score more goals than they give up?
A. The team’s all-out attack means the team scores—but also gives up—goals. The youthful squad lacks a true superstar, but is led by one of the top managers in the world, Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa. One sure thing about Chile: its games are never boring. The first-round game against Spain promises plenty of action.
Q. Will Honduras defy expectations?
A. The Catrachos haven’t played in a World Cup since their tournament debut in 1982. With little to lose, the Hondurans could take the tournament by surprise. They will be looking for goals from veteran Carlos Pavon, especially after an injury sidelined sparkplug Carlos Costly. The Hondurans are drawn into the only first-round group with three Spanish-speaking teams, along with Spain and Chile.
Q. Can Uruguay live up to its history?
A. Uruguay hosted and won the first World Cup in 1930. This time around, the team squeaked into the tournament by winning a playoff against Costa Rica. Led by striker Diego Forlan (the son of Pablo Forlan, who represented the country at two Cups), Uruguay boasts an experienced lineup. Oscar Tabarez is in his second stint as the manager after taking Uruguay to the knockout stage in 1990. Watch out for the perennial soccer superpowers from around the globe—Brazil (along with Spain, the favorites to win it all), Italy, Germany, and England.
Looking ahead, Jorge Ramos, who will be broadcasting from South Africa, likes Spain’s chances to win, especially given the nagging injury troubles of Brazil’s playmaker, Kaká. He expects Italy and Germany to contend for the championship, and England and Mexico to disappoint their fans. Ramos is also high on his native Uruguay’s chances to exceed expectations. “Of course,” he adds, “I say that not as an Uruguayan, but as a soccer expert.”