The word from South Africa as World Cup 2010 is almost here

My South African collaborator and friend has very kindly sent over some final words before Friday’s opening game. Here’s what Karen Lotter had to say...

“Vuvuzelas, mirror socks, flags all over the place and soccer jerseys on every second person – South Africa is so ready for the 2010 World Cup.

“Most of the teams are here and they seem to be happy with their accommodation. The fans are pouring in. We sent a bunch of football hooligans back to Argentina yesterday – they were on the watch list and thought they could sneak in.

“The South African National team is looking as good as we can hope for – the 1-0 win over Denmark made us realise that Bafana Bafana has a good chance of reaching the second round.

“This wasn’t the case six months ago after Joel Santana had been coaching them. The boys were terrible. Carlos Alberto Parreira stepped into the breach and he has worked wonders, making the boys believe in themselves.

“So what suggestions can I give those going to the Soccer Matches?

• Use public transport or get a friend or cab to drop you as close as you can

• Prepare to walk quite a way. The security is quite efficient, well here in Durban it is, so one doesn’t hang around, it goes quite quickly once you get to the first gate

• No bottles will be allowed in, not even plastic water bottles

• Take a hat/cap and sunscreen – even in winter the sun can be hot

• Always take a jacket or sweater

• If the vuvuzelas really worry you, buy earplugs

• Cash in smaller denominations R20, R50 or R100 is easier at the food and drink stands

Mike, I hope all your readers enjoy the 2010 World Cup South Africa. I know you guys can watch it on HD on Sky – I can’t wait for Friday. I hear the opening ceremony is going to be awesome, so tune in from 2 pm our time".

Visit Karen and her friends now at http://www.vuvuzelasouthafrica.co.za/

(Here’s the blog post Karen put up on her excellent site today)

England ready for World Cup

Hi Karen

It's the final week before the World Cup starts and I have to admit the mood in England isn't quite what I expected. Let me explain.

Here in England we have a history of approaching World Cups with levels of hysteria and hype not seen since the days of Roman bacchanalia.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we all have a drunken mass orgy; the Daily Mail would have a fit. It's just that we tend to get a bit over-excited.

As a result the UK papers are usually packed to the rafters with hyperbolic statements proclaiming 'this is our year' and so on. For some reason this has yet to happen.

Some of the credit must go to Coach Fabio Capello. He laid down the law on expectations last year. 'Keep them modest and plan to win without shouting too much' seemed to be his strategy.

So far it is working, although the mood may change depending on what happens in the group games against the US, Algeria and Slovenia.

A lot will also depend on how the team copes with the loss of Rio Ferdinand. Opinion is, not surprisingly, divided on the possible impact of the defender's injury. Some say he will be badly missed, others that he was an accident waiting to happen, a weak link.

I'm in the latter camp. Ferdinand has hardly played all season and often struggled to play more than three games before breaking down again. Better that it happened now, rather than in a game.

Besides, his replacement as captain is Steven Gerrard. While the Liverpool midfielder didn't have the best of seasons, and the days when he could inspire famous victories such as the Istanbul Champions League Final in 2005 may be behind him, Gerrard's drive and determination still can turn games.

Gerrard also has an excellent on and off field relationship with Wayne Rooney, England's talismanic striker. Much will depend on how they link up; as striker and midfielder, or as striker supported by Gerrard playing in the hole between the opposition's defence and midfield.

The England squad has plenty of other strong players too; from the Chelsea contingent of Lampard, Terry and the two Coles (Ashley and Joe), to striker Peter Crouch, midfielder James Milner, and winger Aaron Lennon. Don't count us out because one player is injured.

That's the picture from here as we count down towards Friday. Confident but not arrogant, relaxed but not complacent. Let's see if I can say the same after the England - US game in Rustenberg on June 12th.

Best of luck to Bafana Bafana and everyone at Vuvuzela South Africa.


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