Milito signs for Inter

Diego Milito has completed his move to Inter Milan from Genoa and will team up with former team-mate Thiago Motta, who is expected to arrive at San Siro in a few days.

The 30-year-old Argentine struck 24 goals in his debut season in Serie A last season, helping his team Genoa to a Europa League spot.

The striker has penned a four-year deal with the Nerazzurri while the fee remains undisclosed.

Italy Under-21 striker Robert Acquafresca, who spent last season on loan at Cagliari, will join Genoa as part of the Motta deal, in one of the many transfer dealings expected to go through between the two clubs.

Genoa are also close to signing Inter striker Herman Crespo and Atalanta frontman Sergio Floccari.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Westerveld to sign for FC Utrecht

Former Liverpool and Real Sociedad goalkeeper Sander Westerveld will sign a a one-year contract with FC Utrecht this week.

The 34-year-old goalkeeper will act as back up for Michel Vorm and is due to have a medical tomorrow before completing the deal.

Westerveld’s priority had been to play in Holland to be with his mother following the death of his father.

Westerveld said, in AD Sportwereld: “What really pleases me too are the ambitions of FC Utrecht.

“They want to follow the path of FC Twente and they prove that with their transfer policy.”

Tue 30 June, 2009
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German Under 21´s take Euro crown

A double by Sandro Wagner rounded off a stunning 4-0 success for Germany over England in the European Under-21 championship final to give them their first success in the tournament.

The Germans – who added this title to the ones presently in the hands of their Under-17 and Under-19 compatriots – also scored through Gonzalo Castro and the hugely impressive Mesut Ozil.

It was England’s first appearance in the final since 1984 and brought to an end a run of having not lost open play in 21 matches and gave German coach Horst Hrubesch echoes of his major success as a player with the then West Germany in the senior 1980 European final over Belgium.

England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce revealed he would stay on for the next campaign for the 2011 finals and try and improve on this performance.

“Just before the semi-final I signed a two year deal,” said Pearce, who was suffering another disappointment against Germany having as a player lost to them in the 1990 World Cup semi-final – he missed one of the penalties in the shootout – and then again in the Euro ’96 semi-finals.

“I enjoy where I work, my employers and the players I work with. Why would you walk away from that,” added Pearce, who will also continue to work with England senior coach Fabio Capello, who was unable to attend the final having been at the Confederations Cup in South Africa.

England started brightly with Adam Johnson whipping in a couple of dangerous crosses while James Milner – who was playing his 46th and final Under-21 international – delivered a great freekick from the left only for Martin Cranie to head over under pressure.

Lone England forward Theo Walcott – all the other specialist strikers were suspended – then broke free seizing on Aston Villa midfielder in the third minute but shot wide.

Germany got in their first effective attack just after the quarter hour mark when the impresssive German captain Sami Khedira linked up well with Ozil but Micah Richards was on hand to deflect the shot away for a corner.

Ozil it was who created Castro’s goal with a beautifully weighted pass which evaded Cranie and the German slotted it past Scott Loach, who had come in for the suspended first choice ‘keeper Joe Hart.

The Germans looked to be in control of the match and deservedly doubled their lead in the just after half-time as he misjudged Ozil’s long range freekick and he managed to only get a hand on it and see it spin into the net.

“The ball can react abnormally sometimes,” said Hrubesch charitably of the Watford ‘keeper’s blunder.

England had to go for broke and midfielder Lee Cattermole came closest to reducing the deficit just before the hour with a finely-struck shot which clipped the crossbar.

England kept the pressure up and in the 62nd minute the impressive Milner turned leftback Sebastian Boenisch inside out and passed the ball to Johnson who failed to take advantage from three metres out.

Ozil was tormenting England all night and he set up Germany’s third goal as he broke down the middle – right back Cranie was being treated for an injury – and his delightful pass outside to Wagner saw him shoot the ball between Loach’s legs.

It made amends for a dreadful howler only minutes before when he failed to net from a metre out following another gem of a pass from Ozil.

However, he redeemed himself completely when he scores his second, a beautifully curled effort which gave Loach no chance and rounded off a humiliating night for England.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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UEFA under twenty-one final: England 0-4 Germany

I’ve got to write about the England under twenty-one side again today. We went into the final of the European Championships having won nothing for twenty-five years at this level and forty-three years at senior level.

No surprise

It was, of course, no surprise that our opponents were Germany. They always are! England will always point to the World Cup final in 1966, the 1-0 win in Euro 2000, the wonderful 5-1 win in the world cup qualifier in 2001 and the 2-1 win in Berlin last year, but the Germans might just mention games in 2007, 2000, Euro 1996, 1991, World Cup 1990, 1987, 1982, 1978, 1974, 1972, and the World Cup 1970. Yes, bragging rights are definitely with the Germans.

