JOHANNESBURG: Holders Italy came from behind to avoid an upset against Paraguay on Monday but unfancied Japan broke African hearts with their first World Cup win on foreign soil against a Samuel Eto'o-led Cameroon. Day Four's on-field excitement put the attention firmly back on soccer after the first serious unrest of the tournament when South...
JOHANNESBURG: Holders Italy came from behind to avoid an upset against Paraguay on Monday but
unfancied Japan broke African hearts with their first World Cup win on foreign soil against a Samuel Eto'o-led Cameroon.
Day Four's on-field excitement put the attention firmly back on soccer after the first serious unrest of the tournament when South African police in Durban used teargas and rubber bullets in the early hours to quell a protest by stadium stewards.
Italy, whose ageing team has been largely written off despite their No. 5 world ranking, were stunned by a first-half
opener from Paraguay. The South Americans were dreaming of another upset after qualifying wins over Brazil and Argentina.
But the resilient “Azzurri” (Blues) squared the game in the second half through a scrambled goal from Daniele De Rossi.
One of the poorest nations in Latin America and with a population of just 6 million, Paraguay have had to overcome the loss of striker Salvador Cabanas, who is in rehabilitation after being shot in the head at a Mexican night club in January.
Another underdog, Japan, did pull off a minor upset, shaking off a run of miserable form to defeat Cameroon, one of the brightest hopes for African success, 1-0.
So far, only Ghana from the continent have won in the opening round of games in Africa's first World Cup.
In Monday's other match, the Dutch notched a comfortable 2-0 victory against Denmark but failed to show the exciting, attacking football for which they are renowned.
Netherlands went ahead courtesy of a freak own goal when Simon Poulsen's header from a Dutch cross rebounded off fellow defender Daniel Agger and rolled into the net.
Dirk Kuyt scored the second in the dying moments.
The surprise of the day, though, was Japan, whose terrible form in the build-up had led to assumptions the Asians would be easily dealt with by Cameroon's “Indomitable Lions”, including three-times African Player of the Year Eto'o.
Cameroon, hoping to recapture the form that took them to the quarter-finals in 1990 and one of Africa's best hopes for a long run in the tournament, were largely a disorganised mess and repeatedly failed to feed their front three.
Japan came to the game in the chilly central city of Bloemfontein after a run of just one goal from their previous
five matches including a 0-0 draw against Zimbabwe last week, organised at late notice supposedly to chalk up a comfortable confidence-building win for the Asians.
South Africa's vuvuzela horns, variously compared to the noise of charging elephants or swarming bees, are providing a raucous backdrop to games and dividing opinion round the world.
While some see them as providing local flavour, others want the ubiquitous colourful plastic trumpets banned because they prevent players and coaches communicating. Either way, there is a roaring trade in ear-plugs in South Africa right now. AGENICES