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The missing World Cup XI

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SOCCER-WORLD/You could go for a three-pronged attack of Nani, Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben. How about Michael Ballack, David Beckham, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien in your midfield? And build your defence around Rio Ferdinand.

Welcome to a new kind of Fantasy Football — the World Cup Injured XI.

I haven’t yet scoured the statistics books, but veterans in the game cannot remember a World Cup so badly hit by injuries to big names before it even started. Not all of them are out for the whole tournament, of course, but some big names are , and what a shame the first World Cup on the continent has already lost so much star power.

So what’s the reason for all these injuries? Is it simply an older generation past its prime? Are players simply less tough than their predecessors? Are the modern physical demands too much? Or is just bad luck?

As you theorise, pick your XI from the increasing list of fantastic players on the injury-table. Here’s a first stab from my colleague Patrick Johnston, with a few overlooked players thrown in to make it a real Missing World Cup XI:

Community Blog: Laid back PE starts buzzing…

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The friendly city of Port Elizabeth has not been left behind in the wave of the 2010 Fifa World Cup euphoria. As one of the host cities, PE, is putting together the last touch ups before the World Cup officially begins on June 11.

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In Uptown Culture Centre in the CBD’s Rink Street, artists, craftsmen and painters are working at finishing their “2010 projects” which included beaded wire soccer balls, soccer boots and stadiums.

Community Blog: The “other” World Cup!

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SOCCER-WORLD/In townships throughout South Africa, young boys and girls first learn to play football in the streets. And as fans and footballers from across the globe gather here for the 2010 World Cup, the townships are also vying for the world’s attention.In Alexandra township, which stands across the motorway and the skyscrapers of its more glamorous cousin Sandton, this world cup promises to bring something positive to the community. 

Alex will be home to this years “other” World Cup. The tournament, which is known as Football for Hope, kicked off on Friday June 4 at Alexandra Stadium. This FIFA sponsored tournament will bring more than 250 boys and girls (between the ages of 12 to 17) from different countries and cultures into the heart of Alexandra.

Are Italy the least fancied world champions ever?

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World champions Italy arrived in South Africa on Wednesday but there wasn’t much of a fanfare.

Around twenty fans turned up to greet them at Johannesburg airport, nothing in comparison with the vast numbers of South Africans dancing beneath my window in Pretoria right now. They are blowing their vuvuzelas wildly for no apparent reason, they are just so excited the World Cup kicks off in two days.

Dreams of a rabid fan

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The following is a guest post from David Henry Sterry, co-author of “The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatics Guide.”  The opinions expressed are his own.

I am an American soccer fanatic. But I can’t believe who else are also soccer fans now.

Italy finally get to concentrate on World Cup

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It’s been a funny build-up to the World Cup for holders Italy.

The words “South Africa” have barely been mentioned in the last week despite the Azzurri being huddled up in an Alpine ski resort trying to get used to altitude conditions.

Hardly anyone has talked about the World Cup with the focus instead being on a new coach after the tournament and which clubs players will be at next season.

Nothing ‘meaningless’ about U.S. defeat

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USA 2 Czech Republic 4 was hardly a morale boosting result for American fans as their team prepares for the World Cup finals, which begin for the U.S against England on June 12.

Of course, as the ESPN commentators were at pains to point out, perhaps worried about viewers turning off from the team before the tournament has even begun, the squad on the field last night was missing key starters such as Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra (who instead was spotted chomping chicken wings in the stands) and Clint Dempsey. And as the ESPN crew also repeatedly reminded us, the result of games like these are “meaningless”.

Should Totti be allowed to make World Cup comeback?

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Italy coach Marcello Lippi says we won’t know until next week whether Francesco Totti will come out of international retirement at the World Cup.

It’s unclear if the wait is because Totti has not decided yet, Lippi has not made up his mind or they are just building the tension ready for the announcement of the 30-man preliminary squad on May 11.

from Africa News blog:

Violence and tension come at worst time for World Cup

SAFRICA-TERREBLANCHE/World Cup organisers probably dreamed of a placid, trouble-free final countdown to the soccer spectacular, with all the fears about crime, bad transport and accommodation shortages pushed to the background for Africa's biggest sports extravaganza. Sadly for them, they are getting the opposite. It would be difficult to conjure up a more unfortunate set of events less than 60 days before the tournament. Simmering racial tensions have burst into the open because of the murder of white supremacist Eugene Terre'blanche and the diatribes of Julius Malema, leader of the youth wing of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, who refuses to pipe down despite tough reprimands from President Jacob Zuma and other party officials. Even before what must be looking to hapless officials like a perfect storm, scenes had become commonplace of township residents rioting around South Africa against lack of improvements in their lives some 16 years after the end of apartheid.
To add to the torture for World Cup officials while the spotlight is fixed on South Africa, municipal workers have declared an indefinite strike over wages, threatening the chaotic scenes seen last year when rubbish was strewn over the streets. South Africa's biggest labour federation has threatened strikes during the tournament to protest against big hikes in power prices.
All of this illustrates the point that countries or cities staging major world events suddenly become fixed in an often uncomfortable glare of world attention as the big day approaches. But even by these standards, South Africa looks unfortunate. World Cup officials, led by chief organiser Danny Jordaan, have spent literally years fending off suggestions that soccer fans will be in mortal danger in South Africa, which has one of the globe's highest rates of violent crime. Jordaan and others have repeated a familiar mantra-- the country has staged 150 sports and other events since the end of apartheid with little problem, millions of tourists have enjoyed South Africa's many attractions for years without major criminal attacks and protecting a finite event is a lot less complex than overcoming the national crime wave--especially since 40,000 police have been mobilised to do only that.

Nevertheless, many foreign fans and even visiting journalists are anxious about security and alarmist media reports have undoubtedly deterred some, especially it seems in Germany--hosts of the last event. What could be worse then, as the final countdown begins, than the events of the last week or so? Terre'blanche was hacked and bludgeoned to death on April 3 in a killing whose brutality seemed almost calculated to set off new anxiety about visiting South Africa, even though police believe it was a simple criminal, rather than racial, attack. Terre'blanche's own fringe AWB party lost no time in telling foreign journalists that overseas fans would be in danger during the World Cup and most reports on the killing mentioned the tournament's approach. The most extreme reaction came from the U.K. tabloid the Daily Star which said English fans risked a "machete race war" --sparking howls of protest in South Africa.
All of this has been made a lot worse by Malema, a firebrand demagogue who had hitherto been apparently used by some of the ANC to hit at leftwingers in the party and to mobilise the youth vote, but who now seems to have got out of control. Terre'blanche's supporters say that Malema's insistence on reviving an apartheid-era song "Kill the Boer" -- which has now been banned by the courts --was the direct cause of the murder. Zuma said on Sunday, in an unusually strong reprimand, that Malema's comments and actions, including calling a BBC journalist a bastard and throwing him out of a press conference, were alien to the ruling party. Malema remained defiant despite the rebuke.

Is bad luck for United good news for England?

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/ROONEYManchester United announced on Thursday that Wayne Rooney suffered only “minor ligament damage” to his ankle in Tuesday’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

“We’re pleased to report that Wayne has not suffered a fracture,” a United spokesperson said and manager Alex Ferguson will say how many games his in-form striker is likely to miss at his news conference on Friday before Saturday’s top-of-the-table Premier League clash against Chelsea.

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