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Friday, 5 March 2010

By hook or by crook, England's squad takes shape. No Owen, Beckham on the brink, Ashley calls for the psychologist

AND gradually, by hook or by crook, England's World Cup 23 is coming together.
With this morning's news that Michael Owen is out for the rest of the season, we can sort out the strikers now, two months before Fabio Capello has to name his 30-strong provisional group.
There are no more friendlies before May 11, when those names are due to be named. So Fabio Capello is able for forget the mature talents of Owen. Sure he scored the wondergoal against Argentina in 1998, he even scored the first goal against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final at Wembley last Sunday (before coming off for Rooney, right, who got the winner).
But in truth, Owen is now a bit-part player at United and the face that he needs surgery on his hamstring - not for the first time - will help clear Capello's thinking. Not that he's ever really considered Owen a contender. It looks like that remarkable 40-goal international tally - which puts him fourth on the all-time list behind Bobby Charlton's 49 - will never be improved.
Rooney, who didn't quite look himself in the 3-1 win over Egypt at Wembley on Wednesday, is still looking for the perfect partner up front. Emile Heskey, left on the bench while Peter Crouch went on to score his 19th and 20th goals for England in his 37th appearance, suffered in silence. He may be sacrificed despite years of diligent service for the nation. The experts want to see Carlton Cole of West Ham, believing he can disrupt sides like Algeria and Slovenia. And Spurs fans will tell you Jermain Defoe is the best goal-poacher in the country, despite his diminute stature.
In the midfield, Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick impressed as England came from 1-0 down on Wednesday, but Frank Lampard, who came off at half-time for Carrick, will still figure. Stevie Gerrard, rarely at his best for England, looks like retaining his uncomfortable position on the left ahead of Joe Cole, who apparently is on his way out at Chelsea. Despite the claims of the excellent James Milner and Shaun Wright-Phillips and the injured Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott appears to remain in the running despite this comment by radio analyst Chris Waddle on Wednesday: "He has the pace but this boy doesn't know how to play football."
The defence looked decidedly ropey against the three-time African champions. Today we hear Capello is begging Wayne Bridge to reconsider his woman-related retirement, though he is apparently "reasonably happy" with Everton's Leighton Baines at left-back, with Steve Warnock of Aston Villa as his stand-in if Ashley Cole doesn't make it.
Chelsea are flying a psychologist out to see Ashley as he recuperates from ankle surgery in Biarritz. Apparently it has nothing to do with his impending divorce from the nation's darling Cheryl Cole... or his beard, which looks like a stubbly statement about the injustices of the world.
In the middle at the back, Rio Ferdinand's appointment as captain after the woman-related demotion of John Terry is looking increasingly silly. Rio rarely plays more than a couple of games on the trot for United these days, he directs films, publishes magazines and generally does what veteran international stars do in the modern world. Why don't they just open pubs and retired disgracefully?
But if he could be bothered, stays fit, attends drugs tests, avoids women and suspension, he will slot in beside Terry with Matthew Upson and Wes Brown in reserve, though Brown may also fill in at right back if Glenn Johnson doesn't make it.
In goal? West Ham's Robert Green looked fine, David James is the experienced option, Joe Hart, the Manchester City youngster on loan with Birmingham, will be third choice.
And that's it. England's starting line-up, if fitness allows: Green, Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Lennon, Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Rooney, Defoe. You'll not Ferdinand, Cole and Lennon are currently injured. It's unlikely Capello will start like that, but I think he'd like to if he could.
In the 23 finalised on June 1, you'll also have: James and Hart in goal, Upson, Bridge and Brown in defence, Carrick, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and the excellent James Milner in midfield, Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole and Emile Heskey up front.
In the 30 named on May 11, expect to see: Manchester United's twilight goalkeeper Ben Foster who may just be the best of the lot, Leighton Baines and Steven Warnock, waiting to hear if Cole and Bridge will go, Theo Walcott still trying to play football, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent on stand-by up front in case Rooney... oooh, I can't even think about it.
And the last man in the 30-strong squad? David Beckham. Hoping for injuries, praying Capello will suddenly have a pang of sympathy. But after leaving him languishing on the bench all night on Wednesday, he may be in for chronic disappointment.

Labels: david beckham axed, , , frank lampard, michael owen out for season, Peter crouch, wayne rooney injury nightmare

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Terry let off by Wembley fans but Tevez issues an Argentine fatwah: "He'd lose his legs or more in my neighbourhood."

