x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Snippets: Biden predicts a US victory over rivals

Joe Biden, the US vice president, says America will beat England in their match today. Biden, an Irish-American, addressed a gathering of diplomats and South African politicians at the US consulate in Johannesburg yesterday and received loud applause when he said "in the spirit of a real Irishman, we are going to beat England". He wished South Africa luck in staging the World Cup, saying "no other sport in the world ever focused such attention on one country than the World Cup". Biden told Barack Obama, the US president, he was sorry for leaving him behind to manage the oil spill but was thrilled to be watching the World Cup. "I am honoured to be [here] representing the United States. The president is angry," he said.

The United States team bus got stuck in a traffic jam caused by an elephant when about 10 players were going to an open-air market. Michael Kammarman, the team spokesman, said the congestion occurred outside the Bakubung Bush Lodge in Rustenberg. Players timed the trip to get back to the hotel in time for the start of the World Cup opener between South Africa and Mexico. Signs outside the hotel warn: "Elephants come close to our fence keep a distance of 30 metres and please be quiet" and "Baboons are dangerous - please keep clear of them and do not feed them."

The Germany team have bought 300 tickets for each of their three World Cup group matches that will be distributed to local schoolchildren. The children from poorer areas in the cities of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg will be driven by bus to the games, given food at the stadiums and then driven back, accompanied by teachers.

Brazil kicked off their rivalry with Argentina yesterday when Luis Fabiano, the Sevilla striker, said his team oozed happiness and complained others were bitter, aiming his taunt at his country's neighbours. "Happiness is inside us," Fabiano told reporters. "If they're not happy it's their problem. We're happy to be here and we're happy in this country. Brazil is a happy country with samba, carnival and party," added the striker known as the Fabulous One. "Everywhere we go, we have this happiness and it comes from inside. Some have it, others are bitter in life." Juan Sebastian Veron, the Argentina midfielder, sparked the verbal exchange the day before by saying if the World Cup was down to laughing, then Brazil would always win. Although his comments were clearly tongue-in-cheek, they still managed to tweak Brazilian sensitivities, showing how easily the rivalry between the teams can be stoked.

Spain became the last of the 32 teams to arrive in South Africa yesterday after a 10-hour flight from Madrid. The European champions arrived in Johannesburg before making their way to their base in Potchefstroom. Oscar Luis Celada, the team doctor, said of the journey from Spain: "The flight has gone according to plan for the players. They've been able to rest well, they've slept for around six, seven hours, and therefore we hope that the day will go normally. The fact there hasn't been a time change has made it easier for the players to adapt," Spain's opening match is against Honduras in Durban on Wednesday.

The two countries may technically still be at war, but South Korea's captain, Ji-sung Park, has high hopes for North Korea and thinks his neighbours could surprise other teams, despite their lowly ranking. The Manchester United midfielder said that opposing coaches will have difficulty preparing to face North Korea, because the players are little known outside their country. Park hopes to watch all of North Korea's group games, against Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. North Korea's only previous appearance was in 1966 when they provided a shock by making the quarter-finals.

Milos Krasic, the Serbia midfielder, is keen to secure a move to Italy after the World Cup. Juventus are reportedly the front-runners to sign the 25-year-old from CSKA Moscow and Krasic claims he does not know where his future lies but is certain it is in Serie A. "Yes, I want to play in Italy, I don't know what team, but I want to go there. I have heard about Juventus," he said. "They [his agents] are deciding my future, but I am sure that they will choose the best for me."