Germany´s Gomez not psyched out says Loew

Germany manager Joachim Loew has insisted he’s not asked misfiring forward Mario Gomez to seek psychiatric help in a bid to cure the Stuttgart striker’s problems in front of goal.

Gomez has not scored for his country for over a year, a run of 13 games, and was booed off by fans in Leipzig last weekend after failing to find the target in a 4-0 win over minnows Liechtenstein.

But Loew said he intended to play Gomez in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Wales here at the Millennium Stadium.

“I have not asked Gomez to see a psychiatrist, it is something for him to decide if he takes advantage of the squad’s psychiatrist,” Loew told reporters here on Tuesday.

“I have spoken to Mario a couple of times since the weekend, just to see how he feels and he is calm and collected about things.

“He was disappointed with himself and with the fans who booed him off the pitch. But he is okay now about things. I told him we were happy with his work-rate and effort and that being a striker is not all about scoring goals.

“He has to set up chances for others and work for the team, and he is doing that. But he is not dejected, he is a good professional and you can bet on me playing him against Wales.

“He is getting plenty of support from inside the camp, he has certainly not been ‘hung out to dry’ in terms of taking criticism.

“We have told him we are happy with him and the work he puts in, sacrificing himself for the team.”

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Sochaux skipper charged with police assault

Sochaux captain Stephane Dalmat was charged on Tuesday with assaulting a police officer after a drunken brawl on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

The former Tottenham midfielder was arrested early on Monday morning on the French capital’s most famous avenue after French police were called to break up a fight involving Dalmat, his brother, and two friends.

Several police officers required treatment for injuries.

As well as assault Dalmat has also been charged according to sources with violent behaviour to his wife, a claim disputed by the player’s agent, Alexander Krstic.

“That’s totally false, I spoke to his wife by telephone and she is shocked by what’s been said, Stephane is incapable of doing that,” said Krstic.

Dalmat has been summoned to appear in court to answer the charges on May 27.

His brother and one of his two friends are due in court on the same charges. The fourth man has been released without charge.

Dalmat started his professional career with French outfit Chateauroux in 1997 before moving on to play for Lens, Marseille, Paris Saint Germain, then Inter Milan, Tottenham, Santander and Barcelona.

He joined Sochaux in 2007.

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Appliance of science has NI raring to go

Northern Ireland, the shock leaders of Group Three in Europe’s World Cup qualifying tournament, are counting on the appliance of science to help them stay there with a victory over Slovenia here on Wednesday.

Manager Nigel Worthington has employed sports scientist Jonny Bloomfield to ensure that his squad’s recovery process in the wake of Saturday’s 3-2 win over Poland is as efficient as possible.

Aaron Hughes, the Fulham defender who captains the province, has been impressed and believes Worthington’s attention to detail could pay off at Windsor Park on Wednesday.

“We have been very well looked after since Saturday,” he said. “That is the good thing about having Jonny Bloomfield around. The manager likes to look at our heart rates and how we train, if we are doing too much or too little.

“It is little things like that; if it only makes two per cent difference to us, it is to our advantage.”

Defeats in Slovenia and Slovakia earlier in the campaign dented confidence in the Northern Ireland camp but Hughes said there was now a real belief that they were capable of reaching South Africa.

“I do not think there is anything to fear in the group,” he said. “There has not been a team that has steamrollered us.

“We did not deserve to lose those games in Slovakia and Slovenia, so it was hard to take. Most of the teams are looking at the top two places and we are no different. We have no less chance than anyone else.

“We know we have two difficult away games against Poland and the Czech Republic to come but anything could happen.”

Worthington has urged his side to keep the pressure on their rivals.

He said: “There is a carrot for us, knowing we need three points to stay top of the group for a while longer.

“We’re not playing games in the summer, like other teams, but we would be in a relatively good position for the game in Poland in September.

“We know what we’ve got to do, we know how we’ve got to go about it and it’s now a case of going and doing it.”

Injured Motherwell defender Stephen Craigan is doubtful and Worthington must also do without the suspended Chris Brunt. But he does have defender George McCartney and midfielder Steven Davis available again after suspension.

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Lippi dismisses Trapattoni´s David/Goliath analogy

Italy coach Marcello Lippi dismissed Ireland counterpart Giovanni Trapattoni’s claims that Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier here is a classic David against Goliath confrontation.

Trapattoni made the claim in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday as he sought to explain how difficult the task facing his team will be.

But Lippi said that was just his experienced countryman’s way of motivating his own team.

“I think it’s too much to talk about a David and Goliath analogy but Trapattoni is intelligent and what he says is to motivate his team,” said Lippi.

“I dont think there is such a big gap between Italy and Ireland, they are only two points behind us in the group and have done really well up until now.

“They are a very strong team with athletic players, physical players but also skilful players.”

One of those players is Ireland captain Robbie Keane who briefly played under Lippi at Inter Milan in 2000 — although Lippi was fired soon after Keane arrived.

“He was 20 years old when I had him. He had a lot of enthusiasm like many other players of his age,” said Lippi.