At under twenty-one level England have the upper hand with three wins and four draws in their last seven meetings. In fact, the England under twenty-one reserve team held the full strength German side to a 1-1 draw earlier in this tournament.

Sadly

So there it was, 19.45 BST, and I’m sat in front of my television with my sons and my mate, all wearing England shirts as we rather sadly do on occasions such as this.

England were going to play Theo Walcott in a lone striker’s role which was nothing to do with tactical planning and all to do with the fact that Gabby Agbonlahor and Fraizer Campbell were suspended and there were no more strikers in the squad.

Selection

The only real team selection Stuart Pearce had to make was to decide who would replace the suspended Joe Hart in goal. It would either be Scott Loach of my beloved Watford or Joe Lewis of Peterborough.

The rest of the team picked itself really with a back four of Cranie from Portsmouth, Richards and Onouha from Manchester City with Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal. Captain Mark Noble of West Ham would be joined in the midfield by Muamba of Bolton, Cattermole of Wigan, Milner from Aston Villa and Adam Johnson of Middlesbrough. Arsenal’s Walcott would plough a lone furrow ahead of them.

Decided

In the end, Stuart Pearce decided to play Scotty Loach in goal and things couldn’t have been better. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was that the Watford keeper was playing.

Kick-off came with high excitement in the Fisher household. Being a Watford fan from England, I really do have to make the most of nights like these you know!

The game

The game started with England looking pretty good. Neither side created much but England had the majority of the possession and looked the better side.

The first real chance for either side came just before the half hour when Mesut Ozil slotted the ball through on the blind side of Martin Cranie and Gonzalo Castro slotted the ball past the advancing Loach to give the Germans the lead.

Half-time

Half-time came with the score at 1-0 and whilst Stuart Pearce won’t have been happy to be behind, he will have seen enough to know that his young men could still turn the game around.

Needing a good start to the second half there seemed little danger when England gave away a free-kick forty yards from goal in the first couple of minutes.

Ambitious

As I watched Mesut Ozil run up to the ball with the obvious intention of shooting, I thought, “wow, that’s a bit ambitious son!”

Indeed, he hit the ball well but straight down the middle of the goal, straight at the Watford custodian Scott Loach. Well, at least it would have been straight at him if he hadn’t dived out of the way before reaching up a fairly pathetic hand and pushing the ball into the net!

Embarrassed

Now with the score at 2-0 and no chance of winning, I had to be embarrassed at England’s ineptitude but had the ‘double whammy’ of having to be embarrassed about Watford as well!

England rallied a little and Cattermole hit the bar with a decent strike and then had a header cleared off the line. Adan Johnson should have done better with a chance but in truth, England were never going to get back in the game.

Inevitable

After missing an absolute sitter to make it 3-0 Wagner made amends with a neat finish to bring the Germans their inevitable third goal. This one went through Loach’s legs but I can’t bring myself to say any more.

Wagner added a fourth with a fine strike that I’m pleased to say Loach had no chance of saving and the humiliation of England was complete.

Never

I really thought I might be able to celebrate an England victory in this game but in the end, an embarrassing defeat was suffered. I’m pretty sure I will never get to celebrate an England tournament victory.

I am going to stop wearing my England shirt for these type of games. Actually, no I’m not. Come on England!

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Land of contrasts await World Cup fans

It’s near freezing and outside Ellis Park a group of bedraggled men huddle together rubbing their hands over the flames of a makeshift bonfire, trying to keep warm, the long night stretching before them.

Across town, as morning breaks, Johannesburg’s Lamborghini concessionaire is rubbing his own hands as he surveys his gleaming stock and contemplates the dawn of another day’s business.

These two images are part of a parallel universe that is life in this sprawling metropolis that in under a year will greet US President Barack Obama and other heads of state for the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup.

The tens of thousands of fans descending on Johannesburg next year will find a city that in many areas is barricaded up like some of the world’s most notorious no-go zones.

Security against gun-touting street muggers and car hijackers is a constant threat in a country where violent crime is an all too present feature of daily life.

They say there are beautiful houses in Joburg but you can barely see them behind the brick walls, barbed wire, security guards and electric fences.

Every house seemingly in the more genteel neighbourhoods like Craighall and Rivonia have signs warning of an ‘Armed Response’.

Journalists attending this month’s World Cup warm-up, the Confederations Cup, were given an alarming array of dos and donts – more donts than dos.

These included ‘never look your hijacker in the eye’, ‘always wait with your car parallel to the kerb while the gate opens to prevent you getting blocked in’, ‘don’t under any account walk around with your laptop over your shoulder at night’, the list was endless.

