Own goals aid England, France held in Tunisia

By Dave Thompson

LONDON (Reuters) - England failed to convince in a 2-1 victory over Japan in their final World Cup warm-up on Sunday and France were held to a 1-1 draw by Tunisia in their penultimate match.

There was more bad news on the injury front for Germany whose defender Heiko Westermann will miss the tournament after breaking a bone in his foot in Saturday's 3-0 win over Hungary.

Off the field, South African security officials moved swiftly to deny claims in a Sunday newspaper of a high risk of a terrorist attack during the World Cup.

After England's Frank Lampard missed a 56th-minute penalty, his side needed own goals from defenders Tulio Tanaka and Yuji Nakazawa to come from behind to beat Japan in Austria.

Coach Fabio Capello took consolation where he could, enjoying the second half better than the first and telling ITV: "I saw a lot of players who didn't play before and learnt more about them."

England start their campaign on June 12 against the United States who also staged a 2-1 comeback win in Philadelphia on Saturday over Turkey.

Former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was denied a winning start with his Ivory Coast team when Paraguay scored twice in the last 15 minutes to draw 2-2 in France.

Didier Drogba gave the Elephants the lead and Eriksson looked set to celebrate a win when substitute Souleymane Bamba made it 2-0. But Lucas Barrios scored and Aureliano Torres snatched a last-gasp equalizer with a deflected free kick.

Oddly, the match was played on a ground not considered fit even for French second division soccer.

Adding color, the Ivory Coast players turned out in light blue shirts and chocolate shorts and socks, looking rather as if they had waded through mud before taking the field.

In Tunisia, France were indebted to a 63rd minute goal by William Gallas which enabled them to salvage a draw.

Tunisia opened the scoring on five minutes through forward Issam Jemaa but France, still adapting to the new, 4-3-3 system they had introduced in a 2-1 win over Costa Rica Wednesday, improved gradually.


In Johannesburg, a Sunday Times report pointed to a briefing to the U.S. Congress counter-terrorism caucus last week by the NEFA Foundation, which investigates terrorist activities.

It quoted foundation director Ronald Sandee as saying: "I believe there is an 80 percent chance of an attack."

But the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, which coordinates security operations for the World Cup, said in a statement: "The security forces can firmly state that there is no known specific terror threat against the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

"All operational plans are on track, teams already in their base camps are moving around and police deployments are increasing."

Back with the players, Germany will miss Westermann especially as injuries have already ruled out Michael Ballack and Christian Traesch. He was seen as possible cover in midfield.

"Heiko would have played a very important role at the World Cup for our team. That is because of his multi-faceted play. In training he was in superb physical condition," said Germany coach Joachim Loew.

Portugal got a boost with news that influential midfielder Pepe had been cleared to continue training. He damaged a cruciate knee ligament in December and has not played since.

Already looking beyond the tournament, Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli will succeed Italy coach Marcello Lippi after the World Cup, a national soccer federation spokesman said.

Federation president Giancarlo Abete wanted clarity before the team flew off to South Africa and has now found his man, famed for his slicked-back hair and purple puffer jacket.

Meanwhile, goalkeepers in particular are getting more vociferous about the official ball to be used at the tournament.

Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini felt it was a "disaster" for both goalkeepers and forwards because it is so light and moves around so much. Spain keeper Iker Casillas has likened it to a beachball.

Italy counterpart Gianluigi Buffon described the ball as "absolutely inadequate," while Brazilian Julio Cesar has said it was like one purchased in a supermarket.

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)