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The Official 2010 Pre- World Cup Thread


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[font=Arial, Helvetical, sans-serif][b][size=5]England's World Cup recipe includes equal parts faith, fear[/size][/b][/font]
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[font=Arial, Helvetical, sans-serif][size=2][size=3]LONDON — "England expects!" The phrase is everywhere: in the tabloids, on the radio, splashed across ads. It harks back to 1805, when the naval hero [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Horatio+Nelson,+1st+Viscount+Nelson"]Horatio Nelson[/url] warned his sailors, "England expects that every man will do his duty."[/size][color=#000000][size=3][left]Now the battle is not against [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Napoleon+I+of+France"]Napoleon[/url]'s warships but against the USA, which England faces Saturday in its first match of the [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/2010+FIFA+World+Cup"]2010 World Cup[/url].[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]So just what does England expect?[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]The nation's feelings about the faceoff in[url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Places,+Geography/Countries/South+Africa"]South Africa[/url] are a complicated brew that's as English as a pint in a pub. The mood here is a mixture of bravado and nerves, hope and fear, longing and self-doubt. The English soccer team is ranked eighth in the world, the USA 14th, but in a land steeped in tradition, the [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Three+Lions"]Three Lions[/url]' tradition consists of letting down the fans. And now fans never dare to voice expectations of victory without adding caveats.[/left][/size][/color]


[size=3][b]BRENNAN: [/b][url="http://content.usatoday.com/communities/christinebrennan/post/2010/06/keeping-score-passion-for-soccer-wont-kick-in-here/1"]Soccer passion lacking in U.S.[/url][/size][size=3][b]OGUCHI ONYEWU: [/b][url="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/worldcup/2010-06-09-oguchionyewuhealthy_N.htm"]Ready for 90 minutes vs. England[/url][/size][size=3][b]MINDING LANGUAGE: [/b][url="http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2010/06/brazilian-referees-studying-english-swear-words/1"]Brazilian refs learn English cursing[/url][/size][color=#000000][size=3][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"It's England that we're talking about, so nothing can ever run smoothly," says Neil Regelous, a [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Places,+Geography/Towns,+Cities,+Counties/London"]London[/url] bank analyst. "Everyone builds us up to say, 'Yes, this time, we're going to win it!' And then we'll lose to a lesser nation."[/left][/size][/color]

