Lippi’s promise

DUISBURG: Italy coach Marcello Lippi has promised to have his hair shaved off if his team win the World Cup. He made his pledge after a friendly exchange with a tall, afro-haired Italian photographer who was obstructing his view at Thursday’s press conference. “Either move out of the way or get your hair cut,” Lippi told the mop-topped snapper as he searched the room for a journalist who had just asked him a question. The photographer retorted: “I’ll shave my hair off if we win the World Cup.” “If that happens, so will I,” Lippi replied.

Maturana knows best

HAMBURG: Francisco Maturana has previously coached Costa Rica and Ecuador, and the Colombian’s forecast for both in the World Cup is grim. Maturana thinks neither team will

advance to the second round. “Something happened in the youth process (in Costa Rica), because there are no special players that make you say ‘They will take charge,”’ Maturana said. He added that Ecuador has a better team than Costa Rica, but its goal drought could prove to be costly.

Eat right

HAMBURG: FIFA has some advice for players wishing to perform well and avoid injury: Eat right. The soccer world governing body’s booklet “Nutrition for Football” tells players that a good diet is better than doping. “Every successful player needs an individual eating plan, which should, as far as possible, take into account his personal requirements, the intensity of training sessions, the season and his level of football,” FIFA said. “Players who take on board and follow a few key messages about eating and drinking correctly can make sure that over time, their bodies can adapt better to the demands of training.”

Double blow for Iran

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN: Iran’s World Cup campaign was dealt a serious blow on Thursday with two players looking set to miss the crucial opening clash with Mexico through injury and sickness. Sattar Zare was carried from the training field after twisting a right knee while Ferydoon Zandi is still recovering from fever. “I’m scared it’s not so good for both players and I’m not so sure they will be passed to play,” said coach Branko Ivankovic. With dynamic front-runner Ali Karimi and playmaker Mehdi Mahdavikia returning from ankle and back trouble, a double withdrawal would raise doubts over Iran’s ability to compete with the Group D seeds.

Viduka injures calf

OEHRINGEN: Skipper Mark Viduka gave Australia a new injury scare three days out from their World Cup opener with Japan when he sat out team training here on Thursday with a calf muscle complaint. The experienced Middlesbrough striker, who is the focal point of Australia’s attack, strained his right calf during the warm-up and went off for treatment with a team physiotherapist. He returned later in the two-hour session wearing a calf support and noticeably limping as he watched the work-out from the sidelines.

Welcome to Hamburg

HAMBURG: Under the gilded oak ceiling of Hamburg’s neo-Renaissance Town Hall, the United States World Cup team received its official welcome. The 647-room building, known as the Rathaus, dominates the city’s centre. Players, wearing navy polo shirts and gray trousers, walked into the ornate Grosser Festsaal, or Great Festival Hall, and stood on a platform in front of the Senators’ Estrade as coach Bruce Arena presented Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust with a US jersey.

Habla Espanyol?

HAMBURG: England captain David Beckham got the chance to show off his Spanish skills on Thursday. The Real Madrid midfielder answered a question posed by a reporter from Paraguay. When asked if he spoke Spanish, Beckham replied: “Mas o menos” and then answered in Spanish about what he thought of the Paraguay game. Beckham then blushed and chuckled when he had to translate himself. The next answer, after someone asked who would win the group, didn’t need any translation. “Grupo? Inglaterra.”

Saudis win 8-0

BAD NAUHEIM: Saudi Arabia enjoyed World Cup goal-scoring practice

against a hapless Frankfurt reserve side winning 8-0 on Thursday. Coach Marcos Paqueta took the opportunity to try out his options in the absence of star striker Sami Al-Jaber who has a knee injury. Al-Jaber scored seven times in a 15-0 win against another amateur side three days ago. The Saudis - who reached the second round in 1994 - are in Group H at the World Cup and play Tunisia, Ukraine and Spain.

No nets

HAMBURG: Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner was disappointed with the team’s training field in Westerburg because nets behind both goals were not erected as promised. “They should have been in place from March,” Bruckner said. “I was assured that they would be there. It’s an essential thing for training.” Early in the training session, a net provided by the Czech team was erected behind one goal and team spokesman Lukas Tucek said that local officials promised to build the other one.