Planet World Cup

 

The England World Cup football party are believed to have ran up a bar bill of almost £37,000 (€59,000) in just three days at their luxury hotel in Dubai before jetting off to Korea.

England's thirsty work

Reports said the 121-strong party - which included 23 players, their families, manager Sven Goran Eriksson and team officials - had consumed so many drinks that the English Football Association (FA) agreed to put its credit card behind the bar to reassure worried staff.

It quoted a hotel source as saying: "The bill for the accommodation and food was over £100,000, but that was expected. But it was a huge shock when the bill for the drinks was checked."

But English FA spokesman Paul Newman denied the report.

The England squad arrived at the sub-tropical South Korean island of Jeju yesterday and will play a friendly match tomorrow against South Korea.

Tackling an old wound

Argentina's Diego Simeone yesterday reopened some old wounds with England's David Beckham.

Simeone admitted he deliberately tried to get the Manchester United midfielder sent off when the countries met at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Simeone trained with the Argentina squad in front of 3,500 local Japanese fans yesterday

The England player was shown a red card for kicking Simeone during the team's second-round defeat on penalties by Argentina.

"As I was trying to stand up that was when he went on to kick me from behind," Simeone said. "And I took advantage of that."

Not a contact sport

Mobile phones and newspapers will be prohibited for South Africa's World Cup squad, the South African Football Association (SAFA) have decided.

The players will also have to adhere to a dress code and a strict curfew once they arrive at their base in Gangneung, South Korea on May 25th.

SAFA vice-president Irvin Khoza, who said mobile phones and newspapers were a distraction, is anxious to avoid a repeat of the incident at the last World Cup finals when striker Brendan Augustine and midfielder Naughty Mokoena were sent home during the tournament.

The two players had defied a curfew and had gone to a disco in the French town of Vichy.

Revolving fan

An England football fan was refused entry to South Korea yesterday, the first to be turned away under efforts to prevent hooligans from attending the World Cup, British intelligence officials said.

Andrew Cooper (38) was detained after arriving on a flight to Seoul and was expected to be sent back to Britain on the next available flight, the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) said.

An NCIS spokesman said that, although Cooper had no banning order against him, he had been sentenced to four months in jail in 1999 for possessing CS gas.

Scotland washed-up

Scotland's tour of the Far East stands on the brink of chaos after a monsoon put today's game with South Africa in Hong Kong in doubt.

A Hong Kong Football Association spokesman said: "This is a thunderstorm and if there is 'black rain' and a thunderstorm then the games will be off."

'Black rain' is the local term for the torrential downpours that regularly bring Hong Kong to a standstill.

Japan's defence

High-tech Japanese military planes will patrol the skies over stadiums and jet fighters will be on standby during the World Cup, a Japanese newspaper has claimed.

The government has drafted an action plan for the military, or the Self-Defence Force (SDF), outlining its role in providing security for the tournament, the daily Asahi Shimbun said.

While the police will be mainly responsible for security, the SDF will provide support, such as providing state-of-the-art airborne warning and control system (AWACS) planes to guard the skies over the matches.

Japanese authorities have already said they will implement a no-fly zone over the stadiums, but F-15 jet fighters will be mobilised to "remove" any threat, Asahi said.

Fever pitch

The website www.umbro.com is offering fans a range of ingenious ways to con their bosses - including a false sick-note signed by a fictitious doctor - so they can stay home and watch World Cup games.

The early timings of the games have posed a dilemma to millions of fans desperate to watch their team's World Cup progress live.

The new phenomenon

The Brazilian press were unanimous in their praise of 21-year-old playmaker Ronaldinho Gaucho yesterday after his latest two goals in their warm-up.

The Paris Saint Germain star's brace led Brazil to a 3-1 win over a Catalonia XI in front of 97,000 fans at Barcelona's Nou Camp on Saturday, he also scored three in Thursday's game against Espanyol B.

"Will he be Romario?" asked the headline of Jornal dos Sports. "The Gaucho Phenomenon," screamed sports daily Lance, comparing Ronaldinho to Ronaldo, who was known as "the phenomenon".