The World Cup Of Rock: MTV News’ Global Challenge Begins Friday!

In the spirit of our March Madness competition, we pit rock bands against each other -- fans decide who wins!

Every four years, the international community comes together to decide which nation has the most dominant soccer team (or football team, provided that you live anywhere but the United States). The 2010 FIFA World Cup is upon us, and the first matches start in earnest on Friday.

Coincidentally, that’s also the day that will see the launch of the 2010 MTV World Cup of Rock tournament. Just as we did with our very popular Musical March Madness matchup, we’ve taken a huge sporting event and translated it to the music world. And once again, it’s up to you the readers to decide which country rocks hardest and best.

The 16 countries that qualified for the World Cup of Rock are divided into four groups of four teams each. Play will begin on Friday with a matchup between the first two teams, and every day will see a different matchup. Once each team has played the others in its group, the two top seeds from each group will qualify for the bracketed tournament. From there, it’s single elimination until one nation is left standing.

Each country will be represented by a contingent of particular artists, but you should consider any group from that particular country eligible for play. The goal of the tournament is to decide just which country rocks hardest and best.

There will be one match every day, with the winners decided by your votes on the MTV Newsroom Blog. Tiebreakers will be decided by the most votes cast for each individual country, so vote for your favorite early and often.

Let’s meet the teams!

Group A

France: The French won the World Cup in 1998 and they have another strong chance to score big this year. In order to advance in the World Cup of Rock, they’ll have to rely on the likes of Phoenix, Daft Punk, Air and a bevy of better-than-you-think-they-are French hip-hop MCs.

Mexico: The Mexican team has everything: veteran leadership in Carlos Santana, youthful energy from Kinky and an air of big-game cool from Plastilina Mosh.

Nigeria: Powered by Afrobeat (first birthed by the late Fela Kuti and heard everywhere from Talking Heads to Kanye West), these plucky underdogs are capable of anything.

Uruguay: The small South American powerhouse has won two World Cups (including the very first one in 1930) and could be a surprising dark horse this time around. Their representation in the World Cup of Rock essentially consists of one person — Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta — but he’s a pretty great guy to have on your front line.

Group B

England: The English do a few things exceptionally well, with soccer and rock just behind drinking and reality television. With Coldplay, Damon Albarn, Muse and Radiohead leading the way, it should be able to assert its dominance early and often.

South Africa: The host nation doesn’t have the strongest soccer team but it does have a solid batch of musical representatives, including arena hippie Dave Matthews, prog icon Manfred Mann and tongue-twisting rapper Jean Grae.

South Korea: Though it doesn’t have a great shot at the Cup, South Korea has a secret weapon in the World Cup of Rock: His name is Rain (a.k.a. MTV Movie Awards Badass winner), and he is a one man dynamo.

United States of America: Easily the favorite, considering that it basically invented rock and roll, and with any number of massive international superstars at its disposal — including the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters and 75 percent of Metallica — there’s no reason it shouldn’t run the table.

Group C

Brazil: The Brazilian soccer team has won more World Cups than any other nation, and they’ve done it with varied attacks and dynamic stars. Their World Cup of Rock contingent is similarly eclectic and flashy, with the likes of legendary psychedelic rockers Os Mutantes, manic dance troupe CSS and the savagery of Max Cavalera, the man responsible for Sepultura and Soulfly.

Germany: The three-time champions (and seven-time finalists) are one of the favorites to take home the World Cup, and their band contingent is lead by one of the strongest front lines in all of music: Tokio Hotel. But will goalkeeper David Hasselhoff be able to lead them to victory?

Japan: Unorthodoxy is definitely the order of the day for their musical representatives, with metal mavens Dir en Grey, pop sensation Utada, punk veterans Shonen Knife and sugary power poppers Puffy AmiYumi leading the way.

Spain: The perfect blend of past and future, the Spanish contingent has a powerful figurehead in Julio Iglesias (who actually played professional soccer before becoming a pop star) and bright young stars in Alejandro Sanz, Enrique Iglesias and David Bisbal.

Group D

Argentina: They’re one of the odds-on favorites to take home the Cup this year, but they are underdogs in the World Cup of Rock.

Australia: The soccer team is called the Socceroos, but the Rockaroos (clever, huh?) should bulldoze the competition with powerhouses like AC/DC, Wolfmother and Jet.

Denmark: Denmark’s soccer team plays a pretty loose game, and so do their rock bands. How do you prepare for Mew, the Raveonettes and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich all at the same time?

Italy: Italy won the World Cup in 2006, besting France in one of the most memorable finals in history. Can a team of mostly hard-edged groups like Lacuna Coil and Starf—ers lead them to victory in the World Cup of Rock?

Remember, the matchups start on Friday at the
MTV Newsroom Blog. So enjoy all of the soccer action for the next month and get behind your favorite team in the World Cup of Rock.