SO John Terry got away with it at Wembley last night. A few boos, a couple of jeers, a difficult first half. After the break, Terry and the rest of his England team-mates were warmly received as they saw off African champions Egypt 3-1 in front of 80,602 reasonably happy fans.
Of course, if he'd been playing against Argentina - who won 1-0 at the Allianz Arena in Germany last night - he'd have been lucky to escape with his life. Who says so? Carlos Tevez, the delightful bundle of energy whose owners are currently allowing him to play for Manchester City.
Tevez, who squared up to Terry during last week's 4-2 win over Chelsea (he tried to go chest to chest, it ended up chest to tummy, see picture), is quoted today as saying: "If you acted like this in Argentina you'd be dead."
For those who have been living on the moon, Terry slept with Vanessa Perroncel, the mother of Wayne Bridge's son. The story broke last month. And for that, he lost the England captaincy and was forced to fly to Dubai to placate his wife Terri, once Vanessa's big mate when they lived near eachother in Oxshott, Surrey.
Tevez may not be the biggest bloke in the Premier League. But he grew up in Fuerte Apache in Buenos Aires, where they rehoused the homeless from the Villa 31 slum in Retiro in the 70s. Apparently it's tougher than Barking, where Terry was raised. A lot tougher.
Tevez, whose contract - and life - appears to be run by a chap called Kia Joorabchian and his International Sports Management team - said: "It's wrong. In my opinion, Terry has no moral code for what he did to Bridge. In my neighbourhood if you do that, you lose your legs, or more - you don't survive."
Back in London Terry, unaware of this Argentine fatwah, said after supersubs Peter Crouch and Shaun Wright-Phillips had secured an important pre-World Cup win: "The supporters were fantastic in the way they got behind us. Obviously there were a few jeers but as a player I can handle that and they are fully entitled to their opinion.

"Whether or not I am cheered or booed it was important we got the win."

Of course boss Fabio Capello was happy enough with a game which looked like it was getting away from England at half-time. He said: "I wasn't angry at half-time, We create a lot of chances. All I did was make some changes. In the first half we were too deep and didn't press enough. We did this.

"Thank you to the crowd because they supported the team and Terry. He is very important."

While England were beating Egypt - fresh from their third successive African Nations Cup triumph in Angola six weeks ago - Algeria were taking a 3-0 beating from Serbia in Algiers.

Algeria knocked Egypt out of the World Cup on a play-off - because both sides finished with identical qualifying records - have been drawn in Group C with England for the World Cup in South Africa. It looks like June 18 in Cape Town will be a comfortable second game for Capello's crew.

England's first opponents in Group C, the USA, were beaten 2-1 in Holland with Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on the score-sheet. Former Fulham striker Carlos Bocanegra scored a late consolation.

The fourth team in Group C, Slovenia, produced an impressive 4-1 win over Qatar. Their coach Matjaz Kek said. “We played well, it was a nice result and I’m happy. But it’s 100 days to the World Cup. That’s a long time.”

Apart from Argentina's win in Germany, there were few shocks around the world as the nations warm-up for the big one in June. South Africa, who kick it all off against Mexico at Soccer City on June 11, drew 1-1 with neighbours Namibia.

Most interesting result of the night: The Ivory Coast, perhaps Africa's best hope of success in their first World Cup with Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers, were beaten 2-0 at home by South Korea. Michael Essien's Ghan went down 2-1 to Bosnia. On the other hand, Alex Song's Cameroon managed a 0-0 draw in Italy.

England fans support John Terry
BACKING ... England fans show their support for JTI was delighted with the response I got from all sections of the crowd.

Labels: boo-boys, carlos Tevez, england egypt wembley, , , mummies dummies, Peter crouch, SHAUN WRIGHT PHILLIPS, world cup warm-up

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

It's the Little and Large show for England as African champions Egypt are wellied at Wembley

