Roberto Carlos open to Real Madrid return

Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos would return to Real Madrid if the possibility exists.

“I feel strong physically and I am motivated. If I have a chance of returning to Madrid, I will,” said the player who is currently under contract at Turkish side Fenerbahce.

“Since it became clear that Florentino [Perez, Real Madrid President] was to return, and he said he might call me, I have been ready.

“Madrid has to work on being respected in the world, because it has lost some of its respect related to the organisation and the greatness of the club. It would be great to return to Madrid, to Bernaneu stadium and to Spanish football,” the 35-year-old said.

Roberto Carlos joined Fenerbahce in 2007, after 11 seasons with Real Madrid. During that stint, he won three Champions League trophies and several national championships.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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“Definite No to Dutch-Belgian league”

There will be no combined Dutch-Belgian league. This was unveiled by Henk Kesler, Director of Professional Football at the Dutch FA.

UEFA President Michel Platini recently promoted the idea of combining the two leagues, and was later supported by Dutch FA Chairman Michael van Praag.

But in an interview with Dutch newspaper Telegraaf, Kesler ended all speculations: “The decision was made after talking to the clubs, who are not at all interested in the idea,” he said.

“That Platini and Van Praag wanted to investigate the possibilities, doesn’t matter. They’re not in charge. We and the clubs are, and this league won’t happen.”

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Maicon out for several weeks

Internazionale defender Maicon could well be sidelined for several weeks due to a thigh injury suffered in Brazil’s match with Ecuador last Sunday.

Inter doctor Franco Combi said this on the club’s official website.

“I have been in touch with the doctor of the Brazilian team and he confirmed that Maicon suffered a bad thigh injury. We expect him to return to Milan in ten days, after which we will do further tests.”

Maicon is one of Jose Mourinho’s first choices at Internazionale, having featured in 28 of 29 Serie A games this season.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Egil Olsen stays put as Norway boss

Egil Olsen will remain put as Norwegian national team manager until the end of the World Cup qualifiers. The country’s FA announced this on Tuesday.

Olsen became caretaker manager in January, following the departure of Age Hareide who had failed to win a single international match with Norway in 2008.

The Norwegian FA initially attempted to find a permanent replacement but Olsen’s performance since January convinced board members to leave the 66-year-old until October.

Norway are currently in last place in Group 9 of the European World Cup qualifiers.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Season over for Di Natale

Italian Antonio Di Natale does not require surgery to treat his left knee, but the player isn’t expected to return before the end of the season.

The Udinese forward fell awkwardly in the match with Montenegro last Saturday and damaged ligaments in his knee.

Initially, Udinese doctors expected Di Natale’s recovery to require up to six months but later test point out that the player should be fit after three months.

The injury is likely to keep Di Natale sidelined for June’s Confederations Cup in South Africa.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Minute’s silence ahead of World Cup qualifiers

World governing body FIFA has asked all member associations to observe a minute’s silence ahead of World Cup qualifiers on March 31st and April 1st.

The minute is to be used to pay respect to the victims of Sunday’s stadium stampede in Ivory Coast, ahead of the qualifier with Malawi.

Twenty-two fans were killed in the stampede, which according to authorities was mostly to blame on people entering the stadium without tickets.

Ivory Coast player Didier Drogba explained later that he and his teammates had not been aware of the stampede until after the match.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Bouma set to make Villa comeback

Aston Villa defender is set to return to first-team action following an injury that left him sidelined for eight months.

The Dutchman dislocated his ankle in an Intertoto Cup match with Odense last July, and initially feared for his career to be over.

Whether Bouma is ready to appear in Villa’s next game, against Manchester United this weekend, remains uncertain. However, the player might return for the match with Everton a week later.

The Birmingham outfit have been struggling lately, and lost their fourth position to Arsenal.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Deco earns Portugal 2-0 win over South Africa

Portugal ended a three-match victory drought here on Tuesday, beating South Africa 2-0 in a friendly largely thanks to two corners from Deco.

The Chelsea midfielder was the pivotal element in Portugal’s game until he was substituted by Cristiano Ronaldo, serving full back Bruno Alves early in the first half and AEK Athens striker Edinho on 57 minutes with easy close-range headers.

Portugal took the lead within minutes as an unsteady and disorganised South African defence struggled to contain Nani on the right wing.

But the Portuguese ultimately failed to take advantage of the space left to them early in a leisurely first half.

South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khule and Blackburn’s Aaron Mokoena formed a solid last rampart against the Manchester United player, allowing the Bafana Bafana to edge back into the game on a chilly evening in Lausanne.

Eduardo was rarely troubled until shortly before half-time, when he scrambled the ball clear from the feet of a South African striker in Bafana Bafana’s clearest chance of the match.

Carlos Queiroz’s side started the second half on top with a burst of pressure that pushed the South Africans back into their goalmouth.

A host of substitutions midway through the second half brought more pace into the game. But Brazilian coach Joel Santana failed to inject much imagination into the South African counter attacks.

Despite their skill, the 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup hosts lacked physical presence against the more athletic Portuguese and rarely looked capable of repeating their win against Norway over the weekend.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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No regrets for Bellamy over Wales outburst

Wales captain Craig Bellamy has said he stands by the damning comments he made after their World Cup qualifying defeat by Finland, insisting they’d motivate the side for Wednesday’s match against group leaders Germany.

