Drogba and Robben on standby

Key players look to be on road to recovery with four days to go until World Cup kickoff.

Drogba Cote d''Ivoire
Drogba has had surgery on a broken elbow and is expected to feature at some stage [AFP]

There was respite for World Cup teams on the injury front as top players appeared to be in recovery following a spate of setbacks.

Cote d’Ivoire said their captain Didier Drogba, who has just had surgery for a fractured arm, would be fit at some stage of the tournament.

However, it was still not clear whether the African Footballer of the Year will play in the opening Group G match against Portugal in Port Elizabeth next week.

Honduras also breathed a collective sigh of relief with star midfielder Wilson Palacios ruled fit despite a leg muscle injury scare at the weekend.

Mozambique test

Portugal will see defender Pepe return from a six-month injury absence at least as a substitute in a pre-World Cup game against Mozambique on Tuesday.

“When it was first announced we would be hosting the World Cup, the players wanted to compete. Now our confidence has grown and as we start to feel we are capable – our mindset has changed”

Moeneeb Josephs, South Africa goalkeeper

For the Dutch, however, coach Bert van Marwijk admitted Arjen Robben’s inclusion in the squad is a risk after the winger picked up a hamstring injury in their final friendly last week.

“We had an ideal (World Cup) warm up until the injury,” Van Marwijk told the Reuters news agency.

“I’m willing to take the risk of keeping Robben in my squad.

“In the past such an injury would take four to six weeks (to clear) but the methods nowadays have developed.”

England’s Rio Ferdinand and Nigeria’s Jon Obi Mikel are just two players to have been ruled out for good in recent days.

In just four days South Africa will become the continent’s first country to stage the world’s most watched sports event and the hosts are growing increasingly confident about winning on the pitch as well.

Having stretched their unbeaten run to eight months and 12 consecutive games, South Africa, at 83rd the lowest-ranked nation ever to host the tournament which starts on Friday, are beginning to believe they can enjoy some success on home soil.

‘Mindset changed’

“When it was first announced we would be hosting the World Cup, the players wanted to compete,” South Africa goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs said on Monday.

“Now our confidence has grown and as we start to feel we are capable – our mindset has changed.

“Now we want to win, we want to get as far as we can go in this tournament.”

South Africa open the World Cup against Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg but before that organisers still have to make sure the supporters’ safety is guaranteed after a stampede in friendly match left 15 people injured on Sunday.

World football’s governing body Fifa, which was not responsible for the Nigeria v North Korea game where thousands of fans stormed the stadium gates, gave assurances that no such incidents would take place.

“I’m sure that this is a wake-up call and this will not happen in any match, you can be assured (of that),” Fifa president Sepp Blatter said.

General Secretary Jerome Valcke noted the stampede illustrated the danger of selling tickets on match days which Fifa has refused to do for the finals.

“We have been criticised very often for not distributing tickets on the match day at the stadium and it’s what happened there,” said Valcke.

There was good news for five-times world champions Brazil who thrashed Tanzania 5-1 in Dar es Salaam with double strikes from Robinho in the first half and Ramires in the second plus a goal from playmaker Kaka.

England striker Wayne Rooney was also on target in their laboured 3-0 win over South African Premier League club Platinum Stars, though their overall performance did little to reinforce their position as one of the tournament favourites.

Source: News Agencies