Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
from Left field:
The South African sporting public were a little underwhelmed by the early stages of the Confederations Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour but the last few days has seen a major turnaround and there is now something in the air.
Relatively high ticket prices combined with the Sprinboks' decision to keep their players out of their Super 14 teams combined to ensure the early provincial games were played against a backdrop of empty seats.
Now, however, with the first test looming on Saturday, a ticket for King's Park is like gold dust. The few thousand Lions fans who followed the team round the country over the first three weeks have been joined by a massive influx for the tests.
Estimates are that more than 30,000 will arrive for some part of the tour and they were out in force in Durban this week. Balmy seaside temperatures, good cheap food and, vitally, even cheaper beer, makes the coastal resort a dream destination for rugby tourists.
American soccer fans aren’t noted for their nastiness but the reaction to Giuseppe Rossi, New Jersey native, scoring twice for Italy against the U.S in their 3-1 Confederations Cup defeat on Monday has been surprisingly vitriolic.
What has upset U.S fans is that Rossi was born and bred in the U.S. but chose to play for another country and then — to add insult to injury — celebrated when he scored twice against his country of birth.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan and just about everyone else involved in the 2010 finals have been playing down the risk of violence and crime in South Africa and in hundreds of reports over the last five years I have always been prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.
That was until last night when I was effectively “mugged” by two uniformed police officers who demanded “pounds or dollars” before they would let me go on my way. In the end I handed over 200 rand (about 15 pounds) — and they showed their “gratitude” in the most astonishing way.
Now that the dust has settled on the Ronaldo story (at least until he actually signs) I wanted to go back to something that bothered me about last week’s on-field action.
Chile ‘s 4-0 win over Bolivia in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday has left them on a brink for only their second World Cup appearance since 1982.
Their progress through the tortuous South American qualifying campaign – which has included a memorable home win over Argentina — has been almost exclusively credited to the work one of the world’s most reclusive and enigmatic coaches Marcelo Bielsa.
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.
Mexico’s recent tribulations — four coaches in the last three years, two defeats to Honduras in five months, an even more humiliating loss in Jamaica — have left many supporters with a certain nostalgia for former coach Ricardo La Volpe.
Gruff and outspoken, La Volpe brought almost unprecedented stability between 2002 and 2006 as he actually completed the four-year cycle between World Cups. He made Mexico one of the world’s most tactically versatile teams, boldly drafted in numerous young players and enjoyed competitive wins over both Brazil and Argentina.
This week’s two World Cup qualifiers between Spain and Turkey have prompted the Spanish media to look back at a dramatic moment in the history of the two nations’ soccer teams.
It came at the end of the last of three matches the pair played in early 1954 to decide which would qualify for the World Cup in Switzerland later that year.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi probably expected to be grilled for again overlooking Antonio Cassano, but England counterpart Fabio Capello may not have foreseen the furore surrounding him actually picking a player.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Ledley King has a chronic knee problem which prevents him training yet Capello still deemed the centre back good enough for an England squad recall for the friendly with Slovakia and World Cup qualifier with Ukraine.
from Africa News blog:
It is hard to fathom what the motivation for Jean Thissen’s decision would be. He takes on the job as national team coach of Togo just over two weeks before the resumption of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers and with the very real prospect of having to do without his best player.
Thissen is the third new coach to take over at the helm of a side who are still in the World Cup race and set out at the end of this month on the final leg of the fight for one of the five berths for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.