“Now, though, he is a complete player. He is a part of the story of Irish football, he is one of their great players.

“He has a lot of experience, he’s technically gifted, he’s cunning and skilful and he has become an out and out striker.”

Lippi also paid tribute to his opposite number, who is widely regarded as Italy’s greatest ever coach, and the man who Lippi succeeded at Juventus, inheriting a winning team that continued to dominate with him as much as they had done under Trapattoni.

“If I start listing his qualities we won’t have enough time,” said Lippi. “Trapattoni is the reference for my generation of coaches.

“He has passion, experience, shrewdness and it’s great to see he still has this enthusiasm at 70 years old to keep teaching football all over the world.”

A large part of the build up to this game in Italy has surrounded the omission of Sampdoria’s in-form striker Antonio Cassano, a native of Bari.

There had been suggestions in the Italian press that Bari’s fans, fiercely proud of their local talent, would jeer Lippi during the match.

Italian journalists have also been scrambling to get a soundbite from Lippi on this subject but he refused to discuss Cassano while claiming that he was sure Bari’s fans would get behind their team.

“I’m sure the people of Bari will get behind Italy as they always have done. We gave a huge boost to Italy by becomming world champions and we have many great players.

“The important thing is to support their team, not the other thing.

“I really hope the Bari public will support their country. I just want to remind the people in Bari that two years ago this team became world champions and I think people in this city celebrated like everyone else.”

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Loew wary of ´wounded fighter´ Wales

Germany coach Joachim Loew has compared Wales to a “wounded fighter who wants to retaliate” in the build-up to Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier here at the Millennium Stadium.

Europe zone group four leaders Germany have dropped just one point in their bid to qualify for next year’s World Cup in South Africa and will be hot favourites to take a step closer when they face a Wales side still reeling from the disappointment of last weekend’s 2-0 loss at home to Finland.

But even though Wales’s hopes of even a play-off spot are now hanging by a thread Loew, who said that if Germany “cannot win here, we will not be worth a place in the finals,” expects the hosts to be fired-up.

“To me they are like a boxer who has been knocked down,” Loew told reporters here Tuesday. “A wounded fighter who now wants to retaliate.

“They will be highly motivated because of the defeat by Finland, and because they are now playing Germany there will be 20 percent more effort.

“Wales still have a chance, if not a strong one. But they must be very disappointed about what happened against Finland.

He added: “In the past Germany have never won by wide margins against Wales, and in our last two meetings Wales have done really well.

“They drew 0-0 and only lost the next game 1-0 with a late goal.

“Wales were brilliant in defence in both their last games against us, throwing their bodies in front of everything.

“They can cope with disappointment, and they will be desperate to hit back. So all that makes them more dangerous.”

However, Loew was not downplaying Germany’s status as overwhelming favourites to win the match.

“We know that we have to win matches like this to prove we should go to the finals in South Africa.

“If we cannot win here, we will not be worth a place in the finals.

“But no matter what the rankings say, we will always respect teams and know they can beat us.

“Our players know this will be a British-style game with plenty of tackling and we will need to be physical and disciplined.”

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Domenech, Henry issue rallying cry to the fans

France coach Raymond Domenech and skipper Thierry Henry have issued an eve of match plea to their fans ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

“The players need the fans,” Domenech told a press conference at France’s training headquarters on Tuesday ahead of the Stade de France Group Seven fixture.

The group of supporters who jeered the national side in last month’s friendly loss to Argentina had come in for criticism last week from amongst others Patrice Evra.

But Domenech was at pains to point out that whistling a side when times were tough was not a phenomenon unique to France.

“We shouldn’t generalise if a section of the public whistle. It doesn’t happen only in France. Abroad I’ve seen teams booed off the pitch if they’ve lost.

“On Wednesday the fans can give a little bit of help to the players..they need a real 12th man.”

Henry echoed his manager’s comments and called on supporters to be patient.

“If we come out and people sense that we’re up for it, they’ll be with us. But we always score goals against Lithuania in the last 10 or 15 minutes. We’re patient on the pitch, I hope the public will be patient too if it’s 0-0 with 20 minutes to go.”

Henry suggested that despite coming up against the same rivals for the second time in four days it was difficult to forecast how Wednesday’s ‘return’ leg would pan out.

“Often the second game has no bearing on the first. I hope that we succeed in doing what we did over there and especially that we can score quickly.

“The ground at the Stade de France will be more playable (than in Kaunas) but it’ll be the same for the Lithuanians. We have to remain vigilant because they know how to wait and play on the counter attack.”

On the team news front Domenech has drafted in Rio Mavuba of Lille to replace Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby, who has withdrawn with a hip problem.

The absence of Diaby is a headache for Domenech, already missing Jeremy Toulalan as the Lyon midfielder is suspended after picking up his second yellow card in Kaunas following the one he received in last October’s 2-2 draw with Romania.

As well as the inexperienced Mavuba, France could also call on Bordeaux’s Alou Diarra to work alongside Lassana Diarra with Toulalan unavailable.

