Keane expected to retain Spurs captaincy

(GSM) – Robbie Keane is set to retain the Tottenham captaincy despite being said to have organised the Christmas party that infuriated Harry Redknapp.

Spurs boss Redknapp held a meeting with the players involved in the trip to Dublin nearly two weeks ago and it is understood the matter was resolved amicably, with a donation being made to charity as a result.

Keane’s leadership has been put under scrutiny as a result but the captaincy was not thought to be an issue during Redknapp’s meeting.

The Spurs boss was embarrassed as he had no knowledge of the party and days afterwards warned about clubs sanctioning festive celebrations.

Since the party Spurs lost to Wolves but bounced back with wins against Manchester City and Blackburn.

Keane was on the bench for the two wins, with Michael Dawson taking the armband.

Dawson has been praised by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes for his part in a solid back four.

Gomes said: “They are unbelievable.

“They give me so much confidence,” he continued.

“They work so hard. Michael Dawson is an unbelievable player, Benoit (Assou-Ekotto) on the left, Charlie (Vedran Corluka) on the right, Sebastien Bassong, they are in such good form at the moment.”

Tue 22 December, 2009
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New Wolfsburg leader assures Veh

(GSM) – Incoming Wolfsburg general manager Dieter Hoeness insisted on Monday that Armin Veh will remain the club’s manager despite the reigning champions sitting eighth in the league.

Hoeness, 56, has been tabbed to take control of operations at Wolfsburg beginning 15 January, the date that Germany returns from its winter break.

The champions have struggled this season, but Hoeness is willing to make a commitment to Veh as manager.

“I look forward to working with the club board and with Armin Veh,” Hoeness said of the impending endeavor he faces with the champions.

Dieter is the brother of Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Pandev: “I can’t wait to leave Lazio”

(GSM) – Once again, Goran Pandev has stressed he wants to leave Lazio. The striker has been in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico since last summer because he refused to extend his expiring contract. The Collegio Arbitrale (Settlement Committee) will soon render a decision concerning his request to be granted a unilateral rescission of his contract with the club.

Pandev’s contract at Lazio expires next summer, but the Macedonia international hasn’t played a match for months. The 26-year-old forward was frozen out of the squad by chairman Claudio Lotito after expressing his desire to leave the club last summer. Now, Pandev says he has had enough of this nightmare.

“I can’t wait to leave,” he told Mediaset.

“Lotito disappointed me: he treated me as a nobody and told me one too many lies.

“I have been training on my own for four months and now I am just hoping that all this comes to an end.

“I just want to get back to being a football player.”

If Pandev succeeds in his bid to legally free himself from his contract with the Biancocelesti, Internazionale and Milan are reportedly ready to do battle to lure him to the San Siro in the new year.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Leko wants out of Monaco

(GSM) – Croatian midfielder Jerko Leko, unhappy with a lack of first-team football, has expressed his desire to move away from AS Monaco.

Leko, 29, joined Monaco at the start of the 2006-07 Ligue 1 season and became a fixture in the club. Under new manager Guy Lacombe, however, Leko has appeared just twice for Les Rouge et Blanc this season.

Speaking to French sports daily L’Equipe, Leko said: “I cannot be content with only a few appearances. I am no longer 20 years old…and I want to go somewhere else.” He also added that playing in either Germany or England is an option for a future move.

Leko transferred to Monaco from Dynamo Kyiv in 2006 and has appeared 59 times for Croatia since debuting in 2002.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Nurnberg sack coach Oenning

(GSM) – After entering the winter break second from bottom in the Bundesliga, Nurnberg have parted ways with manager Michael Oenning.

Oenning, 44, guided Nurnberg to promotion last season with a second place finish in the German second division, but they have lost four straight games to leave them on just 12 points from 17 games this season.

The final straw for club management was Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of Koln, a team that had managed to score just seven goals in 16 matches prior to Sunday’s game.

