Following are key facts on 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa: GEOGRAPHY
South Africa is situated at the southern tip of Africa, with almost 2,800 kilometres of coastline from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. At 1.22 million squared kilometres it is the 25th largest country in the world, roughly the size of France, Italy and Spain combined.
South Africa is bordered to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, to the east by Mozambique and Swaziland and encircles the kingdom of Lesotho.
The country is divided into nine provinces, with Gauteng, which includes industrial and financial centre Johannesburg and capital Pretoria, being the smallest by land size but the richest and most populated. It is also home to three of the 10 stadiums for the World Cup.
Cape Town, in the south-west of the country, is the biggest tourist draw and will host a semi-final in the tournament within site of its famous Table Mountain. PEOPLE
49.32 million people, largely housed in the northern and western parts of the country.
South Africa has 11 official languages and while English is the main language of business it is only the fifth most commonly spoken in the country. The others are Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda and Southern Ndebele.
Just under 80 percent of the population is black, with whites and mixed-race "coloured" making up about nine percent each and Asian about 2.6 percent. Wealth is still skewed in the hands of the white population 15 years after the end of apartheid white rule.
Nearly a third of the population is under the age of 15.
South Africa was a British colony and English football is hugely popular and closely watched. ECONOMY
GDP was 2.284 trillion rand at the end of 2008 (about $310 billion)
Annual GDP per capita was 46,800 rand (about $6,300)
South Africa's economy emerged from its first recession in 17 years in the third quarter of 2009, after averaging around five percent growth a year for the previous five years.
However, consumers remain under pressure and power supply is still tight, prompting utility Eskom to pour billions of dollars into building capacity.
The Treasury has forecast the economy to contract 1.9 percent this year, but grow by 1.5 percent in 2010.
Economists say the prediction for next year is too pessimistic, with the World Cup and the money flowing from an expected 450,000 fans helping to boost growth to above two percent. Some economists see the tournament adding about 0.5 percent to growth.
The government and its utilities are to spend 872 billion rand over the next three years to boost infrastructure, including a huge upgrade of roads and highways around major cities and a fast rail system linking Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport, financial centre Sandton and Pretoria.
The "Gautrain", however, will not be finished in time for the tournament.
South Africa is mineral-rich, producing about 75 percent of the world's platinum, and remains a major producer of gold despite its output having fallen sharply over the past two decades.
Tourism contributed 8.4 percent of GDP in 2007, providing 785,000 jobs.
Unemployment is a major problem, with the official jobless rate climbing to 24.5 percent at the end of September. Including those people who have given up looking for work the figures rises to 34.4 percent. MAIN ISSUES
AIDS: South Africa, with more than five million people estimated to be infected with HIV, has the world's largest AIDS caseload.
POVERTY: Life expectancy at birth is 53.5 years for males and 57.2 years for females. The latest U.N. Human Development Report ranks South Africa at 129 of 182 countries.
CRIME: South Africa has some of the highest rates of murder and rape in the world. There were 18,143 murders in 2008/9, more than 35,000 reported rapes and around 15,000 carjackings.
ENERGY: A chronic energy shortfall affected the country in 2008, cutting production in the key mining sector and regularly plunged millions of homes into darkness last year.
Utility Eskom and the World Cup's local organising committee have vowed, though, that there will not be disruptions during the tournament, with huge diesel generators at stadiums backing up the grid. SPORT
South Africans are sports-mad, with football the most followed of the major sports and cricket and rugby also hugely popular.
The country's "Springboks" rugby team are the world champions and have won that prize twice in the last four tournaments, while its "Proteas" cricket team is ranked the top test team.
The national football team, known affectionately as "Bafana Bafana" - "the boys the boys" - have not fared as well. They are ranked 86th in the world but have set themselves the target of making it through the first round of the tournament.comments