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10 reasons Germany are favourites to lift the World Cup in Russia next summer


The arrival of the FIFA World Cup draw brings with it the customary discussion of who’s best to avoid and who’s best to come up against, but it’s safe to say no nation will want to face reigning champions Germany, who look a good bet to go all the way again in Russia.

bundesliga.com lays down 10 reasons why Joachim Löw’s men should be considered favourites to retain their world crown.

1) The Löw factor

Löw has taken Germany to five major tournaments: UEFA EURO 2008, the FIFA World Cup 2010, UEFA EURO 2012, the FIFA World Cup 2014 and UEFA EURO 2016. In every single one of those tournaments, Die Nationalmannschaft have reached at least the semi-finals, winning the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and finishing runners-up to Spain in 2008. It is not as if Germany have had simple runs to the last four, either. In 2010 Löw’s side knocked out England and Argentina before a semi-final exit to Spain, in 2012 they topped a group containing Portugal, Denmark and the Netherlands, while in 2014 they won a group of death with Portugal, the USA and Ghana. Put it this way: if Löw is your coach, you have a 25 per cent chance of winning the tournament.

Watch: Check out Löw’s achievements in the Bundesliga as a player!

2) They’re the holders

Once Germany do get to the last four, there’s a vast amount of tournament savvy within the nation’s ranks. As the current holders, Die Mannschaft know exactly what it takes to win the tournament, and while no nation has managed to retain the trophy since Brazil in 1962, Germany could conceivably send out eight starters (including Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Müller, all of whom play together for Bayern Munich at club level) from the 2014 World Cup final for their opening game in Russia. On top of that, Bundesliga clubs – such as Bayern – more often than not reach the latter stages at the top level of continental football, Löw’s likely lads regularly picking up that much-valued big-game know-how and trophy-winning experience.

Watch: Take a trip down memory lane and re-live Germany’s 2014 triumph

3) Tournament know-how

That Löw could send out eight starters from the 2014 final (Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil, Christoph Kramer and Benedikt Höwedes are the other four) underlines the wealth of tournament experience within the German ranks. It’s not just at the top level, either; an experimental ensemble lifted the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia this past summer, while the juniors won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Prevailing at major tournaments is as much about managing situations in tight games as it is playing scintillating football; invariably the side that keeps its cool when the going gets tough comes out on top. With all that tournament expertise – even at youth tournaments – Löw’s unit looks well set: Gary Lineker’s old cliché that football is 22 men running around after a ball and at the end Germany winning has plenty of legs yet.

4) Strength in depth

That experience – Löw taking an experimental squad to the Confederations Cup and the youngsters prevailing at the EUROs this past summer – has translated into unrivalled squad depth. No other nation boasts a wealth of options quite like Germany, who could choose no fewer than four separate starting XIs for the tournament. Alas, the 57-year-old tactician is only allowed to take 23 players – three of whom will be goalkeepers – and selecting a balanced squad from his embarrassment of riches is Löw’s major pre-tournament challenge. For UEFA EURO 2016, he left out Marco Reus, Julian Brandt, Sebastian Rudy and Karim Bellarabi – who will miss out this time around?

Could this be Germany’s starting XI for their first game in Russia? © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

5) A testament of youth

Germany’s remarkable squad depth has been supplemented by an injection of fresh legs. From the 2014 World Cup-winning side, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Per Mertesacker, Miroslav Klose and Philipp Lahm have retired, with Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Brandt and Niklas Süle among those chomping at the bit to fill their sizeable boots. Combining those youngsters’ eagerness to impress with the aforementioned experienced heads could well be a recipe for another global triumph.

Watch: Get to know Germany’s next golden generation!

6) In fine form

Germany’s all-conquering qualification campaign offered the perfect opportunity to begin mixing youth with experience: Werner, Kimmich, Sane, Brandt and Goretzka all impressed, but reaching the World Cup was far from just an experiment; quite the opposite, in fact. Löw’s troops became only the second-ever side (after Spain in 2010) to win all 10 games of a European qualifying campaign. Quite simply, the four-time winners are in excellent form approaching next summer’s jamboree in Russia.

7) Home soil – sort of

It will not have escaped notice that this World Cup takes place in Europe, traditionally when European teams are at an advantage and South American teams struggle more than expected. In nine out of 10 World Cups played on European soil, a European side has prevailed, with Brazil’s Pele-inspired triumph in Sweden in 1958 the only exception. Three of Germany’s four world titles have come on European soil (Switzerland 1958, West Germany 1974 and Italy 1990), while they have also reached the final twice on their own continent (England 1966, Spain 1982), boding well for Russia 2018.

8) Confederations Cup trump card

Speaking of Russia: Germany’s experience in local conditions at the Confederations Cup could come in very handy indeed during the 2018 tournament. Löw’s side played in three of the stadiums to be used at this summer’s tournament – Sochi, Kazan and St. Petersburg – and since footballers are creatures of habit, a little inside knowledge will be more than welcome. Knowing what to expect in terms of climate, atmosphere and hotels could prove an under-emphasised trump card.

9) Revenge

Make no mistake – Germany’s semi-final exit to hosts France at EURO 2016 hurt. Löw and his players made all of the right noises afterwards, but going one step further will very much be on their minds at this tournament. “France played well, but we were better,” said Löw after the 2-0 defeat in Marseille. “We had a little bit more than the French, but perhaps didn’t get the rub of the green.” Die Nationalmannschaft do not intend to leave anything to chance this time around.

France got the better of Germany in the UEFA EURO 2016 semi-finals.

10) Penalty lottery?

Finally, there’s that old cliché of never betting against the Germans when it comes to penalties. The four-time winners have come out victorious in their last six shoot-outs at major tournaments (dating back to the 1982 World Cup), so even if you do manage to hold off Löw’s side, you still have to survive a lottery rigged in the Germans’ favour by the weight of history. Good luck.

Click right here for all the build-up to the World Cup draw!



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Lewandowski? Caligiuri? Bartra? Raffael? Vote for your November Bundesliga Goal of the Month!



Bundesliga fans were blessed with goals in the month of November. It was a month that had it all – Der Klassiker, the Revierderby – and, most importantly, a welter of stunning strikes, from Robert Lewandowski‘s and Arjen Robben‘s efforts for Bayern Munich against Borussia Dortmund, to Daniel Caligiuri’s match-changing stunner for Schalke against Die Schwarzgelben, via Raffael’s stonking hit for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Hertha Berlin. And don’t worry, BVB fans, it wasn’t the most memorable of months, but Marc Bartra‘s wonder goal against Bayern is also one of the candidates. Of all those brilliant efforts, which was YOUR favourite?

Just click play on the video above to watch the 10 goals we whittled it down to, before heading to our Facebook page right here and voting for your favourite!

Click right here for all the previous Bundesliga Goal of the Month winners!



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Russia 2018 World Cup draw, LIVE build-up!



The FIFA World Cup draw, which takes place in Moscow on Friday (15:00 GMT/16:00 CET), will decide the fate of nations. There are countless Bundesliga stars harbouring dreams of being on the plane to Russia next summer with their respective countries, dreams that will move one step closer once they find out who their opponents will be in the group stages.

bundesliga.com will be on hand, bringing you live build-up, the draw itself and all the post-draw fall-out – don’t go anywhere.

Quiz: How well do you know Bayern star James Rodriguez?

Click here for more Bundesliga news, views and features!



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James Rodriguez: “I didn’t know Bayern’s score against Gladbach!”


Bayern Munich star James Rodriguez suffered a concussion in the 2-1 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday, coming off at half-time for Bundesliga debutant Marco Friedl.

Now fully recovered after his collision with Tony Jantschke, bundesliga.com caught up with the gifted Colombian to get his thoughts on the game, life at Bayern, and what became of the classic No.10 position…

bundesliga.com: James Rodriguez, how do you feel? Jupp Heynckes said you weren’t able to remember the result at half-time. What happened in the changing room?

James: Fortunately, it was nothing serious. I’m fine now. It’s true that I came back to the changing rooms at half-time and asked how the game was going! They said “We’re losing 2-0” and I said “Really, when did this happen?!”. They told me it was true and I asked again if they were joking. I only realised our goalkeeper [Sven Ulreich] had almost stopped a penalty [Thorgan Hazard’s opener on 39 minutes] 15 minutes after it happened. I got better after that. They did a medical check and there’s nothing to worry about.

