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Saturday, Sep 19th

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Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund says his side will not roll up and die against Spain but will compete. Igesund was speaking to the media at the end of the national team’s two-hour training session in sweltering heat at the FNB Stadium where South Africa and Spain will meet in an international friendly match scheduled for Tuesday, 19 November 2013.

All the players are in camp for the match, dubbed “The Champions are Coming,” including late call-up Tebogo Langerman who has replaced the injured Tsepo Masilela.

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The preliminary competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is drawing to a close. Unsurprisingly, the 69 World Cup qualifying matches played since the last edition of the FIFA World Ranking, as well as the 20 friendlies and ten qualifying matches for continental competitions, have had a significant effect on the table. In the top ten, only Spain’s position as number one remains unchanged, while Germany have pushed Argentina out of second place. New entries into the top ten are Switzerland (7th, up 7) and England (10th, up 7), both thanks to their recent strong performances in the final group games in the World Cup preliminary competition. Italy, meanwhile, have paid heavily for their draw against Armenia, dropping four places to eighth in the ranking.

The distribution of teams in Pot 1 for the World Cup Final Draw on 6 December is as follows: Brazil, together with Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland are definitely in Pot 1. If Uruguay win the intercontinental play-off against Jordan, they will also go into the first pot. However, if Jordan win, the decimal points difference between the Netherlands (1135.95) and Italy (1135.61) will see the Netherlands take the last place in Pot 1.

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The 185 matches played in the past month have certainly left their mark on the current edition of the FIFA World Ranking. In the top ten, only Spain’s ranking remains unchanged and the world and European champions have managed to further extend their lead at the top of the table, where they have reigned since September 2011. However, there has been a big shake-up just below pole position where Argentina have ousted Germany out of second place after successfully qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

Uruguay (7th, up 5) are also among this month’s gainers, making it back into the top ten at the expense of Portugal (11th, down 4). There are currently four South American teams in the top ten. Belgium continue to climb their way up the table unchecked. The Red Devils are enjoying an unbeaten run in their World Cup qualifying campaign and, with their current ranking of 6th, have once more reached their best-ever position since the introduction of the world ranking.

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Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque has urged youngster Thiago Alcantara to snub a move to Premier League champions Manchester United and remain at current club FC Barcelona.

The 22 year old has been strongly linked to join the Red Devils and David Moyes has identified the Spaniard as one of his prime transfer targets.

United believe they can tempt Alcantara with the promise of regular first team football which the Spaniard really needs if he wants to make the squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Barca though still remain upbeat about keeping Alcantara.

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The Final of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup ended in a convincing 3-0 win for the hosts Brazil against world champions Spain, marking their third successive Confederations Cup victory. Once the inevitable, patently silly obituaries of Spain’s footballing style are penned, however, it will be important to consider what this victory means for Brazil in the context of the greater test the next year. Spain, for example, lost to the USA in 2009 in this tournament, before going on to win the World Cup the following year. Hence, although, Brazil were extremely impressive herein, their success must be viewed as an important, albeit minor, step towards the actualization of the vastly more consequential goal - the World Cup in 2014; similarly, while Spain looked fatigued after their shootout victory against Italy in the semi-final, it would be foolish to write them and their footballing ideology off given that they are one of, if not the finest team to play the game and still boast an impressive cast of individuals capable of retaining the trophy in 2014.

Luis Felipe Scolari continued with the same team that beat Uruguay in the semi-final, and what is increasingly seen as his starting eleven in what might be considered a bid to perpetuate consistency in squad selection following his inheritance of a fairly divided Brazilian dressing room. Hulk, who hadn’t enjoyed a particularly fine tournament, continued on the right flank, and is perhaps the only selection choice for Scolari to make ahead of the World Cup, given his profligacy in the face of considerable creative freedom. Vicente Del Bosque, meanwhile, handed a start to Chelsea youngster Juan Mata on the flank, opting to bench his Premier League rival David Silva of Manchester City, who started the semi-final against Uruguay.

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The era of Spanish dominance is well and truly in the past after Bayern Munich brushed aside Barcelona 3-0 in the 2nd leg of their semi-final to clinch the tie 7-0 on aggregate and setup the first all-German Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on May 25th at Wembley. Barcelona were always up against it after their 1st leg mauling and with Lionel Messi being restricted to the bench through injury their chances reduced further.

Any hopes of Bayern being slack were washed away three minutes into the 2nd half when Arjen Robben got the crucial away goal after cutting in from the right. Gerard Pique’s own goal on 72 minutes made it 2-0 to the Germans, who added a 3rd four minutes later through Thomas Muller. The stage is set for the Germans to shine on the continent’s biggest stage and on a personal note, Bayern have a glorious chance to make up for the disappointments of 2010 and 2012.

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The European leg of the prolonged World Cup 2014 qualifiers was in action once again last night and England were the biggest winners as they thrashed San Marino 8-0. The other European giants to have an easy night in the office were Germany who cruised past Kazakhstan 3-0, Netherlands also beat Estonia by the same margin while France comfortably swatted aside Georgia 3-1. The surprise result of the round came in Gijon where Spain were held to a 1-1 draw by Finland. Portugal and Israel played out an entertaining 3-3 draw in Group F while Wales got the better of Scotland 2-1 in the all-British battle.

England’s rampage against San Marino was welcome relief for Roy Hodgson after the usual pre-match tabloid headache. The Three Lions managed to get six different scorers on the sheet against the minnows, with Jermain Defoe grabbing a brace. England were five goals to the good by half-time, with Alessandro Della Valle getting the ball rolling with an early own goal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Defoe, Ashley Young and Frank Lampard all found a way to goal by the break to leave the home side reeling.

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