Jan 092018
US opts for youth with no World Cup in sight

LOS ANGELES: Acting US national team coach Dave Sarachan opted for young prospects in calling upon 30 players on Monday for the Americans annual January training camp.The session is set to open Wednesday at Los Angeles with the culmination of workouts to be a January 28 friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina at the training camp in Carson, home of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.“It’s all about the future and opportunity. We clearly feel that we want to have a look at these players that have the chance to be a part of the National Team for a number of years to come,” Sarachan said.The US team failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Russia and has eight candidates fighting for the presidency of the US Soccer Federation, with Sunil Gulati to be replaced in voting next month. So the Americans have no chance at a World Cup until 2022 in Qatar even as they bid with Mexico and Canada to co-host the 2026 event.And the camp comes on the same day that reports emerged that one of their top teen prospects, Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez, has opted to play for Mexico rather than the US senior-level squad after years on American junior teams.The most capped player in camp with 37 is Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Gyasi Zardes followed by New England forward Juan Agudelo with 27 and seattle forward Jordan Morris with 24. “It’s a long journey forward, but this is the first step starting in 2018 [Read More…]

Dec 272017
Milan in ?World Cup final? against Inter

MILAN: Struggling AC Milan face city rivals Inter in the Italian Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday with coach Gennaro Gattuso likening the high-voltage clash to “a World Cup final”. Milan go into the game in 11th place in Serie A, a massive 21 points behind league leaders Napoli, meaning the Italian Cup and the Europa League, where they have made the last 32, are their only avenues to silverware this season. “This (Wednesday’s games) is like a World Cup final for us,” football-italia.net quoted Gattuso as telling Milan TV. “Nobody expected this many difficulties, but this derby can change our season on both a psychological level and in terms of results.”Inter are third in Serie A, five points off the lead after suffering back-to-back defeats against Udinese and Sassuolo.On Tuesday, Lazio made the semi-finals with a 1-0 win over Fiorentina thanks to a goal after just five minutes by Bosnian midfielder Senad Lulic. Lazio will face either Milan or Inter in a two-legged semi-final in January.The remaining quarter-finals between Napoli and Atalanta and Juventus at home to city rivals Torino will be played at the start of next month. Click for detailed story

Dec 072017
Messi demands Argentina improvement ahead of World Cup

Argentina captain Lionel Messi believes they need to improve if they are to stand a chance of winning next year’s World Cup in Russia.Argentina, who reached the final in 2014, struggled during qualification for Russia, going through three coaches before securing their place at the tournament thanks to a Messi hat-trick in a 3-1 win away to Ecuador in the final qualifier.Messi’s side will kick off their World Cup campaign against Iceland on June 16, before facing Croatia and Nigeria in their other group stage fixtures.Next year’s tournament may be the last chance for the 30-year-old Messi to win a major trophy with Argentina and the Barcelona forward says they need to make changes in order to overcome more fancied countries.“We had a difficult time (in qualifying), but we had our moments,” Messi told TyC Sports.“But it’s true that we need to improve if we want to be world champions. Right now we’re not far off, but there are better sides than us such as Brazil, Germany, France and Spain.”As well as losing to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, Argentina were also defeated by Chile in successive Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016.Messi, however, believes they should have celebrated at least two victories.“I never went back over the finals (we lost). We deserved to win them, despite not playing that well we still had the best chances, both in the World Cup and Copa America,” he said.“I’d have to watch them again to see what we didn’t [Read More…]

Nov 282017
FIFA will not tolerate racism at 2018 World Cup

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said racism will not be tolerated at next year’s World Cup in Russia, adding that referees will have the power to stop or even abandon matches if discriminatory incidents take place.Several players, including Brazil and former Zenit St Petersburg forward Hulk, have voiced concerns that racism could mar the tournament, saying such incidents are a regular feature of domestic league games in the country.Infantino said in a video statement that anti-discrimination was a “high priority” for FIFA, and that the organisation would deal with offences firmly.“We’ll make sure that no incidents will happen and… we have for the first time in a World Cup the so-called, three-step procedure where a referee can stop a game or even abandon a game if there are discriminatory or racist incidences,” he added.“We will be very, very firm on that so we can expect fair play in Russia.”Infantino, who was elected FIFA president in February of last year, also said technology would play a big role at the tournament, although a final decision on using video assistant referees (VARs) would only be taken next year.VAR, which involves officials watching the action remotely and drawing the match referee’s attention to officiating mistakes or missed serious incidents, is already in use in the top-flight leagues of Germany and Italy.“I think it is absolutely normal that in 2018 we can explore and see how we can help the referee and the team to take the right decision,” Infantino said.“So video assistant refereeing [Read More…]

Nov 222017
Rakitic would give World Cup spot to Buffon

TURIN, Italy: Barcelona’s Croatian international Ivan Rakitic said Tuesday he would love to tell Italian goalkeeping great Gianlugi Buffon to take his place in the 2018 World Cup.Rakitic will meet Buffon in Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Juventus in Turin, just a week after Buffon tearfully retired from international duty as Italy crashed out of the World Cup.“I feel like telling Buffon to go in my place, as what he’s done for football is incredible, simply unique,” said midfielder Rakitic when asked why Italy failed to advance from their World Cup play-off against Sweden while Croatia eliminated Greece.“When a child writes out his ideal team, he always puts Buffon in goal. It’s really a shame he isn’t able to finish his career by competing in a sixth World Cup and I’d honestly love to give him that chance.“I saw the pictures of him after the match against Sweden. It makes you empathise with him whatever your team. It’s a real shame that a player like that doesn’t have the chance to play his final World Cup.”Buffon, 39, later replied on Twitter.“Dear Ivan, as a goalkeeper I might still play but playing for Croatia as a midfielder in your place might not be a great idea: Joking apart, your words have been a great gift.” Click for detailed story