Watch: Highlights of Bayern’s 2-1 reverse at Gladbach!

bundesliga.com: Let’s talk about Bayern. What has impressed you most about the club?

James: Bayern are a huge club. They’re used to fighting for titles here, as was the case with my previous team [Real Madrid]. I expected Bayern to be exactly like that, so nothing has surprised me in that regard. Everyone involved with the club behaves in a way you’d expect of a club at the top of its game. There’s nothing more to say. Bayern are a 10 out of 10 club.

bundesliga.com: Today you’re an international star, but when did you decide to be a professional footballer? Was it mandated by your family? Is it something you planned, or did it just happen?

James: Well, my father was also a player, and I think I had it in my DNA. I started playing when I was four years old and I always had a ball at my feet from 8:00 in the morning to 19:00 in the evening. My life was football and I’ve wanted it to be that way for as long as I can remember. I dreamed of being a star and the the world knowing who I was. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to play for huge clubs and reach my goals.

James Rodriguez was the top scorer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup – which Germany won – plundering six goals in Colombia’s run to the quarter-finals. © gettyimages / LUIS ACOSTA/AFP

bundesliga.com: You were always a classic No.10, a position many kids dream of playing in. Is it a position that is dying out, though? Not many teams are playing with a string-pulling attacking midfielder today…

James: You’re absolutely right! I think there are no more No.10s left in the world. When I arrived at Porto [James signed for the 27-time Portuguese champions from Banfield in 2010], they told me clearly: “We know you’re a classic 10, but here you’re going to play as a forward.” From that moment, I started working as a “false 9”, also running towards the centre. Eight or 10 years ago it was different, because attacking midfield was a regular position. Today, those who have a 10 on their back are normally centre-forwards or complete midfielders. Football today is tactical and very physical, with no place for No.10.

bundesliga.com: When he arrived, Heynckes said he would talk with you as he understood that it could be difficult to play without speaking the language. How is your German?

James: I’m learning (laughs)!  I think I’ve already taken about 10 or 15 classes. I learn things every day. But it’s a very difficult language. But I always say that when you play football, and you do it well, it doesn’t matter if your teammates speak Chinese or French. If you play well, the rest is easy.

bundesliga.com: [Cologne striker and former Bayern favourite] Claudio Pizarro said he came to Germany thinking about speaking the language of football

James: Exactly! The language of football is the same throughout the world.

* A quiet Sunday. I feel good, and better after the blow I suffered.

bundesliga.com: What do you do on a day-to-day basis when you don’t have a match? Do you take in Munich as a tourist would?

James: Yes, why not? That’s something that can be done here. People are much more respectful, not as fanatical as in other countries. When I go out, although people recognise me, they let me walk, they keep their distance. I can go for a coffee and relax… It’s a fantastic city! I’m falling in love with Munich.

bundesliga.com: Is that possible if you go out to eat with teammates such as Arturo Vidal?

James: You may be asked for one or two photos, at the most. The people are very respectful, for the most part. If I said “yes” to a picture in any other country, there would be at least 16 or 20 taken. But here it’s very calm. They make me feel comfortable.

bundesliga.com: Everyone talks about the atmosphere in the Bundesliga. All the stadia are full and the fans are always singing. Does that have an impact on you out on the pitch?

James: Well, the pressure is always there. But I think that, once you’re out on the pitch, that gets released. You’re so focused on what you have to do, that you don’t notice everything that happens around you. Anyway, it’s a great league, and I enjoy seeing the stadiums full and the party atmosphere during the games.

Watch: James’ new home, the Allianz Arena

bundesliga.com: How is your Sunday when your team win compared to what follows after a defeat?

James: Nothing changes! A few years ago I used to dwell on what happened after a defeat, but when you get older you learn to deal with defeats and bad personal performances. I know I’m going to have to play again in a matter of days and that I have to perform again. It’s not my family’s fault if something happens to me in the playground. When I get home, the match is over.

bundesliga.com: What advice would you give to a young James Rodriguez?

James: I think there are times in life for everything. When you are 16, you may think that you already know everything. I was this way. That’s a big mistake though. Then you grow up and realise you have many things to learn. I’m 26 now but I’m still learning new things every day. When you’re 16 you still have everything to learn.

bundesliga.com: Finally, would you like to say something to the people of Colombia and beyond, who are happy to see you at your best again?

James: Well, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Bayern fans who support the club and also support what I do. That makes me very happy. I notice that they know that I always try my best. I can only thank you for the unconditional support you give me!

Click here for more Bayern news, views and features!



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Bayern’s Javi Martinez: “Captaincy an honour”



Some truly exceptional Spanish talents have pulled on the famous red of Bayern Munich in recent years – Xabi Alonso and Thiago spring to mind – but only Javi Martinez has had the honour of wearing the captain’s armband.

In an exclusive interview with Bayern’s official club website, Martinez spoke about what it felt like to become the first Spaniard to skipper the record German champions and discussed his welcome retransition from defence to defensive midfield…

Question: You captained Bayern for the first time against Borussia Mönchengladbach. When did you learn you’d be wearing the armband?

Javi Martinez: When we had our snack before the match the coach told me Jerome [Boateng] wouldn’t be playing. Suddenly I was the most experienced Bayern pro in the squad and was handed the armband, that was great. I see it as a great honour to be the first Spaniard to captain Bayern. I’ll never forget it.

Question: Do you take to the pitch in a different way wearing the armband?

Martinez: Not really. The only difference was that I took part in the coin toss. There was no difference during the match. I’ve always talked a lot to my teammates anyway, helped them, spurred them on. That’s perfectly normal for me.

Question: Unfortunately you weren’t able to celebrate a victory after your debut…

Martinez: It was a difficult match, as so often is the case in Gladbach. Of course we didn’t turn in our best performance. We could tell we were missing some players up front. We still fought and tried to achieve at least a draw, but it wasn’t to be. We have to learn from our mistakes and carry on now.

Watch: Bayern’s winning run came to an end in Gladbach

Question: You’re in your sixth year in Munich. Do you automatically assume more responsibility?

Martinez: I’m 29, I’ve been a professional footballer for 11 years. Of course you try to help younger players and pass on knowledge and experience in my situation. I think it’s perfectly normal. But I’m not alone in this respect. We have a number of players who’ve been at Bayern longer than me: Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Jerome Boateng.

Question: You’ve played in defensive midfield since Jupp Heynckes‘ return as head coach. How does it feel to be back in that position?

Martinez: I’m glad to be playing there again. I feel very much at home there. I’ve played in the position for most of my career, and it feels as if I’d never played in defence but always in defensive midfield.

Question: You were a centre-back for four years. Didn’t you have any problems adjusting?

Martinez: It wasn’t a problem. Of course a few details are different, but they were second nature again after a few training sessions. My teammates helped me a lot. There isn’t much difference between playing in defence and midfield, as we usually dominate possession and attack. Both the defensive midfielders and the centre-backs have to work a lot when not in possession, they must control the match and contain their opponents.

Watch: Javi Martinez – Bayern Munich‘s midfield rock

Question: That sounds as if you prefer defensive midfield over centre-back…

Martinez: I’m in two minds. I feel good in both positions, both suit my qualities. I’d say I’m a team player and want to help my teammates where they need me.

Click here for more Bayern Munich news, views and features!



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Superfans to attend Final Draw



Witnessing the Final Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and being handed a ticket to a match in your home town by a genuine football legend – what could be a better gift for a life-long football fan?

 

Eleven lucky individuals enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience, one from each Host City, who through their passionate and devoted love for football have earned themselves the title of ‘superfan’.

 

The youngest superfan is six-year-old Misha Smolin from Moscow. He has been a football supporter for as long as he can remember and simply cannot wait for the World Cup to get under way, so he can proudly wear one of the 300 football scarves in his family’s collection.

 

“What an amazing day!” Misha exclaimed to FIFA.com. “I love football so much and I cannot wait for the World Cup in Russia. I’m delighted I can cheer Russia on at the stadium. I hope that our team and players from countries like Argentina, France and Brazil will make us all happy with beautiful football next summer!”

 

The superfans come from all ages, genders, professions and interests, but they are all united by the same dream: to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and show their passion for this wonderful sport.

