(GSM) – Italy have been given an injury scare by midfielder Daniele De Rossi as he sat out his side’s 6-0 win over over local representative side Gauteng All Stars on Friday.

The Roma star was not risked after struggling with a minor calf problem, but Italy are confident the key midfielder will be fit for their World Cup Group F opener against Paraguay in Cape Town on Monday.

Andrea Pirlo has been ruled out of the game against Paraguay and Italy coach Marcello Lippi will be keen to have De Rossi available to play.

Lippi named a strong starting line-up, including Gianluigi Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro going with a 4-3-3 formation before making 10 changes in the second half.

The Azzurri ran out winners thanks to brace each from Giampaolo Pazzini and Simone Pepe with Vincenzo Iaquinta and Antonio Di Natale also getting on the scoresheet.
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Diego Maradona is set to unleash his formidable trio of goal poachers to get Argentina off to a flying start at the World Cup against Nigeria on Saturday.

The two-time world champions boast a salivating forward line of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain and coach Maradona in tinkering with pitching in all three in an attacking 3-4-3 formation at Ellis Park.

Between them the dazzling trio netted more than 80 league goals last term for Barcelona, Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Argentine fans’ favourite Tevez said he hoped to “get the chance to show the coach what I can do. We have great players (and) don’t feel my place is assured.”

The Argentines may have stumbled across the finish line in qualification for South Africa 2010, but Maradona has at his disposal a squad of sumptuous talent in his first World Cup as coach.

Indications are that Maradona, who inspired Argentina as the world’s greatest player to World Cup triumph in 1986, will go with a three-man backline enabling him to field a three-man strikeforce.

Marseille centre-half Gabriel Heinze said this week that “Argentina will always go after the game” and not sit tight and be ultra-cautious.

Saturday’s opening Group B game offers Messi, the world’s best player, the ideal stage to stake an early claim as the star of the tournament, given his sensational club form with Barcelona.

“Player for player, there is no better national team than ours,” Messi said.

“At this stage I don’t have to prove anything. I’ve come there to do things well for me and for my teammates.”

Heinze moved to ease the enormous burden of expectations on Messi to perform, saying that Argentina is not dependent on the diminutive playmaker.
“Everybody expects something whenever Lionel touches the ball, that’s normal, he’s the best in the world and is in his best moment, but Argentina do not depend on him but on the group,” Heinze said.

“It’s incredible what he does but he is one more player and he can make mistakes.

“I believe it’s the team that makes you win these very difficult tournaments.”

Argentina have beaten Nigeria twice at the World Cup — 1-0 in 2002 and 2-1 in 1994 — and will be favoured to do so again.

The mood inside Africa’s most populous nation is not overly optimistic about the Super Eagles’ chances against Argentina.

But their veteran Portsmouth striker Nwankwo Kanu holds out hope that Nigeria will not be intimidated in what will be their first competitive game under Swedish coach Lars Lagerback.

“Argentina have the big-name players and everyone respects them. We also acknowledge that they are good and great players,” he said.

“But Argentina also have the same respect for us because they know the quality of our team and know that there is plenty that we can come up with at anytime.”

All the same the pressure will be on Argentina to come through their opening match in South Africa with a win to set a platform for a crack at a third world title.


Lionel Messi v Joseph Yobo

Everton defender Yobo faces one of the most challenging assignments in world football — trying to stop Messi. The reigning world footballer of the year possesses all the skills and is a real handful. How Yobo and the Nigerian defence cope with his threat will play a major part in the outcome.


Ivory Coast skipper Didier Drogba could be fit to play in his team’s opening World Cup clash against Portugal, coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said Friday.

The Chelsea striker, who underwent surgery on his broken right arm six days ago, trained with his teammates but with a sling on his damaged arm.

“He’s doing well. If the match with Portugal was today or Saturday, he wouldn’t be able to play. But as the game is in a few days’ time (Tuesday), he could be in the team and play,” said Eriksson.

“He is feeling better and better each day.”

In training, Drogba practised on his own to avoid aggravating the injury.

He broke his arm in a friendly match against Japan in Switzerland on June 4.
[Source: Sport]


What a fantastic start to the World Cup. The South Africa against Mexico game had colour, passion, skill, thrills, spills, attempts on goal, good saves, great goals and one heck of a lot of noise.


The opening ceremony and the build up to the game made me realise just what a monumental moment this was in the history of the African continent. It was exciting and emotional and had me absolutely spellbound.

If it had taken a while for me to get struck down by World Cup fever, it soon hit me a couple of hours before that first game kicked off.


The sight of the South African team singing and dancing before the game was as thrilling as it was unusual for a European spectator.

Whilst Mexico were the better team on paper and would have been fairly strong favourites to win, it became clear that victory for them would be a very big ask indeed. The day and the game meant so much to the South Africans that they were walking a foot taller. The crowd were amazing and those vuvuzela certainly make a noise.


Mexico must have felt that it was them against the rest of the world as most neutrals watching the game were hoping for a victory for the host nation.

