WORLD CUP NOTEBOOK: Spain’s Iniesta to return for match vs. Chile

  • Wed Jun 23rd, 2010 8:12pm
  • Sports

Associated Press

POTCHEFSTROOM, South Africa — Andres Iniesta is set to return for Spain’s crucial World Cup match against Group H leader Chile.

The Barcelona playmaker said he is “100 percent” fit and available for Friday’s match at Pretoria.

“I trained well, I felt well and I could do everything normally,” Iniesta says Wednesday.

Iniesta missed Spain’s 2-0 win over Honduras after getting hurt in the 1-0 loss to Switzerland. He has battled injuries for the past season with his club team as well.

Chile leads Group H with six points, European champion Spain and Switzerland have three points apiece and Honduras has zero.

No discipline for Spain’s Villa

JOHANNESBURG — FIFA will not take action against Spain striker David Villa after he raised his hand to the face of a Honduras player during the teams’ World Cup match Monday. FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola says its disciplinary committee found no grounds to open a case. Villa appeared to push his hand across defender Emilio Izaguirre’s face late in the first half at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park, but went unpunished by Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura. Villa scored twice in Spain’s 2-0 victory.

Italian politician apologizes

ROME — Italian politician Umberto Bossi apologized Wednesday for his much-criticized remarks that Italy would “buy” a victory in a crucial World Cup group match against Slovakia. The comments by Bossi, a Cabinet minister, drew a sharp rebuke from the national soccer federation and fellow politicians. “I apologize to the national team,” Federal Reforms Minister Bossi told the ANSA news agency. He said his comments were meant as a “joke” and that he hopes Italy wins the World Cup.

French team disgraced

KNYSNA, South Africa — France winger Florent Malouda apologized to his nation and its fans after the team’s disastrous World Cup, saying that restoring its battered reputation is now the priority. Coach Raymond Domenech and his players flew home Wednesday night and were expected to receive a hostile reception from a nation shocked by their behavior during the tournament. Striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home after verbally abusing Domenech, causing the rest of the players to refuse to practice two days before France’s 2-1 upset loss to South Africa that left the team in last place in Group A.

“It’s a complete disaster that we chose to express ourselves like this,” said Malouda, who flew out on his own.

“We honestly didn’t know it would affect people so much. We could not imagine what would come after that. We’re really sorry for the French population and the French fans. That’s not what we want to show.

“The image we have shown to the world, the way they see France right now is a disaster. As players, we are the first responsible for that. Before the World Cup we had great expectations, and we are leaving without winning a single game.”