[size=3][/size][color=#000000][size=3][left]England, the country that invented soccer and has one of the top pro leagues in the world, hasn't won the Cup since 1966. In this soccer-mad nation, that adds up to "44 years of hurt," in the words of the [i]Daily Star Sunday[/i].[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Despite fans' apprehensions, anticipation is building for an event that unites the country as almost nothing else does. The white-and-red St. George's cross, the flag of England, flutters from cars and windows. Department store John Lewis reports TV sales are up 30% over last year.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"Historically, the World Cup has always been a big driver for TV sales," says John Kempner, a buyer at John Lewis.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Up to 20 million Brits are expected to tune in to watch the match, which starts at 7:30 p.m. local time, according to the Football Association. More than 1 million of the few who will be at work Saturday still plan to catch the game, pollster ComRes says.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Fans look forward to a time when the buttoned-up English become cheerful, even talkative.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Saturday's game "is going to be wicked, man," says Travis McKoy, a London security guard. "I love the World Cup. I love the feeling in London during the World Cup. I can't wait."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left][b]A series of disappointments[/b][/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]The best the Three Lions have done recently is to reach the semifinals, back in 1990. In 2002 and 2006, England didn't get past the quarterfinals.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"In the 44 years since '66, we've been let down, we've achieved nothing and all our hopes and dreams have crashed and died," says Tony Morris, a banking official who works in London and is flying to South Africa for the tournament. "We build ourselves up only to fall."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Yet English fans keep the faith.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Even when the players "have not been that good, it's, 'We're going to win the World Cup!' " says Tina Mermiri, a research manager in London.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Many fans are nourishing higher hopes than usual. England has a roster of strong and experienced players. Manager [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Fabio+Capello"]Fabio Capello[/url] already is being compared to [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Alf+Ramsey"]Alf Ramsey[/url], who guided England to its 1966 triumph. The team had one of its best qualifying seasons in recent memory, winning nine of 10 games.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]The USA, on the other hand, still is regarded as a second-rate power, at least when it comes to "footie." After all, the USA has never done better in the tournament than third, way back in 1930. The tabloid [i]The Sun[/i], assigning each national team a role in [i][url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Culture/Movies/Toy+Story+3"]Toy Story 3[/url][/i], said the USA was toy dinosaur Rex — "big and powerful but in reality there is no real menace to them."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Such perceptions led to widespread glee when the World Cup groups were announced in December. As part of Group C, England also faces low-ranked Slovenia and Algeria. The top two teams from the group will advance to the round of 16.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Paul White, a London lawyer, heard the news in a taxi.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"I cheered," he confesses, in part because "we can beat them."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]English bookmakers have made the home team a 1-2 favorite vs. the USA. Asked by an American news reporter if he had any worries about dispatching the Yanks, truck driver George Curley of London scoffed, "Not at all. You don't play the game. You can't even get the name right."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]But in the back of every England fan's mind is the niggling memory of a 1950 event known — to Americans — as the "Miracle on Grass." In one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history, England, then the "Kings of Football," was humbled 1-0 by a hastily assembled American lineup.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left][b]U.S. soccer invasion[/b][/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]The event has not slipped the Americans' minds either.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Saturday's match "is a chance to go into the history books like the 1950 side, and things like that prove what can happen," U.S. player [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Jay+DeMerit"]Jay DeMerit[/url] said Tuesday.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Since 1950, the upstarts across the pond formed their own professional league, even poaching English star[url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/People/Athletes/MLS/David+Beckham"]David Beckham[/url], who defected to the [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Organizations/Sports+Leagues/MLS/Los+Angeles+Galaxy"]Los Angeles Galaxy[/url] in 2007. Nine of the 23 members of the U.S. team played in England's pro leagues this season. Among them is goalkeeper [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/People/Athletes/International+Soccer/Tim+Howard"]Tim Howard[/url], who starts for [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Everton+F.C"]Everton[/url].[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]The result is an intimate familiarity with the USA's first foe.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"The advantage we have is that we have played against most of the England guys before many times, so there is no intimidation factor," [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Jay+DeMerit"]DeMerit[/url], a defender for [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Watford+F.C"]Watford[/url], told reporters Sunday. "We know what they are capable of, and we are prepared."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]After close study of the American presence on their home turf, the English are nervous. Fans and commentators alike praise the U.S. team's organization and strength.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"The USA are a fast, super-fit team of athletes," [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Nigel+Worthington"]Nigel Worthington[/url], manager of the [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Places,+Geography/Countries/Northern+Ireland"]Northern Ireland[/url] national team, wrote in the [i]Sunday Mirror[/i]. "England will have to be mentally and physically right from the first whistle."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]It didn't help that [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/People/Athletes/International+Soccer/Rio+Ferdinand"]Rio Ferdinand[/url], England's captain and most experienced defender, injured his knee during practice and had to bow out.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"It definitely is a blow," White says. "It is a weaker England team without Rio. The U.S. definitely has a chance to upset the England party."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Never mind that if England loses to the USA, the team could still progress to the next round. The expectation that England will polish off the ragamuffins from the Colonies means that a loss would be a humiliation.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"It would be a day of mourning the next day in England. The whole country would be in shock," says London lawyer Rowley Higgs, adding jokingly, "I'm not sure many of us would make it into work on Monday."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]Such talk of national distress over a loss is no exaggeration, says Richard Elliott, director of the Lawrie McMenemy Centre for Football Research at [url="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Southampton+F.C"]Southampton[/url] Solent University.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"For the 90 minutes that they play, they are not 11 footballers wearing the three lions on their shirt," he says. "They become the English nation, and we judge ourselves by the performance on the pitch."[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]For fan Barry Thirlway, a London musician, the Three Lions will have his loyalty no matter how they do Saturday.[/left][/size][/color]

