Ghana´s World Cup run has Ethiopia dreaming

Ghana’s amazing run in the World Cup may be a source of inspiration for Africa, but it’s also providing a wake-up call for African nations to lay more emphasis on improving their football standards.

In Ethiopia, thousands of fans have turned up in droves to watch the African teams make their mark in the World Cup, providing rapturous support for Ghana when they beat the United States to reach the quarter-finals.

“Ghana is the pride of Africa,” vuvuzela-blowing Estifanos Tadesse told AFP.

“We are Africans so we support them. And of course, they’re performing very, very well.”

The team’s solid performance has spurred unanimous support behind Africa’s only remaining team, but that feat has also provided a painful reminder of the gulf that exists between their country and the continent’s top dogs.

“It wasn’t long ago that we cheered for our own team in a big competition,” Ararsa Takele, a former footballer and current high school fitness coach told AFP.

“Now we have no choice but to cheer for our fellow Africans who we used to beat a lot.

“We are miles behind Ghana or Nigeria or Egypt when it comes to the standards. Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba … Just look at their players,” said Henok Teshome, another fan.

“Our golden era in football has passed, and it is painful to know that it will be very difficult to emulate today’s big African teams.”

Disqualifications, dreadful results and internal discord have been the main attributes of Ethiopian football for the past few years, but the turmoil has not curbed enthusiasm for the beautiful game.

For fans old enough to remember the 1960s saw unprecedented success for the Horn of Africa nation, then labeled the “Brazil of Africa” for its dominant, passing play.

Ethiopia was among the founders of the continent’s governing body in the 1950s, and was also one of the three participants in the inaugural African Nations’ Cup alongside Egypt and Sudan in 1957.

Led by Luciano Vassalo, who graduated upon retirement from Italy’s famed Coverciano coaching centre with current England coach Fabio Capello, the team rallied to reach five semi-finals in six attempts, including a win in 1962.

“The emperor (Haile Selassie) was determined that the team performed well, so he was always eager to hand out lavish prizes and send injured players abroad for expensive treatment,” Ararsa recalled.

But following the emperor’s dethronement in 1974, the ongoing political upheaval of that time swiftly turned attention to other matters and the country last qualified for a senior tournament in 1982.

In 2008, the Ethiopian FA’s general assembly sacked its head Ashebir Woldegiorgis, sparking the anger of FIFA.

The resulting standoff led the world governing body to suspend the country from qualification for this year’s World Cup although the crisis has finally been resolved.

“Togo made it (in Germany 2006) while other small ones like Rwanda and Kenya are qualifying for the African Nations Cup,” said fan Asradech Tesemaiends.

“We need a good coach – we can make it if we bring Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson to Ethiopia.”

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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I am still going to Liverpool – Jovanovic

(GSM) – Serbia striker Milan Jovanovic insists he will not pull out of his proposed move to Liverpool after recent reports suggested the Serbian may change his mind over his move to Anfield following Rafa Benitez’s departure from the club.

According to several reports, Benitez is planning to take Jovanovic with him to Internazionale. However, having agreed a pre-contract with Liverpool in February, Jovanovic insists his move to Anfield is still on.

The 29-year-old says that despite Benitez’s departure, the Serb will still move to Liverpool once he receives his work permit.

“I am going to Liverpool. I have signed there for three years. I repeat: no pre-agreement – a real contract,” Jovanovic told Nieuwsblad.

“And the departure of Benítez changes nothing. I have maintained contact with the executive board of Liverpool and everything is good.

“I am working to arrange my visa for England. Next week I go there to collect my work permit.

“Everything is in order since in the last two years I have played 75 per cent of the matches for my national side. Next I am looking for a house.

“On the 14th or 15th July I will join the squad for a training camp in Switzerland. But, as from Thursday, I want to start my individual training programme so I can show them immediately that I am worth a place in the side.”

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Uruguay make two changes for Ghana clash

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez on Wednesday made two changes to his team to face Ghana in Friday’s World Cup quarter-finals.

Defender Diego Godin and midfielder Alvaro Pereira, who featured in Saturday’s 2-1 win over South Korea in the last 16, have been replaced by Mauricio Victorino and Alvaro Fernandez.

Godin suffered a thigh injury against South Korea while the decision to use Fernandez instead of Pereira is a tactical decision.

Uruguay team to play Ghana:

Fernando Muslera, Maximiliano Perreira, Diego Lugano (capt.), Mauricio Victorino, Jorge Fucile, Egidio Arevalo, Diego Perez, Alvaro Fernandez, Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani.

