Feeble Italy escape with draw
Portugal, Ivory Coast settle for goalless draw
Kiwis shock Slovakia with late goal
Vintage Spain face talented Swiss
Chile seek first WC win in 48 yrs
Malinga’s fiver nullifies Afridi’s ton
India aim to end 15-yr-old jinx
BBC may silence vuvuzela
Cape Town, June 15
Antolin Alcaraz thumped in a header after 39 minutes after the World champions had begun their defence with a desperately flat Group F display in the pouring Cape Town rain.
The Italians were slightly better in the second half, levelling after another goalkeeping blunder in the 63rd minute, but did precious little to change the pessimistic view of their fans and media who sent them to South Africa with a verdict of no chance.
Paraguay had beaten Brazil and Argentina in qualifying so had no need to be in fear of the holders but their dire World Cup record where they have not got past the second round in seven attempts, going out in the group stage four times, was always there in the background.
The game had meandered through almost an entire half of error-littered, unimaginative play before exploding into life in the 39th minute.
Aureliano Torres swung in a hopeful free kick from wide on the right but Alcaraz showed great determination to make it his, rising early and high above Fabio Cannavaro to power his header beyond Gianluigi Buffon.
It was a stunning blow for the Italians, who had looked completely untroubled until that point, albeit without ever looking remotely like scoring themselves.
Italy were forced to bring on Federico Marchetti for Buffon in goal at halftime but it was at the other end of the pitch where they needed inspiration.
Little was forthcoming but they levelled when Justo Villar flapped and missed a Simone Pepe corner and De Rossi stuck out a foot to steer the ball into the empty net from close range.
Either side of the equaliser, Paraguay could have had a second as Enrique Vera and substitute Jonathan Santana shot wide when well placed.
Italy roused themselves in the last 10 minutes in search of a winner, but stout defending saw Paraguay hold on for deserved point.
Italy, who face New Zealand and Slovakia in their remaining group games, will look to 1982 for inspiration, when they drew their opener, but went on to win the tournament. — Reuters
Port Elizabeth, June 15
Semifinalists at the 2006 finals, Portugal struggled to make a serious impact and made their job of advancing from a fierce Group G - which includes Brazil and North Korea - no easier in a fluid match that yielded only a handful of goalscoring chances.
The Elephants opted to start without Drogba, who was yet to fully recover following surgery, but he came on as a substitute after 66 minutes to a rapturous reception by the Port Elizabeth crowd.
The draw will boost the confidence of the Ivory Coast, which enjoyed most of the possession and always looked dangerous with smooth passing and plenty of energy going forward.
Gervais Kouassi, better known as Gervinho, came in to fill the void and proved himself a constant menace for the Portuguese defence with penetrating runs into the area that left Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alvez scrambling.
Ivory Coast had the best of first half action with Kouassi and Emmanuel Eboue commanding the flanks but struggling to create any meaningful attempts on goal on a chilly afternoon at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Cristiano Ronaldo, under pressure after underperforming in Portugal's tumultuous qualifying campaign, looked lively early and was twice brought down when the Ivorian defence tried to thwart his dangerous runs on the edge of the box.
He almost got Portugal off the mark 11 minutes into the game when his superb long range effort cannoned off the outside of the post with keeper Boubacar Barry beaten.
Cheik Tiote struck his 17th-minute free-kick just wide of the target and Kouassi came close with a stunning solo run, skipping round three defenders before his shot was blocked.
Salomon Kalou had an opportunity to put Ivory Coast ahead on 54 minutes when he found space on the edge of the area but struck tamely into the hands of Eduardo.
Liedson had a chance for Portugal on 58 minutes when he headed a neat cross from Deco into the hands of Barry and Kousassi almost took the lead for the African side near the hour mark when he headed just over the bar.
Danny started on the wing for Portugal in place of the match-weary Simao Sabrosa and never found his feet, despite good form in warm-up matches. He was replaced by Simao shortly the break.
Portugal stepped up a gear later in the game without looking likely to score, with Ronaldo's darting runs failing to deliver. — Reuters
Rustenburg, June 15
Fullback Reid popped up to glance a header past Jan Mucha that went in off the foot of the post to bring the All Whites level after Robert Vittek had put Slovakia in front five minutes after halftime in what had been a fairly pedestrian contest.
“I think the nation will be in reasonably good spirits tonight,” said modest New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert. “We keep on dreaming. We have a chance like everyone else.”
Asked if it was their best ever achievement, he added: “It would have to be. We have never picked up a point at a World Cup. We have thrown some really good punches tonight and got what I thought was an extremely good result.”
Until New Zealand’s late strike, Slovakia, making their World Cup debut as an independent nation, had seemed set to top the section ahead of world champions Italy and Paraguay who drew 1-1 in the group opener on Monday.
Vittek scored when he met a diagonal Stanislav Sestak cross with a powerful header from 10 metres after Reid had missed the ball completely in the cold and windy conditions at the Royal Bafokeng stadium.