[color=#000000][size=3][left]"You've got to stick with them even though it can be incredibly frustrating," he says. "Occasionally, they give you little bits and pieces and bring you joy that other things can't.[/left][/size][/color]

[/size][/font][font=Arial, Helvetical, sans-serif]"We live in hope."[/font] [/quote]

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[b][size=5]Drogba trains, could play vs. Portugal[/size][/b]
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[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][color=#333333]JOHANNESBURG -- [url="http://soccernet.espn.go.com/player/_/id/18727"]Didier Drogba[/url] has returned to training just days after surgery on a broken arm and could be considered for Ivory Coast's opening World Cup match against Portugal.[/color][color=#333333][size=3]The Ivory Coast captain had surgery Saturday on a broken arm sustained in a friendly against Japan the previous day, casting doubt over his availability for the World Cup.[/size][/color]

[color=#333333][size=3]The 32-year-old Drogba wore a light protective cast on his arm during practice on Thursday, raising coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's hopes the Chelsea striker will be fit for Tuesday's Group G match at Port Elizabeth.[/size][/color]

[/font][color=#333333][font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]"If the match had been today or tomorrow, he wouldn't be able to play," Eriksson says. "But it's in a few days. He might play."[/font][/color] [/quote]

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[b][size=5]U.S. soccer team ready to make a mark on World Cup stage[/size][/b]
[font=Georgia,][i]The Americans will be underdogs when they open the tournament Saturday against England, but they're expected to advance to the elimination round.[/i][/font]
Reporting from Irene, South Africa -- The scene on Tuesday was a South African dairy farm an hour or so outside Johannesburg — about as incongruous a place as possible to be talking about the World Cup.

But Jay DeMerit was undeterred. Neither the distinct aroma of cows nor the fact that there were chickens milling about outside the media tent would sway the U.S. defender from his appointed remarks.

"I think, being Americans, we always have something to prove as far as far as soccer is concerned," he said.

"We understand who we are and we understand that there's still a long road. But we also can physically see people starting to care; we can see people starting to say, 'Yeah, these guys are actually pretty worthy.'

"We need to try to continue to have success as a program and as individuals, because in a media-driven place like America it's success that's going to continue us along that right road."

So what would constitute success for Coach Bob Bradley's team at World Cup 2010? A victory over England on Saturday? Advancing out of the first round after subsequent games against Slovenia and Algeria?

Or will nothing less than winning the 32-nation tournament earn the U.S. players respect worldwide and in their own country?

Landon Donovan, one of the team's three acknowledged stars, along with goalkeeper Tim Howard and midfielder Clint Dempsey, believes getting to the 16-team knockout stage should be the minimum goal.

It's an achievable one, even though the last time a U.S. squad ventured down this road, in Germany in 2006, getting out of the first round proved too steep a mountain.

Bradley took over after that three-games-and-out disappointment and has rebuilt the team from top to bottom. In the intervening four years, more American players have taken their talents abroad, either to clubs in Europe or Mexico.

That means Bradley has had a deeper and more experienced pool to draw from and he did so, selecting 19 foreign-based players for his roster.

Dempsey, increasingly the leader on the team, said results over the last year or two have demonstrated the players' capability.

"We stick to what we're good at," he said Tuesday in the media tent that is pitched on the farm across the road from the U.S. team's well-guarded and strictly off-limits base camp. "We stay back defensively and try to pick our moments when to go forward."

Being underdogs in the tournament, he said, "is not something you think about when you play. You just go out and try to get the job done. The most important thing is we have players who believe they can win any game they play in.

"When you have players that do that, that's the type of team I want to be playing for, and I think with that type of attitude you always have a chance against anybody you play."

The first game against England will be crucial. Defeat would not necessarily be fatal, as long as the score is kept down. A one-goal or even a two-goal loss can be overcome. A tie would be a good result. A victory would be shouted to the rooftops, echoing the famous 1-0 U.S. win over England 60 years ago, at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.

