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World Cup Preview: Group A

Starting tomorrow, there's nonstop historic World Cup action, all day: From 7:30 a.m. on, you have every excuse to pretty much take the whole summer off. We conclude our World Cup previews today with our look at Group A. (See our Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E, Group F, Group G, and Group H previews.) So, here's all you need to know about Group A, which features France, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay.

GROUP A

FIFA Rankings
No. 9: France
No. 16: Uruguay
No. 17: Mexico
No. 83: South Africa

Best World Cup Finish
France: Winners (1998)
Mexico: Quarterfinals (1970, 1986)
South Africa: 1–1–1 (2002)
Uruguay: Winners (1930, 1950)

Best Player
France: Thierry Henry, striker.
Mexico: Carlos Vela, striker.
South Africa: Steven Pienaar, midfielder.
Uruguay: Martin Caceres, defender.

Coach (and Sideline Garb)
France: Raymond Domenech. A world-class eccentric, he was almost fired after Euro 2008 and asked his girlfriend to marry him on live television right after the final match in that tourney. (Suit and tie.)
Mexico: Javier Aguirre. Beloved in his home country, he came in to fix the mess created by the ill-fated hiring of Sven-Göran Eriksson. He seems to be obsessed with his 2002 World Cup team; he has brought several players back from that second-round squad. (Suit and tie and scary face.)
South Africa: Carlos Alberto Parreira. The man has taken five different countries to the World Cup: Kuwait (1982), United Arab Emirates (1990), Brazil (1994, 2006), Saudi Arabia (1998), and now South Africa. He won with Brazil in 1994. (Athletic gear.)
Uruguay: Oscar Tabárez. The coach of the Uruguay team in the 1990 World Cup, he's probably most famous for winning a championship with Boca Juniors in 1992. (Athletic gear.)

Broadcaster-Worthy Anecdote
France: The French has oodles of drama and low expectations coming in; Henry is getting older (you can tell, because he's heading to the MLS when this is over), and this feels like a team past its prime. Also: You might hear a little bit about a head-butt at the last World Cup.
Mexico: The U.S.'s rival appears to be coming together at the exact right time, and if they can survive that emotional opener against the host nation, this could be a big year.
South Africa: The host country will bring out all the good will. Plus, someone's bound to mention Invictus.
Uruguay: It's only the second Cup appearance in 20 years for the nation that won championships in its first two appearances.

Schedule
June 11, 10 a.m.: Mexico vs. South Africa
June 11, 2:30 p.m.: France vs. Uruguay
June 16, 2:30 p.m.: Uruguay vs. South Africa.
June 17, 2:30 p.m.: France vs. Mexico
June 22, 10 a.m.: Mexico vs. Uruguay
June 22, 10 a.m.: France vs. South Africa

Prediction
1. Mexico
2. Uruguay
3. France
4. South Africa

Previously:

World Cup Preview: Group B
World Cup Preview: Group C
World Cup Preview: Group D
World Cup Preview: Group E
World Cup Preview: Group F
World Cup Preview: Group G
World Cup Preview: Group H

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Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images; David Cannon/Getty Images; Clive Rose/Getty Images; Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images