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Europe Dominant as World Cup Enters Final Week

Uruguay is aiming to keep alive South American interest in the World Cup this week as Europe's leading nations prepare to dominate the semifinals.

Europe is already assured of one place in Sunday's final since Germany and Spain meet in the semifinals on Wednesday. If the Netherlands beats Uruguay on Tuesday, Europe will be assured of its first World Cup title outside its home continent.

Away from the pitch, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan dropped a threat to suspend the national football team from playing for two years because of its poor World Cup showing, a person with knowledge of the situation has told The Associated Press.

Special Section: 2010 World Cup

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not yet been made on Monday.

FIFA did not immediately confirm the development, less than an hour before the expiration of a 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) deadline it set the Nigerian government to withdraw the threat or face a worldwide ban.

"We do hope that everything comes back to normal," Blatter said before the threat had been dropped.

With the powers of Brazil and Argentina eliminated, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk is warning his players not to take anything for granted against the less illustrious South Americans of Uruguay.

"Uruguay is a strong side and we will have to be very concentrated," Van Marwijk said. "They are fighters, survivors."

Van Marwijk and his Uruguay counterpart Oscar Tabarez are both having to fill holes in their starting lineups caused by injuries and suspensions.

Chief among them will be suspended Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, who knows all about scoring against Dutch defenses after 43 goals in 39 games for Ajax last season.

Full back Jorge Fucile also is suspended after picking up a second yellow card against Ghana, while central defender Diego Godin missed that game with a left thigh problem and remains in doubt.

Uruguay captain Diego Lugano also is fighting to be fit after injuring a right knee ligament against Ghana.

The Dutch defense will have to be reconstructed, with right back Gregory van der Wiel and defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong both suspended after collecting their second yellow cards of the tournament against Brazil.

Former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer says his country's blend of players from different cultures has put it on course for a fourth World Cup title.

Eleven of Germany's 23 players would have been eligible to play for different countries and Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as a player and coach, and says the current team is "surprising everybody."

He says the players born outside Germany have brought a different dimension to the team's traditional style of discipline and teamwork.

Germany coach Joachim Loew says he will wear his blue V-neck sweater in the semifinal because it has brought him good luck.

"I am not superstitious but the coaching staff want me to wear it because we always score four goals when I wear it," Loew said. "They won't let me wash it and I do think I will wear it again."

World football's two most prestigious player of the year awards will merge into a single title called the Ballon d'Or from next year.

Europe's existing Ballon d'Or and FIFA's World Player of the Year award will cease to exist as individual entities and the new award will be given for the first time in January.

The new award will be voted for by journalists, coaches and captains from FIFA's 208 national members.

George Weah, the former Liberia striker who won the World Player of the Year award in 1995, has expressed disappointment at the failure of Africa's five other teams at the World Cup to follow Ghana's example in progressing out of the group stage.

"We saw Ghana be the best, but the rest that came were not prepared. They were not ready. They performed poorly," Weah said. "We should go back to the drawing board to rectify the mistakes."

Weah also said it is time for African coaches to be given a chance at international level. Rabah Saadane with Algeria was the only African coach at this year's World Cup.

"They (African coaches) are not being given the confidence, they are not being encouraged," Weah said. "Instead, they pay somebody that doesn't have the mentality of the African players."

South Africa's department of home affairs says more than 1 million visitors entered the country between June 1 and July 1 - 25 percent more than the same period in 2009.

The department says its Movement Control System recorded 1,020,321 tourists in the month coinciding with the World Cup, up from 819,495 a year ago.

But local organizers say they are on course to reach their target of 450,000 visitors, despite there being just four matches remaining.

And Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is telling his countrymen to forget the early elimination from this year's World Cup and look ahead to 2014 when Brazil will host the monthlong tournament.