Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa -- England might have been sandbagging on Monday or it might merely have been cautious, trying to avoid any injuries ahead of Saturday’s World Cup opener against the U.S.
Whatever the reason, Coach Fabio Capello’s squad was less than convincing while scoring a 3-0 victory over the Platinum Stars of South Africa’s Premier League.
The goals should have come fast and furious, considering the gap in quality between the teams, but England was limited to only the three scored by Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney.
Afterward, Defoe said altitude had been a factor.
“It felt a lot harder in terms of breathing and getting your recovery,” he said, comparing Rustenburg with England’s training camp in Austria. “It was quite difficult to get your breath back. But we’ll get used to that, and we feel prepared for Saturday.
“Mentally, we are prepared; physically, we are prepared.”
Mexico riding high
Mexico’s players and coaches are traveling around in a new bus emblazoned in the team colors and bearing the legend: Es tiempo por el nuevo campeón (It’s time for a new champion).
Winger Andres Guardado goes along with that. “We have no ceiling,” he said. “Mexico has the capacity to play the best World Cup in its history.”
Even Friday’s opener against host South Africa is winnable, he said, because of El Tri’s superior ball skills.
“We can cause them a lot of damage, and we have the people up front capable of doing that.”
Yes, Germany arrives
In a shameless attempt to court support — but a smart move all the same — Germany Coach Joachim Low and his players turned up for their first training session in South Africa wearing T-shirts bearing a South African flag and the word “Yebo,” which is Zulu for “Yes.” The three-time World Cup winners arrived in Johannesburg on Monday.
Brazil’s Robinho dance
After scoring once in a 3-0 victory over Zimbabwe in Harare last week, Brazilian forward Robinho banged in two goals against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on Monday as the Selecao romped to a 5-1 win.
Also scoring two goals was midfielder Ramires, whose speed could cause defenders all sorts of headaches. Kaka scored the fifth Brazilian goal.
“There is still something missing,” Kaka said afterward. “But we still have a week to go before the opener [against North Korea], and we will work to get better.”
Goalkeeper Julio Cesar sat out the match because of a back injury. He had not missed a game in two years, playing in 26 consecutive games. Heurelho Gomes was in the nets for the five-time world champions.
Ten Argentine hooligans who were refused entry to South Africa because of their known criminal records Monday were put on a plane back to Buenos Aires after spending two days in detention because they had drunk so much they were in no condition to fly.
Blatter: stampede not FIFA’s fault
Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, the 74-year-old president of FIFA, said Monday that the fan stampede in Johannesburg that left 16 people injured Sunday, including a policeman, was a wake-up call for tournament organizers.
“I am sure, and you are sure, that this is like an alarm clock and this will not happen at any match at the World Cup,” Blatter said, while at the same time deflecting criticism away from FIFA.
“The security is always a matter for the state where the sport event is played,” he said. “We [FIFA] have no police force. We cannot even take out a spectator from a stadium. We cannot do that. It is not possible.”