Monday, November 29, 1999

Swiss shock Spain, hosts crushed

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Switzerland scored this World Cup's biggest upset on Wednesday with a win over fancied Spain but hosts South Africa sent their hordes of vuvuzela-blowing fans home dejected after defeat to Uruguay.The shock of the tournament so far unfolded in Durban, where Spain dominated possession but were undone by a bundled-in goal from Cape Verde Islands-born midfielder Gelson Fernandes."To be fair I'm not used to scoring goals, so it was a surprise," Fernandes said. His goal sent the normally restrained Swiss rushing to the streets back home in celebration with red-and-white shirts plus African-style vuvuzela horns.The cacophony of plastic vuvuzela trumpets across South Africa could not rouse the local Bafana Bafana (Boys), however.Uruguay's impressive Diego Forlan sunk them with a deflected shot then a penalty after South Africa's goalkeeper was sent off. The South Americans eventually won 3-0 in one of the most convincing displays of a low-scoring tournament.South Africa have one point from their opening day draw and one match left in Group A, against France, to try and secure passage to the last 16. They have a tall order to avoid being the first World Cup hosts to exit in the first stage.CHILE WIN AT LASTSouth Africa's defeat came on a public holiday commemorating the 1976 student riots in the township of Soweto which were an important moment in the anti-apartheid struggle.Hosting the tournament is enormously prestigious for South Africa, who want to showcase the continent's modern face and their country's transformation since the dark days of apartheid.In Wednesday's other match, 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.Honduras at least registered a World Cup first by calling up a third member of the Palacios family -- Jerry -- meaning they now have an unprecedented three brothers in their squad.Wednesday's five goals in three games did not really answer criticism Africa's first World Cup has been short on excitement.There have been just 28 goals scored in the opening 17 games -- an average of 1.65 per game, way below even the record low of 2.21 goals per match at World Cup 1990 in Italy.Players and coaches have been criticising the new Jalubani ball, the altitude and the droning noise of the vuvuzelas.Yet it is still surprising so many big names -- from Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres to Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba -- are yet to find the net.Spain saw themselves replaced by Brazil as favourites after their shock loss to the Swiss who had never beaten them in 18 previous meetings, according to British bookies Ladbrokes.Wednesday's failure will deeply worry the 2008 European champions who have a long history of failure in World Cups."Their underachievers tag may not be confined to the history books just yet," Ladbroke's spokesman Nick Weinberg said.MARADONA COURTS CONTROVERSYThe defeat was also the latest failure by most of the World Cup big guns to meet expectations in the first week.Brazil also struggled on Tuesday night to break down the ultra-defensive North Koreans before winning 2-1.Even with an inspiring performance by world player of the year Lionel Messi, Argentina only managed one goal in their win over Nigeria. England drew mockery from around the world with a goalkeeping gaffe that gave the United States a 1-1 draw.Of the traditional heavyweights, only Germany have really shone, with a 4-0 thrashing of below-par Australia.Argentine coach Diego Maradona had his mind on how to again outwit his South Korean counterpart Huh Jung-moo during Thursday's clash. As players, the pair met in a 1986 World Cup clash, with Huh detailed -- but failing -- to stop Maradona.As so often in the past, Maradona created a new fuss with attacks on fellow football greats Pele and Michel Platini.Responding to criticism of his coaching, Maradona said that the Brazilian "should go back to the museum".Of the UEFA president and former French captain Platini, he added: "We all know what the French are like and Platini as a Frenchman thinks he knows it all."In a sideshow to the tournament that has raised a few eyebrows, a South African court released two Dutch women accused of an illegal promotional stunt by a brewer on a 10,000 rand ($1,319) bail and will hear the case in a week.The arrests came after FIFA questioned a group of 36 women who wore skimpy orange dresses promoting family-owned Dutch brewer Bavaria at the Netherlands v Denmark game. (Reporting by Reuters World Cup team; writing by Barry Moody and Andrew Cawthorne; editing by Ossian Shine)
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