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World Cup briefs

Published June 12, 2014 2:34 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Porto Seguro, Brazil • Germany coach Joachim Loew believes defending World Cup champion Spain still has what it takes to win the title.

Loew told reporters at his first news conference since Germany's arrival in Brazil that Spain is "not past its prime."

Loew pointed out Thursday that Spain had two clubs in the Champions League final and one in the Europa League final and that it has won its last three tournaments — two European championships and one World Cup.



No European team has even won the World Cup in South America and no team has repeated as champion in 52 years, since Brazil's 1962 title.

Sao Paulo • American referee Mark Geiger will work his first World Cup game when Colombia plays Greece on Saturday.

FIFA also said Thursday that the high-profile Group D match between England and Italy in Manaus will be refereed by Bjorn Kuipers of the Netherlands.

Kuipers is arguably Europe's top official and refereed the Brazil-Spain Confederations Cup final last June, and the Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid city derby at the Champions League final last month.

Geiger is a 39-year-old professional referee and former high school teacher from Beachwood, New Jersey.

The Colombia-Greece match in Belo Horizonte opens the Group C program.

Also in Group C on Saturday, Enrique Osses of Chile will referee Ivory Coast vs. Japan in Recife.

FIFA gave Felix Brych of Germany the Uruguay vs. Costa Rica duty. Brych handled the Europa League final last month, a penalty shootout win for Seville over Benfica.

Mangaratiba, Brazil • Italy plans to train as planned at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus despite concerns about the pitch at the jungle World Cup venue.

The Azzurri travel to Manaus on Friday, a day before facing England in Group D.

Italian delegation chief Demetrio Albertini says "we're not planning to change our schedule. ... We knew there was some burnt grass due to the heat but the color of the grass doesn't really matter."

Albertini adds that an advance Italy delegation was slated to check out the pitch but was held up by airport strikes in Rio de Janeiro.

Groundskeepers were attempting to remedy the visibly dry, white stripes across the grass.

Head groundsman Carlos Botella told The Associated Press on Wednesday, "Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape."

Recife, Brazil • It's a contest of brawn and bravado against pace and finesse.

The muscular Ivory Coast team could not be more different at first glance from the compact Blue Samurai of Japan.

One thing the two teams meeting in Saturday's opening Group C match have in common: crowd-pleasing flair that translates into goals.

Neither are footballing giants but both contain their share of genuine stars: Manchester City's Yaya Toure and former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba for Ivory Coast, AC Milan's Keisuke Honda and Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa for Japan.

Ivory Coast have age going against them: Toure is 31, Drogba 36 and defender Didier Zokora is 33 , making them old men in footballing terms. Toure is coming off a grueling league campaign with Manchester City, where he won the Premier League, and suffered a hamstring injury in the last match of the season.

"He's still in a recovery phase and everything's going well," said Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi. "But he's not yet at 100 percent."

Japan is younger and possesses boundless reserves of energy but has shown baffling spells of inconsistency. They have honed a dangerous attack under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni yet succumb to sudden defensive lapses — something for which the Africans will surely look to punish them.

Zaccheroni acknowledges that Japan needs to work on its "concentration" — but insists that letting in goals is the price to be paid for a football style geared at scoring them.

"If you score three goals against Belgium you must be prepared to give up a couple," Zaccheroni said, referring to a thrilling November friendly in which Japan edged a strong Belgian side 3-2 on opponent turf.

Colombia's 16-year wait for a return to the World Cup was miserable enough for its supporters. Now they're coming to terms with a few setbacks before Columbia's Group C opener Saturday against Greece, including the loss of Radamel Falcao.

The star forward was cut from the squad last week after failing to recover in time from a serious knee injury. While Colombia has other attacking options, Falcao's exclusion is a psychological blow.

Coach Jose Pekerman described it as his "saddest day" since taking charge of "Los Cafeteros" when he dropped Falcao along with first-choice center back Luis Perea, who was carrying a thigh injury. Then, midfielder Aldo Ramirez was sent home with a foot injury sustained in a training session last week, days after Pekerman announced his final squad.

Falcao, nicknamed "El Tigre," will be sorely missed. The 28-year-old striker, who joined Monaco from Atletico Madrid, tore left knee ligaments in a French Cup game in January. He was key to Colombia's successful qualifying campaign, scoring nine goals — a record for the country.

Despite all the bad news, the squad remains optimistic about its chances in a group that also includes Ivory Coast and Japan. Colombia's main playmaker, James Rodriguez, points out that even without Falcao the team has a strong strike force which includes Carlos Bacca, Teofilo "Teo" Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez.

"The responsibility is weighing on us even more without Falcao, but we're not alone," the 22-year-old Rodriguez said. "The attack isn't going to change. It's the same. Apart from Falcao, we have Teo, Jackson and Bacca."

Rio de Janeiro • The heat and humidity will be a factor, and so will the poor playing surface, when the Amazonian jungle city of Manaus hosts England and Italy in its first World Cup match on Saturday.

The most exotic of Brazil's 12 host cities got one of the tournament's best games, a Group D match between two former World Cup champions. It's a match that neither team believes it can afford to lose.

With Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli on one side working against Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard on the other, there will be plenty of superstar quality to marvel at and deflect attention from the subpar quality of the field.

Even the head groundsman at the Arena da Amazonia said the grass was "in bad shape."

But the field may not be as stifling as the heat. Temperatures are expected to be about 32 Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), and the humidity always seems to hover around 80 percent in Manaus. The team that can run for 90 minutes under those circumstances might just be the team that leaves the jungle city with three points.

Before coming to Brazil, England spent some time in Miami to acclimatize to the hot conditions. Now that they are in South America, it's time to prepare for Pirlo.

"It's important we don't give him much time and space when we come up against him because he can influence any game," said Gerrard, the England captain. "He has got that ability."

 

 

 

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