The day before the draw they all met up with each other at the State Kremlin Palace and were introduced to the football stars who will be acting as draw assistants. During their meeting with Nikita Simonyan, Laurent Blanc, Gordon Banks, Fabio Cannavaro, Cafu, Carles Puyol and Diego Forlan, they were also handed symbolic tickets to the first Russia 2018 matches taking place in their cities.

  • Eleven fans, one from each Russia 2018 Host City, have been invited to the Final Draw
  • Football legends handed them World Cup tickets to a match in their city
  • The supporters were picked out by a selection process in each Host City

The selection process for the superfans took on various formats and was presided over in each Host City by local World Cup Ambassadors and representatives from clubs, football federations and fan associations. The main criteria were their love for football, loyal support of a local team and desire to see the 2018 FIFA World Cup go ahead in their home city.

2018 FIFA World Cup Host City Superfans

  • Volgograd – Olga Paramonova
  • Ekaterinburg – Maria Panina
  • Kazan – Sergei Serov
  • Kaliningrad – Vladimir Zuev
  • Moscow – Misha Smolin
  • Nizhny Novgorod – Andrei Goryunov
  • Rostov-on-Don – Sergei Kopin
  • Samara – Elizaveta Levanova
  • Saint Petersburg – Vladimir Vorobyov
  • Saransk – Viktor Pautov
  • Sochi – Igor Mamaladze



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#UEL contenders’ midweek results – UEFA Europa League – News


  • Arsenal cruise to victory against Huddersfiield
  • Rooney scores hat-trick for eliminated Everton
  • Marseille and Nice win away in Ligue 1
  • Athletic and Real Sociedad eliminated from Copa del Rey
  • Matchday six fixtures: 7 December

Who is through, who can join them: permutations

PICK YOUR TEAM OF THE YEAR 2017

Group A

Villarreal 3-1 Ponderradina (Thursday, Copa del Rey – agg: 3-1)
Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona 0-2 Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Wednesday, Toto Cup)

No game: Astana, Slavia Praha

7 December: Slavia Praha v Astana, Villarreal v M. Tel-Aviv

Group B


Highlights: Skënderbeu v Dynamo Kyiv

Desna 0-2 Dynamo Kyiv (Wednesday, Ukrainian Cup)
Vozdovac 0-1 Partizan (Wednesday)
Beselidhja 0-1 Skënderbeu (Wednesday, Albanian Cup)
Young Boys v St. Gallen (Thursday, Swiss Cup)

7 December: Young Boys v Skënderbeu, Dynamo Kyiv v Partizan

Group C

Kahramanmaraşspor 1-3 İstanbul Başakşehir (Thursday, Turkish Cup)
Vereya Stara Zagora 2-1 Ludogorets (Thursday)

No game: Braga, Hoffenheim

7 December: İstanbul Başakşehir v Braga, Hoffenheim v Ludogorets

Group D

Highlights: Milan 5-1 Austria Wien


Highlights: Milan 5-1 Austria Wien

St Pölten 1-0 Austria Wien (Wednesday)
Kallithea 2-3 AEK Athens (Greek Cup, Thursday)

No game: AC Milan, Rijeka

7 December: Rijeka v AC Milan, Austria Wien v AEK

Group E

Everton 4-0 West Ham (Wednesday)
Lyon 1-2 Lille (Wednesday)

No game: Apollon Limassol, Atalanta

7 December: Apollon v Everton, Atalanta v Lyon

Group F

No game: København, Lokomotiv Moskva, Sheriff, Zlín

7 December: København v Sheriff, Zlín v Lokomotiv Moskva

Group G

Highlights: Plzeň 2-0 FCSB


Highlights: Plzeň 2-0 FCSB

Poli Timişoara v FCSB (Thursday, Romanian Cup)
Maccabi Haifa v Hapoel Beer-Sheva (Thursday, Toto Cup)
Lugano v Grasshoppers (Thursday, Swiss Cup)

No game: Viktoria Plzeň

7 December: FCSB v Lugano, H. Beer-Sheva v Plzeň

Group H

Arsenal 5-0 Huddersfield (Wednesday)
Crvena zvezda 5-0 Radnik Surdurlica (Wednesday)

No game: BATE Borisov, Köln

7 December: Arsenal v BATE, Crvena zvezda v Köln

Group I

Highlights: Konyaspor 1-1 Marseille


Highlights: Konyaspor 1-1 Marseille

Batman Petrolspor 0-3 Konyaspor (Wednesday, Turkish Cup)
Salzburg 2-0 Mattersburg (Wednesday)
Metz 0-3 Marseille (Wednesday)

No game: Vitória SC

7 December: Vitória SC v Konyaspor, Marseille v Salzburg

Group J

Athletic Club 0-1 Formentera (Copa del Rey, Wednesday – agg: 1-2)

No game: Hertha Berlin, Östersund, Zorya Luhansk

7 December: Hertha v Östersund, Zorya v Athletic

Group K

Highlights: Nice 3-1 Zulte Waregem


Highlights: Nice 3-1 Zulte Waregem

Zulte Waregem v Club Brugge (Thursday, Belgian Cup)
Toulouse 1-2 Nice (Wednesday)

No game: Lazio, Vitesse

7 December: Vitesse v Nice, Zulte Waregem v Lazio

Group L

Real Sociedad 2-3 Lleida (Wednesday, Copa del Rey – agg: 3-3, Lleida win on away goals)
Vardar 1-1 Shkupi (Thursday, Macedonian Cup)

No game: Rosenborg, Zenit

7 December: Real Sociedad v Zenit, Vardar v Rosenborg

All times CET



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Portland Timbers hope to have new coach in place by end of the year


After Caleb Porter’s departure from Portland, Herculez Gomez explains why he wouldn’t make sense for the United States.

Portland Timbers have interviewed multiple candidates and hope to have a new coach in place by the end of the year.

The team parted ways with Caleb Porter this month after five seasons with the team.

Porter compiled a 68-50-52 record and guided the team to an MLS Cup championship in 2015. This past season, the Timbers finished atop the Western Conference.

Team owner Merritt Paulson said Wednesday the search is well underway and “to say there’s significant interest in the position is an understatement.”

“I don’t have a specific timeline to provide other than to say but in a perfect world we will have identified the candidate to be the next coach by the end of this year,” Paulson said. “But the decision won’t be made unless there’s confidence in the fit. In the meantime, this isn’t going to slow down soccer decisions this offseason. “

Gavin Wilkinson, the team’s general manager, said Portland is ideally looking for someone who has been a head coach, with Major League Soccer experience or knowledge. The coach’s style must fit with the way the Timbers have been built, he added.

Caleb Porter
Portland Timbers parted ways with Caleb Porter this month.

“We need somebody who can step in, understanding who our players are and not spend several months figuring our players’ best positions, our players’ best attributes,” Wilkinson said. “We want someone who can hit the ground running.”

The objective in the search was to narrow the field to five or six top candidates, then “compare and contrast,” Wilkinson said, while there was no firm deadline because the team does not want to rush.

Porter, 42, was named the MLS Coach of the Year after his first season with the team in 2013. He signed a long-term contract extension in January 2016.

The Timbers finished this season as the top seed in the Western Conference but fell in the conference semifinals 2-1 on aggregate to Houston Dynamo.

The Timbers were decimated by injuries in the semis, including to midfielder Diego Chara, who broke a bone in his foot.

“I’d say that five years is a long tenure as a head coach with any pro soccer club. And the Timbers were fortunate to have Caleb over that time,” Paulson said. “The club matured and developed over that period and we had some terrific success.”



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Sam Allardyce confirmed as Everton boss on 18-month deal


Sam Allardyce has been confirmed as Everton‘s new manager after signing an 18-month deal at Goodison Park.

The former England, Newcastle and Sunderland boss will take charge of the Toffees for the first time time in Saturday’s Premier League clash at home to Huddersfield.

Allardyce said: “I’ve always thought Everton was a great club. It is a great club. Obviously, the club has gone through a difficult spell and hopefully I can put that behind us as quickly as possible and start looking upwards again.”

Everton announced on Wednesday afternoon that they were finalising a deal to secure the services of Allardyce more than a month after sacking Ronald Koeman.

