Martin Demichelis (right) has defended Argentina coach Diego Maradona
Argentina defender Martin Demichelis has defended coach Diego Maradona against criticism that the nation's legendary former midfielder could be a hindrance to their chances of World Cup glory.
After scraping into the tournament by qualifying late on in their final game, many observers thought Maradona was mismanaging a richly talented group of players - and that their chances of ultimate success in South Africa were slim.
But Bayern Munich's Demichelis disagrees.
"Of course Maradona helps us," he said of the man who, as an inspirational captain, lifted the 1986 World Cup for Argentina. "He motivates us and takes the pressure away. He's a very important figure. He gives us energy and hunger to do well."
Katlego Mphela insists he is ready to spearhead South Africa's attack after the surprise omission of the host nation's all-time leading goalscorer Benni McCarthy.
Mphela has been the main striker in South Africa's recent warm-up matches, and has scored four times in his last three outings ahead of Friday's opening match against Mexico in Johannesburg.
"It does put a bit of pressure on my shoulders but I can handle it," said the Mamelodi Sundowns forward who finished the recent South African Premier League campaign as the top scorer.
Injured England captain Rio Ferdinand will be there to support his team-mates in their opening World Cup match against the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday.
The central defender was forced to withdraw from the squad on Friday because of a knee ligament injury.
There is no timetable for when the Manchester United star will return to England, or if he intends to remain with Fabio Capello's squad for an extended period.
Japan playmaker Keisuke Honda insists his under-pressure team have "nothing to lose" in South Africa after four consecutive World Cup warm-up defeats.
"If we attack the opponents where it hurts them most, it will lead to scoring chances," said the CSKA Moscow midfielder. "We want to give all we have as this event takes place just once in four years."
Japan, who have never won a World Cup game on foreign soil, face Cameroon in their opening group E match.
South Korea coach Huh Jung-Moo has confirmed that Park Ji-Sung is back to full fitness and ready for the nation's World Cup opener against Greece.
The Manchester United midfielder sat out their final warm-up match against Spain last week with a minor thigh injury but has returned to training without experiencing any further problems.
Gerard Pique insists Spain team-mate Cesc Fabregas will not be distracted from the World Cup despite ongoing speculation about where the Arsenal captain might be playing next season.
Barcelona, the club he started at as a youngster and has now stated he would like to return to, last week had a bid for Fabregas rejected by Arsenal and the 23-year-old's future is now almost a daily debate in both Spain and England.
But Barca defender Pique says the player is undisturbed by it. "Cesc is very focused on the World Cup and the national team," he said. "He knows his future is being decided, but he's calm because it is others who have to resolve his transfer to Barca."
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger thinks Greece's financial problems could provide added motivation for their World Cup campaign.
The Frenchman thinks the Euro 2004 winners can follow the example of Italy, who put aside a corruption scandal in their domestic game to win the title four years ago.
"It is a release for them," he said. "It's always down to the mental strengths of the players."
Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios will be fit for the World Cup despite a leg muscle injury scare at the weekend, according to Honduran media reports.
Palacios was carried off the pitch during a 3-0 warm-up defeat by Romania in Austria on Saturday and taken to hospital for checks on his groin, but the Wigan player says "it's nothing serious".
Forward Nicklas Bendtner trained separately from the rest of Denmark's World Cup squad on Monday as he attempts to recover from a groin problem ahead of nation's opening group E game against Netherlands on June 14.
Otherwise, the Arsenal player insists his general fitness is good.
"I've been training hard with the physical trainer and I'm one of those with the best heart rate in the squad," he said. "The football side of things shouldn't be any problem."
France midfielder Yoann Gourcuff says Nicolas Anelka is too isolated in France's attack and needs greater support if coach Raymond Domenech's 4-3-3 system is to work at the World Cup.
Anelka was preferred ahead of Thierry Henry to play as the lone centre forward in the warm-up matches against Costa Rica, Tunisia and China - but failed to score in any of the matches.
Yet with Henry, Andre-Pierre Gignac or Djibril Cisse options to replace him ahead of their opening group game against Uruguay, Gourcuff thinks it is unfair to blame Anelka and says France must "give Nico more support" from the wings and midfield.
Arjen Robben is confident he can take part in the World Cup for the Netherlands after his first physiotherapy session with Dick van Toorn.
The Bayern Munich forward has a small tear in his left hamstring but is hoping intense physiotherapy will help him take part in South Africa.
Robben said: "It is impossible to say whether that (a return) will only be about four days or a week away. It was tedious exercises. But we will do everything to get fit. I'm very hopeful."
Updated throughout the day.