The Nurnberg job was Oenning’s first as a first team manager in Germany, though he had spent spells in the training staffs of Borussia Moenchengladbach, Wolfsburg and Bochum.

Nurnberg president Franz Schafer wished Oenning well at a press conference on Monday but did not announce if a replacement or caretaker manager had been named.

The Bundesliga is in its winter break until 15 January.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Mexico, New Zealand arrange friendly

(GSM) – New Zealand and Mexico agreed on Tuesday to play a pre-World Cup friendly on 3 March in California.

The two nations, which have both qualified for next summer’s World Cup in South Africa, have met only once before in their histories. The All Whites slammed El Tri 4-0 in a 1980 friendly.

The match will take place at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena – a suburb of Los Angeles – where the 1994 World Cup final took place between Brazil and Italy.

New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert was thrilled with the announcement of the friendly, hoping a match against Mexico could adjust New Zealand to the Latin style of play they will face in their group.

“I think with Paraguay in the group, a game against Mexico is ideal for us,” Herbert said, referring to one of his side’s Group F opponents. They play Paraguay in their final group game on 24 June in Polokwane after other matches against Slovakia and Italy.

Mexico are in Group A with hosts South Africa, Uruguay and France. Javier Aguirre’s men play in the opening match against the Bafana Bafana on 11 June.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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European round-up: Real exert the pressure in Spain as Inter have it easy in Italy

On target

On target

  • La Liga
  • Barcelona remain two points clear at the top in Spain but Real Madrid are beginning to look more like the real deal and as though they may be able to mount a serious challenge to their old rivals.

    With Barcelona not in action Real Madrid took full advantage of their game in hand by hammering Real Zaragoza 6-0 at the Bernabeu. Two from Higuain and two from Van der Vaart gave Real a 4-0 half-time lead and Ronaldo and Benzema added second-half goals to complete the rout.

    Sevilla and Valencia both lost ground and left the title looking like a two horse race. Valencia were held to a goalless draw at Deportivo and Sevilla surprisingly went down 2-1 at home to Getafe. A second-half consolation from Negredo was not even that.

  • Serie A
  • Inter are now eight points clear at the top in Italy. A Sami Eto’o goal gave them a 1-0 win over Lazio whilst nearest rivals AC Milan and Juventus both lost.

    Milan were beaten 2-0 by Palermo at the San Siro whilst Juventus lost 2-1 at home to Catania. Salihamidzic had drawn them level but a late goal cost them the points.

    It is beginning to look as though Inter may well walk to the Scudetta once again without ever really looking like a top class team.

  • Bundesliga
  • Bayer Leverkusen are a point clear of Schalke at the top in Germany and they are a further point clear of the resurgent Bayern Munich.

    The leaders had a thrilling win by the odd goal in five at home to Borussia Munchengladbach. A brace from Kroos and another goal from Derdiyok were enough to give them the points after the visitors had been 2-1 ahead at one point.

    Schalke kept up the pressure as a Farfan goal was enough to give them a 1-0 win over Mainz.

    Bayern Munich continued their recent good form with a 5-2 hammering of the hapless bottom club Hertha Berlin. Van Buyten, Gomez, Robben, Muller and Olic were all on target for Bayern.

  • Eridivisie
  • FC Twente are still at the top in Holland by two points from PSV. There is then a seven point gap to Ajax in third place.

    With none of these teams in league action this week fourth placed Feyenoord took advantage to close the gap a little with a 1-0 win over Willem II. Cisse scored the goal.

  • Ligue 1
  • It was a great weekend for Bordeaux who now have a healthy eight point lead at the top in France over Marseille who have one game in hand. Two from Bellion and goals from Cavenaghi and Gourcuff gave the leaders an easy 4-1 home win over Lorient.

    Marseille were held 0-0 at St Etienne whilst Lille were the only other winners, beating Le Mans 3-0.

    Montpelier lost 2-0 at home to Nancy and Lyon could only draw 1-1 at Monaco.

