US team depart for World Cup as England loom

Leaving a hot and humid American training camp for cool temperatures and high altitudes, the United States team departed Sunday for South Africa and a much-anticipated World Cup opener with England.

A day after defeating Turkey 2-1 in their send-off match, the youngest American World Cup squad since 1994 with an average age just under 27 flew out from the US capital, 15 players bound for their inaugural World Cup.

“We’re young, we’re energetic, we’re excited and we’re going to surprise people in the World Cup,” veteran US midfielder DaMarcus Beasley said.

US coach Bob Bradley stressed fitness in a physically demanding training camp and intense tuneups, a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic and a rally-required win over Turkey, have hardened the Americans ahead of the demands to come.

“When you consider everything that’s gone on the last few weeks, it puts us in a good position and now we’re ready to move on to South Africa,” Bradley said.

“We planned it out in very careful fashion. Team building, that went well. We have seen a couple things when we haven’t played well get sharper. You just push things along. We will be able to sharpen up some little details.

“We came out with everything we could have wanted.”

The Americans include a record 19 players from clubs outside the United States, seven from English clubs including top goalkeeper Tim Howard of Everton, and only six men who have played a World Cup match before.

“To win the World Cup we would be a long shot at best, but it doesn’t stop us from going and trying,” Howard said. “You really can’t think about winning it. You have to think about playing England, Slovenia and Algeria.”

Those are the Group C rivals for the US team, which will play a final tuneup match next Saturday against Australia at Roodepoort, South Africa, ahead of a June 12 opener against England at Rustenburg.

“We’re still trying to get that sharpness,” US playmaker Clint Dempsey said. “Hopefully we will get more confidence. Hopefully we don’t need to run ourselves ragged and we can do a better job of keeping the ball.

“These guys know how to leave it all on the field. Hopefully they will have the confidence to do that. We like to think we have the confidence. We’ll find out after that first game even though we know it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

US captain Carlos Bocanegra, fellow defender Jay DeMerit and backline star Oguchi Onyewu are all coming off injuries and how well they respond will be critical to American hopes for repeating a 2002 quarter-final run after a disappointing first-round flop four years ago.

That failure led to Bradley taking over the program and reshaping the squad with a constant philosophy that has paid dividends.

“Bob has been hammering into us from day one on how we want to go about things, how we bring it to training every day, and that hasn’t changed,” said Bocanegra. “He has stuck to his path and the guys have bought into it. It’s not just about the next two weeks. It has been building up since three years ago.”

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Lippi puts forward case for Marchisio

Italy coach Marcello Lippi dropped a clear hint as to who he will be banking on in South Africa as he praised the qualities of Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio.

And, speaking from the world champions’ altitude training base in Sestriere on Sunday, he also suggested what his preferred formation is likely to be at the World Cup.

“Everyone plays with one true lone striker and nine (outfield) team-mates to run around and defend, no matter how many forwards are on the pitch,” he said before suggesting he might play 24-year-old Marchisio behind his frontman.

“I like him a lot in that position because of all our midfielders he’s the one with best movement off the ball.

“He gets in gaps, follows the action and appears in empty spaces. And on top of that he helps to cover the midfield.”

Another player who might be given an unusual position is centre-back Giorgio Chiellini.

“I’ll also try Chiellini out at left-back, I’ve asked the lads to make themselves available for the cause.”

However, the World Cup winning coach, who quit Italy after victory in Germany four years ago only to come back into the hot seat two years later, refused to give away who his final 23-man squad will be.

“You’ll just have to have a little patience and wait until Tuesday to know everything.”

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Pepe to train with Portugal World Cup squad

Doctors have given Real Madrid’s Portuguese defender Pepe, who has not played since undergoing surgery in December to fix a knee injury, permission to train with the national team ahead of the World Cup.

The medical team of both Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team have granted the 27-year-old a clinical discharge, the Spanish club said in a statement posted on its web site.

“The defender will progressively rejoin regular training duties with Portugal until the start of the World Cup,” it said.

Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz is scheduled to announce his final 23-man squad for the June 11-July 11 shortly. He included the Brazilian-born player in his preliminary squad on May 10.

The defender, who played a key part in Portugal’s qualifiers, damaged knee ligament in a fall during a league match against Valencia in December.

Portugal are in Group G with five-time world champion Brazil, Ivory Coast and North Korea.

The squad’s opening game is against Ivory Coast on June 15.

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Rajevac names Ghana World Cup squad

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac on Sunday unveiled his 23-man World Cup squad with all his key players included with one notable exception, Michael Essien.

