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更新时间:2010/6/9
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South Africa's Steven Pienaar, in yellow, fights for the ball against Lars Jacobsen of Denmark in a friedly match Saturday
South Africa's Steven Pienaar, in yellow, fights for the ball against Lars Jacobsen of Denmark in a friedly match Saturday
BARBARA KLEIN:  I'm Barbara Klein.

BOB DOUGHTY:  And I'm Bob Doughty with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.  A maker of luxury travel goods recently launched an advertisement campaign.  Video and magazine ads show three men playing table football and laughing in a coffee shop in Madrid, Spain.  They are Pele, Maradona and Zidane.  Only one name identifies each of them to the world.  They talk about football and life.

The ad has gained much attention on the Web, possibly because it captures something about one sporting event.  It says: "Three exceptional journeys.  One historic game."  The game may be historic.  But for football glory, the World Cup must be a part of the journey.

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BARBARA KLEIN:  The 2010 FIFA World Cup opens Friday in South Africa.   It is the first time that the world's biggest sports event will be held in Africa.  FIFA's head, Sepp Blatter, announced the decision six years ago to cheers and celebration.

SEPP BLATTER: "The 2010 World Cup will be organized in South Africa (cheers)."

The World Cup is organized by FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.  The organization was established in nineteen-oh-four.  FIFA is based in Zurich, Switzerland.  Two hundred and eight national associations are members.  That is more members than the United Nations.

FIFA's goal is to maintain the rules of football.  It holds major competitions around the world for men, women and children.  FIFA makes money mainly from television and product marketing.  Last year, the group received income of more than one billion dollars.

BOB DOUGHTY:  Football, called soccer in the United States, is probably the world's most popular sport.  FIFA counts about two hundred seventy million male and female players and officials worldwide.  Four percent of the world's population plays some form of football.

Millions of players are registered with leagues and clubs.  Germany has more registered players than any other country.  China is now estimated to have the most total players. The United States has the most football officials.  England, where the sport was born, has the most football clubs — over forty-two thousand.

BARBARA KLEIN:  Football is easy to play.  All you need is a ball and open space.  But at its highest level, football combines skill and physical conditioning.  It has been called "the beautiful game."  And the World Cup is where the beautiful game appears at its best -- and sometimes its worst.

The Two Thousand Ten World Cup has promised drama from the moment groups were announced last December.  The competition is organized so the thirty-two teams play in eight groups, each with four teams.  Teams play their group opponents once.  The top two teams in each group move on to the second stage.

Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba

BOB DOUGHTY:  Every World Cup has its "group of death."  This is a four-team grouping that contains three or four strong teams — all with hopes of winning it all.  In two thousand ten, Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea share the "group of death."  Brazil has won the World Cup five times and is ranked number one by FIFA.  Portugal is ranked third in the world.  And Ivory Coast has one of the world's best players, Didier Drogba.

But Ivorian fans have been watching the news carefully recently.  Drogba suffered a broken arm in a game against Japan last week.  He is expected to play, but it is unclear how soon.  If Drogba hopes to gain fame at the World Cup, he will have to fight injury before he faces a single defender.

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BARBARA KLEIN:  One match capturing world attention will be the United States against England on Saturday, June twelfth.  Sixty years ago, the Americans gained their biggest World Cup victory against England in Brazil.

England is a traditional football power and won the nineteen sixty-six World Cup.  The team is ranked eighth in the world.  It has one of the world's best players, Wayne Rooney.  But the United States is ranked fourteenth.  Coach Bob Bradley believes he has a strong team.

BOB BRADLEY: "[We have] Guys that have been to the World Cup before and have become real good leaders, some younger players that have played key roles throughout qualifying, some new players that came in late but still bring enthusiasm.  And I think as a group there's great character and we think that's one of our strengths."

Landon Donovan is the all-time scoring leader for the United States
Landon Donovan is the all-time scoring leader for the United States

This year's United States team has a lot of international experience.  Seven m