Finland’s 2-0 win here at the Millennium Stadium last weekend left Wales struggling to get into even a play-off for next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.

After that match, Manchester City striker Bellamy said: “That was two poor sides trying to contest this game and neither of us have got a glimmer of hope of qualifying.

“That is a fact, from what I’ve just seen today. Where we go from here, God knows. We’ve just got a lot of games to play and get as many points as we can but same old story, we’re out of the group.”

Some observers said Bellamy’s public condemnation of the team’s display was the last thing a largely youthful Wales side needed to hear as they tried to become the first team from the country to qualify for a major football finals since the 1958 World Cup.

However Bellamy, who is set to lead his side again at the Millennium Stadium against Germany, said Tuesday: “I stand by what I said after the game. Maybe I could have chosen my words differently, but I still very much believe in what I said. I could have worded it differently, but I have to put up with that.

“Sometimes you cannot be honest in football, you have to duck questions and be as diplomatic as you can.

“But for me that is not easy. I am emotional and I try to be honest as much as I can. Basically I do not like letting people off. We were all disappointed and frustrated, and I say things. I am old enough to know that such comments allow people to have a dig back, but I can handle that.”

And the 29-year-old added: “We must do a lot better now than we did against Finland, and that was the motivation for what I said.

“We are all going to come in for flak, we have virtually gone out of another campaign but we have to get on with it.”

Bellamy said playing at the Millennium Stadium, where Wales matches attract crowds of around the 20,000 mark in a ground that can hold over 73,000, left his side at a disadvantage.

The forward said Wales had to follow the example of Northern Ireland.

Another team with a relatively limited pool of players, they routinely packed out the much smaller Windsor Park in Belfast, where Northern Ireland, roared on by their fans, beat Poland last weekend.

“You watch Northern Ireland, they achieve results. You need to get into peoples’ faces, you need a battle,” Bellamy explained.

“We need an atmosphere and we haven’t got that (at the Millennium). And we are certainly not generating anything, how am I supposed to play in that.

“Teams like coming here. It is too nice for them. It is a very good stadium with empty seats and no pressure, no atmosphere. They just go out against us and just play how they like. We cannot force the issue.

“Northern Ireland are different. You know you are in for it, Windsor Park is a tough old place. The pitch isn’t good, the changing rooms are terrible and the atmosphere is fantastic even if they only have a small crowd.

“And you can see the players respond. I am a bit envious of that. But Northern Ireland have done nothing yet, even though they have just beaten Poland.

“They have fight and atmosphere, maybe the best support in Europe. It would be nice for us to be like that, we need to change things.”

Tue 31 March, 2009
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Trapattoni hopes Irish David beats Italian Goliath

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni likened Wednesday’s clash against world champions Italy here to the biblical combat between David and Goliath.

The Irish come into the match second in group eight, just two points behind Italy but considered to be overwhelming underdogs.

However, Trapattoni is largely considered to be the greatest Italian coach of all time and his presence alone on the Irish bench has put doubt in the Italians’ minds.

Such is his reputation here that he was given a round of applause on Tuesday as he entered the pre-match press conference.

“At home you applaud when you win and not before,” he joked. “We could have come to Italy with the same points (as Italy) and we would have been happy with that and only that own goal (by Kevin Kilbane in a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria on Saturday) made the difference.

“At the begining of the season I thought we could do well but not as well as this because this is a tough group.

“But now we must think about climbing higher. Sometimes in Italy we think about the legend of David and Goliath. We are David and Italy are Goliath.

“Legends remain legends but I have a lot of trust and belief in my team. We have to believe in everything we’ve done so far, we still have five matches to go before the end of qualification and one of most important matches is going to be tomorrow’s.”

Trapattoni may be 70 years old and he has not coached in Italy for several years having spent recent years coaching in Germany, Austria, Portugal and now Ireland, but his philosophy has never changed.

For him the result has always been and always will be more important than the performance.

“Your analyses last for four or five days and after that they are forgotten but what remains is the result,” he told journalists.

“You can’t go out to play beautiful football. If you want a show go to the theatre but if you want a result come to watch football.”

Trapattoni revealed that he had plenty of other offers before taking up this post with the Irish Football Association last year.

“I had two or three chances to chose other teams,” he said. “I already knew (captain Robbie) Keane and I knew Liam Brady (who played for Trapp at Juventus).

“I chose this team for the (Irish) people. I have no doubt the Irish will get on very well with the Italians. There are a number of Italians living in Dublin and living very well.”

For Keane this will be a special match as he is coming up against former coach Marcello Lippi, who signed him at Inter Milan back in 2000 before being fired only weeks later.

Even so, the Tottenham captain was impressed with what he saw of Lippi in the short time they worked together.

“It was only a few months that I did get to work with him but I could see how good he was with his experience over many years and as a man as well,” he said.

“He always looked after you, I wish it could have been longer but it wasn’t.”

Now Keane is confident the Irish spirit can help his new boss get one over his former one.

“Ireland in the past have gone up against so called better teams but we’ve always seemed to do a lot better than we should over the years,” he said.

“I’ve been chatting to the boys and we’ve got nothing to lose, people expect us to lose anyway so we’re just going to go out and enjoy ourselves.”

Tue 31 March, 2009
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