The 63-year-old had a watching brief as the Toffees put on their best display of the season to beat West Ham 4-0 at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

That was the final game of an eight-match spell in caretaker charge for under-23s boss David Unsworth and an uplifting way to finish what had been a difficult run.

Defeat against the Hammers would have seen Everton drop into the relegation zone but instead Allardyce takes over with the side having climbed to 13th, five points clear of the bottom three.

“The attraction of the club itself, the people I’ve known at the club – Peter Reid is one of my best mates, so are Andy Gray and Paul Bracewell, whom I worked with at Sunderland – these people have always made me aware of just how special and unique a club Everton is and I feel really enthused and energised to come in as manager,” said Allardyce.

“Ultimately, it’s the ambition of the club, the ambition of the owner and the board, allied to the fact that it’s Everton and all the fantastic history, which have proved to be key for me.

“Ambition is important for any manager or coach, owner or director. It’s what you need to have and hopefully we can deliver to the fans to get this club high up the league. That’s what we’re aiming for.

“Let’s try to get a healthy spirit around the club. That’s difficult when you’re losing but the win last night over West Ham and the magnificent atmosphere around Goodison, which was just brilliant, well that’s lifted everybody around the club.

“Last season showed what the club is trying to build and we need to demonstrate that level of ambition and assuredness again. We can. It’s a question now of putting in the work to do that and I’m really enthused by the prospect.”

Allardyce returns to management six months after leaving his most recent post at Crystal Palace.

He guided the Eagles to Premier League safety before intimating he was retiring, saying he had no ambition to take another job in management.

But the opportunity to turn around Everton’s fortunes, and the deep pockets of owner Farhad Moshiri, have tempted Allardyce back.

Moshiri no doubt did not expect to be turning to a manager renowned for getting teams out of trouble when he bought the club in February as they chased European football.

But things quickly turned sour under Koeman this season and the Dutchman was shown the door after 16 months in charge.

Moshiri said: “I’m delighted to confirm Sam as our new manager. His strong leadership will bring great motivation and get the best out of players.

“Sam understands the long-term ambitions we have for this great club and I know he is a man who gives it his all and is focused 24 hours a day on the club.

“Evertonians are the most passionate and best fans in the world and when the club does badly we all suffer. But in football everything changes very quickly, so I hope this will help to propel us to where we should be.

“I would like to put on record our thanks as a club to David Unsworth for stepping up when we needed him over the last few weeks. He is a real Evertonian, embodying the commitment, pride and passion we all feel for the club.”

Unsworth will return to his role with the under-23s while there was no immediate confirmation of Allardyce’s backroom staff.

Source: PA





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FSF condemns crowd trouble at Brighton-Palace clash


Fans causing unrest at the game between Brighton and Crystal Palace on Tuesday risk spoiling future matches for the well-behaved majority, according to the Football Supporters’ Federation.

Sussex Police branded the disturbances a “return to the dark days of football” as fans without tickets tried to force entry into the Amex Stadium.

Six people, including one 15-year-old boy, were arrested, while two stewards – one from each club – had to be taken to hospital, one with three fractured ribs.

Both stewards were discharged later on Tuesday night.

A statement from the FSF read: “It’s clear from witness accounts and video footage that a number of Crystal Palace fans ‘stormed’ the turnstiles at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday night.

“There is no excuse for such behaviour and the FSF condemns these actions and reiterates our anti-pyro(technic) stance.

“Many of the fans who reported this to us are match-going Crystal Palace fans with tickets who fear that they will suffer the consequences of such behaviour.

“That can be at future fixtures via reduced away allocations or on the night of the game due to additional policing measures as happened on Tuesday.

“We are concerned at the number of ordinary, peaceful fans who are coming forward and saying they had tickets but were denied entry. They deserve answers and recompense too.

“Any fan in that position should contact the FSF.”

Chief Inspector Simon Nelson, who led the policing operation for the fixture, described how ”groups of masked people” sought confrontation and supporters tried to get into the ground with ”pyrotechnics, knives and knuckledusters”.

Nelson also revealed how a large number of people, seemingly without tickets, over-ran turnstiles in the ground’s south stand to force access to the away supporters’ section.

Disturbances also broke out at Brighton railway station, where frustration grew among fans set to miss the start of the match.

Nelson said: ”This was a return to the dark days of football and is not acceptable.”

Palace said there are clear images of the disturbance and that fans involved will face stadium bans and possible criminal action.

A Crystal Palace statement read: ”We have been made aware of a small group of supporters attempting to gain access to the Amex stadium last night without tickets while using bangers and flares.

”This kind of antisocial and criminal behaviour is completely unacceptable and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

”There are very clear images of the incident and we will work with the police to identify the supporters involved, who will face stadium bans as well as potential criminal proceedings.”

Brighton chose to close the stadium’s turnstiles at 7.51pm, six minutes into the match, which finished goalless.

That decision left some fans with legitimate tickets locked outside the ground, and they were escorted back to the railway station and sent back to London.

Palace said supporters with unscanned tickets, who were denied entry to the match, could contact the club for a refund.

Source: PA





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Neymar ‘well worth the money’ PSG spent on him – Thomas Meunier


Neymar and Edinson Cavani’s goals late in the second half earned all three points for PSG in a home win over Troyes.

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain right back Thomas Meunier hailed teammate Neymar and declared him “worth the money spent on him” after he inspired the lacklustre Ligue 1 leaders to a 2-0 home win over Troyes on Wednesday.

The Brazil international scored the opener and assisted Edinson Cavani for the second at Parc des Princes as Unai Emery’s men moved 10 points clear at the summit of Le Championnat.

Speaking after the final whistle in the mixed zone, Meunier praised Neymar and recognised his key role in the hard-fought victory and in the team since his world-record €222 million move from Barcelona this summer.

“I think that we ought to thank him after this,” the Belgium international told journalists. “Some will say that it was not the best performance of his career but he is always decisive.

“He causes a great deal of panic [for opponents]. Yeah, he is well worth the money spent on him.”

Neymar led PSG to victory over Troyes on Wednesday night.

Thiago Silva captained PSG for the 200th time against Troyes and the Brazil international was impressed by Neymar leaving the ball for Edinson Cavani to take a first-half penalty after everything that has been said recently about the pair’s relationship.

“I have not spoken about this with him,” said Silva. “I know my little brother — he has gone through a lot of difficult moments in his career.

“There has been a lot of confusion and there has been a lot said about these penalties. Neymar showed very good attitude here.

“He gave Edinson the ball — unfortunately, Edinson did not score.”

Silva, who is 33 and has a contract until 2020 after extending it almost 12 months ago is keen to play past that date after wearing the armband for the 200th time.

The former AC Milan wants to stay on at Parc des Princes, especially if the current squad remains relatively intact, and he reserved special praise for PSG chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi and former coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“I am very happy,” Silva said. “I hope that I can stay here for much longer. Especially with this current group — it is special.

“It is wonderful to wear this shirt. I would like to thank my president and especially Carlo [Ancelotti], who gave me the opportunity to wear the armband.”

As Marquinhos was rested for the Troyes success, Silva may well find himself handed a breather when PSG take on Strasbourg at Stade de la Meinau on Saturday ahead of next week’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in Germany.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Riyad Mahrez – Will he be perfect for Tottenham Hotspur?


Leicester City‘s Riyad Mahrez

by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 19:00


Ex-England international midfielder Danny Murphy believes Algerian international winger Riyad Mahrez must join Tottenham Hotspur.

Murphy has told Match of the Day, which was broadcast on November 30, that the Lily Whites need to sign a player like Mahrez.

The Leicester City attacker featured on the wing for the Foxes during their 2-1 triumph over Mauricio Pochettino’s men on Tuesday.

ETO’O SPEAKS OUT ON RESCUING CAMEROONIAN SLAVES OUT OF LIBYA

Mahrez cut inside and took aim, before curling the ball beyond goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to score his side’s second goal of the match.

“He’d suit Tottenham. They need someone like him,” Murphy said.

“They need someone who can add a bit of dynamism to their team.”

Pochettino’s side have now failed to beat West Bromwich Albion and Leicester in their last two fixtures, and have slipped down to seventh place in the English Premier League table.

On the other hand, Mahrez will want to help the Foxes claim the three points when they meet Burnley at home on Saturday.



