Leading off, a story that reminds me of something you might see in the week of practicing before, say, the Motor City Bowl. This story from New Zealand’s Dominion Post:
The All Whites’ campaign in South Africa started in a bizarre fashion this morning when the first training was cut short because of the thick wood and coal fire smog from the surrounding Daveyton township.
Just before the team arrived a solid, smelly fog descended on the pitch of Sinaba Stadium and made it difficult to breath or even see the corner flags.
(Note to those who may not know, the “All Whites” is New Zealand’s team name, referring to the team’s uniform. The team’s fans are known as the “White Noise.”)
It’s a reminder that the World Cup is being played during winter in South Africa, where villagers use wood fires and paraffin to keep warm.
— With a late rash of injuries piling up and some luminous names missing from the World Cup because of earlier injuries (Germany’s Michael Ballack and Ghana’s Michael Essien chief among them), The New York Times proposes that the difficulty of the English Premier League has contributed to the injury count.
Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson tells The Times . . .
For players today, you have to say that the number of games, particularly at our level, is exhausting. I made the point that the players we have playing in the World Cup have to get 28 days’ rest. They must have that, or else they won’t feature next year, they’ll just collapse. Exhaustion will get them. . . . The intensity of the English game is so great, it makes it difficult for those players to perform well at the World Cup.
Today’s injury developments: Don’t count out Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba just yet. He underwent successful elbow surgery and Switzerland and might yet find his way into action (though it hurts just to think about it). . . . English midfielder Gareth Barry says he’ll miss the opener against the United States. Not really a surprise as he works to come back from ligament damage from an ankle injury sustained May 5. He’ll resume practicing on Tuesday.
— England looked so bad after its first half in an exhibition with a South African club team today that coach Fabio Capello stayed by himself out on the pitch rather than speak to his players at halftime. England wound up with a 3-0 victory, but never looked together in the match, though the lineup was shuffled throughout. Star Wayne Rooney picked up a yellow card for indicating to a referee that the ref might need eyeglasses.
I’m still not as down on England as many seem to be. These “friendlies,” again, bear no resemblance to the real thing, and I think it’s talent level is significant.
— I’m not sure that the performance came before or after this little chat with Prince William. To answer, I think the U.S. team should get a pep talk from Prince.
— Brazil looked bored but brilliant in dispatching Tanzania 5-1, even if the moment of the match was the lone Tanzanian goal, which no doubt will go down as the highlight of the World Cup for Tanzania.