South Africa started the game nervously and Mexico had the majority of the possession and all of the chances. The first half belonged to the visitors although South Africa did lay siege to their goal in the last couple of minutes of the half.


The second half was a different story as South Africa started to play with a freedom and ambition that had been absent in the first forty-three minutes.

The first goal came from the impressive Siphiwie Tshabalala when he finished in great style a flowing Bafana Bafana move by lashing the ball into the top corner. What a goal and what a noise from the crowd.


For a few minutes South Africa looked reasonably comfortable hanging on to their lead but Mexico were always dangerous, especially once the thirty-seven year old national hero Blanco took to the field as a substitute.

They pushed and probed for a goal and it finally came when the one weakness the South Africans showed, defending set pieces, was exploited by Barcelona’s Rafael Marquez who joyfully hit home a probably deserved equaliser.


In the last minute South Africa striker Katlego Mphela was through on goal and had a chance to cement his place in history but he was desperately unlucky to see his effort beat the Mexican keeper but rebound away off the post.

In the end a draw was a fair result and both teams have a chance of making progress from the group. The South African team and the fans did their nation and continent proud and showed that they are capable of staging a fantastic tournament.


If it carries on like this what a treat we are all in for over the next month.

I’ve got to mention England ahead of their game against the USA later. Let’s have a good start lads, not like normal. Come on England!


England have been urged to lay down a World Cup marker when they take on the United States in their opening Group C match on Saturday.

Steven Gerrard, who will captain the side in the absence of the injured Rio Ferdinand, believes Fabio Capello’s squad are ready to make a major impression on the tournament and the Liverpool midfielder underlined the importance of a positive start.

“The first game is always important,” he said. “It is important to stamp your mark on the tournament and let everyone know what you are about.”

Well-organised and resilient, the Americans represent England’s toughest opponents in a group that also includes Slovenia and Algeria.

“They are a good side but if we can get off to a good start and take maximum points I think everyone will take note,” Gerrard added.

“As a team the USA are very hard-working, very fit and physical. They will be trying to deny us time and space on the ball.

“They know we have quality on the ball. We are expecting to be pressed really quickly. I’m sure it will be a good physical battle but we are very confident we can win the match.

“I’m sure they are a lot more worried about us.”

An impressive run of nine wins from ten qualifiers, during which they scored 34 goals, had raised hopes that, with the benefit of Capello’s winning pedigree, England will be able to go beyond the quarter-final barrier at which they fell in the last two World Cups.

Recent weeks however have not been encouraging for the tens of thousands of England fans who have flown into South Africa.

The performances in friendly wins over Mexico and Japan have been some way short of convincing, the loss of Ferdinand is a significant one and Gareth Barry, a pivotal player under Capello, will not be risked on Saturday, having only just recovered from an ankle injury.

The United States’ quality was underlined by their run to the final of last year’s Confederations Cup in South Africa and AC Milan defender Oguchi Onyewu dismissed suggestions that Bob Bradley’s squad would happily settle for a draw.

“Our results last summer gained us a little more respect around the world and it gives you confidence you can compete with the best.

“The World Cup is a different monster of course and England are a good team but our expectation will still be to get a win.

“We will not be trying to frustrate them for as long as possible and trying to snatch a goal. We want to attack well as well as defend well and if we play the way we know we can we will have chances.”

Barry’s absence will force England to field a reshuffled midfield in which Gerrard will be asked to play in a deeper role than he has been accustomed to of late, reprising a central partnership with Frank Lampard that has previously always added up to less than the sum of the two individuals’ talents.

That will mean Joe Cole coming in on the left with a brief to get forward and link with Wayne Rooney.

Cole was one of the few England players to do himself justice in Germany four years ago, when England went out after a quarter-final penalty shoot-out defeat by Portugal having failed to live up to all the hype that surrounded a supposedly golden generation of players.

Four years on, England’s hopes are in the hands of essentially the same group, but — older and possibly wiser — Gerrard and his team-mates appear confident that, under Capello’s guidance, this time could be different.

“This squad has got the experience of being in tournaments before, it’s got a fit Wayne Rooney, a fit Steven Gerrard and everyone is coming to that right age,” said Joe Cole. “If we can have that bit of luck that you are going to need, then we can go all the way.”

That theme was echoed by Gerrard. “Everyone is desperate to do well, he said. “We want to deliver at this tournament. We feel as if we’ve under-achieved over the years with the players we have got.

“I look around the squad and that gives me confidence.

“But it is easy to talk the talk. The difficult thing is to go out there and walk the walk.”


Wayne Rooney (ENG) v Jay DeMerit (USA)

If England are to go deep into the knockout stages of this tournament, it is widely accepted that Rooney must be at his best and stay on the pitch. A red card in the 2006 quarter-final proved fatal to their chances of getting past Portugal.

Saturday’s match will provide the first indicator of whether Rooney is ready to deliver, in terms of form, fitness and discipline. DeMerit’s job will be to stop him and, despite their denials, the Watford centre-back and his fellow defenders will inevitably do their best to wind up England’s talisman.
source: http://www.soccernews.com