It was a rare moment of quality in a dreary game during which New Zealand, using a 3-4-3 formation, largely frustrated the cautious Slovaks who appeared reinvigorated after advice at the interval about how to approach the second half.
The Slovaks lifted their tempo and pushed forward more aggressively from then on and gave New Zealand few chances to regain a foothold in the game, their superior technique and movement giving them control of possession.
Slovakia had enjoyed most possession in an opening-half littered with errors as the conditions made it difficult for both teams. Few chances were created but New Zealand's good organisation enabled them to stay in contention. Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz had chances but shot wide for the All Whites, while Sestak and Vittek did the same at the other end where New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston looked shaky.
He miskicked once and made other errors of judgement.
A square free kick to Slovakia captain Marek Hamsik, after a foul by Tony Lochhead on Erik Jendrisek, saw the playmaker fire in a 25-yard shot that Paston saved just before the break.
It was one of few bright moments in a tight game in which the Slovaks struggled for a breakthrough until Vittek’s goal.
But just when it seemed they had secured the points Reid struck to help atone for his earlier mistake and it was the New Zealand players who were celebrating at the end.
Durban, June 15
Their squad is so stuffed full of talent that anything but a comfortable win for the European champions will be considered something of a shock when the last two teams in the tournament finally get their campaigns underway.
Having broken their major tournament hoodoo at Euro 2008, Spain’s consistent defence, startlingly talented midfield and corps of lethal strikers have made them the favourite of many to carry off football’s biggest prize in South Africa.
“Switzerland are a very compact team. At the last World Cup they went home without a win but they had a very good qualifying campaign this time,” Del Bosque told Spanish television. .
Spain had a 100 per cent record in qualifying as they continued a run of form that has seen them lose just once in the last three years - to the US at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. — Reuters
Nelspruit, June 15
It was on June 16, 1962, that the hosts beat Yugoslavia in the third-place playoff in Santiago. Chile have since been to four World Cups, played 13 matches and failed to win again. The current generation of Chilean players come to South Africa determined to put that record straight, and their form in the qualifying campaign suggests they can do far more than simply win one match at these finals. They finished second in the South American group, just a point behind Brazil and five points ahead of Argentina. They also scored a hatful of goals, and start as favourites to beat Honduras, which are missing perhaps two key strikers. “The fact that Chile haven’t won a match at a World Cup for a long time, for me personally, and I think for the team as a whole, is of secondary importance,” Chile defender Gonzalo Jara said on Monday.
“Obviously, we know (about the record) but the first match is fundamental, above all to see how we are and to get the three points. Whether we win 3-0 or 1-0 it’s the same. “Getting the three points and playing like we want to play, that’s the important thing,” he added. Coach Marcelo Bielsa is waiting on the fitness of his leading striker Humberto Suazo, who beat the likes of Brazil’s Luis Fabiano and Uruguay’s Diego Forlan to finish as South America’s top scorer in the qualifiers with 10 goals.
Suazo is recovering from a hamstring injury and has been training at the team base near Nelspruit. But the coach might decide to rest him anyway for a match Chile will fancy their chances of winning. “Honduras are not at its best right now but they’ll kick off the tournament with everything they’ve got,” said coach Reinaldo Rueda. Since beating neighbours El Salvador 1-0 last October to secure a place in the finals, Honduras have only won two games out of eight, their last victory coming in January. — Reuters
Dambulla, June 15
-run win over Pakistan in the first match of the Asia Cup cricket tournament here today.
Chasing 243 at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, Pakistan seemed on course for a win as long as Afridi (109) was in the middle. But once Muttiah Muralitharan ended his scintillating 76-ball knock, Lasith Malinga (5/34) mowed down the lower order and bundled Pakistan for 226 in 47 overs.
Earlier, comeback pacer Shoaib Akhtar bowled with a lot of heart and scalped three wickets in four short spells. However, Sri Lanka showed great character in recovering from a poor start to make a fighting 242 for nine, thanks to the never-say-die attitude of Angelo Mathews (55 not out), Jayawardene (54) and Sangakkara (42).
Afridi braved cramps and kept fighting but his batting colleagues completely let him down, something that could be gauged from the fact that the next best score was Umar Akmal’s 30.
Sitting pretty when Pakistan were staggering at 32 for four in the 14th over, Sri Lanka suddenly found themselves in dire straits when Afridi cut loose. Three Afridi-inspired partnerships - worth 73, 49 and 51 - saw Pakistan roar back into the game but his fall in the 41st over brought Lanka back into the game.
Hampered by a groin injury, the gallant Afridi struck as many as seven sixes and eight boundaries while producing his fifth ODI century. He dominated the Lankan attack until Muralitharan, battered and bruised by Afridi’s onslaught, had the last laugh.
