Right now, a friendly between France and China is playing on the local station here in Sandton, just outside Johannesburg. There will be international friendly matches played throughout this week, with the U.S. playing Australia tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. local time. The match can be seen on ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m. eastern time.
The U.S. squad has trained both days about 4 p.m. local time – practice has been open for the first 15 minutes, mostly for video and photographers. Here’s the news from today in South Africa:
1.) U.S. forward Jozy Altidore did not train today due to a sprained right ankle; Altidore suffered the injury in training. The team is officially listing him as day-to-day – the players sounded hopeful that Altidore would be ready for next week’s opening match against England.
Tim Howard, the U.S.’s starting goalkeeper, said: “Our 23 is solid, we’re excited about all the guys we have. We all hope Jozy will get better, we think he will, but we’re not losing sleep over it. But we’re confident. When they recover and the time is right, then it’s back to basic, but we’re not overly concerned. At least I’m not.”
Altidore was assumed to be one of the team’s starting forwards against England. He scored the team’s first goal in its 2-1 send-off victory over Turkey. Today, the talk was about back-up forward Robbie Findley (who also played well in that send-off match) and his ability to step in for Altidore, should Altidore be hampered by that injury on June 12. Findley brings speed (the team said he’s the fastest player). We’ll have a longer story on Findley in tomorrow’s edition of the Inquirer.
2.) Bad news for England: Its captain, defender Rio Ferdinand, injured his knee in the team’s first full training session here in South Africa. England is training in Rustenburg, about two hours from Johannesburg, which is also the location of the stadium where the U.S.-England match will be held.
Ferdinand, 31, hurt his left knee while defending forward Emile Heskey in training. Later in the day, England announced Ferdinand will be out 4 to 6 weeks. According to reports, Ferdinand will be replaced on the roster by Tottenham defender Michael Dawson; Matthew Upson or Ledley King will replace him in the starting lineup. Ferdinand was expected to start alongside John Terry.
The English captaincy now belongs to midfielder Steven Gerrard.
England coach Fabio Capello told the AP: “It is obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio. It was an accidental injury in training, but had nothing to do with the pitch.”
Also a concern for England is at goalkeeper. David James, who is fighting for the starting spot with Robert Green and Joe Hart, was unable to train today. He worked out separately. Capello said it wasn’t a problem, just that James had some issues with his knee after the long flight.
David Beckham, unable to play because of an Achilles tendon injury, was allowed to travel with England.
“He will help in some moments,” Capello said. “He is not a coach and he also trains alone, but he is important because he is one of the symbols of England. It is important he is here and not on holiday.”
3.) Today, there was even worse news for the Ivory Coast – and Africa. Ivory Coast captain – and one of the best players in the world – Didier Drogba will likely miss the World Cup after injuring his elbow only 15 minutes into Ivory Coast’s 2-0 win over Japan in a World Cup warm-up match. The match was played in Switzerland and was the final tune up for both teams before flying to South Africa.
Drogba hurt the right elbow, which is reportedly fractured, on a challenge by Japanese defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka. Drogba’s teammate Kolo Toure told reporters that Drogba told him his “World Cup is finished.” Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson told reporters the team wasn’t yet sure about Drogba, saying his participation in the World Cup is still possible.
Drogba, a sporting symbol around Africa, stars for Chelsea of the English Premier League. He scored 29 goals in 32 Premier League matches and has scored 45 goals in 70 matches with the Ivory Coast.
In the AP’s report, it said, “The injury has ‘traumatized the Ivory Coast,’ said Emilienne Aka, an Ivorian who gathered with others at the team’s fan club headquarters in Abidjan.”
4.) To continue yesterday’s blog post on the horrible, horrific, awful (the players’ words, not mine) game ball produced by Adidas, here’s what Howard had to say: “The ball is tragic, it’s no secret, everyone has said that, but I think once you get to a certain level, particularly goal keeper, you realize there’s no excuses. There are going to be some crazy goals in this world Cup based on the ball, but none of them will be taken back. It’s light and it’s moving, but it’s different now in altitude than it was when we trained with it in the states. I’m trying to pick that up and be safe with my decisions.”
Each day here in South Africa seems more bustling and more exciting than the day prior. Traffic is heavy, although I’m not sure how heavy it is normally. Since landing in Johannesburg, I haven’t gone back into the center of the city because every road leading that way seems jammed. You can check out today’s video, which shows the Irene Farms campus on which the U.S. team is staying.
More tomorrow …