World Cup chit-chat: J-Lo will not perform at opening ceremony
Jennifer Lopez, who along with Pitbull and Brazil's Claudia Leitte has sung the official FIFA World Cup song, will not perform at the tournament’s opening ceremony, FIFA said in a statement on Monday.
According to FIFA the reason given for Lopez’s withdrawal is unspecified "production issues".
Fifa said in a news release that Cuban-American rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte will sing the official tune We Are One before Brazil take on Croatia at Thursday's opening game in Sao Paulo.
Image: Jennifer Lopez
Photographs: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Fit Van Persie ready to give Spain some pain
Robin van Persie has not played a game pain-free for the last six years he said on Sunday, in an anomalous attempt to assuage fears over his readiness for this week's start of the World Cup.
"I can't remember a game over the last five, six years where I haven't felt some pain somewhere," said the Netherlands captain, taken off at half-time of their last warm-up game last week because of a groin twinge.
His readiness dominated the Dutch agenda as they prepare to play Spain on Friday, particularly after he showed signs of discomfort again on Saturday during a training session in Rio de Janeiro, where the Dutch have been based since their arrival on Friday.
"The groin complaint I had you can't even call an injury," he told a media conference after participating without any apparent problems at the team's Sunday session.
"I've had so many of those complaints.
"Today was a good training day in which I was able to give it all. I'm absolutely no longer bothered by my groin. I'm completely ready for Spain," he said in a reference to the opening game for the Dutch in Salvador.
"You notice the intent in the players from the little things that show the intensity of the focus, like the conversation between the players. Normally it's a lot of banter but now a bit more serious.
"Spain are a good side, but so are we," he warned the world champions as they prepared for a repeat of the 2010 final on only the second day of the 2014 tournament.
"Football is a sport where you have to prove yourself again and again. We have a younger team than four years ago and I'm curious how we'll do against a Spain side that has almost the same players as in the previous World Cup.
"I'm curious how they will fare this time round," Van Persie said.
Image: Netherlands' national soccer team player Robin Van Persie attends a news conference after a training session ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday
Photographs: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
Owen backs Argentina to win World Cup
Former England striker Michael Owen believes that the brilliance of Lionel Messi and the familiarity with the conditions in Brazil will help Argentina win the World Cup.
After a spectacular haul of trophies with Barcelona, Messi has a chance to lead Argentina to glory on the World Cup stage and build on his reputation as one of the all-time greats.
The four-times World Player of the Year has won a glittering array of club silverware and has established himself as one of the finest footballers to grace the game, but some believe he must win the World Cup before he can be hailed as a true great.
"They've got some fabulous players in (Angel) Di Maria and Messi, Higuain, and Aguero -- lots of top-class players," Owen told Reuters at a promotional event in Hong Kong.
"I know Brazil is next door but I think they are playing basically in their home conditions and I think that this is Messi's time to shine on the world stage.
"Some people would argue that you can't be considered the best player of all time unless you do win the World Cup but I'm sure that he will want to perform very well.
"He's obviously one of the best, either the best or the second best player in the world at the moment."
Owen, who scored 40 goals in 89 games for England, made a dramatic impact as an 18-year-old at the 2002 World Cup finals with a stunning individual goal against Argentina.
He retired from football in 2013.
Image: Michael Owen
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Benzema stars as France demolish Jamaica 8-0
Karim Benzema was in a class of his own in an unusual role on the left as France geared up for the World Cup with an 8-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday despite the absence of Franck Ribery.
Ribery was ruled out of the finals with a back injury but Les Bleus were eager to move on with Benzema netting twice and setting up three more goals while Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi (2), Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann (2) also scored.
It was France's biggest win since they demolished Azerbaijan 10-0 in a Euro 1996 qualifier in 1995.
"Nice atmosphere, it's good for the confidence but it does not give us any guarantee for the first game against Honduras," coach Didier Deschamps told TV channel TF1
"It's going to be another game next Sunday," he added ahead of their Group E opener in Porto Alegre.
There was also a concern over fullback Mathieu Debuchy, who was replaced at halftime by Bacary Sagna after picking up what appeared to be a leg injury.
Image: France's Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates with team mates Paul Pogba (L) and Karim Benzema his goal against Jamaica during their international friendly at Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq on Sunday
Photographs: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
Giroud played his role to perfection
Deschamps stuck to his 4-3-3 system at Lille's Grand Stade, with Giroud at centre forward and Benzema filling the left flank position usually occupied by Ribery, while Mathieu Valbuena kept his place on the right.
Giroud played his role to perfection when he headed Valbuena's cross into the path of Cabaye who chested the ball down and tucked it past Jacomeno Barrett.
