A buoyant nation

South African President Jacob Zuma is optimistic that the World Cup will forever change the world's perception of his country. “It is in our hands to make this the best World Cup ever,” he says. Over to K. Keerthivasan.

Despite reports of increasing crime rate and racial tensions in some parts of South Africa threatening to undermine the World Cup, President Jacob Zuma was optimistic that the tournament will forever change the world's perception of his country. “It is in our hands to make this the best World Cup ever,” he said while inaugurating the Tourism Indaba in Durban.

Zuma believed that by hosting the World Cup South Africa stands to benefit for decades to come. “The World Cup has changed the face of this country,” he proclaimed. “Not only has it revitalised our economy, but has given the impetus to infrastructural development and job creation.”

According to the South African President, the World Cup will provide over 3.6 million additional job opportunities for his people. Besides, the country's public transport network will also get a facelift. “The highways between the OR Tambo International Airport and Pretoria and Johannesburg and Pretoria are among the many roads that have been improved,” said Zuma.

The bus rapid transit system, according to Zuma, has been put in place in most cities. The Rea Vaya bus service between Johannesburg and Soweto now transports 20,000 people a day.

The World Cup is also expected to improve the broadcasting and IT infrastructure in the country. This, it's hoped, will put South Africa in the forefront of digital broadcasting, high definition television and broadband internet accessibility.

Looking beyond quarterfinals

South Korea is aiming to advance beyond the quarterfinals of the World Cup according to the veteran goalkeeper, Lee Woon-Jae. “The last 16 cannot be a final goal for us. That would be the case only when things do not turn out well,” said Lee who, at 37, is the oldest member of the squad. “I believe that we can do better than reaching the quarterfinals. We will work to move beyond that,” he added.

South Korea's best World Cup performance by far was in 2002 when it reached the semifinals. However, it faces a tough task this time, having been grouped with Greece, Argentina and Nigeria. “When I was playing in my first-ever World Cup in 1994, I was so nervous that I didn't even know what game I was playing in. But young players nowadays have more big league experience, so they may feel less pressure,” said Lee.

Mind games

Mind games are common before any major competition. Players provoke their opponents with caustic comments in the media. It's an old tactic but sometimes makes the required impact. Landon Donovan knows it better than anybody else. The United States midfielder, who played for Everton last season, believes a long season has “worn out” Wayne Rooney ahead of the World Cup.

Donovan, who will lead the U.S. against England in the World Cup opener in Rustenburg on June 12, thinks that Rooney is tired after playing 49 games for his club (Manchester United) and country. “Rooney is a top player. In my opinion, he is one of the best players in the world right now,” Donovan told Yahoo!

“But the other part of it is that he has played a lot of games and he is tired. He is probably worn out.”

Donovan rubbed it in: “Of course, there is more pressure on the English players. If we don't do well in the World Cup, people care only a little bit. But if England doesn't do well in the World Cup, it is absolutely devastating to their country, their families, to their people.”