South Africa eye repeat of England 1966

CAPE TOWN - If World Cup hosts South Africa are looking for any omens after being drawn in a tough opening round group with France, Uruguay and Mexico, they can take heart from England's victory in 1966.

As host nation 43 years ago, England were drawn with the same three opponents in the group stage.

England drew 0-0 with Uruguay in the opening match at Wembley Stadium before beating both Mexico and France by 2-0 and eventually going on to be crowned world champions.

South Africa will be happy just to qualify for the second round and avoid becoming the first hosts to fail to reach the next phase of the tournament, but the odds look stacked against them going on previous meetings.

They have drawn once and lost twice to France, drawn once and lost once to Uruguay and have registered one win in three games against Mexico, their opponents in the opening match at Soccer City on June 11.

Despite the tough Group A, South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira put on a brave face.

"It is the only group in the whole competition to have two former world champions (France and Uruguay)," he said.

"It doesn't scare us. It is a challenge for us".

Renewing old World Cup rivalries are Argentina, Nigeria and Greece, who met in the opening round of the 1994 World Cup in the United States. The same three countries were drawn in Group B for South Africa, with South Korea rounding out the quartet instead of Bulgaria.

Under the system used in 1994, which was the last of the 24-team finals, Argentina, Nigeria and Bulgaria all qualified while Greece were elimiated after losing all three of their matches. They also failed to score a goal in their one and only World Cup finals appearance to date.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel, who took them to an unexpected European title in 2004, said after the draw Argentina were the favourites to go through but that Greece could make the last 16.

"My main concern would be to have all my players fit in time for the opening match," he said. "Then I think we can have a realistic chance of qualifying."