Japan’s Honda admits to ‘failure’ before UAE clash
TOKYO: Japan’s Keisuke Honda has blamed his own shortcomings for sparking debate on his international future before this week’s World Cup qualifier in the United Arab Emirates, domestic media reported Tuesday.
Once a talismanic figure for Japan, the 30-year-old squeaked into coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s squad for Thursday’s (tomorrow’s) clash despite being buried deep on the bench at AC Milan for much of the season.
“I do understand people asking how a person who’s not playing for his club should be picked for his country,” Honda told Japan’s Nikkan Sports daily.
“Of course, it’s not just in Japan, or in the world of football or any sport, where that’s an issue. What’s most important is to work hard and produce results,” he added.
“The fact people are saying all sorts of things about me is down to my own failure.”
Japan, who are level on points with Saudi Arabia at the top of Group B, lost 2-1 at home to the Emirates last September in the opening game of the final round of Asian qualifiers after a “ghost goal” from Takuma Asano was disallowed.
Luck returned in their last game, however, when they were awarded a controversial penalty in a 2-1 home win over the Saudis.
Both teams have 10 points from five games, with Asian champions Australia a point behind in the chase for the group’s two automatic qualifying spots.
Japan’s preparations for Thursday’s game in Al Ain have been further complicated by a knee injury to captain Makoto Hasebe which could require surgery.
“I deeply apologise for not being able to join the team for such a big game,” Hasebe told reporters.
“It was a bitter decision to take but I have 100, 120 percent trust in my team-mates.”
The Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder will also miss Japan’s home qualifier against Thailand next Tuesday.
Schweinsteiger has signed for Chicago Fire: United
CHICAGO: Former Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has signed for Major League Soccer side the Chicago Fire from Premier League giants Manchester United, the English club confirmed on Tuesday.
Schweinsteiger, a key member of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team, heads to the United States after an unhappy stint with Manchester United, where he has been frozen out by manager Jose Mourinho.
The 32-year-old, who scored 24 goals in 121 appearances for Germany, will join Chicago subject to a medical and a visa being obtained.
“I am sad to leave so many friends at Manchester United,” Schweinsteiger told the Manchester United website.
“But I am grateful to the club for allowing me the chance to take up the challenge at Chicago Fire.”
Schweinsteiger, who is married to now retired former women’s tennis world number one Ana Ivanovic, expressed his thanks to Mourinho and his team-mates.
“I have enjoyed working with the manager, the players and staff here and wish them all the best in the future,” he said.
“But I have to reserve special thanks to the United fans — whose support has been a very special part of my time in Manchester.
“I was delighted to be part of the squad that won the FA Cup for them last season and will always remember their energy and their passion. Now is the right time for me to start a new chapter in Chicago and I am looking forward to it.”
United kept their tribute to one line with no comment from Mourinho.
“Everybody at United would like to wish Bastian the very best of luck in his new career in the United States,” the club said on its website.
On Monday Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said the signing of Schweinsteiger brought added responsibilities and expectations for the team’s performance.
“We’re adding someone who has won at every level, including the very highest levels, and has done so in a way that is consistent with our values,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying by the Chicago Tribune.
Raonic back to avenge Queen’s defeat
LONDON: Canadian tennis ace Milos Raonic warned Tuesday he was determined to avenge last year’s final defeat to Andy Murray in the key Wimbledon warm-up tournament at Queen’s Club in June.
The 26-year-old lost to British star Murray in both the Queen’s and Wimbledon finals last year but said he felt he should have won the former.
World number five Raonic will face a top class field as Murray, Rafael Nadal, US Open champion Stan Wawrinka and 2014 winner Grigor Dimitrov have all said they will play.
“Having reached the final of the Championships last year I really want to go one better this time,” Raonic told the tournament website.
“It’s a great tournament with more than a century of history, so to be so close to victory last year was a really special experience.
“At the same time I feel like, as well as Andy played in the final, it’s one that got away from me and I want to try to put that right this year.
“It is also a great way to be in the best shape on grass as Andy and I showed last year by reaching the Wimbledon final three weeks after Queen’s last year.”
Tournament Director Stephen Farrow said it was terrific Raonic, who lost to Murray for a third time in England last year in a thrilling semi-final in the ATP World Tour finals last November, would be back.
“Milos won over everyone with his run to the final last year and the grace with which he accepted defeat,” said Farrow.
“We are delighted that he is going to be back with us this year to try to go one better.”
Rizwan to lead squad in ACC U23 Emerging Cup 2017
KARACHI: Wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan will lead the Pakistan in the ACC Under-23 Emerging Cup 2017, which will be held in Bangladesh from March 26 to April 2.
Haris Sohail will be the vice captain.
Team: Mohammad Rizwan (capt), Imam-ul-Haq, Jahid Ali, Imran Butt, Haris Sohail, Khushdil Shah, Hussain Talat, Bilal Asif, Osama Mir, Zafar Gohar, Sameen Gul, Ahmed Bashir, Ghulam Mudassar, Ammad Butt, Hammad Azam.
Management: Col (retd) Syed Naushad Ali (team manager), Azam Khan (head coach), Kamran Khan (assistant coach), Javed Hayat (fielding coach), Yasir Malik (trainer), Usman Hashmi (analyst), Hafiz Naeem (physio).
Belgium’s Wilmots new Ivory Coast coach
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast: Former Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has been appointed to lead Ivory Coast’s World Cup qualifying bid, the country’s football authorities said on Tuesday.
Wilmots, 48, is one of an elite band of players to have played at four World Cups, and also led Belgium into the 2014 World Cup during his stint as coach with them between 2012-2016.
One of Africa’s big guns and a regular World Cup qualifier, Ivory Coast flopped badly at the defence of their continental title at African Cup of Nations in February crashing out in the first round.
Then coach France’s Michel Dussuyer was sacked and replaced by a caretaker coach Ibrahim Kamara, who last week unveiled a vastly changed squad for two upcoming friendlies with Russia and Senegal.
The nation lead Africa zone Group C with four points from two games ahead of Morocco and Gabon on two and Mali on one and need to win the Group to make the cut for Russia 2018.
AFP to organise races on Pakistan Day
KARACHI: The Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) will organise the Run for Karachi-23 road races here at DHA Phase–III on Thursday (tomorrow) to commemorate the Pakistan Resolution Day.
Run for Karachi-23 will start from Sea view and conclude at Khyaban-e-Iqbal. The races include 1km race for kids, while 5km and 10km marathons for adults.
Sindh Sports Minister Sardar Mohammad Bakhsh Mahar will be the chief guest on the occasion.