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Mabbsy in SA

Our legendary former skipper tips Spain for the World Cup and tells us about a visit to FIFA's 'Football For Hope' festival in Johannesburg.

Gary Mabbutt is tipping Spain to lift the World Cup.

Our legendary former skipper is in South Africa for the duration of the tournament in his role as World Cup ambassador.

The semi-finals kick-off tonight (7.30pm) when Holland take on Uruguay in Cape Town before tomorrow night's cracker between Germany and Spain in Durban.

Germany have taken the tournament by storm with big wins over England in the last 16 and Argentina in Sunday's quarter-final, but Gary, capped 16 times by England in his 16 years at Spurs, is sticking with Spain to lift the trophy come Sunday.

"Germany are the team in top form at the moment and they are probably playing towards their peak," said Gary, who is also doing TV punditry work in South Africa.

"For me, Spain are below their peak because one of their best players, Torres, isn't performing as we all know he can. You know there is a lot more to come from Spain.

"Holland look a very good outfit with Robben, Schneider and Van Persie. They look a different team since Robben came back into the side.

"It's all about who hits top form and I believe every team in the semi-final has areas where they are vulnerable and if that can be exploited, it could still be anyone's tournament.

"I'd like to see Holland go through and Spain, when they hit form they can play some wonderful football. Having said that, if Germany maintain their form, we could be looking at a Germany versus Holland final."

Gary admitted he would have liked to have seen Ghana continue to fly the African flag in Africa's first World Cup but they suffered at the hands of Uruguay's Luis Suarez - literally - in the quarter-finals.

Suarez handled Dominic Adiyah's goalbound effort on the line, denying Ghana a winner in the last seconds of extra time. Suarez was sent off but Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty and Uruguay won the penalty shoot-out.

"That was an absolute travesty," said Gary. "It was the last kick of the game and that handball deprived Africa a team in the semi-finals for first time in the first World Cup on the African continent.

"At the end of the game, you saw Suarez being carried around the pitch by his team-mates. I'm sorry, but it's my belief that cheats shouldn't prosper and Uruguay certainly prospered through his handball. Perhaps we should look at awarding penalty goals in football like they award penalty tries in rugby."


Back to his role as ambassador, Gary visited the Alexandra Township on Sunday for FIFA's ‘Football For Hope' Festival as 32 teams of young people from disadvantaged communities around the world travelled to Johannesburg for a festival of education, culture and football.

The boys and girls are members of organisations which tackle social issues using football - from homelessness in the UK and landmines in Cambodia, to HIV/Aids education in South Africa and integration of refugees in Australia.

Gary commented: "Sepp Blatter and President Zuma (pictured above) both attended along with FIFA and government officials plus Lucas Radebe and Quinton Fortune.

"It was a fantastic event that consisted of 32 teams with lots of different charities represented and Football for Hope is using football to help these people build a better future.

"When a World Cup is in a particular country, all the focus of the world is on that country until the final ball is kicked, then the attention turns to the next one, in this case Brazil in 2014.

"What we want to do is make sure the various programmes that have been introduced in South Africa in the last few years are all long-term and not just short-term."