IN the end England relied on Little and Large to ease them out of an embarrassing situation against Egypt at Wembley tonight.
Peter Crouch, Tottenham's 6ft 7in streak of ligament, and Shaun Wright-Phillips, Manchester City's 5ft 5in mini-me, got the goals that took Fabio Capello's men from 1-0 down to 3-1 up in 45 glorious second half minutes.
Remember, Egypt are the three-time African champions. Only a last-gasp play-off against Algeria forced them out of the World Cup in South Africa this summer, it would have been their first since they scared the life out of England, Holland and the Republic of Ireland at Italia 90.
While the tabloids prepared their "England in a Pharoah crisis" headlines after 45 minutes, Capello worked his magic, bring on Crough for Jermain Defoe and Wright-Phillips for Theo Walcott. Lovely line Chriss Waddle, who said: "I've studied Walcott on the wing. And I've decided he just doesn't understand football. He makes the wrong runs at the wrong time."
Most Arsenal fans would agree. The boy's got pace, but little else. Oh, and Capello also brought on the under-rated Manchester United playmaker Michael Carrick for Chelsea's over-hyped Frank Lampard and Aston Villa's James Milner for Liverpool's Stevie Gerrard, who rarely impresses for England. Those might have been the best moves of all.
So, after Matthew Upston's slip gifted Mohammed Zidan an opening goal - leading to calls for the Premier League to sign the 28-year-old, currently at Borussia Dortmund - there was a touch of unrest at Wembley.
Capello had his half-time chat, made a few changes, and presto! England came roaring back. What a night. Crouchie took his tally to 20 in 37 for England - if only he could do that in the Premiership - with a superb double. Ironically, Defoe, who scores so frequently for Spurs, failed where his club-mate thrived.
Wright-Phillips scored the second after a Milner volley, made the third for Crouch. Their celebration saw a high five for Wright-Phillips. A low-five for Crouch. Great stuff.
Capello, with a little help from the interpreter, said: "The second half we won the ball back quickly. I think I'm happy. We have to choose a lot of players, it's good. Crouch is an option, he play very well. It's very important because the second half he made the different.
"Always when you go forward, you take the ball, and the whole team goes forward."
Not entirely sure what all that means, but somewhere between the lines I guess you can predict Crouchie - and Shaun Wright-Phillips - will be part of the 23-man squad that travels to Rustenburg on June 1.
Interesting to see David Beckham warming up but not getting on. Loved James Milner. Came on and produced a lovely volley that led to the Wright-Phillips goal.
Wes Brown at right back? No. Forget Gary Neville and Glen Johnson. Try James Milner. Upson erred for the first goal but John Terry, booed a little at the outset, seemed to forge are reasonable partnership with him.
West Ham's Rob Green continues to hold off Portsmouth's David James and Birmingham's on-loan Joe Hart in goal.
It's all settling down. England are up to eight in the FIFA world rankings. I still say England should be backed for global supremacy at Soccer City on July 11. Forget the Terry/Cole disruptions. We have the depth, Capello has the knowledge. Egypt are in denial.

Labels: african nations cup winners, booing, , england at wembley, , , Peter crouch, SHAUN WRIGHT PHILLIPS, ,

Monday, 1 March 2010

The nation awaits news from the battle of Rooney's knee... or is it just a tummy bug?

GARY NEVILLE spoke for the whole nation this morning. And that alone is seriously worrying when you think about it. Still, these are desperate times. England as a footballing nation is now on red alert, defcon 1, teetering on the edge of panic.
Wayne Rooney has a knee injury. He may miss England's friendly against Egypt at Wembley on Wednesday. Uh-oh.
These are veteran Manchester United full-back Neville's momentous words this morning: "England cannot afford to lose him."
He's right. Of course he's right. The end of the World Cup is nigh. Doom, doom and thrice doom. We can do without Wayne Bridge or John Terry. But imagine going to South Africa in June with Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey up front. Or Jermain Defoe and Bobby Zamora. Unthinkable.
Even before the two goals at Milan in the Champions League and the winner against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final at Wembley yesterday, I was saying this to anyone who would listen on Sky News, talkSPORT, BBC Radio5, on South Africa's 702... and here it is again on my birthday blog.
If Rooney misses the World Cup, all hope is gone. Neville, a veteran of "We-can end 44 years of hurt" syndrome, saw his team-mate produce another nifty header yesterday.
The stats on Rooney's rather large forehead are bizarre. Four headers in his first 345 games. Then, in his last nine, eight headed goals. All of them vital, clinical. And 28 in all this season for a man in the form of his life (we'll go into the debate about how Antonio Valencia provides more dangerous crosses than Cristiano Ronaldo ever did at a later date).
Then Sir Alex Ferguson dropped the bombshell after his umpteenth trophy success yesterday: "Wayne got a whack. He has been complaining about that knee for a few weeks and I thought we might have to take him off.
"The doctors are assessing it. I don't know what England are going to do."
Well if he doesn't know, how does Fabio Capello get to grips with a side without their talismanic striker?
Neville, who played for so long behind a certain David Beckham on the right, added: "Wayne is a great player to play with. He has been brilliant for England too. The only thing he has to do for England now is go and win something. That is what England players have been striving to do for the past 40 years. That would really crown it off for him."
The nation trembles, though Rooney himself said from the England training base at The Grove this morning: "Yes it's okay, I went for a scan today and it's just a bit of bruising. So I'm having a bit of a rest day today, I should train tomorrow and should play on Wednesday."
Neville, perhaps more concerned about United's immediate fortunes, added. "We have two months of important matches now and we need him fit for them. It is there for everyone to see. He is going through a peak moment in his career. He is maturing now."
Still, perhaps we are worrying too much. Before yesterday's final Rooney - who came on for Michael Owen, scorer of United's opener in a 2-1 win - said he was starting on the bench because "I had a little bit of a stomach bug and the manager was looking for an excuse to leave me out".
Surely the same thing wouldn't happen before an England game, a vital friendly against the three-time African champions in the build-up to the World Cup?
Who would suggest such a thing of Sir Alex? Not I. That's for sure.

