All Whites in Group F

The All Whites will do it tough at next year's World Cup after drawing Italy, top South American side Paraguay and Slovakia, one of the strongest European qualifiers.

The glittering draw ceremony in the Cape Town Convention Cenre handed New Zealand a tough group, even though Paraguay and Slovakia may not be household names down under.

Assistant-coach Brian Turner said that the group would be far from easy but that his side had gained great confidence from the narrow defeat against the Italians in a friendly ahead of the 2009 Confederations Cup.

GROUP F: The All Whites drawn in Group F with world champions Italy, European qualifiers Slovakia and South Americans Paraguay.
Reuters
GROUP F: The All Whites drawn in Group F with world champions Italy, European qualifiers Slovakia and South Americans Paraguay.

New Zealand lost 3-4 after leading the match on three different occasions. "Italy won the game after they brought on all the big guns but we mainly lost because of personal mistakes," Turner told a massive posse of Italian scribes.

It was the only encounter between the two countries.

The All Whites will open their campaign against Slovakia in Rustenburg on June 15, the same venue where they played two matches in the Confederations Cup in June.

GROUP F: South African actress Charlize Theron holds a slip of paper as the countries drawn into Group F for the 2010 World Cup are announced.
Reuters
GROUP F: South African actress Charlize Theron holds a slip of paper as the countries drawn into Group F for the 2010 World Cup are announced.

Slovakia won their group which also included Slovenia, Poland and Northern Ireland and are currently No.34 in the world.

Liverpool central defender Martin Skrtel is the star player in the Slovakian squad which also includes Napoli's Marek Hamsik.

New Zealand's second game will be against Italy in Nelspruit on June 20 and the third group match against Paraguay will be in another north-eastern venue, Polokwane, on June 24.

Paraguay finished third in the South American group after their best qualifying campaign in history.

Paraguay is currently ranked No.30 in the world and the team's best known player is Ryan Nelsen's former Blackburn team-mate Roque Santa Cruz.

It will be Paraguay's eighth appearance at the World Cup.

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino admitted that he had seen Italy and Slovakia in action, but would have to do a bit of homework on New Zealand.

The All Whites played Paraguay once before in 1995, losing 2-3 in Santiago de Chile.

In other groups, Australia struck a very tough draw against Germany,  Serbia and Ghana, while England has a seemingly easier route to the second round, playing against the United States, Algeria and Slovenia.

Hosts South Africa will open the World Cup on June 1 against Mexico, but will struggle to get past the first round as it also faces France and Uruguay.

Group G may become the 'Group of Death' with giants Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast pooled with the unknown quantity of North Korea.

A worldwide audience of 200 million had to wait for nearly an hour before Springbok captain John Smit started pulling the first balls out of the pots.

The finely choreographed television performance started on top of the famous Table Mountain basking in the sun of a perfect Cape Town summer's night before moving inside the Convention Centre where 3000 guests were treated to a feast of football and African culture.

The show was co-hosted by Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron, and was attended by a who's who from the world of football, entertainment and politics, including football legends Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini, Eusebio, Luis Figo, Roger Milla, David Beckham, Ruud Gullit and Nobel Prize winners Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African leader FW de Klerk.

Beckham assisted in the draw along with Ethiopian distance-runner Haile Gebrselassie, cricketer Maykaya Ntini and footballers Matthew Booth and Simphiwe Dludlu.

After the draw the street parties which had been building up all day continued into the Cape Town night.

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana,
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Group G: Brazil, Korea DPR, Côte d'Ivoire, Portugal
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

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