Monday, November 29, 1999

Swiss shock Spain but goals still a rarity

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Outsiders Switzerland beat favourites Spain to score the biggest upset of the World Cup so far on Wednesday in a match as thrilling as it was shocking.A bundled in effort from Gelson Fernandes was all it took to settle the match 1-0 in what is proving to be a tournament high on African excitement but low on goals.There have been just 25 scored in the opening 16 games -- and average of 1.56 per game which compares poorly with the record lowest average in a World Cup of 2.21 in Italy in 1990.The Swiss, who had never beaten talent-crammed Spain in 18 previous meetings, got their goal early in the second half and then withstood a furious Spanish onslaught.Repeatedly frustrated by their lack of precision in front of goal, the Spaniards brought on Fernando Torres but the striker looked rusty after returning from a long-term injury.Wednesday's failure will deeply worry European champions Spain who have a long history of failure in World Cups. Their previous best finish was fourth place way back in 1950.The defeat was also the latest failure by most of the World Cup big guns to meet expectations in the first week.Brazil, narrowly behind Spain as pre-tournament favourites, also struggled on Tuesday night to break down the ultra-defensive North Koreans before winning 2-1.Earlier on Wednesday, Chile won their first World Cup victory for nearly half a century, beating Honduras 1-0 thanks to a Juan Beausejour goal.It was Chile's first win in a World Cup match since they hosted the tournament in 1962. Since then, they had not won a single game in 13 matches over four World Cups.Honduras had earlier registered 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.HISTORIC DAY FOR HOSTSSouth African excitement focused on Wednesday's late match against Uruguay, being played on a public holiday commemorating the 1976 student riots in the township of Soweto which were a key moment in the anti-apartheid struggle.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.South Africans were preparing a cacophony of vuvuzelas from Table Mountain to Soweto, heart of Wednesday'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 Loftus Versfeld stadium, long a temple of rugby -- almost a religion for Afrikaners -- in a city that was the heart of apartheid.Thousands of black and white South Africans mingled ahead of the match wearing the yellow team colours and sharing pride and patriotism.MARADONA ATTACKArgentine manager Diego Maradona caused a new fuss by launching stinging attacks on both Brazilian great Pele and UEFA President and former French captain Michel Platini."Pele should go back to the museum," Maradona said about recent criticism from the Brazilian great about his coaching ability."We all know what the French are like and Platini as a Frenchman thinks he knows it all," Maradona added after the UEFA President said Maradona was not as good a coach as a player.Police, who are making a huge effort to reverse pre-tournament reports that violence would mar Africa's first World Cup, said they would deport 17 more Argentines for hooliganism after raiding a Pretoria address. They have already deported 11 Argentines and one Briton for plotting crowd trouble during the tournament.(Reporting by Reuters World Cup team; writing by Barry Moody and Andrew Cawthorne, Editing by Ossian Shine)
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