Monday, November 29, 1999

Chile take first win for half century

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Chile scored their first World Cup victory for nearly half a century on Wednesday but millions of soccer fans are likely to see more excitement when favourites Spain open their campaign against Switzerland.Chile beat Honduras 1-0 through a lucky goal from Juan Beausejour when an attempted clearance by Honduran defender Sergio Mendoza bounced off him into the net.It was Chile's first World Cup win since they hosted the tournament in 1962. Since then, they have not won a single game in 13 matches over four World Cups.But the game lacked class and anticipation was building for the next match on Wednesday when the Spanish, narrowly ahead of Brazil as tournament favourites, take the field in Group H in the tropical port of Durban.Honduras had earlier notched up a World Cup first by adding Jerry Palacios to their squad, as the third member of his tragic family -- whose fourth brother Edwin was found dead last year after being kidnapped in 2007.Spain left striker Fernando Torres on the bench for what should be an easy match for the favourites and David Villa was playing as a lone forward. Torres had been declared fit after recovering from knee surgery.NATIONAL PRIDEAndres Iniesta, who had also been in doubt because of a thigh strain, will start the game in midfield.Wednesday will also be a big day for South Africa who in the evening play their second match, against Uruguay, on a public holiday commemorating the 1976 student riots in Soweto which were a key moment in the battle to end apartheid.The Bafana Bafana (the Boys) side, written off as no hopers last year, are now riding a wave of national pride and self belief that they can make it into the second round after they scored one of the goals of the tournament in their opening 1-1 draw against Mexico.Until recently there was wide national pessimism that they would suffer the shame of being the first host nation to be eliminated at the group stage.Now South Africans are preparing a cacophony of vuvuzelas from Table Mountain to Soweto, heart of today's historic celebrations, to help their boys defeat Uruguay, who played a dreary opening goalless draw against France."We want to hear those vuvuzelas!" said South Africa's Brazilian manager Carlos Alberto Parreira after FIFA rejected a chorus of foreign pleas to ban the droning plastic trumpet.To add to the historic symbolism, the match will be played in Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld, long a temple of rugby that is almost a religion for Afrikaners.SPAIN'S LONG WAITWhile South Africa would be happy just to reach the next round, nothing short of lifting the trophy would satisfy Spain, who have a long history of failure in World Cups. Their previous best finish was fourth way back in 1950.Brazil's Samba Boys made their first appearance in the tournament on Tuesday night, struggling to break down the ultra-defensive North Koreans but then notching two goals from Maicon and Elano in the second half to win 2-1.Maicon's goal from an almost impossible angle was a reminder that the five-times tournament winners can turn on moments of astonishing brilliance although Kaka's stuttering performance after a series of disappointing showings recently will worry coach Dunga.There was increasing speculation over the fitness of Gianluigi Buffon, goalkeeper for holders Italy, who went to hospital for tests on a sciatic nerve problem that could rule him out of the tournament. The 32-year-old, once considered the world's best keeper, has suffered injuries for two years.The questions over Buffon reinforced expectations that an ageing Italy team stand little chance of retaining the title.As well as a dearth of goals so far in Africa's first World Cup, swathes of empty seats are causing concern, although organisers say this is due to ticket-holders failing to turn up rather than lack of interest. Traffic jams round stadiums have delayed many spectators.There was a horrific twist to the World Cup in Somalia where Islamist militants killed two people and arrested dozens more for breaking a ban on watching games on TV.The Somali government said "Somalis, like everyone else in Africa, should be able to watch the tournament without fear of loss of life."(Reporting by Reuters World Cup team; writing by Barry Moody and Andrew Cawthorne, Editing by Ossian Shine)
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