Slovenia and Algeria are considered potential victories.

Confidence is riding high on the farm. The players believe that they can achieve something special in South Africa, ignoring, perhaps, the reality that is the U.S. all-time record of 6-16-3 in World Cup competition.

Recent success has fueled the optimism that this team could at least match the performance of then-coach Bruce Arena's team that reached the quarterfinals at Japan/Korea 2002.
[font=Georgia,]"We have showed moments when we're playing on top of our game that we're a tough team to beat," Dempsey said.

"We have players who have played in big games, who play in big leagues, and who have had success. So you take that confidence with you and I think it helps you to keep moving forward and keep doing well."

Success or failure will be up to the players on the field, but it will be up to Bradley to decide who those players are. And there are questions he needs to weigh.

Does he play Oguchi Onyewu, obviously not yet back to full speed and full strength, in central defense or go with Clarence Goodson?

Does he keep team captain Carlos Bocanegra at left back or move him inside and leave Goodson on the bench?

Does he play two defensive midfielders or does he throw the more creative and more inventive Jose Torres or Benny Feilhaber into the mix?

Does he play Dempsey on the left and Donovan on the right, or the other way round?

Whom does he pair in the attack with Jozy Altidore, who has overcome a sprained ankle and on Tuesday returned to full training — Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Robbie Findley or perhaps even Dempsey?

On Friday night in Rustenburg, against an overconfident but underachieving England team, some answers will emerge. In the meantime, DeMerit's words are worth considering.

"We have a great mix of workers, a great team camaraderie that's very special, and then we also have individual stars who can make a difference," he said. "I think that can really take you a long way in a tournament like this."[/font] [/quote]

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[color=#FF0000][color=#000000][size=5]Americans ready to face foes they know well

[/size][b][size=1]by [/size][url="http://www.socceramerica.com/author/49/ridge-mahoney/"][size=1]Ridge Mahoney[/size][/url][size=1], June 11th, 2010 12:49AM[/size][/b][/color][/color]
[color=#FF0000][USA-ENGLAND COUNTDOWN] [/color]One doesn’t need to read between the lines to get the mood of American players regarding their titanic struggle – see, even we're doing it – against England on Saturday in the opening game of Group C. They may be anxious, they may be nervous, they may be worried, but more than anything else, they just want to get on with it.

Reading too much into press-conference quotes is a hazard inherent to any big-time sport. If caution doesn’t prevail, banality often rules.

Yet there's nothing ambiguous about remarks in recent days from U.S. players about playing England. To use a modern – if martial – idiom, they are locked and loaded. They've tried to break up the drudgery of training sessions with some playful antics during jogs and shooting sessions, and so far, at least, haven't been so terribly bored as to start befriending the cows at a nearby diary.

All the questions about the historic 1950 upset, speculation about the fitness of [b]Jozy Altidore[/b] and [b]Oguchi Onyewu[/b], whether [b]Edson Buddle[/b] and [b]Robbie Findley[/b] will start up top, and the rest of it, will be put aside. Finally.

"Our mentality is good," said goalkeeper[b] Tim Howard[/b], who knows just about every member of the England team from seven seasons of Premier League play for Manchester United and Everton. "Anybody who's been in this situation knows what I’m talking about when I say we’re tired of kicking each other, we’re tired of training, we’re together forever."

The USA isn’t close to the time logged by many players of the Mexico team, who have been grouped since mid-April. To win the ’98 World Cup, France endured 66 days of togetherness at its Clairefontaine training site about 30 miles outside of Paris. Still, to the Americans, it’s about time the real stuff began.

“This is everything that we’ve dreamed of, and everything that everyone is talking about, and so we’re ready to just get it on and see what we’re made of,” says Howard. “All the talk is over, or soon will be over, and we’re excited for that. We are prepared, we know exactly what kind of game we’re going to be in, we’re under no illusions. I think it couldn’t be a better challenge to be the first game for us.”

