By Jay Mwamba
English skipper David Beckham has been given the green light to start light training ahead of the finals.
Beckham, who broke a bone in his left foot last month, received the good news last weekend after X-rays of the injury revealed that it was healing satisfactorily.
The prognosis means that Beckham is almost certain to lead England into the World Cup finals, where they play in the so-called “Group of Fear” against Argentina, Nigeria and Sweden.
His Irish opposite, Roy Keane, meanwhile, confirmed his return to form by netting a stunning goal in Manchester United’s heartbreaking 1-1 Champions League semifinal second leg tie with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany last Tuesday. United were eliminated on the away goals rule.
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While Keane was giving German fans a sneak preview of what to expect when the former world champions tackle Ireland in Group E, Germany was suffering another setback with the loss of Leverkusen’s international defender Jens Nowotny. He tore knee ligaments.
Two weeks ago, midfielder Mehmet Scholl pulled out of the German squad because of a persistent groin injury.
World Cup co-hosts Japan came from behind three times to draw 3-3 with Honduras in a match for the Kirin Cup in Kobe last Thursday.
Jose Luis Pineda (15th), and Carlos Pavon (27th, 45th) scored for Honduras, while Shunsuke Nakamura (26th, 41st), and the Brazilian-born Allesandro Santos (76th penalty) replied for Japan, who remained undefeated after five matches of their eight-game World Cup build-up schedule.
Japan are drawn in Group H along with Belgium, Russia and Tunisia.
In Guayaquil, Group G-bound Ecuador defeated local club Barcelona 1-0 last Friday in their last warm up match at home before the finals. Carlos Tenorio scored.
Nigeria’s “Super Eagles” also wound up their domestic preparations with 3-0 romp over Kenya in Lagos.
Karibe Ojigwe (49th), Femi Opabunmi (55th), and skipper for the day Wilson Oruma (87th) connected.
Ecuador released their World Cup roster before the match with Barcelona. The players are: Jose Cevallos, Johvani Ibarra, and Daniel Viteri (goalkeepers); Geovany Espinoza, Ivan Hurtado, Augusto Porozo, Raul Guerron, Marlon Ayovi, Ulises de la Cruz, and Luis Gomez (defenders).
Edison Mendez, Edwin Tenorio, Alfonso Obregon, Cleber Chala, Juan Carlos Burbano, Wellington Sanchez, Walter Ayovi, and skipper Alex Aguinaga are the midfielders; while the forwards are Nicolas Asencio, Carlos Tenorio, Ivan Kaviedes, Angel Fernandez, and Agustin Delgado.
Dutchman Guus Hiddink, coach of Team USA’s Group D opponents Korea, announced his 23-man squad for the finals.
The team comprises goalkeepers Choi Eun-sung, Kim Byung-ji, and Lee Woon-j’; defenders Choi Jin-chul, Hong Myung-bo, Kim T’-young, Lee Min-sung, and Hyun Young-min.
Midfielders Ahn Jung-hwan, Choi Sung-yong, Kim Nam-il, Lee Eul-yong, Lee Young-pyo, Park Ji-sung, Song Chong-gug, Yoo Sang-chul, and Yoon Jong-hwan.
Cha Doo-ri, Choi T’-uk, Choi Yong-soo, Hwang Sun-hong, Lee Chun-soo, and Seol Ki-hyeon are the forwards.
Sweden’s 23-man contingent that will do battle in Group F: Goalkeepers — Magnus Hedman (Coventry), Magnus Kihlstedt (FC Copenhagen), and Andreas Isaksson (Djurgaarden).
Defenders — Olof Mellberg (Aston Villa), Patrik Andersson (FC Barcelona), Johan Mjallby (Celtic), Michael Svensson (Troyes), Tomas Antonelius (FC Copenhagen), Erik Edman (Heerenveen), Andreas Jakobsson (Hansa Rostock), and Teddy Lucic (AIK Solna).
Midfielders — Tobias Linderoth (Everton), Niclas Alexandersson (Everton), Anders Svensson (Southampton), Fredrik Ljungberg (Arsenal), Magnus Svensson (Brondby), Mattias Jonson (Brondby), Haakan Mild (Wimbledon), and Daniel Andersson (Venezia).
Forwards — Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Ajax Amsterdam), Andreas Andersson (AIK Solna), Henrik Larsson (Celtic), and Marcus Allback (Heerenveen).