Mavuba has won six caps but last appeared two years ago in a friendly win over Austria.

Franck Ribery scored the decisive goal in the 67th minute in the first leg of this double header against the former Soviet state in Kaunas on Saturday to give a major boost to France’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.

The 2006 finalists, who have a game in hand, can go second, two points behind leaders Serbia, if they win on Wednesday – April 1.

Asked whether playing the game on April Fool’s Day was cause for concern Domenech replied: “The only thing that worries me is the result!”

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Dutch ace wants Arsenal to match own ambitions

Robin van Persie has challenged Arsenal to prove the club’s ambitions match his own as he mulls over whether to sign a new contract.

Van Persie, a reported target for Barcelona, is under contract with the Gunners until the end of next season but negotiations are well advanced on a new three-year deal that the player himself describes as “very positive.”

Speaking to Champions magazine, van Persie added: “Financially Arsenal’s last offer is fine, but that isn’t everything for me. It’s about my ambitions and how they can be fulfilled.

“The club and I want the same, and it’s our intention to achieve that. We have all the other factors in place – fantastic stadium, dedicated support and money in the bank.

“Now it’s about making that final push. In the last four years, I’ve only won one prize, the FA Cup – and that is too little. I want to push through to achieve more.

“That is something I feel in my mind and my body. It’s difficult to explain, but I certainly feel I can play an important role in taking Arsenal to a higher level.”

Van Persie returned to Arsenal this week after being ruled out of Holland’s World Cup qualifier against Macedonia on Wednesday because of a groin strain he suffered in the 3-0 win over Scotland on Saturday.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger will be desperately hoping the 25-year-old, whose form has helped Arsenal return to the top four of the Premier League, will have recovered in time for Saturday’s trip to Newcastle.

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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England call up Agbonlahor

England have called up Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor to their squad for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifying clash with Ukraine at Wembley.

The move came after Darren Bent limped out of training on the eve of the match. Tottenham forward Bent had himself been a late call-up to the squad after Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole suffered injuries in Saturday’s 4-0 friendly win over Slovakia.

But his involvement with the national squad lasted only a few minutes before he was forced to head for the treatment room.

Agbonlahor has been added to the squad as cover with head coach Fabio Capello indicating that he plans to start the match with Peter Crouch leading the attack.

The Villa forward’s call-up represents a fresh snub to Michael Owen, although Capello again insisted that the injury-plagued Newcastle forward’s England career could be revived once he starts playing regularly for his club.

“In every interview I’ve said the door for all the England players is open,” Capello said. “I respect Owen but I chose Agbonlahor because he has played a lot of games.”

Rio Ferdinand, who returned to training after missing the Slovakia match with a back strain, is set to start alongside John Terry in central defence.

Capello will also have Shaun Wright-Phillips, who missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, available.

With four straight wins in group six, England will be in a very strong position to reach next year’s finals in South Africa if they can beat Ukraine, the only team they have yet to face.

The win over Slovakia augured well for England’s chances and Capello expects Ukraine to play a similar style.

“It will be a very dangerous game, they play very well on the counter attack,” the Italian said. “It will be very tough.

“I was very happy after the Slovakia match, our movement with and without the ball was very good and we created a lot of good chances. For me it was a good test.”

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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Kaka may come to the rescue of Brazil

Former world player of the year Kaka may come to the rescue for Brazil on Wednesday as the five-time champions seek to galvanise their World Cup qualifying campaign against Peru.

Although in no apparent danger of missing out on one of the four qualifying slots for next year’s finals in South Africa the ‘auriverde’ have only won four of their 11 qualifiers to date and have not been firing on all cylinders – as witnessed by Sunday’s fortuitous draw in Ecuador.

That result left Dunga’s side a point behind both Argentina and Chile and five adrift of group leaders Paraguay.

Having felt moved to excuse the lethargic showing of Ronaldinho, who gave way to goalscorer Julio Baptista on Sunday, given the Ecuador match was played at altitude in Quito, Dunga is clearly banking on AC Milan clubmate Kaka to raise the standard Wednesday in Porto Alegre against group tailenders Peru.

Dunga said late Monday that Kaka was “in a fit state to play” and that suggested that Ronaldinho could well be benched for the match in his home city.

Kaka “is fit, though I don’t know how much of the game he will manage,” Dunga told reporters.

The 26-year-old has been undergoing a special training programme with physios following the foot injury he suffered in Serie A in February and he said late Monday he was feeling much better if not 100 percent.

“I would like to be able to play and after this latest training session I saw I was pretty much ready to play – but I don’t know how long for,” said the star in echoing Dunga’s own assessment.

“I am much better and I am available for Dunga,” he added following an energetic training session against youngsters from Brazilian side Gremio.

“If I am in a fit state to do so I’d like to get through the 90 minutes,” he said.

“I want to help all those who were with me in this exercise (of recuperating). After so many days without playing I have got back my fitness and now am ready to help the Brazilian team,” he concluded.

Tue 31 Mar, 2009
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