Brazil's President Lula to attend final; Zimbabwean energy minister fired after World Cup power cuts; Slovakia and Paraguay advance, while Italy crash out; Japan beat Denmark to join The Netherlands in the second round; Vuvuzela blasts its way onto YouTube.
Brazilian President Lula da Silva will visit South Africa during the World Cup final. Whether or not Brazil are playing in the game – and they have a better chance of making the final than most – it is usual for the president of the host country of the next World Cup to attend this match. Lula’s soccer-related visit will be combined with other state business, and he will probably arrive in South Africa a few days before the final. Meanwhile, former US president Bill Clinton is already in South Africa. Clinton, who is the honorary president of the US bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, watched the US defeat Algeria on Wednesday. He enjoyed himself so much that he is sticking around to watch his country take on Ghana in Rustenburg on Sunday. US President Barack Obama has also said he will visit South Africa for the soccer – if the US make the final.
Zimbabwean energy and power development minister Elias Mudzuri was one of four cabinet members to be fired on Wednesday. Politicians the world over never seem to learn not to over-promise and under-deliver and Mudzuri is no exception. Before the World Cup he promised that Zesa – the Zimbabwean equivalent of Eskom – would suspend its usual load-shedding during the tournament, so fans could have their fill of soccer on TV. It was a nice thought, but it’s not always the thought that counts, and with Zesa able to meet only 50% of the country’s electricity requirements, power cuts remained firmly on the menu, soccer or no soccer. Ordinary Zimbabweans are angry that they aren’t able to watch all of the games, but there’s no quick fix. We wonder if the new energy minister will still hold his position by the end of the tournament.
France crashing out of the World Cup was one thing, and their off-the-pitch problems certainly explained their poor performance somewhat. But Italy’s exit is an even bigger shock. It is only the second time ever that the defending champions have failed to make the second round of the tournament, and the Azzurri must be hanging their heads in shame. Slovakia – who were at the bottom of Group D at the beginning of Thursday – beat the Italians 3-2 to claim a surprise place in the next round. Fingers are already pointing at Italian coach Marcello Lippi, and he can’t be looking forward to his trip home. In the other match of the group, New Zealand drew with Paraguay, who will be advancing alongside Slovakia. The Kiwis will nonetheless be extremely proud of their performance, as they remain unbeaten this tournament. (Okay, they didn’t actually beat anyone either, but that’s a small detail.)
Before the 2010 World Cup, Japan had never won a match at the tournament on foreign soil, and the country’s press were derisive of the team’s chances. They’ve certainly proved their critics wrong, with Thursday’s 3-1 win over Denmark propelling them into the second round. Suddenly Japanese coach Takeshi Okada’s target of a semi-final place isn’t looking quite as far-fetched. In the remaining Group F match The Netherlands took on Cameroon. Since the Dutch were already through, and the Indomitable Lions had no chance of qualifying, the only thing at stake was honour. Unfortunately, Cameroon surrendered 1-2, despite putting on their best performance of the tournament. Still, the highest-ranked African team at the World Cup has lost all three of its matches. Ouch!
You might think the biggest noise of the World Cup so far has been the drone of the vuvuzela, but actually it’s more likely to have been the whining of critics dissing the instrument. That said, the plastic trumpet has gained plenty of followers as well, especially proving a hit on YouTube. Now viewers can add the distinctive buzz of the vuvuzela to any YouTube video they please – simply by clicking on the soccer icon on the bottom right-hand side of screen. These cameos aside, the vuvuzela has starred in more than one video of its own this World Cup. Hitler and the Vuvuzela and The Fellowship of the Vuvuzela have already got millions of hits each, and South Africa’s own boeremusiek zombie music video, Blaas Jou Vuvuzela, is climbing slowly but surely up the charts.
16:00 Portugal vs Brazil, Durban
16:00 North Korea vs Ivory Coast, Nelspruit
20:30 Chile vs Spain, Pretoria
20:30 Switzerland vs Honduras, Bloemfontein
By Theresa Mallinson
"Go down this set of stairs and then just run - run as fast as you can." ~ Lt David Brink, 9/11