France to face hosts South Africa

CAPE TOWN - Hosts South Africa will play Mexico in the opening match of Africa's first World Cup finals next year with two former winners, France and Uruguay, also drawn in the same group on Friday.

But if the hosts did not get the easy draw they were hoping for, neither did five times winners Brazil, who play their European cousins Portugal, Africa's strongest team Ivory Coast and North Korea.

The draw for the 32-nation tournament was made at the end of a 90-minute global television spectacular broadcast to more than 250 million people in a ceremony hosted by FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke and South African actress Charlize Theron.

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The opening match will be staged on June 11 at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium with the final in the same stadium on July 11.

The hosts will face a hard time getting out of Group A and into the last 16 for the knockout rounds.

South Africa defender Matthew Booth, who took part in the draw, said afterwards: "It's a very tough group but we didn't expect an easy one."

Holders Italy, who beat France in the final four years ago in Germany, have a more comfortable looking ride in Group F with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia.

Germany have it a bit tougher with Australia, Serbia and Ghana standing in their way in Group D.

England meet the United States, who beat them in a shock result at the 1950 finals, Algeria and Slovenia.

Former England captain David Beckham, also taking part in the draw, said: "It's just an honour and a privilege to be at the first finals in Africa."

The ceremony included a televised address to the world from former South African president Nelson Mandela.

The country's current president Jacob Zuma appeared on stage to make the bold prediction that the trophy would stay in Africa after the continent staged the tournament for the first time.