Matuidi made it 2-0 with a low shot from just outside the box after collecting Benzema's pass after 20 minutes.
The Real Madrid striker then curled a superb shot into the far corner of the goal in the 38th and broke down the left to deliver a perfect pass to Giroud who tapped home the fourth after the break.
Benzema curled another fine strike into the net at the near post to make it 5-0 just past the hour before Matuidi got his double when he volleyed home Patrice Evra's cross from the left.
Second-half substitute Antoine Griezmann rubbed salt in Jamaica's wounds by firing past Jacomeno from Benzema's pass and added the eighth with a clever backheel from point-blank range.
After playing Honduras, France meet Switzerland and Ecuador.
Image: France' s Olivier Giroud controls the ball during their friendly against Jamaica at Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq on Sunday
Photographs: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
Cameroon to leave for Brazil as strike resolved
Cameroon's squad will depart for the World Cup 12 hours later than scheduled after resolving a strike over bonuses that saw them refuse to board the plane to Brazil on Sunday, the soccer federation (FECAFOOT) said. They have settled a dispute with the government and FECAFOOT and will receive 5.8 million CFA francs ($12,100) more than the 50 million CFA francs originally offered to each player for their participation in the tournament.
“Everything is ok now. We will embark tonight”, FECAFOOT spokesman Laurence Fotso told Reuters, adding that the federation had to borrow the funds to pay the bonuses.
“That money is given (by FIFA) three months after the end of the competition”, said Fotso. So FECAFOOT “borrowed money as a private loan to satisfy the players”.
Cameroon coach Volker Finke told German broadcaster Sport1: "There has been an agreement now and there is no need to make a big sensation out of it or make huge stories out of it".
The players initially refused to leave their Yaounde hotel on Sunday for an 0800 GMT departure for Rio de Janeiro, where world governing body FIFA said they were expected at 1925 GMT.
They are now scheduled to depart at 2030 GMT on a charter plane which will get the squad to Brazil just four days before their opening game against Mexico on Friday.
PAY ROWS Cameroon's footballers have refused in the past to play because of rows with FECAFOOT over cash, and the run up to this tournament has been undermined by disagreements over the payment the squad should receive for playing in Brazil.
Acting FECAFOOT president Joseph Owona said in a statement on Saturday: "The Cameroonian football federation regrets to announce that the departure of the special plane which must transport the national team as well as Cameroon’s official sports delegation to Brazil was postponed late this evening.”
The players remained at their hotel and journalists were barred from meeting them. Owona held talks with staff in his offices and later joined sports minister Adoum Garoua in discussion with the players to resolve the dispute.
Cameroon's players last week threatened to strike until they received promised payment for participating at the World Cup but such action was suspended ahead of the 2-2 draw with Germany in a friendly last Sunday, French sports paper L'Equipe reported.
The players boycotted the traditional handing over of the national flag to the team captain on Saturday after their last warm-up match against Moldova, forcing the prime minister, Philemon Yang, to give it to their German coach Finke instead. Skipper Samuel Eto’o, who did not play in the 1-0 win over Moldova, left the stadium just before the final whistle and declined to speak to reporters.
Image: Cameroon's national soccer team coach Volker Finke (centre) talks to players during a training session
Photographs: Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters
Palestine FA says official's Brazil trip blocked by Israel
Israel has prevented a senior Palestinian soccer delegate from travelling to this month's World Cup in Brazil, his federation said on Sunday.
The Palestine FA (PFA) has been lobbying world governing body FIFA to impose sanctions against Israel over restrictions on the movement of players from the blockaded Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank.
PFA president Jibril Rajoub told Reuters last month that the relationship between the two Middle East neighbours had deteriorated after the recent arrest of a Palestine footballer and the shooting of two other players.
On Sunday the PFA, in what it described as the third such case, said its deputy general-secretary Mohammad Ammassi was denied permission by Israel to travel from Gaza to the West Bank, from where he would cross to Jordan and on to Brazil.
"This is not the first time Mr Amassi has been denied a travel permit," the PFA said in a statement.
"Israeli authorities have nothing against him, which clearly makes this rejection a temperamental and arbitrary measure that does not help the efforts to find a solution to the situation of Palestinian football."
Israeli officials were checking the details of the case and had yet to comment.
Gaza is under the control of armed Hamas Islamists who advocate Israel's destruction and have often clashed with it.
The U.S.-backed rival Palestinian administration in the West Bank signed a unity deal with Hamas in April, prompting Israel to call off peace negotiations with it.
Rajoub said in May that FIFA had established a task force that included Palestinian and Israeli delegates but this had failed to improve the main issues of freedom of movement and access for Palestinian athletes.
Image: FIFA World Cup trophy