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Lineker: The World Cup is very special



  • Gary Lineker celebrates his 57th birthday today
  • Former England striker will host tomorrow’s Final Draw
  • Lineker discusses his World Cup memories and England’s Russia 2018 chances

Gary Lineker will not forget his 57th birthday in a hurry. The Mexico 1986 adidas Golden Boot winner will be celebrating it miles from home, in Moscow, where he will take on one of the biggest challenges of his career as a presenter by hosting the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

With just hours to go before the ceremony, Lineker found time to chat with FIFA.com about his role at the event, the favourites to win the title and England’s chances next year.

FIFA.com: What are your expectations ahead of the Final Draw in Moscow?
Gary Lineker: On a personal level I hope that everything goes off as it should, we don’t have any problems, and I don’t make any big mistakes! (laughs) Seriously, though, it’s a great occasion and a moment to savour. I might be a bit nervous. I’ve presented a lot of events on TV but this is different. It’s tricky, but we hope everything works out alright.

Having some former colleagues around you will help, no doubt.

We’ve practically got a whole football team together! There’ll be eight assistants helping out with the draw – genuine legends of the game who have virtually all won the World Cup before. And we’ll have our representative from Russia too: Nikita Simonyan. He’s 91 and he’s in really good shape. It’s amazing. Let’s hope that everything goes well and that he can guide us in the right direction.

Does taking part in a big event like this arouse memories of the World Cup for you?

The World Cup has been really good to me. I played in two: I won the Golden Boot in the first and scored a few more goals in the second and reached the semi-finals. I’ve also worked on the last six for the BBC, something I hope to do again next year. I think every player loves taking part in it. It’s a unique opportunity to show what you can do on the biggest stage of all and against the very best. The World Cup is very special; there’s no doubt about that.

Can you describe the tournament in three words?

What? In two or three words? (laughs) “The best sporting event on the planet”. That’s a couple of words more, but I think I’ve done pretty well!

What would you give to play in it again?

I think that when it comes to playing in the World Cup I achieved what I set out to do. Things wouldn’t go as well for me if I wanted to play in it again. There’s a reason why we retire, isn’t there? My legs wouldn’t react the way they ought to and I’m not in shape. I think I did my bit.

Who do you see as favourites for the title?

It’s probably going to be the usual suspects: Brazil and Germany. You can’t rule them out, as history shows that they’ve always been successful. Spain will be competitive again, but if I had to pick a team right now, for the squad they have, then I’d go for France. Look at the players they’ve got: a good goalkeeper, a very strong defence and a very talented midfield. (N’Golo) Kante is amazing! Up front they’ve got (Kylian) Mbappe, who’s a potential superstar. They’re in great shape and they’ll be right in the mix for sure.

And what about England?

I don’t think they’re among the favourites this time. We haven’t been for a while in fact. We’ve got some talented players coming through, some very good young players, though next year is maybe going to come a bit too soon for them. They’ve had a lot of success at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups, but I don’t think it’s their time yet, though you never know. We’ll be competitive at this World Cup, which hasn’t been the case with us in recent times.

Finally, let’s take you forward to Friday 1 December. The lights come up and Gary Lineker is alone, about to walk on to the stage. What’s the last thought that will be going through your head?

‘Don’t mess it up!’ That’s what I’ll be thinking before I walk out on to the stage.




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Coaching quartet voice Final Draw hopes



The FIFA World Cup™ Final Draw has thrown up more than its fair share of memorable matches, unforgettable groups and jaw-dropping results over the years. In the build-up to the event, expectant fans from across the world check to see who their teams might face and make a note of which sides to avoid.

But what about the coaches? How do they approach the Final Draw? To find out the answers to those questions, we spoke to the bosses of four of the national teams in Friday’s Final Draw at the State Kremlin Palace and asked them what they are hoping for from the event.

The indomitable one: Oscar Ramirez
Costa Rica were drawn with three former world champions in Italy, Uruguay and England at Brazil 2014. Mission impossible? Anything but for the fearless Ticos, who gave as good as they got against their illustrious rivals, so much so that they ended up topping the section with two wins and a draw. With that performance still fresh in the memory, coach Oscar Ramirez is undaunted at the prospect of facing high-quality opposition in Russia.

“History tells us that whenever we’ve faced European teams, we’ve always kicked on and had our best World Cups ever,” he said. “After what happened in 2014, we’re not really scared of anyone. The best thing for us would be to get a European seed and another team from the same continent.”

The tactical one: Juan Carlos Osorio
If there is one coach who likes to analyse what the opposition does on the pitch and then explain it to his players and the fans, then it is Mexico supremo Juan Carlos Osorio. Little wonder, then, that his desired Final Draw outcome has more to do with the styles of play of El Tri’s potential rivals than their actual names.

“It’s out of our hands and we have to make plans for whoever we get drawn against,” he commented. “One thing I can say, though, is that there are certain styles that we adapt to better. We’d like to come up against sides that play a possession-based game and build from the back. I’m sure we’ll get at least one team like that. Then there are the more physical and direct teams. We’ll have to adapt to them too.”

The pragmatic one: Roberto Martinez
More attentive than most to the little details, the Belgium coach brings an alternative view to the debate, attaching the most importance not to the teams his side will face but to another factor he sees as crucial.

“Our priority was to be one of the seeds,” he explained. “Having achieved that goal, we’ve turned our attention to logistics. I want us to have short journeys to the host cities, because if we have to fly for more than three hours then it’s going to affect our preparations. That concerns me more than the teams we might meet.”

The experienced one: Hector Cuper
Russia 2018 will be the Egypt coach’s first World Cup. Cuper is no stranger to the big occasion, however, having coached in the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League and in Spain, England and Italy, among other leagues. As you might expect, the Argentinian has his own unique perspective on what might happen on Friday.

“I’m going to be polite and say that I’ll be happy with whatever we get,” he said. “I say that because in the past I’ve always thought, ‘I want this team. I want that team.’ And what happened was that we ended up beating the seemingly strong teams and losing to the weakest. Anything can happen, to be honest. Nobody wins a game before it’s been played.”

Contemplating the prospect of facing Argentina, the country of his birth, Cuper said: “A big challenge, for sure. But there’s no doubt in my mind that if we do play them, we’ll win. And I guess they’ll tell you the same thing. That said, it’d be better if we avoided them, to be perfectly honest.”



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After Daniele De Rossi meltdown Roma must prove they can shake old habits


Captain Daniele De Rossi’s loss of composure against Genoa was a familiar sight for Roma.

Daniele De Rossi’s moment of madness at Genoa last week opened up an old wound. Having just watched Stephan El Shaarawy put his team a goal up, the Roma captain cost his side the three points by stupidly lashing out at Gianluca Lapadula while marking the Genoa man at a corner and then trying to cover his tracks by taking the most ridiculous dive. In the age of VAR, it’s harder to get away with that sort of cheap gamesmanship, and after consulting his video colleagues referee Piero Giacomelli pointed to the spot, from which Lapadula duly struck home the equaliser.

The game finished a goal apiece and ended Roma’s Serie A record run of away wins at 12. It also left them seven points behind league leaders Napoli (with a game in hand) and off the pace in the title race, but more importantly it also raised the spectre of an old Roma habit — shooting themselves in the foot. A clear signal that Genoa was a one-off and nothing else needs to be sent against struggling SPAL on Friday.

The 2-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid aside, Roma have recently looked like a team growing in confidence and gaining maturity, a team that is more solid than spectacular, but capable of keeping its head and grinding out results. De Rossi’s complete loss of composure — not for the first time in his career, it should be added — threw that burgeoning new identity into doubt. If the club captain throws a wobbly when a goal up against a team in the bottom three, what are the chances of a similar turn happening in tougher circumstances? With a trip to Juventus coming up in the festive period, it’s a question worth asking.

De Rossi apologised after Genoa for his stupidity (“the footage is ugly” indeed) and Roma didn’t appeal his two-game ban, but that hasn’t taken away the bad taste. As said before, this isn’t the first time he has damaged the team with his behaviour — his role in Roma’s humiliating exit from the Champions League playoff to Porto last season, which cost the club millions of euros, is another example — and at 34 years old you have to wonder if he is ever going to leave this sort of behaviour behind.

Maxime Gonalons will replace suspended Roma captain Daniele De Rossi in the lineup.

