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A Game Apart

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A Game Apart


London Evening Standard



Paddy Power

Oakwood Estates

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Kneesy does it for Benni, Pienaar gets drunk on success

SOUTH AFRICA'S already frail World Cup hopes took an alarming turn for the
worse today with the news that West Ham striker Benni McCarthy's
31-year-old knee is showing little sign of being ready for the big kick off against Mexico in
Johannesburg on June 11.
McCarthy, who completed his controversial £2.5m move from Blackburn days
before the January transfer window closed, is "seriously doubtful" for tonight's clash with Manchester United and has yet to complete a game for the Hammers since his £2.5m move from Blackburn.
McCarthy limped off during his debut at Burnley - he had a glorious chance saved off the line in
a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat on 10 February - and has been unavailable ever since.
My Upton Park source tells me: "Benni's not looking good. That knee is a
problem. South Arica may be in trouble if they think he's going to be their
major World Cup striker."
The injury is not believed to be related to the knee problem McCarthy
suffered for Rovers against Fulham in November 2007 or any of the long-running problems
which have ruled him out of so many internationals for South Africa in
recent years.
But Carlos Alberto Parreira is insisting he will only pick a fully-fit
McCarthy after his repeated spats with the Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The
Boys) management.
When McCarthy left Ewood Park after refusing to train during his final days
at Blackburn, former boss Sam Allarydyce insisted: "Benni's not getting any
younger. The legs are not quite as good but the talent is still there.
"When he came to Blackburn he scored 23 goals in his first year and hasn't
quite replicated that since."
McCarthy's problems add to Parreira's woes - his side moved up from 85th to
81st in the FIFA rankings after friendly wins over Zimbabwe and
Swaziland in Durban last month, but they remain the lowest ranked World Cup
hosts in history.
While their cricket team held the world's best Test nation
India to a drawn series and their rugby Springboks hold the World Cup,
the football side faces abject failure as they prepare for the biggest
sporting event in the Rainbow Nation's history.
This week's news of their late move of World Cup training camp from Esselen Park's School of Excellence to Sandown High School has left the hosts facing further ridicule.
Kevin Pienaar remains South Africa's real beacon of hope despite being charged with drink driving today. Perhaps understandably, he was pulled over by the police on Merseyside after starring in Everton's shock 3-1 win over champions Manchester Unitedc on Saturday.
A police spokesman said: ''Merseyside Police can confirm that a 27-year-old man has been charged with drink driving and failure to comply with a traffic sign.
''He was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning and charged later that day.
''Steven Pienaar from Woolton will appear at Liverpool City Magistrates Court on March 9, 2010.''
On a brighter note, Jamie Redknapp, the former Liverpool and England midfielder, said after Pienaar's display: "He won't be among the contenders for Footballer of the Year, but there haven't been too many more consistent players.
"He travels all over the pitch, left and right, wants the ball and makes things happen.
"He has good balance, can pass and dribble with both feet and scores goals. I'm not surprised other clubs are looking at him."

Oh, and I received this by email from my old University pal Rich this morning:

Media reports suggesting that the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace facilities will not be completed on time are untrue and false.

We are confident that the facilities are on track to meet all of the national team and FIFA’s obligations.

Rich Mkhondo

Chief Communications Officer

2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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