  • Portugal
  • Braga are top in Portugal on goal difference from Benfica who opened up a four point gap on Porto by beating them 1-0 on Sunday. Saviola scored the crucial only goal of the game in the first-half.

    Braga had got their three points for the weekend out of the way early after they beat Pacos Ferreira 1-0 on Friday evening. The leaders had a late first-half goal from Meyong to thank for their win.

  • SPL
  • Rangers opened up a clear lead on Celtic at the weekend as they were 6-1 winners over Motherwell, whilst Celtic lost 2-1 at Hearts.

    Rangers moved four points clear although Celtic still have a game in hand. The Gers made light work of Motherwell with Miller and Lafferty getting two each and Beasley and Boyd, of course, chipping in as well.

    Celtic will regard themselves as very unlucky to have lost at Hearts. Samaras gave them the lead but Hearts equalised with a controversial penalty which was even more controversial as Caldwell was shown a red card.

    Celtic’s ten men continued to dominate the game but Hearts found a winner from somewhere leaving Celtic very confused as to how they failed to get anything from the game.

  • Greece
  • The two horse race in Greece swayed towards Panathinaikos at the weekend as they opened up a two point lead.

    Panathinaikos had an easy 4-0 win at home to Giannina whilst Olympiakos were being beaten 1-0 by Aris Salonika.

  • Turkey
  • Galatasaray, Bursaspor, Kayserispor and Fenerbahce are all within two points of each other at the top of the Turkish league.

    In a tight and exciting league, all four of the top teams won their game this weekend by the odd goal.

    Tue 22 December, 2009
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    Nakamura ponders future on Espanyol bench

    Japan’s midfield dynamo Shunsuke Nakamura, struggling to earn playing time at Espanyol, says he plans some soul-searching after missing two straight La Liga matches, Japanese media reported Tuesday.

    Espanyol beat Almeria 2-0 at home on Sunday when manager Mauricio Pochettino used three midfield substitutes, but not the 31-year-old Japanese dead-ball specialist who joined the Barcelona outfit from Celtic in June.

    “It feels great to win,” Nakamura told Japanese media after Espanyol ended a five-game losing streak. But he added: “After seeing the substitutions … I feel compelled to think about many things.”

    He did not elaborate but Japanese sports dailies took his comment as a hint of his readiness to ponder his future with Espanyol ahead of next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.

    The left-footer has yet to score a goal in 10 La Liga matches, and has not made the starting line-up since playing in the 4-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid on November 29.

    Japan coach Takeshi Okada, who counts on Nakamura for his distribution and scoring ability, has expressed full confidence in him.

    Okada said last week that Nakamura’s decision to move to Spain ahead of the World Cup had reflected a “challenging spirit” and would have a positive effect on his career.

    “In this sense, I believe he will definitely remain an essential player for Japan’s national team although he has limited chances to play in matches at present,” the coach said.

    But Frenchman Philippe Troussier, who led Japan to an unprecedented last-16 spot in the 2002 World Cup on home turf, said this month that Okada should not take Nakamura for granted as a midfield lynchpin but stimulate competition for starting places.

    Okada has set his sights on a semi-final spot in South Africa, a target seen by most pundits as unrealistic.

    Tue 22 December, 2009
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    Desperate Poland search for a football star

    After seeing Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski get snapped up by the likes of Germany, Poland’s football association (PZPN) is now scouting the globe’s vast Polish diaspora for talent.

    Polish fans and the PZPN alike dream of reviving a long-lost golden age, with their sights set on glory on home turf at Euro 2012, after failing to make it to the 2010 World Cup.

    Getting budding internationals to opt for Poland is part of the strategy.

    “The goal is to never again to have cases like Podolski or Klose,” said Maciej Chorazyk, 35, the PZPN’s diaspora pointman.

    The duo were born in Poland and emigrated to Germany as youngsters. Called up by Germany, they turned Poles into nervous wrecks during the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008, when twists of fate drew Germany and Poland together.

    Klose, now 31, was never tempted by Poland, but 24-year-old Podolski is a classic one-that-got-away.