Earlier, a two-wicket burst at the start of the innings by Malinga had put Lanka firmly in control of the game until Afridi stepped on the gas and nearly turned the match on its head. — PTI
Tharanga c Butt b Akhtar 11 (16)
Dilshan c Amin b Asif 18 (25)
Sangakkara c U Akmal b Afridi 42 (63)
Jayawardene lbw Malik 54 (64)
Samaraweera c U Akmal b Razzaq 17 (22)
Mathews not out 55 (61)
Kapugedera c U Akmal
b Akhtar 2 (6)
Maharoof c K Akmal
b Akhtar 1 (3)
Kulasekara b Aamer 14 (27)
Malinga b Aamer 16 (12)
Muralitharan not out 1 (1)
Extras (lb 5, w 6) 11
Total (9 wkts; 50 overs) 242
Fall of wickets: 1-31, 2-36, 3-119, 4-150, 5-150, 6-160, 7-168, 8-211, 9-239
Bowling: Akhtar 10-1-41-3, Mohd Asif 9-0-55-1, Mohd Aamer 10-1-57-2, Razzaq 8-0-27-1, Afridi 10-0-43-1, Shoaib Malik 3-0-14-1.
Shahzaib Hasan c Malinga b Mathews 11 (33)
Salman Butt b Malinga 0 (3)
Umar Amin c Sangakkara b Malinga 7 (26)
Shoaib Malik c Sangakkara b Mathews 8 (14)
Umar Akmal run out 30 (40)
Afridi c Sangakkara
b Murali 109 (76)
Kamran Akmal run out 14 (26)
Abdul Razzaq not out 26 (46)
Mohd Aamer b Malinga 5 (14)
Akhtar c Mathews b Malinga 1 (2)
Mohd Asif b Malinga 0 (2)
Extras (lb 5, w 10) 15
Total (all out; 47 overs) 226
Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-11, 3-28, 4-32, 5-105, 6-154, 7-205, 8-217, 9-219, 10-226
Bowling: Kulasekara 9-1-25-0, Malinga 10-0-34-5, Mathews 10-1-38-2, Maharoof 8-0-53-0, Muralitharan 10-0-71-1
Man of the match: Shahid Afridi.
Dambulla, June 15
Hurting from their debacles in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup (West Indies) and the tri-series in Zimbabwe, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men would be desperate to win back the confidence of fans after being accused of being more loyal to their IPL teams than the country.
The Asia Cup title, which they last won in 1995, will be the perfect balm to calm frayed nerves and bury the ghosts of the recent past.
Unlike in the West Indies and Zimbabwe, India have a near full-strength team to achieve what they have set out for.
Except for Sachin Tendulkar, who opted to spend time with his family, and Yuvraj Singh, dropped for poor form, India more or less have the nucleus of the 2011 World Cup team here.
Virender Sehwag’s return provides the firepower to the batting which had been rudderless without substantial starts at the top of the order.
Dhoni would be looking forward to fireworks from his deputy to reignite the confidence of his beleaguered legion. If Sehwag can provide a blistering start in the company of Gautam Gambhir, the rest of the batting, propped up by the youthful exuberance of Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, should be capable of holding its own in the four-nation event.
Dhoni would also be itching to set the record straight, especially after his leadership was questioned in the immediate aftermath of the Twenty20 World Cup.
If the batsmen conjure match-winning totals, the Indian bowling, which has been a subject of debate over the last six months, should be able to provide the results that the fans have longed for since the successful conquest against South Africa at home in March.
The new ball will be shared by Zaheer Khan, Asish Nehra and Praveen Kumar. It augurs well that Zaheer, who was virtually on his haunches during the unsuccessful campaign in the Twenty20 World Cup after an enervating IPL, looks rearing to go following the break.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha should play the supporting cast to Harbhajan Singh in the spin department.
Though the four-time Asia Cup champions start favourites, they can’t take Bangladesh lightly. Shakib-Ul Hasan’s men have pulled off upsets in the past and could do so here as well.
India: MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Asish Nehra, Ashok Dinda, Ravichandran Ashwin, Sourabh Tiwari.
Bangladesh: Shakib-Ul Hasan (capt), Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Jahurul Islam, Junaid Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Mahmudullah, Mushrafe Mortaza, Naeem Islam, Abdur Razzak, Syed Rasel, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul islam, Suhrawadi Shuvo. — PTI
LONDON: The sound of vuvuzela trumpets in World Cup broadcasts may be silenced by the BBC following hundreds of complaints but the incessant drone has become a runaway hit with iPhone users.
"It's one option that we are considering at the moment," said a BBC spokeswoman, adding that 545 complaints had been received about the ear-splitting noise which has become the unofficial World Cup soundtrack.
An iPhone application that mimics the blasting of the African trumpet, however, has been downloaded more than a million times. Ironically, the app was designed by a Dutch duo. The Dutch have been the most vociferous in their disdain for the cacophonous horn, with coach Bert van Marwijk banning them from his team's training sessions and Dutch striker Robin van Persie blaming vuvuzelas on his inability to hear a referee's whistle.
"It's the Vuvuzela jackpot," said Jeroen Retrae, co-designer of the iVuvuzela. After gaining only a few thousand downloads since its launch eight months ago, downloads exploded after the start of the tournament. — Reuters