The Chelsea midfielder misses the trip to South Africa after failing to recover from the knee injury that forced him to limp out of Ghana’s team at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

He was ruled out of contention on Friday.

Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has a Ghanaian father and a German mother, made the list after receiving approval from FIFA despite having figured for Germany at youth level.

Ghana, making their second successive appearance at the World Cup, are drawn in Group D and open their campaign against Serbia on June 13, followed by Australia on June 19 and Germany on June 23.

Ghana World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Richard Kingson (Wigan/ENG), Daniel Agyei (Liberty Professionals/GHA), Stephen Ahorlu (Hearts of Lions/GHA)

Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (FC Basel/SUI), Jonathan Mensah (Grenada/ESP), Lee Addy (Bechem Chelsea/GHA), Rahim Ayew (Zamalek/EGY), Hans Sarpei (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), John Mensah (Sunderland/ENG), Isaac Vorsah (Hoffenheim/GER), John Paintsil (Fulham/ENG).

Midfielders: Sulley Muntari (Inter Milan/ITA), Derek Boateng (Getafe/ESP), Anthony Annan (Rosenborg/NOR), Kwadwo Asamoah (Udinese/ITA), Andre Ayew (Arles-Avignon/FRA – on loan), Stephen Appiah (Bologna/ITA), Quincy Owusu Abeyie (Al Sadd/QAT), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Portsmouth/ENG)

Forwards: Matthew Amoah (NAC Breda/NED) Asamoah Gyan (Rennes/FRA), Prince Tagoe (Hoffenheim/GER), Dominic Adiyiah (AC Milan/ITA)

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Modric extends Spurs stay

(GSM) – Luka Modric has extended his stay at Tottenham Hotspur by signing a new six-year contract. The Croatia midfielder will now remain at White Hart Lane until 2016.

The 24-year-old’s future has been subject of much speculation as several interested parties, including Manchester United and Chelsea, have been linked with making a move for the player.

However, the Croatia international, who has impressed for the north London club under Harry Redknapp, has put an end to the stories linking him with a move away from Spurs by signing a new contract to remain at the club.

He told the club website: “Tottenham Hotspur gave me my chance in the Premier League and I want to go on to achieve great success here with them.

“Yes, there have been enquiries from other big clubs, but I have no interest in going anywhere.

“Last season’s top-four finish was an indication of where we are as a club and I feel I can continue to improve and go on to achieve everything I want to at Spurs.”

Modric has featured 77 times for Spurs, scoring eight goals.

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Germany’s Loew admits facing ‘brutal’ decision

Germany coach Joachim Loew admits he faces some ‘brutal’ decisions in the next few days as he looks to cut a player for his World Cup squad in the wake of his side’s 3-0 friendly win over Hungary.

Germany warmed up for South Africa with a convincing win over the hosts at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium on Saturday with a Lukas Podolski penalty and second-half goals by substitutes Mario Gomez and Brazilian-born Cacau.

But the bad news came on Sunday when it was revealed defender Heiko Westermann has been ruled out of the tournament after breaking his foot late in the game and Loew is now down to 24 fit players from the original 27 selected.

Loew will sit down with his coaching team to decide who will not be travelling to South Africa with the final 23-man squad set to be announced on Tuesday.

“There will be lots of speculation in the next few days,” said Loew.

“The coaches will sit down together on Sunday and Monday with the coaching staff and announce the squad on Tuesday.

“Of course, it will hurt for the player concerned, but unfortunately we can only take 23.”

Midfielder Marko Marin, Cacau and striker Gomez all impressed, while Hamburg midfielder Marcell Jansen made his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury in January.

Bayern Munich defender Holger Badstuber came off the bench to make his debut in the second-half, but Loew knows one of his players will soon be suffering World Cup heartbreak without even boarding the plane to South Africa.

“I haven’t yet got the player in my head who won’t be going,” he admitted.

“The decision will be brutal, not only for him, but also for the coaches.”

Germany begin their World Cup campaign in Group D on June 13 against Australia and fly to South Africa on June 7 after their final warm-up game against Bosnia-Herzegovina next Thursday.

With Germany captain Michael Ballack injured and out of next month’s World Cup, Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose took over the skipper’s armband.

Having played in last weekend’s Champions League final defeat, Bayern Munich stars Bastian Schweinsteiger and Germany’s new World Cup captain Philipp Lahm were both rested.