Beggars at every ‘robot’ (traffic light) at least have a sense of humour.

One holds a sign reading: “Please help me, my dog’s been arrested”.

South Africa has been keen to stress its more positive sides, its various natural attractions for tourists as well as its love of soccer.

Fears that staging a World Cup have been dispelled once and for all by the successful hosting of the Confed Cup which Brazil won on Sunday.

FIFA gave South Africa’s organisation the thumbs up, and players and coaches were equally enthusiastic.

Nathalie Mary, who runs one of the city’s many guest lodges, commented: “Security is an issue, but you shouldn’t get paranoid. You have to be prudent and aware, but when I came here I drew a line down a page with negatives and positives – the positives far outnumbered the negatives.”

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Wagner is music to German Under 21´s ears

A double by Sandro Wagner rounded off a stunning 4-0 success for Germany over England in the European Under-21 championship final to give them their first success in the tournament.

The Germans – who added this title to the ones presently in the hands of their Under-17 and Under-19 compatriots – also scored through Gonzalo Castro and the hugely impressive Mesut Ozil.

It was England’s first appearance in the final since 1984 and brought to an end of a run of having not lost open play in 21 matches and gave coach Horst Hrubesch echoes of his major success as a player with the then West Germany in the senior 1980 European final over Belgium.

England started brightly with Adam Johnson whipping in a couple of dangerous crosses while James Milner delivered a great freekick from the left only for Martin Cranie to head over under pressure.

Lone England forward Theo Walcott – all the other specialist strikers were suspended – then broke free seizing on Aston Villa midfielder in the third minute but shot wide.

Germany got in their first effective attack just after the quarter hour mark when the impresssive German captain Sami Khedira linked up well with Ozil but Micah Richards was on hand to deflect the shot away for a corner.

Ozil it was who created Castro’s goal with a beautifully weighted pass which evaded Cranie and the German slotted it past Scott Loach, who had come in for the suspended first choice ‘keeper Joe Hart.

The Germans looked to be in control of the match and deservedly doubled their lead in the just after half-time as he misjudged Ozil’s long range freekick and he managed to only get a hand on it and see it spin into the net.

England had to go for broke and midfielder Lee Cattermole came closest to reducing the deficit just before the hour with a finely-struck shot which clipped the crossbar.

England kept the pressure up and in the 62nd minute the impressive Milner turned leftback Sebastian Boenisch inside out and passed the ball to Johnson who failed to take advantage from three metres out.

Ozil was tormenting England all night and he set up Germany’s third goal as he broke down the middle – right back Cranie was being treated for an injury – and his delightful pass outside to Wagner saw him shoot the ball between Loach’s legs.

It made amends for a dreadful howler only minutes before when he failed to net from a metre out following another gem of a pass from Ozil.

However, he redeemed himself completely when he scores his second, a beautifully curled effort which gave Loach no chance and rounded off a humiliating night for England.

Mon 29 June, 2009
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Germany win UEFA Under-21 Championships

Germany have won the 2009 UEFA Under-21 Championships. England were defeated 4-0 at Malmo’s New Stadium in Sweden.

The Germans took the lead after 23 minutes, as preparing work from Mesut Özil enabled Gonzalo Castro to clip over keeper Loach for 1-0.

Three minutes after the break, Özil got one himself with a free kick that was slightly misjudged by Loach.

The English were truly broken when Sandro Wagner netted for 3-0 in minute 79, just to add another five minutes later.

Germany and England had held each other to a 1-1 draw in their group match last week. At that point, the Germans had already drawn with Spain and beaten Finland. In the semi finals, Germany beat Italy 1-0 to advance to the final.

While highly successful at the senior level, Germany had never won the UEFA Under-21 Championships before. Horst Hrubesch’ side succeed the Netherlands, who won the last two editions.

Mon 29 June, 2009
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Eto´o transfer in doubt over bonus demand: press

Samuel Eto’o is demanding a “transfer bonus” of 15 million euros from Barcelona to sign for Manchester City, which could scupper any deal for the Cameroon striker, Spanish media said on Monday.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said at the weekend that Eto’o had received a “stratospheric” offer from a foreign club, later identified as Manchester City, who are ready to pay 30 million euros to Barca plus 10 million a year in salary.

But Catalan sporting dailies Sport and Mundo Deportivo said Eto’o, whose contract with Barca ends in 2010, is demanding a “transfer bonus” of 15 million euros, something the Spanish club will not accept.

The player’s agent, Josep Maria Mesalles, called a news conference for Tuesday to clarify the situation surrounding Eto’o, who could now stay on at the Spanish and European champions, said Mundo Deportivo.