Despite being nicknamed “future captain” for most of his career, with the immovable Francesco Totti untouchable above him, the number of games De Rossi has played with the armband stretches well into three figures, so he knows the importance of his position. His reaction to his monumental meltdown against Porto was to have his best season in years, and though the heights he reached in his mid-20s are far off in the rearview mirror, he is still an world-class midfielder. With Totti frozen out by Luciano Spalletti long before he eventually retired, De Rossi also looked to have taken on board his position of responsibility, well before the torch was officially passed to him.

Thankfully in Maxime Gonalons, Roma have a worthy replacement ready to start against SPAL and then Chievo while De Rossi has a chance to make amends in Tuesday night’s do-or-die Champions League group stage finale with Qarabag. Friday is also the start of a nice run of fixtures that give Roma the chance to set themselves up nicely before the winter break.

Roma have seven games between now and the end of the year beginning with SPAL. After what should be a done deal with Qarabag, Rome have Chievo away, then middling Cagliari and Torino (in the Coppa Italia) at home before travelling to Turin for their crunch Christmas clash with Juventus. They then finish 2017 with Sassuolo — another struggling side — at the Stadio Olimpico. That’s five home games against inferior opposition to guarantee a place in the knockout stages and consolidate what has been, disappointment at Genoa notwithstanding, a good opening three months to the season.

Before Roma face Juve, Massimiliano Allegri’s side also travel to Napoli on Friday and then host Luciano Spalletti’s resurgent Inter next Saturday, so Roma should have a chance to either close the seven-point gap between them and leaders Napoli or move into the automatic Champions League spaces occupied by Juve and Inter. That’s if the weekend’s blip against Genoa remains just that.

Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC’s AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley



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Senegal best and worst case draw scenarios – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers


Sadio Mane of Senegal celebrates a goal with teammates during the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers football match between South Africa and Senegal at Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane on 10 November 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 18:30


Ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the 2018 World Cup, AfricanFootball looks at both the best and worst case group stage scenarios for Senegal’s Teranga Lions.

Which pot are Senegal in?

The West Africans are in Pot 3 due to their world ranking position (32) in October, which determined which section of the draw teams were assigned to.

Which teams can they be drawn against?

– One of the teams in Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France

– One of the teams in Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia

– One of the following teams in Pot 4: Serbia, Australia, Japan, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia

Which teams can they not be drawn against?

All of the other teams in Pot 3 – Tunisia, Egypt, Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden and Iran – as well as the two Africans teams in Pot 4: Nigeria and Morocco.

What’s their best-case scenario?

From Pot 1, Senegal will want to draw Russia. The 2018 hosts are easily the weakest team in that pool. Short of getting the home side, Belgium and Poland are probably a touch overrated and have traditionally struggled at big tournaments.

From Pot 2 they’ll want to draw Peru, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982, or one of England, Switzerland or Croatia – they’re all fine teams, but not as powerful and dangerous as the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.

From Pot 4 the Teranga Lions will want Panama, who are making their tournament debut, or the lowest ranked team, Saudi Arabia. Though none of the others – Serbia, Australia, Japan and South Korea – are particularly intimidating either.

Summary: Senegal’s dream group stage draw would see them pooled with Russia, Peru and Panama/Saudi Arabia.

And their worst?

As a combination, this is about as bad as it could get for Senegal: South American heavyweights Brazil from Pot 1, 2010 champions Spain from Pot 2 and Serbia from Pot 4. You could swap out Brazil for Argentina and it would be just as tough, or go with Germany from Pot 1 and Colombia or Uruguay from Pot 2. There are plenty of combinations to get African fans nervous.

Summary: A group with Brazil, Spain and Serbia would represent the worst case for the Teranga Lions.



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Egypt best and worst case draw scenarios – 2018 FIFA World Cup


Essam El Hadary of Egypt celebrates after saving Bertrand Traore of Burkina Faso penalty in shootout, embraced by teammates during the 2017 African Cup of Nations Finals Afcon semifinal football match between Burkina Faso and Egypt at the Libreville Stadium in Gabon on 01 February 2017 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 18:00


Ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the 2018 World Cup, AfricanFootball looks at both the best and worst case group stage scenarios for Egypt’s Pharaohs.

Which pot are Egypt in?

The North Africans are in Pot 3 due to their world ranking position (32) in October, which determined which section of the draw teams were assigned to.

Which teams can they be drawn against?

– One of the teams in Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France

– One of the teams in Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia

– One of the following teams in Pot 4: Serbia, Australia, Japan, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia

Which teams can they not be drawn against?

All of the other teams in Pot 3 – Tunisia, Senegal, Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden and Iran – as well as the two Africans teams in Pot 4: Nigeria and Morocco.

What’s their best-case scenario?

From Pot 1, Egypt will want to draw Russia. The 2018 hosts are easily the weakest team in that pool. Short of getting the home side, Belgium and Poland are probably a touch overrated and have traditionally struggled at big tournaments.

From Pot 2 they’ll want to draw Peru, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982, or one of England, Switzerland or Croatia – they’re all fine teams, but not as powerful and dangerous as the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.

From Pot 4 the Pharaohs will want Panama, who are making their tournament debut, or the lowest ranked team, Saudi Arabia. Though none of the others – Serbia, Australia, Japan and South Korea – are particularly intimidating either.

Summary: Egypt’s dream group stage draw would see them pooled with Russia, Peru and Panama/Saudi Arabia.

And their worst?

As a combination, this is about as bad as it could get for Egypt: South American heavyweights Brazil from Pot 1, 2010 champions Spain from Pot 2 and Serbia from Pot 4. You could swap out Brazil for Argentina and it would be just as tough, or go with Germany from Pot 1 and Colombia or Uruguay from Pot 2. There are plenty of combinations to get African fans nervous.

Summary: A group with Brazil, Spain and Serbia would represent the worst case for the Pharaohs.



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Cameroon coach Rigobert Song names CHAN squad


Rigobert Song and the Indomitable Lions

by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 17:30


ameroon coach Rigobert Song has confirmed his final squad of 25 players for the 2018 CAF African Nations Championships.

The ex-Indomitable Lions skipper has named three goalkeepers, eight defenders, six midfielders and seven strikers in his team.

Cotton Sport’s Simon Omossala, Douala Union’s Derrick Anye Fru and Oscar Gwot are the three goalkeepers in the 25-man side.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: IDRISSA GUEYE – WE WILL MAKE SENEGALESE PEOPLE PROUD AT 2018 WORLD CUP

On the other hand, the ex-defender has dropped players such as Aurelien Etame, Ambassa Eloundou and Joel Kofana.

Song said they have to be in a good condition for the tournament to ensure his charges are ready for action in Morocco.

“In December we will be going to either Egypt or Turkey which will enable us to better train and to acclimatise especially because the youths are not used to staying in a climate that is totally different from theirs especially as we are going to arrive there in winter,” said Song.

“So we have to be in a condition whereby we will be ready when the time comes.”

The reigning African champions are in Group D together with Angola, Congo and Burkina Faso.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Derrick Anye Fru (Douala Union), Oscar Gwot Kalati (Eding Sport), Simon Omossola (Cotton Sport)

Defenders: Alphonse Marie Tientcheu (Eding Sport), Fabril Kaou (Douala Union), Salomon Banga (Dove of Djà and Lobo), Paul Abouem Maya (UMS), Paul Otia (UMS), Thomas Bawak Etta (UMS), Serge Andoulo (New Stars), Bertrand Owundi (Astres)

Midfielders: Franklin Anteh (Unisport), Bonny Elame (Dragon), David Pierre Eto’o (Union), Clarence Bitang (Union), Willy Namedji (UMS), Junior Awono (Yong Sport)

Strikers: Souleymanou Moussa (Cotton Sport), Ngoundo Kouoh Bille (New Stars), Lionel Abate Etoundi (AS Fortuna), Frantz Pangop (Union), Patrick Moukoko (Colombe), Raphael Eric Messi Bouli (Apejes ), Francis Elimbi (Eagle), Aristide Touffic (Eding Sport)



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Simon Mignolet willing to risk red card to preserve clean sheet


Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet admits he had to take a chance that referee Martin Atkinson would not send him off in order to keep a clean sheet at Stoke.