The challenge may be tailor-made for Howard and the Americans to replicate their 2-0 upset of Spain a year ago at the Confederations Cup. Howard’s saves, some courageous blocks and timely tackles by numerous players, and two superb goals ended Spain’s 35-match unbeaten streak.

True, the Spaniards – even [b]Fernando Torres[/b] – also shanked a few good opportunities. But England is not Spain and might not be nearly as composed when it takes the field against the USA. While expectations of advancement to the knockout stage will burden the Americans, there's far more pressure on the English, who are expected by most fans and pundits to waltz through this group. The times have changed, or have they?

“There was certainly a disdain for American players and the American game back in the days of the NASL, when so many British players came to take what was more or less a paid holiday at an old warriors playground,” says veteran English broadcaster [b]Martin Tyler[/b], who has been hired as the No. 1 play-by-play announcer for ABC and ESPN. “But it’s not that way anymore, not with the players and managers at least.

“Your goalkeepers have done very well for quite a while and more recently so have other players like[b]Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey[/b] and [b]Landon Donovan[/b] during his loan to Everton. English players play with and against Americans every week in the Premier League, so they know them and respect their abilities.”

Donovan is obviously the catalyst and the Americans will also hope to prevail on set plays, at which England can be formidable. Dempsey is the random element, not blessed with Donovan’s pace or workrate, but extremely shrewd at creating chances for himself and others, and by all accounts, the best finisher on the team.

“If you have that kind of quality in a midfield player, there’s always a chance of a goal going in, whether it’s him scoring it or somebody else getting the chance,” says Plymouth coach [b]Paul Mariner[/b], former assistant coach at New England during Dempsey's days in MLS. “That’s the key. That’s what we’ve always admired about Clint is his ability to get into those areas to score goals.”

Myriad scenarios could play out in this match, but it’s most likely England will press sooner rather than later to test the American backline and midfield, which could offer the U.S. opportunities to counterattack. However, breakdowns in the transition from attack to defense have plagued the U.S. repeatedly the past few years, and if players are caught out of position when England wins the ball, a pass or two will be enough to spring [b]Wayne Rooney[/b] or someone else into the clear with only Howard in the way. The U.S. could play well yet still be down, 2-0, at halftime.

“I think it’s obviously helped us, we have a lot of key players like Clint, Landon and Timmy that have experience there,” says Altidore, who spent last season in the EPL with Hull City, of the mutual familiarity. “It helps everybody else because you have those guys able to give advice to other players about how a certain player might play, so that’s always a plus.” [/quote]

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[color=#FF0000][color=#000000][size=5]Does Messi have anything left in his tank?

[/size][b][size=1]June 10th, 2010 6:34PM[/size][/b][/color][/color]
[color=#FF0000][ARGENTINA] [/color]All indications are that Argentina's players are united -- a far cry from the chaos that surrounded the team during qualifying. But off the field, problems persist. On Thursday, Argentina national team's doctor responded to comments by its fitness coach the day before that star [b]Lionel Messi[/b] is suffering from exhaustion by saying that all 23 players were in "optimum condition" on the eve of Saturday's Group B opener against Nigeria.

"[Messi] has arrived at the World Cup tired," Argentina fitness coach[b]Fernando Signorini [/b]told the Catalan sports daily Sport. "The damage is already done and it's irreversible."

Signorini's comments weren't meant as an indictment of Messi's form but an attack on the heavy club schedule of players like Messi, who plays for Barcelona.

[b]Donato Villani[/b], Argentina's team doctor, was then hauled out before reporters to say everyone was fit.

There's no way to gauge Messi's condition since he hasn't play a match since the conclusion of La Liga season on May 16. He didn't play in Argentina's lone World Cup warmup, a 5-0 win over Canada.