Labels: , , , knee injury, sir alex ferguson manchester united, stomach bug,

Monday, 22 February 2010

England's training camp? Don't panic! I could have told you that two months ago!

THE SUN call it "as dump", the Express "Shambles"... the Daily Mail and Mirror have had a go today too. All lambasting the state of England's World Cup training camp currently under construction at Phokeng, near Rustenburg in deepest, darkest South Africa.
Truth is of course, if they'd read my blog, they'd have know it's nothing of the kind. If any of them had seen published before I sped off to the second cricket Test before Christmas, they'd have known the Royal Marang Hotel is only half finished.
Yes, the grass pitches are still being prepared, as are the five plastic pitches. But the complex, carefully hidden off the road to Boschhoek six kilometres from the Royal Bafokeng Stadium where England will play their opening Group C game against the USA on June 12, will be ready.
Funded by the Bafokeng tribe, who claim a slice of the platinum mine profits, this will be the finest high altitude training camp in the world. At 3,900ft above sea-level, the Australian and New Zealand rugby teams are already booked in to prepare for their Tri-Nations clashes. The All Blacks used to prepare at Swartkops High School, on a resurfaced rugby pitch some 300ft close to sea-level in Centurion, an hour away.
Now the Italians are consigned there, the USA will be training at the nearby Southdowns College, the Argentinians at Pretoria University's High Performance Centre, the Dutch at Wits University's Milpark.
All are inferior to England's base near Rustenburg. The FA have been on top of this one for months. Fabio Capello will visit there again tomorrow on his way to a coaching symposium at Sun City half an hour away.
As Mark Ferguson, head of security at the complex assured me: "We will be ready by May. Your Football Association officials fly in here all the time. You don't have to worry."
But, typically, the tabloids arrive, rustle up a couple of old pictures, and scream about "a dump" and "shambles".
It isn't. By the time the England squad arrive in early June, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex will be ready. Half of the five-star hotel opened in November, the other half will open in March. The pitches will be ready, the roads will be resurfaced. I've been saying this for two months. But do they listen?
How about the Germans? They're booked in to the Velmore Estate in Erasmia, nearer Centurion than Rustenburg. And their training pitch has only just been dug out... they'll be bringing the grass asap! The Australians are based at Kloofzicht, a lovely resort in Muldersdrift near Sandton, 20 miles away. But there isn't a decent football pitch within a half-hour drive.
So rest easy. As I told you two months ago, England have the best possible preparation for this World Cup. And an easy qualifying group against the Yanks, Slovenia and Algeria. It's winter, the weather will suit us, particularly for the games in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. And if Fabio Capello's team win the group, they'll be playing their first knock-out match back in Rustenburg, just down the road from the training camp.
As far as Rustenburg goes, we do not need to panic. But if some clogger injures Wayne Rooney in the next three months, rush around screaming hysterically. That's where the key to our World Cup success, ending 44 years of hurt, really lies.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Germans are coming... and so are England. But Brazil are in Bloemfontein...