The Belgium international escaped with a booking, much to the frustration of the hosts, after bringing down Mame Diouf on the edge of the penalty area with a wild hack in the 3-0 victory.

Afterwards he said he had no option but to take the cynical approach, whatever the outcome.

“I had to bring him down really because otherwise it’s a goal and then it’s 1-1. They had a free-kick to score from but we defended that,” he said.

“It is a reaction and a bit of instinct at that moment in time but that is what I thought I had to do. Luckily it paid off.

“I can’t say if I was the last man or not.”

Asked whether he was worried Atkinson might send him off Mignolet added: “It never crossed my mind.

“I was trying to line the ball up (for the free-kick) after that and that is what maybe helped me as if I had tried to say ‘Oh it’s not a red card’ then maybe I’d have got one.”

The win, achieved though Sadio Mane’s first-half strike and two late goals from substitute Mohamed Salah taking his season’s tally to 17, was not the most fluid of performances.

However, with six changes as manager Jurgen Klopp rotated his squad, it proved Liverpool have plenty of quality in reserve.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the touchline at Stoke
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp saw his side sweep aside Stoke (Tim Goode/Empics))

“We have a busy period and the only way you can keep your place is by performing,” Mignolet added.

“Two games we have done that, at home to Chelsea when we were unlucky not to win, and at Stoke, where we got a victory again.

“The boys are always ready for it when the gaffer puts them in.

“Everyone is always focused and we have lots of games to play with the Champions League so we needed a big squad.

“Luckily so far we have been okay with injuries as well but players have to be ready when the boss needs them.”

Salah’s double made it 12 Premier League goals, two ahead of Tottenham’s Harry Kane, as the summer signing continues to terrorise defences.

“He is showing to be a very great player and as a winger a big goal threat,” said Mignolet.

“We had a lot of chances but the first half was only 1-0 and Stoke was still in the game.

“Then Mo comes on and does what he does at the moment which is scoring goals and that is nice for us to settle the game.

“If he continues the way he is going he could become one of Liverpool’s great signings.”

Source: By Carl Markham, Press Association Sport





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Richmond Boakye again talks up Chelsea hopes


by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 17:00


Red Star Belgrade’s Ghanaian striker Richmond Boakye has once again declared his desire to join Premier League giants Chelsea.

The 24-year-old striker played under Blues boss Antonio Conte at Juventus and hopes to rekindle his relationship with the Italian.

Conte watched Boakye in Red Star’s recent visit to Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League, sparking rumours that a move to Stamford Bridge is on the cards.

“If Antonio Conte wants to sign me then I would be delighted to play for him once again,” Boakye told TMW.

“He wanted to sign me, and he brought me to Juventus. To my mind he is a great manager, and I will always be grateful to him.

“I remember going out on loan to Elche in Spain, as there was no space for me in the Juventus first team.

“He rang me to give me a morale boost and remind me of my qualities. For a lad of 19 that was a real pleasure.

“There are lots of rumours about my future at the moment. But nothing is definite until I sign a contract.”



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Nigeria’s best and worst case draw scenarios


Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel

by
Scent ition

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 16:30


Ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the 2018 World Cup, AfricanFootball looks at both the best and worst case group stage scenarios for Nigeria’s Super Eagles.

Which pot are Nigeria in?

The Super Eagles are in Pot 4 because their world ranking in October (41) put them amongst the eight lowest-rated teams to qualify for Russia 2018.

Which teams can they be drawn against?

– One of the teams in Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France

– One of the teams in Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia

– One of the following teams in Pot 3: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Iran

Which teams can they not be drawn against?

All of the other teams in Pot 4 – Morocco, Serbia, Australia, Japan, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia – as well as the three Africans teams in Pot 3: Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal.

What’s their best-case scenario?

From Pot 1, Nigeria will want to draw Russia. The 2018 hosts are easily the weakest team in that pool. Short of getting the home side, Belgium and Poland are probably a touch overrated and have traditionally struggled at big tournaments.

From Pot 2 they’ll want to draw Peru, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982, or one of England, Switzerland or Croatia – they’re all fine teams, but not as powerful and dangerous as the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.

From Pot 3 the Super Eagles will want to draw Iceland, who are making their tournament debut and have overachieved just by qualifying. But in truth, none of the other teams from Pot 3 are particularly strong.

Summary: Russia, Peru and Iceland for Nigeria’s dream group draw.

And their worst?

It couldn’t get much worse than drawing reigning world champions Germany from Pot 1, 2010 winners Spain from Pot 2 and then Costa Rica from Pot 3 (because you can only have two European teams in a group).

Or how about Brazil from Pot 1, Spain from Pot 2 and Denmark from Pot 3? Either way, that’s about as bad as it can get for Nigeria.

Summary: Germany, Spain and Costa Rica, or Brazil, Spain and Denmark – either would represent the worst case for the Super Eagles.



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Suspended Marcelo Bielsa did not attend Lille meeting – lawyer


Marcelo Bielsa will make his case to the LFP next month.

Suspended Lille coach Marcelo Bielsa did not attend a meeting with club officials on Wednesday as part of his on-going dispute with the Ligue 1 side.

Bielsa was provisionally suspended last week after Lille lost patience with the Argentine coach, who they only appointed on a two-year deal last summer, with the side stuck in the French top-flight’s relegation zone.

As part of the procedure laid down in French law, Bielsa had been scheduled to meet club officials on Wednesday, the day after the former Athletic Bilbao and Chile boss had called on the French Football League (LFP) to rule Lille had been entirely to blame for his removal.

Bielsa did not, however, attend the meeting, and his lawyer explained that they will make their case to the LFP next month.

“There was no reason to go,” his lawyer, Carlo Brusa, said of Wednesday’s meeting. “The prevailing authority is the LFP’s Disciplinary Commission, according to the professional football charter.

“On 12 December, we’ll be there to ensure Mr Bielsa’s rights are respected. We have asked that my client’s contract be terminated with LOSC exclusively at fault.”

If the LFP rule in Bielsa’s favour, Lille would be obliged to pay up the remaining months of his contract, which French media have estimated would cost the club €14-16 million.

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman



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Man City have 2020 vision thanks to new David Silva deal


David Silva has signed a one-year contract extension at Manchester City, the Premier League leaders have announced.

The Spain playmaker, whose previous deal expired at the end of next season, is now committed to the club until 2020.

That will take the 31-year-old’s service at the Etihad Stadium to a decade.

Source: PA





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Win a trip to the FIFA World Cup Opening Match



How would you like to be at the Opening Match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ on 14 June 2018? Be in with a chance of winning this trip of a lifetime by entering our exciting competition on the official FIFA World Cup Facebook page!

You could bag yourself two tickets to the Opening Match at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, return economy flights for two people to Russia from your closest major airport and three nights’ accommodation in a four-star hotel of FIFA’s choosing.

To enter, all you need to do is head to our FIFA World Cup Facebook page and answer the following question: Who were Russia’s last opponents in a FIFA World Cup match?

One lucky winner with the correct answer will be selected at random. The contest lasts from 30 November 2017 to midnight (CET) on 2 December 2017 and participants must be least 18 years or over. All terms and conditions can be found here.



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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Naby Keita


by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 16:00


Senegal and Liverpool attacker Sadio Mane has revealed what he told Guinea international midfielder Naby Keita to lure him to the English Premier League giants.

The Lions of Teranga international revealed that their relationship at Red Bull Salzburg made it easy to convince the Guinean to move to the Reds.

“He is a really special player and is like family to me,” Liverpool ace Mane told Goal.com.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: IDRISSA GUEYE – WE WILL MAKE SENEGALESE PEOPLE PROUD AT 2018 WORLD CUP

“We were close at Salzburg and still keep in touch. I enjoy watching him and look forward to helping him again when he comes next year.

“He asked me about Liverpool and I told him this is an amazing club with talented players, a great manager and lots of ambition.

“The city and the people are really nice and he will feel at home here.”

Moreover, Keita said that Mane is still an important figure in his life and will always be, adding that he is looking forward to his stay at Anfield.

“Sadio was important for me, he still is!” Keita added.

“To me, he’s my big brother. He really likes to learn new things, to improve and to push himself and we are the same in this way – he’s a good example for me.”

Keita will officially join Jurgen Klopp’s men on July 1, 2018 after the Reds struck a deal worth an initial £51m with the German Bundesliga outift in August.