Ballack’s replacement alongside Schweinsteiger in the first-choice line-up is likely to be Stuttgart’s Sami Khedira and although he limped off in the second-off, the 22-year-old said there was no problem.

“In the first half, we played well and created a lot of chances,” said Khedira. “I myself have felt some pain, but I walked off at half-time.”

Germany were rarely troubled by the Hungarians and are sure to face much tougher tests in Group D against Ghana, Australia and Serbia in South Africa.

“The Hungarians didn’t have many chances,” said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“But on the other hand, it was good that we created a few goals of our own.”

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Frings hurt by Germany exclusion

(GSM) – Torsten Frings has revealed that his abrupt exclusion from the Germany squad is still hurting him.

The veteran midfielder was told by Germany coach Joachim Loew in January that his international career will go no further under his regime.

And despite Simon Rolfes, Michael Ballack and Christian Trasch being ruled out due to recent injuries, Frings has still missed out on a spot in the World Cup squad this summer.

“I am disappointed, not because of the current events, but for the way in which I was dealt with,” Frings told the Bild am Sonntag.

“To cut me off in a quick chat in January, without any official farewell, that hurt and it still hurts now.

“I am done with the national team. I have no contact whatsoever with the national team coach.”

But Frings still believes he is worthy of a seat on the plane to South Africa, adding: “In view of my overall ability, I should be included.”

When asked whether he feels his ability surpasses that of the players included in the squad, Frings said: “I have an opinion, but I don’t want to say anything bad about the lads.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed that they win the World Cup.

“My aim was to help them out, even if I was only back-up. I would have ended my international career after the World Cup anyway, but in a decent manner, not just in passing. Not in the way in which it has happened.”

Frings will now have to follow his country’s World Cup bid on television at home in Germany, and although he is hoping for a successful campaign, he has doubts over the strength of the side.

“The whole structure is on very weak foundations,” he said.

“Isn’t there a lack of young and old, talented and experienced?

“I know what is required in such a tournament.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed for the lads, but who, apart from (Philipp) Lahm or (Per) Mertesacker is going to be able to intervene if things are not quite right in the team?

“It is going to be tough against the likes of England, Argentina or Spain. You need strength in the tackle and tournament experience in those kind of games.”

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Top four a priority for Carragher

(GSM) – Jamie Carragher says Liverpool will focus on regaining a top four position next season. The Reds’ season was a disappointing one as they finished in seventh place which eventually left them out of Champions League football.

Tottenham’s forcing their way into a top-four position came at the expense of Liverpool. But Carragher thinks the Reds should now focus on regaining their Champions League status.

Manager Rafa Benitez is unlikely to have the funding which can make Liverpool a title-challenging side and Carragher knows the Anfield club cannot raid the transfer market and must build a strong team over time.

The England stopper said in The People: “Clubs like Real Madrid and Inter Milan can just throw £100million at new players if they don’t win the title.

“But Liverpool can’t do that. We have to build. We can’t just raid the transfer market.

“Next season, rather than thinking too much about the title, we have to concentrate on getting back in the top four.”

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Westermann blow for Germany

Germany international defender Heiko Westermann has been ruled out of the World Cup because of a broken foot, the German football federation announced on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Schalke 04 player injured himself during Germany’s 3-0 friendly win over Hungary in Budapest on Saturday.

His injury is the latest blow for Germany who are already without captain and Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack and midfielder Christian Traesch, both out with ankle injuries.

“Heiko would have played a key role in our team. He would have been important for us because of his polyvalence,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew.

“He showed remarkable form in training.”

Germany face Australia, Serbia and Africa Cup of Nations finalists Ghana in Group D at the World Cup, which runs from June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Sun 30 May, 2010
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Lecce and Cesena promoted to Serie A

(GSM) – Lecce and Cesena were promoted to Serie A on the final day following the conclusion of fixtures in Italian football’s second tier, Serie B.

Lecce were already on the verge of promotion but wasted opportunities in their last two matches, meant they had to wait till the last match to celebrate their eighth elevation to the top flight in the last 25 years.

A goalless home draw with Sassuolo helped Lecce to clinch the Serie B title.

Along with the Salentini, Cesena will also play Serie A football after on-loan Chievo midfielder Marco Parolo gave them a 1-0 win at Piacenza.

The win for Cesena sealed the runners-up spot and ended a 19-year exile from the top division.

Brescia, who started the day in second place, slipped up with a 2-1 defeat at Padova – and will join Sassuolo, Cittadella and Torino in the play-offs.

Sun 30 May, 2010
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