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Sport

Hot favourites Spain face Swiss opening test

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-16

Given their Euro 2008 victory and exceptionally talented squad, Spain are the bookmakers’ favourites for the World Cup. They go up against Switzerland in Durban on Wednesday in what on paper looks like a comfortable debut.

REUTERS - Honduras called up a third brother into their squad before their first World Cup match against Chile on Wednesday on a day which will also unveil favourites Spain in an easy-looking match against Switzerland.

A Honduras spokesman said they were calling up midfielder Jerry Palacios to join brothers Wilson and Johnny in the squad before their first tournament game on Wednesday.

FIFA said it was the first time three brothers had been in the same World Cup squad.

A fourth brother, Edwin, was kidnapped in 2007 and found dead last year.
It will also be a big day for South Africa who play their second game, against Uruguay, on a public holiday commemorating the 1976 student riots in Soweto which were a key step in the battle to end apartheid.

The Bafana Bafana (the Boys) side, written off as no hopers six months ago are now riding a wave of national pride and self belief that they can make it into the second round after they scored one of the goals of the tournament in their opening 1-1 draw against Mexico.

Until recently there was wide national pessimism that they would suffer the shame of being the first host nation to be eliminated at the group stage.

Now South Africans are preparing a cacophony of vuvuzelas from Table Mountain to Soweto, heart of today's historic celebrations, to help their boys defeat Uruguay, who played a dreary opening goalless draw against France.

"We want to hear those vuvuzelas!" said South Africa's Brazilian manager Carlos Alberto Parreira, relieved FIFA has rejected a chorus of foreign pleas to ban the plastic trumpet.

Spain's long wait

While South Africa would be happy just to reach the next round, nothing short of lifting the cup would satisfy Spain.

Switzerlands pragmatic team

They have an extraordinarily talented side and even if striker Fernando Torres and midfielder Andres Iniesta miss out due to fitness doubts, they should be able to brush aside unfancied Switzerland in the Group H clash in Durban.

Marginally bookies' favourite ahead of Brazil, the Spanish are painfully aware that past great sides have flopped at the World Cup but hope their Euro 2008 win will be a good omen.

Brazil's Samba Boys made their first appearance in the tournament on Tuesday night, struggling at first to break down the ultra-defensive North Koreans but then notching two goals from Maicon and Elano in the second half.

Maicon's goal from an almost impossible angle was a reminder that the five-times tournament winners can turn on moments of astonishing brilliance.

The North Koreans, who went on a famous run to the quarter-finals in England in 1966, scored at the end in a highly creditable 2-1 defeat.

But goals have not exactly flowed in South Africa.

The net has bulged 23 times in the first 14 games, a relatively low average of 1.64 goals per match and below the 2.30 at Germany 2006.

Prolific marksmen Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba were unable to hit the net in Portugal's 0-0 draw with Ivory Coast, also on Tuesday. Fellow outsiders New Zealand and Slovakia managed a goal each, however, in a 1-1 draw that gave both nations their first ever World Cup point.

Empty seats

Chile are playing on the 48th anniversary of their last World Cup victory when they beat Yugoslavia in the third-place playoff while hosting the 1962 tournament.

Since then, they have not won a single game in 13 matches over four more World Cups. But Chile defender Gonzalo Jara said minds were not focused on history.

"Getting the three points and playing like we want to play that's the important thing," he said.

As well as the lack of high-scoring games, empty seats have been a disappointing sight at Africa's first World Cup.

World soccer's governing body FIFA says, however, that attendance levels are the second highest in World Cup history behind the United States in 1994, and blame ticket-holders who have not turned up for leaving seats empty.

Traffic jams round stadiums have delayed many spectators.

There was an horrific twist to the World Cup in Somalia where Islamist militants killed two people and arrested dozens more for breaking a ban on watching games on TV.

Date created : 2010-06-16

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