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Rebellious French team gets back to training

Following a series of high profile spats within the French national football team, the 21-man French squad returned to training Monday, a day after refusing to practice in a show of solidarity for expelled striker Nicolas Anelka.


AFP - Mysterious North Korea face Portugal Monday needing one point to keep their World Cup dreams alive while France trained again after a one-day strike over expelled striker Nicolas Anelka.

Title favourites Spain want maximum points against Honduras to get their challenge back on track after a shock loss to Switzerland, who face fellow first-match winners Chile.

A 21-man French squad jogged round a training ground in the Western Cape resort of Knysna ahead of a must-win Group A clash with fellow strugglers South Africa Tuesday.

They refused to practice Sunday in sympathy with Anelka, who was ordered to leave the camp after an expletive-laden dressing-room outburst against coach Raymond Domenech at half-time during a match against Mexico last week.

Bookmakers offered pre-tournament odds of 2000-1 against the Koreans winning the tournament, but the defensive, disciplined, super-fit footballers from the most secretive state on earth were never overawed by five-time winners Brazil.

It took a wonder goal from Maicon to break the deadlock and a superb Robinho pass to set up Elano for the second before the Asians had a moment of glory as Ji Yun-nam struck a late consolation goal.

Was it a flash in the pan? Did the canary yellow shirts of Brazil lift the team to heights they cannot match? Or is the most watched global sport event about to witness 1966 all over again?

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Drawing with Chile and stunning Italy took North Korea into the last eight 44 years ago and they led Portugal by three goals after 25 minutes before Mozambique-born Eusebio came to the rescue with a four-goal salvo.

While a loss to a Cristiano Ronaldo-captained Portugal side held goalless by Ivory Coast would eliminate the Asians, a draw would keep them in contention ahead of a final group match with the West African Elephants.

Spain are World Cup favourites on the back of winning the European title two years ago, long unbeaten runs in competitive and friendly matches, and a line-up packed with Barcelona, Real Madrid and English Premiership stars.

But the seemingly routine task of defeating highly organised and motivated but limited Switzerland proved beyond the 'Red Fury' and an early second half Gelson Fernandes goal delivered the biggest shock so far in South Africa.

They cannot afford any more slips and will be grateful that Honduras are next up as the central Americans were lucky to escape with only a 1-0 defeat against Chile in their initial outing.

Spanish supporters can draw comfort from the number of chances created against the Swiss in Durban and the odds favour Fernando Torres, David Villa and company hitting the goal trail at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

A win for Chile or Switzerland in Port Elizabeth would bring the second round within sight and the Port Elizabeth game promises a battle of wits between the adventurous South Americans and more conservative Europeans.

New Zealand stole the Sunday show by holding defending champions Italy 1-1, Paraguay outplayed Slovakia 2-0 in another Group F clash and Luis Fabiano scored twice as Brazil triumphed 3-1 against disappointing Ivory Coast.

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