Durban, Nov 25: More than 150 countries aiming to reach the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa will find out who they are going to have to play to get there when the preliminary round draw takes place today.
The 90-minute extravaganza at the International Convention Centre in Durban, which starts at 1930 hrs IST, is being shown live in more than 170 countries across the globe and is the first major showpiece event staged by FIFA on African soil.
A total of 169 countries out of a record entry of 200 are still involved, but with the preliminary competition underway in South America and Oceania, and with extra-preliminary rounds completed in Asia, 156 nations will discover how their path to the finals will pan out on Sunday evening.
South Africa, as the host nation, qualify automatically, but they will also be included in the draw as the African preliminary competition doubles up as the qualifying round of the African Cup of Nations.
A total of 861 matches are scheduled to be played until the preliminary round ends in November 2009, with the draw for the finals scheduled for Cape Town the following month.
Jerome Valcke, FIFA's new general secretary, will act as the master of ceremonies. He will be assisted by a number of former players including former World Player of the Year George Weah of Liberia, and Ali Daei of Iran, the most prolific scorer in the preliminary competition with 30 goals in 47 appearances.