Messi is expected to start in Coach [b]Diego Maradona[/b]'s lineup against Nigeria is also expected to include strikers [b]Carlos Tevez[/b] and [b]Gonzalo Higuain[/b], [b]Jonas Gutierrez[/b], [b]Angel Di Maria[/b],[b] Javier Mascherano[/b] and [b]Juan Sebastian Veron[/b] in midfield, [b]Gabriel Heinze[/b], [b]Martin Demichelis[/b] and [b]Walter Samuel [/b]on the backline and [b]Sergio Romero[/b] in goal. [/quote]

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[color=#FF0000][color=#000000][size=5]Soccer coverage, like night and day

[/size][b][size=1]by [/size][url="http://www.socceramerica.com/author/45/paul-kennedy/"][size=1]Paul Kennedy[/size][/url][size=1], June 11th, 2010 2:21AM[/size][/b][/color][/color]
[color=#FF0000][TELEVISION WATCH] [/color]There's been a lot to like about ESPN's pre-World Cup coverage.

ESPN2's preview show demonstrated the lengths ESPN has gone to cover the 2010 tournament.

We're used to [b]Bob Ley[/b], going back more than a decade, but top-of-the-line studio hosts [b]Mike Tirico[/b] and [b]Chris Fowler[/b] didn't miss a beat. And we really liked Wigan manager [b]Roberto Martinez[/b] among the experts who ranged from [b]Alexi Lalas[/b] and [b]J[b]ohn Harkes[/b][/b] all the way to[b] Juergen Klinsmann[/b] and [b]Ruud Gullit[/b].

But the most fascinating part of its buildup was its airing of past World Cup games on ESPN Classic that showed just how soccer has come in the United States over the last quarter century.

Soccer America readers who've never heard [b]Paul Gardner [/b]on television would have marveled at his work alongside [b]Charlie Jones[/b]and [b]Rick Davis[/b] during their call of the classic Argentina-England game at the 1986 World Cup (Their young researcher: one [b]Sunil Gulati.[/b])

Gardner was at his best: animated, funny, concise, not afraid to take on such targets as coaches ("[b]Gary Lineker[/b] never had a coach") and East German scientists. Sound familiar?

But it was what Davis and Jones had to say that struck a cord.

As if soccer was not taken seriously by the American audience, Davis took pains to point out that "soccer is a contact sport."

We take for granted soccer is broadcast without commercial interruptions, but it wasn't always the case.

At one point, Jones interjected, "We'll be back ..." and sure enough, they broke for a commercial.

ESPN also aired the two U.S. victories at the 2002 World Cup, 3-2 over Portugal in their opener and 2-0 over Mexico in the round of 16.

What stood out on the broadcast with [b]Jack Edwards[/b] and [b]Ty Keough[/b] was how there was the assumption that part of the audience knew nothing about the game.

During the USA-Portugal broadcast, Edwards felt obliged to point out that "there are no timeouts in soccer."

That was only only eight years ago.

What's amazing about today's ESPN soccer coverage isn't just the resources it's throwing at its investments but its belief that its audience gets it. [/quote]

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[b][size=5]Mandela relative killed after World Cup concert[/size][/b]

JOHANNESBURG(AP)—It should have been a moment of triumph - Nelson Mandela, basking in the cheers as Africa’s first World Cup opened.

Instead, South Africa’s beloved anti-apartheid icon stayed at home with his family Friday in northern Johannesburg during the opening ceremony and game, mourning his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani, who died in a car crash on the way home from a tournament-eve concert in Soweto.

[color=#111111][font=arial, helvetica, clean, sans-serif][size=2]The Nelson Mandela Foundation said the tragedy “made it inappropriate” for the former president, who is 91, to attend the opening ceremony in Johannesburg.“We are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr. Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy,” the foundation said, adding that Mandela “will be there with you in spirit today.”

Johannesburg Metro police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane said the driver of the car had been arrested and charged with drunk driving. Mamonyane said the driver, whom police didn’t identify, could also face homicide charges.

“The Metro police found that he was drunk,” Mamonyane said. “He lost control of the vehicle and it collided with a barricade.”

Police spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo, who earlier said the driver would appear in court for a preliminary hearing Friday, said that had been postponed for further investigations, and that the driver was not being held. Mariemuthoo said that was not unusual.

