World Cup Q&A
This week some of our regular bloggers are answering your World Cup questions. South American expert Tim Vickery and European expert Phil Minshull have had their turn, now it is African expert Piers Edwards's chance to give his views.
Q. Who do you think will win the World Cup and who do you think will be the star of the tournament. I think Netherlands could win, and I think the star of the tournament could be Luis Fabiano, so what do you think?
Andrew David, Wales
A. I think Brazil will beat Argentina in the final, however insane it may be to back a team coached by Diego Maradona. The World Cup does throw up the implausible and I think this one will have a few shocks.
This isn't really answering your question, but I can't wait for the competition to start, especially after three years' build-up here. Perhaps I'm just hoping to be entertained but the prospect of both Maradona and Messi lighting up South Africa could be memorable. The Zanetti and Cambiasso decisions were strange but Maradona does have incredible talent at his disposal.
I also think the Dutch may do well, especially given Arjen Robben's fantastic displays for Bayern in recent months. Play and score goals like that at the World Cup and he'll be a major star. I agree that Brazil's Fabiano will have a good tournament and think he'll actually finish as top scorer but I'm not sure he'll be the star as his clinical style of play won't light up a World Cup like a Messi, Rooney or Ronaldo.
Q. Who do the bloggers think will be the real surprise package this time around? Both overachieving and underperforming.
A. From below the top tier of contenders, I expect to see the US, Serbia, Paraguay, Ivory Coast, Chile and hosts South Africa overachieve.
Underperforming: Nigeria, Italy and Portugal.
Q. Which unheard of players will shine in this tournament?
A. Focusing first on Africa, I think fans will enjoy watching South African wingers Siphiwe Tshabalala and Teko Modise, should they continue their bright form. Ghanaian striker Dominic Adiyiah could make an impact if given a chance and Ivory Coast's Gervinho could also turn heads - ditto Algeria's Karim Ziani, Nigeria's Osaze Odemwingie and Cameroon's Achille Emana.
As for the non-Africans, a motley crew of players I expect to sparkle include Serbian winger Zoran Tosic, US defender Oguchi Onyewu (if fully fit), the Netherlands' Moroccan-born midfielder Ibrahim Afellay and Germany's Mesut Ozil.
Q. Very little has been said about the Asian teams. How well are they expected to do this time, with South Korea having really progressed in the last two World Cups?
Jay Goolaup, Mauritius
A. I'm not too familiar with many of their players but I'm not anticipating a great deal from the Asian teams. North Korea are an unknown quantity, even though they've been in camp for many months, and hopes of repeating their 1966 heroics were surely dashed by their group draw - perhaps the hardest facing any team.
Japan's coach has (in)famously said he's aiming for the semi-finals but I doubt they'll even exit their group. South Korea have every chance of progressing given they seem to be on a par with Group B rivals Nigeria and Greece - but not Argentina. As for Australia, the Socceroos are in an incredibly-tough Group D from which I think Germany and Serbia will progress.
Q. In its current format the World Cup is predominantly made up of teams mainly from Europe & the Americas. Do you think it's time Fifa change the rules so that more countries from Africa and Asia participate in the finals. After all it is the 'World' Cup?
A. I hope Africa performs so well that it continues to have six World Cup teams, which it has for the first time this year because South Africa are hosts. Should the continent revert to five places for its 50+ nations for 2014, then the Concacaf allocation of 3.5 places would seem, in my personal opinion, overly generous given the region's impact.
Q. Do you think England have a good chance of winning the World Cup?
Luke Anderson, England
A. Yes I do. They have the necessary criteria to win: a good group of players, a good coach and a player who can make the difference in Rooney.
In addition, they should feel fairly at home in South Africa with no language barrier (the last time England contested a World Cup in an Anglophone-speaking country was, incidentally, 1966) and the cool weather will allow them to play their high-tempo game - although it'll be interesting to see what effect altitude has in the knockout games.
That's my view as a journalist. As a fan, and having witnessed many disappointments first-hand, I'll believe an England World Cup win when I see it!
Q. Who do you think will go out in the 'group of death' - Brazil, Portugal or Ivory Coast?
George Wysocki, England
A. Very hesitantly, I expect Portugal to lose out here. I watched several of their qualifiers and was rarely impressed, especially up front. Yes, Ronaldo was injured but Liedson didn't convince and Pepe's return after so long out does not bode well.
It's hard to see Brazil failing, especially when starting against North Korea, while the Ivorians may find that goal difference could be decisive. Under Sven-Goran Eriksson, I expect to see a very different Elephants side to the one at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola - and a very different Drogba now he won't have the Premier League at the back of his mind.
Q. Is the vuvuzela trumpet going to put you off the World Cup at all?
A. Not in the slightest - but bear in mind I say this knowing I'll be buffered from the din by watching from the press area, which should be relatively quiet in comparison. But having watched various matches from the stands, I can tell you it's incredibly difficult to have any sort of conversation with your neighbour - simply because once you've started, a short sharp burst of a nearby vuvuzela can quickly extinguish any desire to continue chatting, unless you want to shout.
Vuvuzelas are very loud - but they also provide an unforgettable atmosphere.
