· Johannesburg: JoBurg’s two stadiums, Soccer City (above) in Soweto and Ellis Park are key. A remodel of Ellis brings seat capacity to 62,000 and a new pitch. Soccer City, the 94,000-seater also known as the “African Calabash”, is the location of tournaments’ final match on July 11.
Big Game(s): Brazil vs. Korea DPR at Ellis and South Africa vs. Mexico at Soccer City. Brazil is a five-time World Cup winner, so they have a rep to uphold. Plus all-eyes will be glued on South Africa’s Bafana Bafana team, who have plenty to prove against the determined “El Tri” Mexico squad that’s played 14 World Cup games without ever winning.
Distance: JoBurg is a one-hour drive from Rustenburg, and a one-hour flight from Nelspruit.
· Nelspruit: The newly-built Mbombela Stadium is a boon for this region, one hour away from the rugged Sabi Sands and Kruger National Park regions. Fans can easily combine safari and sport during a visit here.
Big Game: Italy vs. New Zealand. The Italians are the reigning World Cup champions and NZ’s 23-man team is a young and ambitious group to watch.
Distance: Nelspruit is a 2.5-hour flight from Cape Town and a 3.5-hour drive from Pretoria.
· Port Elizabeth: The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, specifically built for the World Cup, will host several matches, including a quarter-final.
Big Game: Côte d’Ivoire vs. Portugal. Côte d’Ivoire has a star-studded team looking to take down the Portuguese, racked with player injuries and poor play.
Distance: Port Elizabeth is a nine-hour drive or a 75-minute flight from Cape Town.
· Mangaung/Bloemfontein: Free State Stadium was the site of the 2009 Confederations Cup, where the U.S. team beat formindable opponent Spain in a semi-final match.
Big Game: Out of the five group games and one-second round match, fans will be watching the Japan vs. Cameroon match as the two-underdog teams battle in South Africa’s high-altitude arena.
Distance: Bloemfontein is a seven-hour drive from Durban and a one-hour flight from JoBurg.
· Pretoria: Loftus Versfeld, built in the 1900s, is one of Africa’s oldest stadiums and has 50,000 seats. It’s undergone extensive renos for the tournament.
Big Game: Serbia vs.Ghana. This matchup will decide who will advance in Group D. Serbia is said to have a stronger offense than Ghana, a team that has a lot of heart and pride and want to rep Africa to the fullest.
Distance: Pretoria is a 35-minute drive from JoBurg or a nearly 3-hour fly/drive journey from Cape Town through JoBurg.
· Polokwane: The Peter Mokaba Stadium, in the Limpopo province, was built specifically for the World Cup, and is a replacement of an older facility.
Big Game: France vs. Mexico. Sure to be heavily watched, especially with the scandal surrounding the French team accused of cheating and Mexico looking to showcase their players’ speed and tenacity.
Distance: Polokwane is a one-hour flight from JoBurg and a four-hour drive north from Pretoria.
· Rustenburg: The Royal Bafokeng Stadium, in South Africa’s northwestern province, will be host six games – including a Group of 16.
Big Game: England vs. USA. One of the most highly anticipated matches of the tourney, with both teams’ fans sure to cheer at epic decibels. US goalkeeper Tim Howard is a New Jersey-native/English-transplant with an impressive track record and England is sure to come to the playing field full-throttle.
Distance: Despite being of the country’s most rural locations, Bafokeng is one of the easiest to reach, at less than one hour’s drive from JoBurg.
· 2010 World Cup Travel Guide: Inside Moses Mabhida Stadium [Jaunted]
· 2010 World Cup coverage[Jaunted]
[All photos by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com, unless otherwise noted.]
Disclosure: Chanize Thorpe was hosted by South Africa Tourism on a recent assignment.