“It’s a decision of the prosecutor,” he said.

The Mandela foundation denied reports that the former president’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was in the car, but said she was treated in a hospital for shock after being told of the fatal accident. She was discharged after a few hours.

She was on the VIP list for the opening ceremony, and a press box official confirmed she was at Soccer City, but the foundation said later that Madikizela-Mandela did not attend.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who was in South Africa to lead his country’s delegation to the opening ceremony, were among those who offered condolences.

South African President Jacob Zuma, calling Mandela by his clan name Madiba - a term of affection - referred to the death in the Mandela family in an address to the crowd before the Mexico-South Africa game started.

He said Mandela had wanted to be there, “but unfortunately there was a tragedy in the Mandela family.”

“But he said the game must start. You must enjoy the game,” Zuma added.

Mandela has achieved glory as a politician and human rights campaigner, but suffered many personal tragedies.

In 1969, three years after arriving on Robben Island to serve a life sentence for sabotage, Mandela received a telegram from his younger son, Makgatho, informing him that his eldest son, Madiba Thembekile, died in a car crash.

Prison authorities refused to allow Mandela to attend the funeral.

“I do not have words to express the sorrow, or the loss I felt,” Mandela wrote in his autobiography. “It left a hole in my heart that can never be filled.”

Thirty-six years later, Makgatho died. Mandela announced his last surviving son died of AIDS-related complications, saying the only way to fight the disease’s stigma was to speak openly.

Mandela’s family life suffered during years devoted to politics, as an underground anti-apartheid fighter and in prison. Two marriages fell apart, the second to Winnie. He began his 27-year imprisonment only four years after marrying her.

Mandela was freed in 1990. Four years later, his lifelong battle over apartheid won, he became South Africa’s first black president. He served just one term, then devoted himself to international causes, including fighting AIDS.

He has announced his retirement and desire to devote time to his family several times. Increasingly, those close to him and other South Africans have said the reward for all he has done for his country should now be freedom from the public’s demands.

On his 80th birthday July 18, 1998, he married Graca Machel, a veteran of the anti-colonial struggle in her native Mozambique, former education minister, noted international child rights advocate and widow of Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel.

Graca Machel once told a television interviewer she helped Mandela reconnect with his family. Family photos released by his foundation Friday showed a relaxed and smiling Mandela with Zenani and other great-grandchildren.

[/size][/font][/color][color=#111111][font=arial, helvetica, clean, sans-serif][size=2]Zenani was one of the anti-apartheid icon’s nine great-grandchildren.[/size][/font][/color] [/quote]

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[color=#FF0000][color=#000000][size=5]Brilliant images, shoddy commentary

[/size][b][size=1]by [/size][url="http://www.socceramerica.com/author/40/mike-woitalla/"][size=1]Mike Woitalla[/size][/url][size=1], June 11th, 2010 1:40PM[/size][/b][/color][/color]
[color=#FF0000][TELEVISION WATCH] [/color]The broadcast of the World Cup opener provided brilliant, efficient replays, making ESPN color commentator[b]Efan Ekoku[/b]'s blundering analysis of the first-half offside call even more puzzling.

In the 38th minute, [b]Carlos Vela[/b]’s header into the South African goal was quickly and correctly ruled offside by referee [b]Ravshan Irmatov[/b]. Vela had struck after a Mexico corner kick had been nodded on to him. We quickly got a perfect replay, shaded nicely so one could judge the players’ positioning.

Goalkeeper [b]Itumeleng Khune [/b]had left his goal in a futile attempt to intercept the corner kick. The freeze frame showed us that there was only one South African, a defender, between Vela and the goal line when the ball was headed to Vela.

Yet Ekoku continued to question the call -- what he called "an awful decision" -- even after a second clear replay. In the 45th minute, he still referred to a Mexico goal called back for "an infringement we don't know about.”

The production quality of the opening game -- from camera angles to well-timed close-ups -- promises us a month's worth of delightful viewing. One hopes the ESPN commentators will start getting the rules right. [/quote]

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