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Italy crash out of World Cup

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-06-24 16:23:46

JOHANNESBURG: Holders Italy bombed out in the first round of the World Cup on Thursday, as South African police beefed up security for a showdown between two of Europe`s other big guns, Germany and England.

The Italians` stunning 3-2 loss to Slovakia in Johannesburg was the shock of the tournament so far and follows a mass exodus by African teams.

The Slovakians were joined in the last 16 by Paraguay after they and New Zealand played out a drab goalless draw in the northern city of Polokwane.

With Italy and France already out of the tournament, much of Europe`s hopes will pin on three-times champions Germany and England, another former winner.

After scraping through to the last 16 on Wednesday, the two are now scheduled to face off in the central town of Bloemfontein on Sunday.

The match will be one of the most-heavily policed of the tournament with previous fixtures having attracted large numbers of hooligans.
The last time the two teams met in a major competition a decade ago during the European championships in Belgium, the streets of Charleroi were reduced to a battle zone.

More than 500 supporters were arrested during two days of violence, with Belgian military aircraft deployed to deport hand-cuffed and heavily guarded English hooligans.

"There`s a bit of animosity between the two teams in the past, and obviously we`ll keep that in consideration when deploying our members and resources," national police spokeswoman Sally de Beer told AFP.

"There may be animosity between the fans of the two opposing teams."

De Beer said police have no indication of security risks to the match but consider the teams "high-profile" and will deploy extra officers and resources.

Thousands of fans from both sides are expected to pile into Bloemfontein even though many will not have tickets to the game.

Football`s world governing body FIFA did announce it was putting around 1,000 more tickets on sale for the game, mostly returns by fans who bought team-specific tickets and have seen their sides eliminated from the tournament.
Africa had faced the ignominy of having no representatives in the business end of the tournament for the first time in 28 years after a string of failures by the continent`s representatives.

Although a record six African teams qualified for the tournament, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa have all been knocked out and Ivory Coast are almost certainly doomed to lose out to Brazil and Portugal.

But the Black Stars of Ghana managed to salvage some African pride by limiting Germany to a 1-0 victory in Johannesburg late Wednesday, a result which enabled them to stagger into second place in Group D and thus line up a showdown with the United States.

Tournament organisers were desperate for at least one African team to make it through to the knock-out stage.
"This is an African World Cup, and we have always maintained that we wish and hope that the African teams will do well, and they (Ghana) are making us very proud.", said local organising committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo.

Ghana, the first African nation to win its independence, was the continent`s trail-blazer at the last tournament when they also were the only team to make it into the knock-out stages.

They managed to beat the United States at the 2006 tournament in Germany and a repeat performance would give them a decent chance of making the semi-finals with either Uruguay or South Korea standing in their way.

No African team has ever made it to the semi-finals of a World Cup, and the hosts have been quick to transfer their allegiance to Ghana in the wake South Africa`s first round exit on Tuesday.

"Well done Ghana for doing Africa proud and all of us as Africans proud," said South Africa`s ruling ANC party.

The Star, a Johannesburg-based daily, said that Ghana had provided "some much-needed relief for Africa ... whose teams have been disastrous."

BDST: 1235hrs, June 25, 2010

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