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Saturday, May 25th

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USA announce final 23 travelling to World Cup

USA coach Bob Bradley named his 23-man squad for the FIFA World Cup on Thursday, out of which only 8 players have ever been to a World Cup finals before. The team consists of a few familiar faces such as Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Steve Cherundolo.

US goalkeeper Tim Howard was the Golden Glove winner of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and conceded less than a goal per game in 13 appearances in 2010 World Cup qualifying and surely a repeat of that performance will go a long way to enhance his reputation. Team captain Carlos Bocanegra - whose 12 career goals give him second place on the all-time scoring chart for U.S. defenders - is the third most capped player in the squad with 77 appearances and will be the steady and solid leader at the back. Oguchi Onyewu has made his return to action following a seven-month recovery from a ruptured patellar tendon suffered last October in a qualifier against Costa Rica. Jonathan Bornstein, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson and Jonathan Spector, will all be competing in their maiden FIFA World Cup.


International Friendly: Algeria lose to Ireland, England take notes

The Republic of Ireland are slowly and steadily proving that they deserve to be in those finals and not France after defeating a second World Cup finalist this week. The Irish beat Algeria 3 - 0 in Dublin in a one-sided affair that saw the home team dominate from the outset. Giovanni Trapattoni helped figure out a vast number of weaknesses that the African country possesses at the back to help out fellow Italian Fabio Capello as his England team take on the Algerians in the Group Stage of the World Cup next month.

Algeria's defensive frailties led to Ireland's first goal when Paul Green headed in a set piece from Liam Lawrence at the half hour mark. The defenders didn't seem too keen to challenge for the ball as though keeping all the feistiness safe for the World Cup. Robbie Keane doubled Ireland's lead 5 minutes into the second half. Fawzi Chaouchi's feeble attempt to clear Damien Duff's cross was volleyed in by the Tottenham forward from around 20 yards out. With 5 minutes to go on the clock Robbie Keane was tripped in the box by Habib Ballaid and the Irish captain slotted comfortably past the Algerian Goalkeeper to give his team an easy win.


Denmark announces 23-man squad for the FIFA World Cup

Denmark coach Morten Olsen announced the 23 member squad that will be going to South Africa to represent the country in the FIFA World Cup 2010. The ‘Olsen Gang' as they are fondly called recently played a friendly against Senegal which they won 2-0. The Danish Coach made all his final tweaks and adjustments after watching his team impress against the African nation. He dropped 4 members from his initial provisional squad just a couple of hours before his team's flight to the African continent for the showpiece event.

Olsen told reporters that his job was to select the best squad for the World Cup and was confident he had done so, but added that dropping the players 'was one of the toughest decisions he had made.' IFK Goteborg goalkeeper Kim Christensen was booted out of the team despite no.1 Thomas Sorensen's injury. Stefan Andersen from Brondby and Jesper Christiansen from FC Copenhagen have been preferred over the Sweden based Christensen who surprisingly started and shut out Senegal for the 45 minutes he spent on the pitch. FC Utretch's Michael Silderbauer also failed to make the cut. He is known to be versatile and can occupy a number of positions on the pitch. Forwards Mikkel Thygesen of Midtjylland and Morten Rasmussen of Celtic too didn't manage to make the 23 member squad as Olsen preferred to stick with a three man frontline and has chosen to pack the midfield.


Michael Essien out of FIFA World Cup

Ghana's World Cup chances have been dealt a huge blow as their inspirational captain, Michael Essien was ruled out of the tournament following his failure to recover from a long term knee injury. He is the second Captain after Michael Ballack to miss out the chance to play in South Africa 2010. Ironically Ballack's team Germany are in the same group as Ghana, the 'Curse of the Group D' striking again.

Ghana Football Association issued a statement yesterday which said, "An evaluation by a combined team of medical experts from the Ghana Football Association and Chelsea Football Club revealed that Essien will not make full recovery until the end of July. The Ghana Football Association wishes him full recovery and a quick return to football action." Chelsea added: "Complications arising from the surgery have meant Michael's recovery has been slower than expected."

Essien will face a race against time to be fit to start of Chelsea's title defence in August.


International Friendlies Thursday Wrap: Danes, Hosts and Honduras all set for FIFA World Cup

South Africa, Denmark and Honduras were the only three World Cup finalists in action on a slow Thursday night. The Bafana Banfana and Danes hosted their respective clashes against Columbia and Senegal while Honduras took on Belarus in Austria in front of a rather modest crowd. Though all 3 of our finalists aren't expected to pull off too much of an upset, they still impressed last night and look in good condition for the 11th June showpiece.

South Africa 2 - 1 Colombia

Carlos Alberto Perreira's South African team defeated Colombia last night in Johannesburg thanks to two penalties awarded to them either side of half time. Teko Modise gave the hosts the lead in the 17th minute. But Colombian midfielder Giovanni Moreno equalized also from the spot  within the next 5 minutes. The South Africans got their second penalty of the night in the 58th minute and this time Mamelodi Sundowns strikers Katlego Mphela slotted it past Colombian goal keeper David Ospina to give the Bafana Bafana a deserved victory.


International Friendlies Wednesday Wrap: Les Blues and Oranje stutter past their Opponents

The World of international friendlies got incredibly exciting on Wednesday night with some of world football's top guns taking to the field for their final preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup finals. Five of the thirty two teams in South Africa were in action, with the Netherlands pitting wits against Mexico in the only match which featured two sides with a ticket to South Africa. All 4 matches saw wins, though a couple of the big guns did not have things completely their own way.

Netherlands 2 - 1 Mexico

robin_van_persie.jpgA brace from Robin van Persie in the first half won the game for the Oranje against Mexico, who were playing their second friendly in two days. El Tri were coming off the back of a 3-1 defeat to the English and this was another defeat from a European giant would not have helped their confidence one bit. Manchester United summer signing Javier Hernandez pulled one back for Mexico in the 75th minute but it was too little too late. The Dutch have a busy few days ahead of them as they take on the Ghanaians and Hungary before their World Cup campaign kicks off while Mexico will hope to return to winning ways when they meet Gambia, before a clash with defending champs Italy in their last pre-World Cup friendly.


FIFA World Rankings: No change at the top before the World Cup

Only about 20 friendly matches were played worldwide in the last few weeks. Accordingly, there were only minor changes to the latest edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the last to be published before the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. The head-to-head battle for top spot between leaders Brazil and European champions Spain continues, and both have a clear lead over the chasing pack of Portugal, Netherlands and Italy. Trailing even further behind, after Germany, Argentina, England and France, are two teams not participating in the World Cup - Croatia and Russia - who are likely to lose even more ground after the tournament.

Meanwhile, hosts South Africa have received a boost, winning not only two friendly matches, but also gaining seven places in the ranking (83rd, up 7), which is more than any other team. The only other teams to climb five or more places were Oman (91st, up 6) and Estonia (99th, up 5). In the top 100, Burkina Faso (48th, up 4) and Montenegro (64th, up 1) are currently in their highest-ever position since the World Ranking was introduced.


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