Laporta has publicly said he wants the 28-year-old, the club’s top scorer last season, to remain.

But the Cameroonian has not been offered an extension to his contract, and Spanish media said the Catalan club would prefer to sell him in order to buy other players, such as Valencia striker David Villa.

Mon 29 June, 2009
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SAfrica´s WC2010 readiness praised, challenges remain

South Africa’s 2010 readiness got a thumbs up on Monday after a successful Confederations Cup, with organisers confident that hitches will be ironed out ahead of the continent’s first World Cup.

Security passed with no major incident, a critical concern with crime levels in South Africa among the world’s worst, while the football curtainraiser was also praised for unifying South Africans 15 years after democracy.

“The rehearsal, as this tournament has become known, has been very satisfactory. We are happy with the level of commitment shown by the organising committee and the government,” FIFA boss Sepp Blatter told journalists.

The world football body gave organisers a 7.5 out of ten for the Confeds Cup, saying it hoped the score will rise to 10 by next year for the world’s football extravaganza.

Blatter identified transport – hit by reports of bottlenecks at public park-and-ride facilities – and accommodation as areas that needed improvement before 450,000 fans descend on the country.

“One item in question beforehand was security but the organising committee headed by Danny Jordaan have done a very good job – the hospitality and reception by the (local) population has been really remarkable,” said Blatter.

“So I am satisfied with the way the competition went but there are still challenges which will have to be dealt with in terms of transport and accommodation.”

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valke said problems will be discussed at a debriefing on Tuesday.

“There aren’t any problems that won’t be resolved before the draw in December” he added.

Valke expressed confidence in the country’s ability to provide security for the World Cup, saying “South Africa has exceeded expectations during the Confederations tournament”.

Despite a widely-reported theft at the hotel of the Egytian team, police logged 39 criminal cases that consisted mainly incidents of petty theft reported around the stadium vicinity and at two hotels hosting delegations.

During the World Cup, the number of police will be increased to 30,000, according to the organising committee.

Deputy police chief, Andre Pruis said the event’s joint security team was “satisfied that years of planning and preparations resulted in a tournament during which no major security breach occured”.

“We will build on lessons learned and expand on best practices to assist FIFA and the LOC in presenting the best World Cup ever in 2010,” said Pruis.

The World Cup will be played for the first time on African soil with benefits expected to spill over into neighbouring countries.

The event is expected to rack up billions for South Africa, with researchers on Saturday saying that the global crunch was unlikely to affect a 55.7 billion rand (7.1 billion dollars) boost for Africa’s largest economy.

Consulting firm Grant Thornton estimates that 483,257 foreign tourists – including fans, teams, and media – will spend 8.5 billion rand during the month-long tournament to be played in nine host cities.

The Confederations Cup was also lauded for filling stands with fans of different races, with football traditionally supported by black South Africans.

“The tournament drew the most diverse spectators this country has ever seen, that is a huge achievement for us as a nation,” said local organising committee chief Danny Jordaan.

Amid gushing praise, South Africa’s press cautioned that the country had a year to iron out challenges.

“But even the most cynical among the foreign visitors have slowly come to accept that SA will host a world-class Soccer World Cup next year after successfully staging the Confederations Cup.”

Mon 29 June, 2009
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Chelsea appeal against Drogba and Bosingwa bans

Chelsea announced on Monday they’d appealed against the bans handed out to striker Didier Drogba and defender Jose Bosingwa by European football’s governing body UEFA earlier this month.

Drogba was given a four-match ban and Bosingwa a three-match ban, with other games suspended for their comments following Chelsea’s 1-1 second leg semi-final draw with eventual champions Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in May which saw the London club go out of the Champions League.

The Blues were also fined 85,000 pounds (100,000 euros) for the improper conduct of their players and the throwing of missiles by their fans.

“Chelsea Football Club can confirm it has today (Monday) lodged an appeal against the UEFA bans given to Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa, and the fine imposed against the club,” said a Blues statement.

“We believe these punishments are unnecessarily harsh given the circumstances.

“We would reiterate that the players and the club are acutely aware of our responsibilities towards setting a good example as role models and upholding the values of the game.

“That is why honest and sincere apologies were made swiftly after these regrettable incidents occurred.”

Chelsea crashed out of Europe’s premier club competition after Andres Iniesta’s injury-time equaliser for Barcelona took the Catalans through to the final on the away goals rule.

The Blues had a number of penalty appeals turned down during the match by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo and Ivory Coast international Drogba, who had been substituted, came back onto the pitch to swear at the official after the final whistle in front of watching TV cameras.

Portuguese defender Bosingwa, meanwhile, likened Ovrebo to a “thief” in a post-match interview before withdrawing his comments.

Mon 29 June, 2009
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