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World Cup tickets hit the market

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JOHANNESBURG — More than 160,000 World Cup tickets are still available with the tournament kickoff just two weeks away, and more than half of those will go on sale Friday, according to FIFA.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke revealed the ticketing status at a ceremony marking the handover of Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium to World Cup organizers on Thursday.

None of the 64 games are sold out, and FIFA said it would release an extra 90,000 tickets — which were not taken by its various sponsors and affiliates — to the general public on Friday.

Organizers said the latest ticket release would be the last "big inventory available for the public" for Africa's first World Cup.

Valcke said "all is nearly perfect" when asked about final World Cup preparations, but the high-end category one tickets, which range from $160 to $900, appear to be causing problems.

More than 75,000 category one tickets, unaffordable for the majority of South Africans, are still available.

Valcke said FIFA had set a target of selling 97 to 98 percent of tickets to equal figures at the last World Cup in Germany, and he was hopeful organizers would reach the milestone. FIFA said it has reached 96 percent sales of the total 2.88 million tickets available for the tournament.

A total of 4,000 tickets in all four categories are available for the opening game, nearly 7,000 tickets for the semifinals, and 861 for the final.

About 360,000 foreign visitors are expected, nearly 100,000 less than initial estimates, which makes it unclear where the remaining ticket sales for more expensive seats will come from.

SOUTH AFRICA BEATS COLOMBIA: South Africa marked its first game at the rebuilt Soccer City stadium by defeating Colombia 2-1 in an exhibition Thursday on penalty-kick goals by Teko Modise and Katlego Mphela.

Before a crowd of 75,000 at the site of the World Cup opener and final, Modise put the hosts ahead in the 18th minute with a retaken kick. David Ospina saved Modise's initial effort, but was ruled to have moved too early.Giovanni Moreno tied the score three minutes later with a penalty kick after he was fouled by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. Mphela sent Ospina the wrong way with a penalty kick in the 58th.

Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar entered at the start of the second half for South Africa after sitting out Monday's 1-1 tie with Bulgaria at Orlando Stadium. West Ham's Benni McCarthy, who also didn't play Monday, came in in the 64th minute.

DENMARK TOPS SENEGAL: At Aalborg, Denmark, Christian Poulsen and Thomas Enevoldsen scored to lead World Cup-bound Denmark over Senegal 2-0 on the eve of its departure for South Africa.

HONDURAS, BELARUS TIE: At Villach, Austria, Georgie Welcome scored on a header in the 71st minute, three minutes after entering, to give Honduras a 2-2 tie against Belarus in a World Cup warmup.

ARGENTINA DOC OK'S SEX: Soccer and sex are just fine for the World Cup. That's the word from Argentina's team doctor who says players can have sex with their regular partners during the monthlong tournament in South Africa.

Dr. Donato Vallani said sex was a part of life.

"The players can have sex with their wives and girlfriends during the World Cup," he said on Radio Del Plata. "Players are not Martians."

"But," he added, "it should not be at 2 a.m. with champagne and Havana cigars."

Vallani didn't give any other specific instructions except to say that players keep a regular sleep schedule. He also said the players could eat Argentina's specialty — barbecued beef — with a glass of wine. But excess drinking was, of course, prohibited.

GHANA STAR RULES OUT: Ghana midfielder Michael Essien will miss the World Cup after failing to recover from a knee injury. Essien injured a hamstring while playing for Chelsea against APOEL Nicosia in the European Champions League on Dec. 8.

WPS TEAM FOLDS: The St. Louis Athletica of Women's Professional Soccer has folded because of financial problems.

The team made the announcement on its website Thursday, blaming a "funding crisis" that left the team without enough money to end the 2010 WPS season. The team said its players would be available as free agents June 1.

The announcement said WPS will reconfigure the remaining 2010 schedule as a seven-team league