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Morocco’s best and worst case draw scenarios – 2018 FIFA World Cup


Herve Renard, coach of Morocco and players celebrates a victory during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between Morocco and Ivory Coast at the Oyem Stadium in Gabon on 24 January 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 15:30


Ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the 2018 World Cup, AfricanFootball looks at both the best and worst case group stage scenarios for Morocco’s Atlas Lions.

Which pot are Morocco in?

The North Africans are in Pot 4 because their world ranking in October (48) put them amongst the eight lowest-rated teams to qualify for Russia 2018.

Which teams can they be drawn against?

– One of the teams in Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France

– One of the teams in Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia

– One of the following teams in Pot 3: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Iran

Which teams can they not be drawn against?

All of the other teams in Pot 4 – Nigeria, Serbia, Australia, Japan, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia – as well as the three Africans teams in Pot 3: Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal.

What’s their best-case scenario?

From Pot 1, Morocco will want to draw Russia. The 2018 hosts are easily the weakest team in that pool. Short of getting the home side, Belgium and Poland are probably a touch overrated and have traditionally struggled at big tournaments.

From Pot 2 they’ll want to draw Peru, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982, or one of England, Switzerland or Croatia – they’re all fine teams, but not as powerful and dangerous as the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.

From Pot 3 the Atlas Lions will want to draw Iceland, who are making their tournament debut and have overachieved just by qualifying. But in truth, none of the other teams from Pot 3 are particularly strong.

Summary: Morocco’s dream group stage draw would see them pooled with Russia, Peru and Iceland.

And their worst?

It couldn’t get much worse than drawing reigning world champions Germany from Pot 1, 2010 winners Spain from Pot 2 and then Costa Rica from Pot 3 (because you can only have two European teams in a group).

Or how about Brazil from Pot 1, Spain from Pot 2 and Denmark from Pot 3? Either way, that’s about as bad as it can get for Morocco.

Summary: Germany, Spain and Costa Rica, or Brazil, Spain and Denmark – either would represent the worst case for the Atlas Lions.



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Eddie Howe eager for Bournemouth to bounce back in local derby


Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe hopes a raucous south coast derby atmosphere can inspire his team to bounce back from a disappointing midweek defeat.

The Cherries produced a below-par performance in Wednesday’s 2-1 home loss to Burnley but they do not have to wait long for an opportunity to make amends with near-neighbours Southampton due at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.

Howe expressed sympathy for the club’s supporters after the Clarets defeat and has called for them to help the team return to winning ways.

“I hope so, I hope that proves right,” he replied when asked if a local derby was the perfect chance to move on from a setback.

“I hope that there will be a really good atmosphere and a full house and we can really get going.

“You’ve got to set your stall out in the game and really give your fans a platform to get involved as a home team.”

Howe was critical of his team’s display on Wednesday as their unbeaten run was halted at three games.

He felt all of the players who started the match could have done more and hinted at changes for the Saints clash following decent cameo appearances for substitutes Lewis Cook, Jermain Defoe and Ryan Fraser.

“You have to judge game by game, you can’t go back too far when you’re looking at players’ performances individually,” he added.

“From the starting 11, I thought we were below what we’re capable of, probably one to 11.

“The substitutes will feel that they’ve had a positive impact so that obviously gives me food for thought for the next game.”

Saints make the 30-mile trip west on the back of the disappointment of being denied an unlikely point at leaders Manchester City by an injury-time winner from Raheem Sterling.

Howe, however, feels that blow for Mauricio Pellegrino’s men will have little bearing on the weekend game as Burnley managed to shrug off the frustration of losing to a last-gasp penalty against Arsenal to put in an accomplished performance against the Cherries.

“You can look into that any way you want,” he said of Southampton’s late loss.

“Burnley conceded against Arsenal very late and that didn’t have any effect.

“I think every game is different and Manchester City have had a habit of doing that this season.”

Source: PA





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Massimiliano Allegri denies Juventus bust-up but would welcome more fighting spirit


Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero weighs in on the Serie A title race and highlights the strides Napoli have made.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has insisted that Napoli are favourites to win Serie A ahead of their match in Naples.
Relive the best goals from the weekend in Serie A, featuring Mattia De Sciglio’s first goal for Juventus.
Relive the best goals from the weekend in Serie A, featuring Mattia De Sciglio’s first goal for Juventus.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has denied reports of a rift in the dressing room, although he says he would not mind some more passion from his players as he prepares them for their top-of-the-table Serie A clash at Napoli on Friday night.

It was claimed by Dagospia on Wednesday that an argument had broken out between some of Juve’s veterans and a group of three foreign players in the dressing room prior to the 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria.

It reports that the trio have asked to be sold in January, but Allegri says the whole story has been fabricated in a bid to unsettle his club, who trail Napoli by four points ahead of Friday night’s clash at the Stadio San Paolo.

“As if!” Allegri said at a news conference on Thursday when asked about the reported argument. “I would have liked it if they really had come to blows because sometimes a bit of a scandal now and again does you good, but unfortunately nothing happened.”

Massimiliano Allegri has Juventus in contention to win a seventh successive Serie A title.

Allegri’s argument with Leonardo Bonucci last February is considered by the Juve coach as the main turning point in the Bianconeri‘s 2016-17 season, as they went on to win a Serie A and Coppa Italia double and reach the Champions League final.

He denies there has been a similar spark behind the scenes now as he names Napoli as favourites for the Serie A title this season.

“They’re doing extraordinary things,” he said. “They’re two points ahead of Inter Milan and we’re four points behind them. They are top and favourites to win the Scudetto, going at an impressive rate of knots.

“This is going to be an important game for us, but it won’t be decisive. I hope it’s a good test ahead of the trip to Olympiakos, which will be our first real decisive game of the season. In Athens, our place in the last 16 of the Champions League will be on the line, and that is our first objective of the season.”

Gonzalo Higuain could be able to help either on Friday night or next Tuesday, when Juve need a win to be sure of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League, and Allegri says he is recovering quickly from an operation on a broken finger earlier this week.

“Gonzalo’s hand is a bit painful, but he could be available,” Allegri said. “Let’s say that I’m optimistic about him being in the squad. Let’s see how his hand is and how much pain he feels. It wouldn’t make sense risking him now, with a further 30 games of the season ahead of us.”

Higuain joined Juve from Napoli for €90 million 18 months ago after he scored 36 goals in 35 games in 2015-16, setting a new Serie A scoring record.

The Argentine, who upset Napoli fans by turning his back on them to join their fiercest rivals, faced his former club four times last season — twice in the league and twice in the Coppa Italia — scoring four goals. Furthermore, he has scored five in his past four Serie A appearances for Juve.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.



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Zimbabwe shock all by pulling out of 2017 CECAFA tournament


Zimbabwe winners of the 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup match between Zambia and Zimbabwe at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on 09 July 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Scent ition

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 15:00


Despite having initially agreed to participate at the upcoming 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge, Zimbabwe has pulled out of the East African tournament.

The Warriors were set to appear at the showpiece as guests, but are not going to Kenya due to security concerns.

Zimbabwe, along with Libya, had been invited as guests for the regional event that will include defending champions Uganda, hosts Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zanzibar, Burundi, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

OBAFEMI MARTINS LIKELY TO RETURN TO NIGERIA SQUAD

With the showpiece starting this Sunday, coach Sunday Chidzambwa had announced a squad, but the Zimbabwe Football Association felt it was not safe for the team to play in Kenya.

“Following wide-ranging consultations with all stakeholders, the Zimbabwe Football Association has resolved to withdraw its commitment to participate in the 2017 Cecafa Challenge Cup due to the security risk posed by the volatile situation in the host country, Kenya,” ZIFA said in a statement on Wednesday.

On the other hand, CECAFA general secretary Nicholas Musonye confirmed they received a letter from the Southern African nation.

“Yes we have received communication from the Zimbabwe FA that they have pulled out the team,” Musonye told the BBC Sport.

Although a source close to the News Day website said the real reason for the withdrawal was because of the unavailability of funds, the FA has rubbished the claims.

Zimbabwe were set to face the Cranes of Uganda on Monday, December 4 and Musonye said they will adjust the fixtures.

He also said the tournament, set to run from 3-17 December, will go ahead.



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