Anticipation builds as Brazil, England fine-tune

CAPE TOWN (AFP) - Five-time champions Brazil return to South Africa for their final World Cup preparations on a high Tuesday as England look to put a lacklustre performance in their last warm-up game behind them.

The Brazilians revved up for a tilt at a sixth title with a convincing 5-1 thrashing of Tanzania in Dar Es Salaam on Monday with Robinho scoring a brace and Kaka and Ramires also getting on the scoresheet.

In contrast, England failed to impress in a 3-0 victory over South African Premier League side Platinum Stars in Moruleng as their stuttering build-up to their Group C opener against the United States on June 13 continued.

Goals from Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney ensured Fabio Capello's men emerged from their meeting on Monday with a win, and captain Steven Gerrard insisted they would be ready for the United States.

"It was a good workout for the lads. It's all part of the preparations - we know that the more important games are around the corner and we'll be right for the USA," the Liverpool star told FATV.

With Rio Ferdinand out of the tournament through injury and Gareth Barry ruled out of the US clash, Capello will be pleased at least that noone else picked up any knocks.

"Everyone came through unscathed, so that's another bonus," said Gerrard.

Sout African football fans pose with Zakumi, the World Cup 2010 popular leopard mascot at Union Buildings in Pretoria on June 4, 2010. (AFP file)

Brazil return to their training base in Johannesburg upbeat and ready to get their campaign under way against North Korea at Ellis Park on June 16.

They are drawn in the so-called "Group of Death" alongside Ivory Coast and Portugal and coach Dunga will be watching how Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates fare in a warm-up against Mozambique in Johannesburg later Tuesday.

Portugal, the 2006 semi-finalists, open Group G against Ivory Coast in Port Elizabeth on June 15 and coach Carlos Queiroz will welcome back defensive midfielder Pepe after a six-month injury absence for the Mozambique friendly.

"Pepe will play a good few minutes," said Queiroz. "He'll come on in the second half, when the rhythm and the intensity of the match have dropped."

The Real Madrid man has been in a race against time to prove his fitness for the World Cup after sustaining a serious knee injury in December.

Twenty-five of the 32 teams are now settled in South Africa for the June 11-July 11 tournament - the first World Cup staged in Africa - with Serbia another due Tuesday.

Many will be at their training venues through the day, with Australia, Germany, Argentina, France, North Korea and the USA all scheduled to be put through their paces.

But injuries continue to dog the build-up with Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben both battling to be fit in time.

Chelsea striker Drogba returned to the Ivory Coast camp in the Swiss Alps Monday after surgery on a broken forearm and a big question mark remains over whether he will play.

Robben remained in the Netherlands when his team-mates flew to Johannesburg at the weekend as he tries to overcome a thigh muscle tear sustained in a 6-1 drubbing of non-qualifiers Hungary.

Chelsea stars Michael Ballack, Michael Essien, John Mikel Obi, and Manchester United's Ferdinand have already been ruled out.

Despite the setbacks, FIFA president Sepp Blatter insists the tournament will be "fantastic".

"We find ourselves in a position of indescribable anticipation," said Blatter, who was awarded the Order of the Companion of OR Tambo late Monday, the country's highest accolade.

"Everywhere you go, you can practically feel that the big kick-off is not far away,"

The build-up since South Africa was awarded the event has not been without its problems, but all 10 stadia have been built or revamped on time, albeit well over budget, and nearly all tickets have been sold.

Crime though remains a problem, with Japan coach Takeshi Okada the latest to express his fears, telling his players Tuesday they must stay inside their luxurious hotel in George while at their base camp.

The hosts' open the tournament on Friday in Johannesburg against Mexico, with France facing Uruguay in Cape Town on the same day.

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