Q. Do you think Algeria have a realistic chance of emerging from their group as at least runners-up, bearing in mind that they have already beaten a potential dark horse for the World Cup in Ivory Coast this year.
James Feligha, Wales
A. I think Algeria's victory over Ivory Coast has to be looked at from the latter's perspective, when the Elephants' defence - and tactics - were in disarray, which ultimately sparked Vahid Halilhodzic's dismissal. That said, Algeria did display the never-say-die attitude for which they're famous and which often serves them well.
Their chances of progressing are only realistic in that their opener is against Slovenia where a win will keep them alive in the group until the end - but I think a lack of quality means they'll come up short.
Q. Piers - are Algeria likely to 'park the bus' in their group game against England? Do they have the potential to pose a problem for us?
Mitch Holder-Mansfield, England
A. They are likely to park the bus - but that's only because that'll be their general game-plan against everybody. Algeria are a limited side but the defence is their strongest suit - especially when Belhadj, Halliche, Yahia and Bougherra are all there - and they largely rely on counter-attacks or set-pieces to score.
Their lack of firepower up front, as well as an over-reliance upon Karim Ziani's creativity, means I have to agree with Hassan Yebda's assessment when I asked him during the Nations Cup if Algeria can beat England. "No, I don't think so," he replied. "We'll try everything but I don't think we will."
Q. Which Chelsea midfielder will be missed more during the World Cup: Michael Ballack for Germany or Michael Essien for Ghana? Just out of instinct I feel the Germans would have more depth to replace their captain, but he was huge for them in Euro 2008.
A. I think your instinct is spot on. It's impossible to underestimate Essien's loss to the Ghana side - or any team, as Chelsea fans will tell you - given his dynamism and quality. Yes, several Ghanaian midfielders can fill in but none have Essien's enormous drive, unsurprising really given that very few players anywhere can match it.
Losing Ballack is obviously a big blow for Germany - coach Joachim Loew is now saying they can't win the World Cup - but I've been very impressed when watching Bastian Schweinsteiger playing that central midfield role for Bayern in recent matches and expect to see him step up.
Q. With Ghana losing Essien to injury, how do you think they will cope and do you think their young players, who won the U20 World Cup, will shine without his influence?
David Watson, UK
A. I'm not sure if you were watching January's Nations Cup or not, but suspect you weren't as otherwise you'd have seen how several of these youngsters shone in Essien's absence, such as Sam Inkoom, Dede Ayew and the unfortunately-injured Agyemang-Badu.
What was impressive was not just their ability but also the tactical discipline they showed despite being thrown in at the deep end. They carried out coach Milovan Rajevac's instructions to the letter and took champions Egypt all the way in the final. A fearless bunch who've only really known success, I'd imagine their confidence is sky-high.
Ghana suffered a 4-1 defeat by the Netherlands in Rotterdam before heading for South Africa
Q. Piers - Kwadwo Asamoah of Ghana is a player with great talent and quality. Why has he not already moved to a big club?
Tom Mensah, London
A. I think he's just bedding down at Udinese, getting some good first-team action under his belt at a young age. The 21-year-old may also be happy with the knowledge that suitors will soon come calling as he's a fine player, often accurate in passing and he keeps the Black Stars' central midfield smoothly ticking along.
Q. What are the chances of an African team doing well or even winning in this World Cup? I really fancy Ivory Coast to do something, simply because of Drogba. And South Africans will be looking to do fairly well since they are hosting. Has Africa lost its chance with the absence of Egypt who have shown they are the best African side in the African Cup of Nations?
Sonny Rodgers, UK
A. Yes, the continent has undeniably lost something - not just because the reigning African champions are conspicuous by their absence, but also because Egypt, as they showed in the first half at Wembley, can live with most sides.
As for Ivory Coast, as said earlier, I find Group G impossible to call but I think they'll make it through and perhaps make the quarters. While I'm not convinced Africa will break the quarter-final barrier, I think 2-3 sides could make that stage for the first time.
Q. Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two African sides touted as making an impression on the tournament but they both have tough groups. Do you see Cameroon, or even Nigeria, being the African team to go deepest in the tournament?
A. It's a question I've often pondered and think Cameroon, Ivory Coast (as said) and, perhaps surprisingly, South Africa have the best chances. Ghana are definitely one of the strongest African sides, with an excellent coach, but Essien's absence might make Group D too tough.
Nigeria's saving grace is that their Group B rivals are fairly beatable but I'm not convinced. This team needs to be well-prepared and strongly-gelled, which I don't feel it is. As for Cameroon, they could build some momentum if they get out of the group while
South Africa will be Africa's best-prepared team and are ever-improving under Parreira. I wouldn't give them much hope anywhere else but at home where the frenzied support could be key.
Q. How much effect will the weather have on the outcome of the winners of the tournament?
Mike Bennett, England
A. The cold climate here - especially at night - means the laments of previous World Cups, when teams have blamed the heat for limited displays, should be absent. We should see faster-paced games as a result, even with the effects of altitude.
As for the actual winners, Brazil won last year's Confederations Cup in bitterly-cold conditions, overcoming Italy, South Africa and the United States along the way, so I don't think conditions will favour any continent above another.
On Thursday it is the turn of chief football writer Phil McNulty to answer your questions about England.