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from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Confederations Cup defies pessimists but is World Cup on course?

So, the Confederations Cup is over and much of the pessimistic handringing beforehand proved unfounded.Despite some real logistical problems, the general verdict seems to be that the tournament was a success with enthusiastic and colourful crowds and some classy and unpredictable football, not least the United States' shock semi-final defeat of Spain and a thrilling final where Brazil went 2-0 down to the Americans before storming back to win 3-2 and ensure the football world was not thrown off its axis.Crucially, South Africa's own team, Bafana Bafana, did a lot better than many of their own fans had expected. The side suffered a lot of bad press from their terrible pre-competition form -- they did not even qualify for next year's African Nations Cup finals -- and Brazilian coach Joel Santana had been treated with scepticism by football writers and fans alike. Even Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the organising committee for next year's World Cup, expressed concern over their form. After a slow start, however, South Africa turned in a creditable, if not outstanding performance. They reached the semi-final and held eventual champions Brazil until the 88th minute when they went down to a scorching free kick by Daniel Alves. And in the third place final they pushed European champions Spain into extra time before finally losing 3-2, again to a freekick.They badly need more strike power and it looks like Santana must make peace with English-based striker Benni McCarthy who was dropped from the team for his apparent lack of commitment. But their performance gave grounds for some optimism.Bafana Bafana's Confederations Cup performance was key to the 2010 World Cup because it will encourage local fan participation -- a constant worry for the organisers, who expressed concern before this tournament about lack of home enthusiasm.Nevertheless, there are continuing worries that even the cheapest World Cup tickets are still too expensive for working class South Africans and that they will be unwilling to pay in advance for entrance in a year's time, something which goes directly against the entrenched local custom of buying tickets on match days.World Cup matches attended predominantly by foreign fans and restrained, middle class South Africans would be a huge disappointment for the first World Cup held in Africa, where the unique local atmosphere was a major selling point.That isn't the only worry in considering what the Confederations Cup tells us about the likely success of next year's much bigger global competition.FIFA boss Sepp Blatter gave organisers 7.5 points out of 10 for the Confederations Cup but World Cup veterans said this was nothing to be complacent about, given his likely tendency to talk up the tournament. Even Blatter said South Africa had to do "a little bit more" and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was more direct, acknowledging problems with transport, security and accommodation capacity, which is still significantly below what will be required next year.Security is a particularly sensitive issue, given South Africa's frightening reputation for violent crime, so it was unfortunate that the Confederations Cup saw alleged thefts from both Egyptian and Brazilian teams, although some of the circumstances remain mirky.More serious were security lapses in access to stadiums and other areas. Such failures must be cleared up in the time that remains if fans are to follow their teams without constantly looking over their shoulders.So the Confederations Cup provided both encouragement and warnings. Okay so far, but much more to be done. The next 12 months may be both nerve racking and frenetic for the organisers but we are all still hoping for a reasonably trouble-free football extravaganza with the special atmosphere that only Africa can give it--including those pesky vuvuzela trumpets...PHOTO: A South African fan at the June 28 Confederations Cup final REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Money will talk louder than any vuvuzela

Photo

The debate around the vuvuzela was always going to generate big noise but for some South African commentators it has become almost a neo-colonial conflict.

The noisy trumpet, which dominates the sound waves around the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, has got a lot of people covering their ears.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Confederations Cup shapes up well…except for the weather

For all their scepticism about South Africa’s potential to host the World Cup, the build-up to the test event, the Confederations Cup, has so far gone without any major hitches.

It is a dream scenario for the home nation and FIFA, still trying to temper the doubters and persuade the world all will be ready by 2010, has added to the chorus of congratulations.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

World Cup is golden opportunity for Africa — if it succeeds

The countdown has begun for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, an event, now only a year away, that could change perceptions about the whole continent and show the globe a festival of sport that reverses obstinate stereotypes of a region in constant crisis and violence.

Africans are deeply frustrated by the tendency of foreigners, including investors, to see Africa almost as one country instead of more than 50 extremely diverse nations. Meltdown in Zimbabwe can impact on investors' perceptions of countries thousands of miles away on the other side of the continent. By the same token, a successful World Cup will not only change the way people see Africa but also encourage future mega events and the huge investment that they can bring.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

South African potential can emerge from mountain of bricks

We are now less than a week away from the start of the Confederations Cup and the first true test of South Africa's preparedness to host the 2010 World Cup.

It's hard for a lot of people to take the Confederations Cup seriously, although in Germany four years ago it did develop into a summer festival and in the end proved a tasty appetiser before the main meal 12 months later.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Santana’s stuttering English is a good sign for South Africa

South Africa’s Brazilian coach Joel Santana has broken into English at news conferences on just a handful of occasions.

It's mostly after rare wins for the national side when the local media are in good humour and Santana seeks to charm them with his piecemeal vocabulary. Few notes are taken amid the mirth.

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