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Too bad you can’t stick around for the tournament experience! The World Cup in South Africa is technically the “finals” and it involves 32 countries/teams. Qualifying games have taken place over the past 3 years. Qualifying happens within each of the 6 FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North/Central America + Carribean, South America, Oceania, and Europe) with a number of slots pre-determined for each zone by some kind of FIFA magic. The host country receives an automatic bid. The tournament is organized in two main stages – the group stage, followed by the knockout stage. For the former, countries are grouped into 8 groups of 4 teams each. Within each group games are played round-robin style with each team playing the other 3 teams in the group exactly once. A win is worth 3 points, a tie is worth 1 point, and a loss is nothing. After all group games are played, the top two teams in each group (i.e. total points, with tiebreakers being 1-highest goal differential, 2-total goals scored, more…) advance to the knockout stage. Teams are seeded and then a knockout tournament is played until one remains. Games in the knockout stage can’t end in a tie. If after the 90 minutes of regulation time the game is tied, two 15 minute periods are played. If it is still tied, the game goes to penalty kicks. The 32 countries and their groups are: Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, 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, North Korea (fairly amazing they qualified), Côte d'Ivoire, Portugal Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
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May 13, 2010