All Eyes on Zidane? Not Quite
%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:CIR110-061002; AUDIO:%)
A group of police and journalists ignored star midfielder Zinedine Zidane when the French trained Monday, preferring to watch South Korea’s 1-1 tie with the United States on television.
Even Les Bleus couldn’t escape the excitement when Ahn Jung-hwan scored the equalizer for South Korea in the 78th minute. Both scoreboards at Incheon’s Munhak Stadium, previously blank, jumped to life to show the co-host’s goal. French players briefly stopped their training to look at the giant screens, which were switched off seconds later.
Although the match was played hundreds of miles away in Daegu, cheers from South Korean fans were easily heard. A baseball stadium about 100 yards from Munhak Stadium was filled with noisy Red Devils supporters who watched the game on a giant screen.
France plays Denmark on Tuesday. Zidane is expected to come back from a thigh injury he suffered in a friendly against South Korea two weeks ago that caused him to miss France’s first two World Cup games, a loss to Senegal and a tie vs. Uruguay.
EYES WIDE SHUT: The roof of the Big Eye stadium in Oita was opened for the World Cup game between Belgium and Tunisia on Monday because of Belgian protests.
The Belgians, used to playing in cool conditions, said forced through the belated decision to pull the Teflon-film retractable roof back, allowing a cool breeze into the 43,000-capacity stadium.
``I asked them to open it up again. It was like hell in there,″ said Belgian federation president Jan Peeters of the 80-degree temperature and stuffy air.
The cool air didn’t help Belgium, which played Tunisia to a 1-1 draw.
The roof originally was closed because of near-constant rain through the afternoon. The rain stopped an hour before gametime.
WATCH OUT, POSH: David Beckham and his teammates took a break from training Monday to visit a school on Awaji Island, where the English squad is based.
``It was a great experience for us,″ England’s captain said two days before the team faces Nigeria with a place in the second round at stake. ``It’s very important and a great responsibility to give something back.
``Since we arrived in Korea three weeks ago and now in Japan the reception has been amazing.″
Beckham seemed to make the biggest impact on the children.
``David Beckham kissed my hand!″ 10-year-old Yuka Hirota said.
Beckham said: ``I gave a little girl a kiss on the hand. It started a bit of screaming from the rest of the children, which was nice.″
SWEDE STAR SITS AGAIN: By the time team captain Patrik Andersson is healthy, the World Cup could be over for Sweden.
One of Europe’s top defenders, Andersson will be watching from the VIP section again Wednesday when Sweden takes on Argentina in the Group F finale for both teams.
Andersson, just four games short of his 100th international appearance, has been sidelined since June 1 when he strained his left groin during a shooting drill the day before Sweden’s opener against England, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Andersson has been treated with massage and laser therapy, but is still hampered by the injury. He also missed Sweden’s second game, a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Nigeria on Friday.
``In the beginning, he felt better and better for every day and we were optimistic,″ team physician Anders Valentin said. ``But the fitness test late last week was negative. He was in pain again. With this type of injury, you could be back in a week, sometimes three weeks. It’s hard to tell.″
Andreas Jakobsson replaced Andersson in the back line against England and Nigeria.
THE UNBEATEN CONFEDERATION: CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, remains the only undefeated confederation at the World Cup.
With the United States’ 1-1 tie against South Korea on Monday, CONCACAF teams are 4-0-2.
Mexico has two wins, against Croatia and Ecuador; Costa Rica has a win over China and a tie against Turkey; and the Americans defeated Portugal before their tie with the co-hosts.