Nov 152017
Ventura sacked by Italy after World Cup fiasco

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura was sacked on Wednesday as he paid the almost inevitable price for their failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.The Italian federation (FIGC) initially issued a statement saying that Ventura was “no longer” the coach without clarifying whether he had been sacked or resigned. An FIGC source, however, told Reuters that the 69-year-old had been fired.The four-times world champions were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Sweden in the second leg of their European playoff on Monday, losing 1-0 on aggregate, and will miss the finals for the first time since 1958.Unusually in Italy, the federation did not thank Ventura for his services, nor wish him well for the future.FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio later told reporters that he had spoken to Ventura and “told him we no longer had need of his services, so as of today, Italy does not have a coach.”Many Italian newspapers also called for the resignation of Tavecchio following the World Cup fiasco, but in Wednesday’s statement, the FIGC said he had declined to quit.Instead, Tavecchio said he had called a meeting for Monday to discuss the future. “We have thought about some important coaches as next manager,” he said.Ventura replaced Antonio Conte following Euro 2016 and was initially given a two-year contract. In August, it was extended until the Euro 2020 tournament because the FIGC said it was happy with the team’s progress.On announcing Ventura’s appointment, Tavecchio had described him as [Read More…]

Nov 082017
Messi keen to avoid Spain in World Cup

BUENOS AIRES: Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi says the worst possible draw for his Argentina side at next year’s World Cup would be Spain in the first round.“The worst that could happen to us would be to draw Spain at the group stages,” Messi told TyC Sports Wednesday from Moscow where Argentina play Russia in a friendly on Saturday.“I would prefer to avoid them, they’d be tough opponents.”In the interview with the Argentinian television station, Messi named Brazil, Germany and France alongside Spain as favourites to take the World Cup crown in Russia.“I think that at the moment, they’re the strongest teams who give the best impressions, those who are playing best, with the best individuals.”Messi also broached Argentina’s last-gasp qualification for the World Cup finals, which the Barcelona star sealed with a hat-trick in a rare 3-1 away victory over Ecuador.“I always believed we’d get there, but I thought we would have tied up qualification before the Ecuador game,” said Messi, reiterating that he would like to end his career in his Argentinian birthplace of Rosario.“I would love to play for Newell’s Old Boys, in the stadium where I’ve seen so many matches,” he said.“I don’t know what´s going to happen in the coming years, how I´m going to feel. I live from day to day, I´m not focused on the future.” Click for detailed story

Oct 042017
Argentina hopes on line in crucial Peru clash

MONTEVIDEO: Argentina’s stumbling 2018 World Cup qualification campaign faces another awkward hurdle on Thursday (today) as the misfiring South American giants take on in-form Peru in Buenos Aires. The 2014 World Cup finalists have lurched from one disappointment to the next since South America’s qualifiers kicked off two years ago, with the two-time champions invariably failing to add up to the sum of their talented parts. Despite a formidable arsenal of attackers led by Lionel Messi, the Argentinians have scored just 16 goals in 16 games, the second lowest total behind already-eliminated Bolivia. A lacklustre 1-1 home draw with Venezuela in their last outing on September 5 left Argentina’s hopes of automatic qualification for next year’s finals in Russia hanging by the slenderest of threads.With just Thursday’s game against Peru and next week’s challenging trip to Ecuador remaining, Argentina are in fifth place in the table, outside the top four automatic qualifying places. While a fifth-place finish would likely still see them qualify for Russia — with what ought to be a straight forward playoff assignment against New Zealand awaiting — a crowded table means Argentina can’t take anything for granted. If South American champions Chile — currently in sixth place, one point adrift of Argentina — win their home match against Ecuador, and fourth-placed Peru win or draw in Buenos Aires, Argentina will head into the final round of games next week outside both the automatic qualifying and playoff places. In a bid to avoid that scenario, Argentina have [Read More…]

Oct 032017
Thiago saddened by Pique abuse at Spain training session

MADRID: Thiago Alcantara was saddened by Spain fans abusing Gerard Pique at an open training session on Monday night, but said the Barcelona defender was unaffected by the incident.Pique voted in the illegal independence referendum in Catalonia and criticised the Spanish government for trying to shut it down violently, angering some Spain fans.A large group of supporters jeered and insulted the Catalan centre back during a short training session at Las Rozas on Monday.“When I’ve come (to the Spain camp) Pique has always had the same attitude, commitment and happiness,” Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago told reporters on Tuesday.“(The situation) saddens us because we come here to talk about football, I‘m not here to talk about the life of anybody. It saddens me not to be able to be comfortable and talk about Albania (whom Spain play on Oct. 6 in Alicante).”Thiago backed Pique to overcome any abuse from Spain supporters during the game.“Pique’s already played at the Santiago Bernabeu many times. He’s used to hostile environments. He has the same attitude as always,” added Thiago, who played with Pique at Barcelona until 2013.“I’ve enjoyed watching him as a player and having him as a team mate and I love to be able to keep doing so.”Spain, Group G leaders, are bidding to seal a place at next year’s World Cup in final qualifiers against Albania on Friday in Alicante and Israel in Jerusalem three days later.Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke wants to put the issue to one side and focus on [Read More…]

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