SOMEWHERE between searching for a cheese shop in the African highveld and watching Arsenal stuff Liverpool, my dad and I found a gem today. The German World Cup hotel.
Yes, there we were in the blistering African sun, about five miles from our base in Centurion, venue for the first cricket Test match between England and South Africa, innocently looking for dairy products, when suddenly we spied an oasis. A huge, ostentatious complex called the Velmore Estate (above).
"Hold on dad," I said in my journalist-cum-son way, "Isn't that where the USA are staying for the World Cup?"
"Bugger off," said dad, in his father-cum-Hitler way, "The cheese shop is just down here somewhere."
Indeed it was, about two miles further on the road to Pretoria West, just out of a mundane little suburb called Erasmia. The middle of nowhere. Believe me. And the cheese shop owners put me right: "It's not the USA, it's the Germans. They're going to be here for the World Cup. We're trying to sell them our biltong and feta product!"
They're also trying to get an acohol licence for their little coffee shop, and satellite television with all the sports channels. They know they're sitting on (or very near to) a goldmine, which will open briefly in the middle of South Africa this winter.
Yes, from the start of June until mid-July, Michael Ballack and his Germans will be staying in the middle of nowhere, about 15 miles outside of Pretoria, 30 miles from Oliver Tambo international airport and 35 miles from Johannesburg.
But what a middle of nowhere the Velmore is. For my German readers: "Achtung! Das hotel ist gross!"
Bloody huge it is. Two hotels actually. The Velmore and the Velmore Grande. They sit on the banks of the sometimes Amazonian Hennops River, which can be reduced to a muddy trickle in winter here.
Sandwiched between a typical South African homestead with washing on the line and a nursery full of highveld daisies, it's a dream. Like Pennyhill Park, where England's rugby players prepare for their big games in Bagshot, it has everything a modern sports team could ask for. And a little bit more.
Visitors should not be put off by the early appearance of two emus as you negotiate your way through security. Not African ostriches. Bloody antipodean emus. I ask you...
Beyond the exotic birds lies paradise. Two gorgeous five star hotels, one next to the other. A spa to die for, as good as Pennyhill Park with an Ozone bed. Three huge banqueting halls, a marriage chapel, a swimming pool with a sandy beach 600 miles from the coast and a long stretch of lawn next to the river which will soon echo to the sound of German international footballers in top gear.
Ishmael Maja, the supervisor from Polokwane, another World Cup venue, showed us round in a golf buggy, telling us: "We know it will be hard work having millionaire footballers here for six weeks, but we are ready. We can handle anything. If they ask, they will get it."
Endless well-dressed, articulate staff attend your every move, the rooms are sumptuous (at R1,500 a night for a standard bed per night, they should be, that's about £120, going up to £2,500 for a luxury room, about £200, which is pricey for South Africa) and the decor is stunning - they only opened the second, grande hotel in November.
Clearly England have the upper hand, about an hour's drive away in Rustenburg's Bafokeng Sports Palace, where numerous training grounds lie in wait outside the doors of their hotel. But they got in first. Fabio Capello, knowing his side would get Group C and a first group game in Rustenburg, he got the prime venue for preparation. It boasts huge mirrors, which David Beckham may enjoy, and is literally fit for a king, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegio, the monarch of the Bafokeng tribe (who earn a significant amount from the local platinum mines) had the place built.
But the Germans haven't done badly. Unlike the seaside bases booked by France (Knysna) and Japan (George), they'll be at altitude (about 1,300m, like a low-lying ski resort) and they can scoot down to the coast for their sea-level qualifiers, just like England.
The prevailing wisdom, gleaned from our rugby and cricketers, is that World Cup preparation should be done at altitude. Then, even when you pop down to sea-level, as England will do in Cape Town versus Algeria and Port Elizabeth against Slovenia, you keep the high red-blood corpuscle count and are able to maintain your acclimatisation to the thinner air up here.
That's why Argentina will be based at Pretoria University's High Performance Centre and Australia are headed for the stunning Kloofzicht Lodge in Muldersdrift, near Johannesburg.
The USA are based at Irene Country Lodge and Italy at Leriba Lodge, both a stone's throw from where England's cricketers will start their Test series on Wednesday.
All and all, it makes for boom time in these parts. Money is pouring in to Centurion and the surrounding areas in the 35 miles between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Nobody has chosen to base themselves in Cape Town (the only city where it rains in the South African winter) and only Holland have decided opted for the bright lights of mid-city (the Sandton Sun, where England's cricketers are currently housed, watching the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year awards).
And while our cricketers will be lamenting another massive thunderstorm tonight, our footballers need not worry. It doesn't rain here in winter.
England and Germany appear to have the perfect preparation for the World Cup all lined up. Unlike Brazil, who are headed for gloomy Bloemfontein and the Slovenians, based in Johannesburg.
But watch out for Spain. The Euro 2006 champions have booked in to Hunter's Rest in Rustenburg after their impressive unbeaten qualifying run. Another oasis.
In sport, as in life, preparation is everything. These may seem mere details but come June, all this could be vital. And the WAGs can go to Sun City. Perfect. England, Germany or Spain it is. And Arsenal for the Premier League after the weekend's topsy-turvy goings-on.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, 4 December 2009

Rustenburg for England. Put your shirt on it.

