Mixed news for old rivals, Japan held to draw
There was mixed World Cup news for old rivals England and Germany on Thursday as co-hosts Japan played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Honduras.
While England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said he was confident David Beckham would be fit to lead the side into the tournament, his German counterpart Rudi Voeller was facing up to the loss of experienced defender Jens Nowotny.
The 28-year-old Bayer Leverkusen player, capped 37 times by his country, was injured in the Champions League semifinal, second leg against Manchester United on Tuesday, and doctors have confirmed that he suffered a torn cruciate ligament in his knee.
"It's not only a bitter setback for Jens and all of us, it's a big loss for the national team," Voeller said.
Eriksson said he was confident about the fitness of Beckham, who broke his foot three weeks ago, though he admitted he was less optimistic about the midfielder's Manchester United team mate Gary Neville, who suffered a similar injury eight days ago.
"I think personally that David can play but I'm not sure -- and nobody is sure, we have to wait for the next x-rays -- about Gary Neville," Eriksson told the Foreign Press Association.
"I'm not so positive about him because it happened too late, that injury, and it's supposed to be a little bit worse than David's.
Meanwhile, substitute Alessandro Santos converted a 76th-minute penalty as Japan came from behind three times to draw 3-3 with Honduras in the Kirin Cup.
The Brazilian-born midfielder made no mistake from the spot after a foul on striker Akinori Nishizawa, giving Japan a share of the spoils in an end-to-end match at Kobe Wing Stadium.
"I wanted to take the kick and when the coach told me to go ahead I just picked my spot," the 25-year-old Santos said. "It felt really special when it hit the back of the net."
In the end, Japan coach Philippe Troussier was happy to see Japan extend their unbeaten run to seven games ahead of friendlies against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Tuesday and Norway in Oslo.
Paraguay, Tunisia and Russia suffered disruption to their World Cup plans.
Tunisia captain Chokri El Ouaer announced his retirement just weeks before he was supposed to lead the north African country into the tournament.
The 35-year-old goalkeeper, who earlier this year won his 100th international cap, told reporters he was quitting immediately for health reasons.
Paraguayan officials met on Thursday to discuss their World Cup squad, though there was confusion over when the final list would be announced.
A Paraguayan Football Association spokesman said that depending on the outcome of the meeting, coach Cesare Maldini's squad could be announced on Thursday or Friday, or even after a friendly in Sweden on May 17.
Finally, former Russia captain Igor Shalimov has hit out at national coach Oleg Romantsev's selection policy.
Shalimov said he could not understand why Romantsev kept excluding CSKA Moscow winger Rolan Gusev and Lokomotiv Moscow goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov.
"If you are the national team coach, a professional, you have to put the team interests above anything else," Shalimov told Russian television NTV.
"It's nonsense when you have two of Russia's best players omitted from the national team for whatever reason."