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ALY`S GATTUSO TO RETIRE

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-06-12 20:10:10

JOHANNESBURG: Along with Portugal`s Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi`s ball skills are one of the most eagerly awaited sights of this World Cup.

Interest in Argentina is equally focused on ever-controversial manager Maradona. The inexperienced and quixotic coach`s questionable decisions were blamed for Argentina`s shaky qualifying road to the World Cup.

England, who some pundits put behind only Spain and Brazil as potential winners despite the loss through injury of captain Rio Ferdinand, are notoriously slow starters.

They face awkward opponents in the much improved U.S. side under seasoned coach Bob Bradley.

"I understand this is a really, really important moment for the country, but I am relaxed," England`s Italian manager Fabio Capello said of national hopes he could end a wait since 1966 to bring the trophy back to the nation that invented football.

Seldom outnumbered, England`s famously raucous fans looked set to be outdone for once, with 30,000 Americans expected at the game from a burgeoning "Sam`s Army" U.S. supporters` club.

Some complained of a lack of respect by rival England fans. "People don`t know about American soccer," said Steve Heard.

South Africa`s Bafana Bafana (The Boys) were basking in the love of a nation after they met euphoric public expectations with an exciting 1-1 draw against Mexico in Friday`s first game.

That result kept the local vuvuzela horns blowing and South African flags flying across the nation.

Johannesburg`s Saturday Star said Bafana Bafana`s display, including a gloriously-struck first goal of the tournament, "showed we are not a nation of unrealistic dreamers".

The mood of public pride at hosting a World Cup sceptics said Africa would never be capable of organising was only dampened by sadness over the death in a car crash of the 13-year-old great granddaughter of Nelson Mandela.

The beloved father of post-apartheid South Africa missed the opening match and ceremony while he mourned.

Showing South Africa`s determination to overcome its reputation for crime, a court handed rapid punishment to two men who robbed World Cup journalists from Portugal and Spain, sentencing them to 15 years in jail, police said on Saturday.

In sad news for Italy fans, combative midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, 33 -- who was a major part of their 2006 World Cup success -- announced he would retire after the tournament.

"It`s right to give my spot to people with more energy," said the man nicknamed "Rino", a play on his name but also befitting his aggressive style of play.

BDST: 1045hrs, 13 June, 2010
SFM/

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