    At 18 he contacted the PZPN. He got the brush-off, he has said — just like Polish-born Germany team-mate Piotr Trochowski.

    “We don’t want players like that to be scoring against us,” said Chorazyk.

    An ardent supporter since he was six, with degrees in sociology and journalism, but no grounding in the sport business, Chorazyk created a scouting unit two years ago with nothing but a nod from the PZPN.

    “It was an accident. One day I met a member of the PZPN and offered to scout for players with Polish roots. He said yes,” he said.

    Chorazyk worked for free for the first year. He has a crew of volunteers in Germany, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, as well as further afield in Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the United States.

    “We live in an age of globalisation, and we need to open up to the outside world,” said former Poland manager Jerzy Engel. “We should be above all be opening up to our diaspora”.

    Football’s world governing body, FIFA, allows teams to call up players with family ties to the country. Ireland, another nation with a vast diaspora, has done so for decades.

    According to the diaspora organisation Wspolnota Polska there are around 17 million people outside Poland with Polish citizenship or recent ancestry. The home population is 38 million.

    The diaspora results from a tortured history of invasion, four decades of post-World War II communist rule, and over a century of economic migration.

    Despite the potentially vast numbers, Chorazyk drew up a 500-name shopping list and even honed that to about 40, including juniors. Half of his picks have already turned out for Poland sides.

    For the past two years, he has organised training camps in Germany for Polish-origin players in German clubs.

    It’s still early days, he noted. “We’re way behind the Turks, who have three permanent offices in Germany with full-time paid staff.”

    Chorazyk has already steered one relatively big name into the Polish senior side: 25-year-old midfielder Ludovic Obraniak of French first division club Lille.

    Obraniak, a second-generation Frenchman, scored both goals in his inaugural Poland match, a 2-0 friendly against Greece in August. He is learning Polish, and gave an emotional rendition of the national anthem.

    “We don’t promise them anything. Playing for the national side is an honour and that’s how we present it to them,” said Chorazyk.

    Engel underlined an extra, non-sporting motive: “It’s about preserving a sense of Polishness amongst thousands of youngsters abroad”.

    After Obraniak, Poland have three more defenders in their sights: Frenchmen Damien Perquis, 25, of Sochaux, and Laurent Koscielny, 24, of Lorient, and Polish-born German Sebastian Boenisch, 22, of Werder Bremen.

    Cold War politics would have hampered diaspora recruitment before the communist regime fell in 1989. But in any case, Poland’s home-grown side was in its heyday.

    Poland finished third in the World Cup in 1974 — when current PZPN chief Grzegorz Lato was the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals — and again in 1982. They also won Olympic gold and then silver, in 1972 and 1976.

    They made it to the second round of the 1986 World Cup and, shortly after democracy returned, won Olympic silver in 1992.

    Solid qualifying for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and Euro 2008 raised hopes of a return to the glory days — dashed by lacklustre displays at all three tournaments.

    Tue 22 December, 2009
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    Donovan wins US Soccer´s top player award

    Landon Donovan was named winner of the US Soccer Federation’s male athlete of the year award on Monday after helping spark the Americans into next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

    The 27-year-old playmaker also won the award in 2003 and 2004 and his third honor matches the all-time mark held by goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

    “It’s a great accomplishment and a great award,” Donovan said. “I’m very proud of it and knowing that the fans vote on it, your teammates vote on it, and your colleagues vote on it is very special to me.”

    Donovan, named Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player as well, scored three goals and made key set-up passes to assist on nine others as the US squad advanced to the World Cup for the sixth time in a row.

    “We look forward to next year,” Donovan said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

    Donovan’s 35 caps and 12 career World Cup qualifying goals are US records.

    Donovan sparked the Los Angeles Galaxy into the MLS Cup final, where the squad was beaten by Real Salt Lake. Donovan signed a new contract with the Galaxy last week and was loaned to Everton of the English Premier League.

    Mon 21 December, 2009
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