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The Netherlands arrives in South Africa without Arjen Robben

The winger hurt his left hamstring in the team's final World Cup warmup against Hungary. Doctors say the injury isn't as serious as thought, and Robben is expected to join his teammates this week.

June 06, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones and Kevin Baxter

Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — The Netherlands, among the favorites heading into this week's World Cup, arrived in South Africa on Sunday without Arjen Robben after the standout winger limped off the field less than three minutes from the end of his team's final warmup match the day before.

Robben came on as a second-half substitute and scored twice in a 6-1 win over Hungary before hurting his left hamstring.

"My first thought was 'this can't be true, the end of the final warmup match, everyone is fit and then this,' " Coach Bert van Marwijk said.

After an examination Sunday, doctors said the injury isn't as serious as originally feared and Robben is expected to join his teammates in South Africa sometime this week. The Netherlands opens group play June 14 against Denmark.

A surprising rash of injuries have either ended or left in doubt the World Cup participation of some of soccer's biggest names.

For example Honduras, appearing in the finals for the first time in 28 years, could do so without midfielder Wilson Palacios, who was carried off the field on a stretcher after injuring a shin during his team's 3-0 loss to Romania on Saturday in Austria.

On the same day Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel went down with a bruised ankle while England's captain, Rio Ferdinand, is out with a knee ligament injury and Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba is likely out with a broken arm.

Altidore trains, Marquez doesn't

U.S. forward Jozy Altidore looked comfortable testing his injured right ankle in training Sunday, participating in a five-on-five practice game and following up with some running at the training base in Pretoria.

"Jozy has been able to add to this workload every day, which has been positive," U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said. "We are pleased with his progress and will continue to move him forward."

In the Mexican camp just outside Johannesburg, captain Rafael Marquez worked out gingerly apart from his teammates after tweaking a muscle in his team's win over Italy last Thursday. El Tri has been banged up with injuries lately but on Sunday, in Mexico's second workout since arriving in South Africa, only Marquez was limited in what he could do.

Noisy welcome

A turn-away crowd of more than 5,000 gave Argentina and its coach, Diego Maradona, a chanting, flag-waving welcome when the team made its first public appearance in South Africa while taking the field for practice at the University of Pretoria.

The Argentines played a 35-minute intrasquad match before the fans, many of whom were wearing team jerseys.

One of those who didn't make it in was a 30-year-old who gave his name as Augusto and appeared happy just to be in the same country as his favorite team.

"It doesn't matter that I couldn't get in," he said. "I spent almost $6,000 to be here, lost my fiancée and I am about to lose my job."

To say nothing of his mind.

Availability updates

Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar will not travel to Zimbabwe for Monday's friendly, missing his first match with the national team in two years. Cesar hurt his back in a friendly last week in Zimbabwe and is being left in Johannesburg to work with a physiotherapist…. Backup goalkeeper Brad Jones returned home to Australia on Sunday to deal with serious family illness and is unlikely to return, Coach Pim Verbeek said. The team has asked FIFA for permission to name a replacement.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Times wire services contributed to this report.

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