Monday, November 29, 1999

Argentines light up World Cup, African gloom deepens

News posted by

Argentina lit up the World Cup with the first hat trick on Thursday, staking a claim to be the tournament favourites, but African gloom deepened after Nigeria joined hosts South Africa in a potentially fatal defeat.Nigeria had looked the likeliest winners before their match with Greece and went ahead in the 16th minute, but they lost 2-1 after playing most of the match with 10-men when Sani Kaita was sent off for a stupid foul in the 33rd minute.It was Greece's first World Cup victory.Now Africa looks in danger of losing most of its record six participants in the first World Cup on the continent before the second round, with only Ghana still looking strong.It was Argentina's performance that thrilled the huge world audience for a tournament that had been short on goals. They played a match full of skill to beat South Korea 4-1, equalling the previous highest tally in Germany's 4-0 rout of Australia.Argentina lead a South American charge that makes them by far the most successful region in the tournament so far, with five wins and two draws from seven matches.The exciting Argentine coup came after South African vuvuzelas went quiet and national elation turned to despondency following a disastrous 3-0 defeat by Uruguay.A near miracle will be required for the national side Bafana Bafana (the Boys) to avoid the shame of being the first hosts eliminated in the first round.Nigeria's defeat, which leaves them struggling on no points in Group B, will add to the depression from Cairo to the Cape.Argentina's brilliant victory, with World Player of the Year Lionel Messi orchestrating countless attacks from midfield and Gonzalo Higuain banging in a hat trick, brought them close to early qualification for the second round and hoisted their status to one of the favourites.They could have scored even more without the heroics of Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong.OWN GOALArgentina's first goal was put into his own net by Korean defender Park Chu-young. The Asian side fought until the end, pulling one back just before halftime, but were outclassed by Argentina's mobility and skill.There was more trouble between police and stadium guards who have been removed from duty in a wage dispute. Police fired rubber bullets and a stun grenade to disperse stewards protesting outside the offices of their employers, a local security firm, in Cape Town.Police and guards previously clashed early on Monday in Durban.South African optimism over qualifying for the second round was crushed by a 3-0 drubbing on Wednesday night which gives them only an unlikely chance of qualifying -- depending on what one commentator called a "fairytale" sequence of other results.A highway billboard which normally advises traffic conditions on the road to Pretoria summed up the national mood. "Sorry Bafana. Don't give up," it read.In Thursday's late game, France need their misfiring strikers to finally show their worth against the neat-passing Mexicans.Only a major upset win against 1998 winners and 2006 runners-up France, plus other favourable results, can get South Africa through to the second round."The sangomas (witch doctors) did not work," one woman screamed in the crowd in Pretoria after South Africa misfired in midfield and showed no punch in attack.Until now, low scores have marked the 32 teams' first games of the tournament and Argentina's performance was a breath of fresh air for fans desperate for more goals as sides step up a gear to win the points they need to reach the last 16.Off the field, labour unions are threatening to embarrass the South African government by interrupting power, transport and security operations if their wage demands are not met. Police have had to take over security at five stadiums because of various disputes with stewards.Hooliganism has been avoided however, with potential troublemakers from England blocked from entering, and another 17 "undesirable" Argentines deported on Wednesday.South Africa's glowing pride will not disappear even if Bafana Bafana are eliminated.They have so far earned huge kudos by successfully staging Africa's first World Cup, confounding pessimists at home and abroad who predicted for years that it would be a disaster scarred by major crime.But there was also a reminder on Thursday of a tragedy which marred the start of the World Cup, when Nelson Mandela attended the funeral of his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani, killed in a car accident on the eve of the opening ceremony. Mandela, father of the post-apartheid nation, withdrew from the ceremony because of the tragedy.(Reporting by Reuters World Cup team; Writing by Barry Moody and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Ossian Shine)(For more news on Reuters India, click
News posted by
Click here to read more news from
Please follow our blogs



No comments:

Post a Comment