STOP PRESS: England are, indeed, drawn as C1 in Rustenburg. It's a fix!

What I wrote three hours before: YOU may not have heard of Rustenburg. You will soon, that's where England are headed next summer to prepare for the World Cup. Sadly, they won't be based in surfers' paradise Durban or cosmopolitan Cape Town.
The wives and girlfriends, not to mention an estimated 25,000 England fans, might have hoped for bigger shopping malls, beaches and nightclubs. But it should be okay for the players, once the final details have been sorted out.
So what can I tell you about the town locally known as "Rusties", population 400,000, altitude 1500m (around the same as most ski resorts in Europe) with an average winter daytime temperature of 17C?
It's the fastest-growing South African town in the middle of the platinum belt about 60 miles from Johannesburg. A bit like Luton compared to London, it's not the place you'd really want to spend that much time as a tourist, though Las Vegas-lookalike Sun City is just 13 miles down the road. It boasts churches, monuments and battle fields as its major attractions, apart from the game parks.
But Rustenburg is where England will be based when, as I suspect, Fabio Capello's men get drawn in position C1 in Cape Town tonight with their first game scheduled for the nearby 42,000-capacity Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace (pictured) at 7.30pm on June 12. Great name for a stadium isn't it? It's in the North West Province of South Africa, close to Mafeking where Lord Baden-Powell and the British held out under siege around the turn of the 20th century. One of the great victories of the Boer War. Great history. Stubborn types around these parts. The locals insisted on a large slice of the precious minerals in their once-volcanic area and have pumped their money into football and tourism to offset to bleak mines which loom large on the road to Sun City.
And that kind of money can also influence World Cup draws, or so it appears. Why else would Capello keep worrying about the state of the training pitches in a town most Italian tourists wouldn't offer a second glance?
He was there again this week, complaining: "The facilities are OK but some things are not. The pitches are not great. We are working a lot. I think we will find the solution. The problem is the pitches. But we have time. The problem is the grass."
Capello is worried about what he calls "jungle grass" but in fact the 14 training pitches at the Sports Palace Training Complex are typical of the best surfaces around the high-altitude stadiums nearby. A mixture of rye grass and the local kikuyu, a hardly, deep-rooted, patchy plant which can withstand frost and heat, hail and drought, which is what the Highveld climate can throw at you.
And if England hoped to move their pre-tournament training camp to Pretoria University, where the metrosexual world champion 800m runner Caster Semanya was carefully developed,
they're stymied. Argentina booked their complex last week. Typical!
Bafokeng today joined the pitch battle with spokesman Martin Bekker telling Capello: "The pitches are looking pristine. We know all the hard work that has gone in there and everyone has trust in the guys who made the stadium. If anything the pressure is to make sure that the hotel is on schedule. For the pitches it is not a great fear."
But all this is mere detail. Though Capello says a final decision isn't expected until February, expect England to be based in Rustenburg for two weeks before the finals kick off on June 11. He will be able to keep the WAGs at arms' length, the fans will stay in the bigger cities (if they are drawn in group C, game two will be in Cape Town on June 18 and game three in Port Elizabeth on June 23).
England will return to Rustenburg if they win the group for the first knock-out round on June 26. Perfect. They will fly in and out with Rustenburg as their base and remain acclimatised for high altitude, which gives you more red blood corpuscles and more puff at sea level. How do I know? Because I've lived there, and like Capello, I've seen the progress of our cricket and rugby sides when they go over. Apparently the England and Lions rugby medics have been advising the FA on what to do in South Africa with such contrasts in climate, altitude and temperature.
Oh, and if it is all as I say, the really clever fans will immediately google Pilanesburg Game Reserve and book themselves in for a couple of weeks in one of the plush game lodges there, right next to Sun City and 15 minutes from Rustenburg.
You read it hear first!

Labels: , , group c, royal bafokeng, , south african world cup draw