Chelsea midfielder follows England’s Rio Ferdinand to airport as Drogba awaits scan.
|South Africa beat World Cup rivals Denmark in their last warmup match [GALLO/GETTY]|
Far from worrying that they will be the worst World Cup host team in history, South Africa say they “fear nobody” after stretching their unbeaten run to 12 matches with a 1-0 warmup win over Denmark.
Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said his 83rd-ranked team had shown themselves ready for the tournament, which kicks off on Friday.
They had been tipped to go out of the tournament with a whimper, having fallen down the rankings since World Cup showings in 1998 and 2002.
“Everyone has to respect us and we fear nobody,” said Parreira as South Africa looked ahead to a last week of preparation having beaten the Danes 1-0 in Pretoria on Saturday.
“I believe the team has shown itself ready for the World Cup. We will go into the tournament with confidence and now we can start to dream about a position, about achieving something,” the former World Cup winner said.
Katlego Mphela’s late goal handed South Africa a third successive win and stretched to 12 games their unbeaten run since Parreira returned to coach the team in November last year.
“This was a very special win because it was against a good team with lots of experience. We played with confidence and showed we were willing to compete.
“The path we chose for the World Cup has been proven to be the right one. The players bought into the vision that they could play the ball on the ground, keep the shape and be well organised.”
South Africa open the World Cup against Mexico at the cavernous Soccer City in Johannesburg and Parreira was quick to temper any bold predictions of success in the tournament’s first match.
“Mexico have proved they are a very good team. It’s a very difficult group that we have and we have to take each game as a final. But the competition is open and we will go into it with confidence.”
They also meet Uruguay and France in their group.
Parreira also had a word of praise for a sudden surge of support for the team, reflected in capacity crowds at all their home matches over the last two months.
“The people are behind us because we have shown them the team is improving. The spectators have fallen in love with Bafana Bafana again,” he said.
Meanwhile South Africa president Jacob Zuma said the World Cup was uniting his country, much like the 1995 world rugby victory helped break down racial barriers.
South Africa becomes the first African nation to host the world’s most watched tournament.
“The enthusiasm, joy and excitement that has engulfed the entire nation in recent weeks has not been witnessed since President Nelson Mandela was released from prison (in 1990),” Zuma said at a press briefing.
“This explosion of national pride is a priceless benefit of the World Cup tournament.”