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Argentina ´disrespecftul´, insists Schweinsteiger

Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has opened a World Cup war of words ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final with Argentina by branding Diego Maradona’s side ‘disrespectful’.

“I find that the behaviour of the Argentinians on the pitch, how they gesticulate and how they try to influence the referee, is disrespectful”, said the Bayern Munich midfielder on Wednesday.

Schweinsteiger was in the Germany team which beat Argentina 4-2 on penalties at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup when the hosts went on to finish third at the World Cup.

But he clearly remembers the ugly scenes immediately after the shoot-out with players and officials from both sides clashing on the pitch.

The Argentinians reacted angrily after German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann saved Esteban Cambiasso’s spot-kick to confirm victory.

“We all still remember sitting watching the penalties,” said Germany’s vice-captain Schweinsteiger who came off in the second-half of that match.

“What I remember most is what happened after the game, this brawl which had been triggered by the Argentinians.”

After their impressive 4-1 win over England in the Round of 16, Schweinsteiger says Germany can win Saturday’s quarter-final in Cape Town, but most not be intimidated by the Argentinians.

“We have the key to this match, if we play like we did against England, we can win,” said Schweinsteiger.

“Most importantly, we will not be intimidated or respond to their provocations. I hope the referee will be watching the game closely.

“We have seen during the (Round of 16) match between Argentina and Mexico, what can happen.

“You could see that the Argentinian fans had gathered together in the stadium without having the proper ticket, it shows their character and mentality.

“We are not the kind of players who will deliberately be attempting to injure a player.

“We will be calm and focused during this game, but I especially hope that there will be little provocation on their part because, from our side, I can assure that there will be none.”

The 25-year-old says he has matured since the last World Cup and is relishing playing in the midfield holding role vacated by injured captain Michael Ballack.

“I’m more experienced, more professional and more mature, if you compare how I am now to what I was doing in 2006,” he said.

“I used to go to practice and then I just came home.

“Now (at Bayern Munich under coach) Louis van Gaal, it is very different, we are very careful about helping our bodies to recover.

“Van Gaal has put me in the middle of the midfield, because he saw that this is where I can give my best.

“I always said it was my best position, but I have not always been able to claim this role.

“There were always more experienced players ahead of me at Bayern, with guys like Michael Ballack, Owen Hargreaves, Nico Kovac and Jens Jeremies, so I found myself on the wings, but I always knew that my best position was the middle.”

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Penalty kings Germany taking nothing for granted

Germany are the uncrowned kings of World Cup penalty shoot-outs, but coach Joachim Loew is taking nothing for granted ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final against Argentina.

Germany beat Argentina 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out four years ago when spot-kicks decided their quarter-final clash at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium at the last World Cup as the hosts finished third.

Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was the hero of the hour then as he saved penalties by Roberto Ayala and Esteban Cambiasso after theatrically reading a briefing note just before the spot-kicks to put off the pair.

“Four years ago, we relied on a piece of paper against Argentina, this time we would need a catalogue,” joked Loew in reference to the amount of talented penalty-takers Argentina have.

“This time, Argentina have so many safe shooters in their ranks, that we can’t get by with just a note.”

Germany are the only side who have never lost a penalty shoot-out at World Cup finals and have won all four of the dreaded spot-kick deciders they have faced since the first in 1982.

Schalke 04 goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could well be Germany’s star on Saturday, but the confident 24-year-old said he will put his faith in those around him.

“I will rely on the advice of (goalkeeping coach) Andreas Koepke,” he said.

Striker Lukas Podolski is the only survivor from the four players who successfully converted penalties in the quarter-final four years ago and Loew has already put his side through some penalty practice.

“Everyone took two penalties,” said Loew, without revealing the results.

“The stress and tension in the stadium during the match is completely different.

“There is a different pressure in a stadium packed full of spectators

“You can’t really simulate a penalty shoot-out.”

Loew has said he will only choose the five players who would take penalties in the event of the scores being level after 120 minutes of football just before the dreaded spot-kicks.

Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Miroslav Klose are the likely takers, but captain Philipp Lahm and rising star Thomas Mueller are also reliable penalty takers.

Germany’s rising stars have been given some advice by Andreas Brehme whose penalty kick in the 1990 World Cup final sealed the 1-0 win over Argentina and gave the Germans their third World Cup title.

“You have to believe in yourself, don’t think about it too much and just make it a simple kick,” he told SID, an AFP subsidiary.

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Nigeria leader bans team after World Cup fiasco

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday banned the country’s football team from international competition for two years following their dismal showing at the World Cup, his office said.

“President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that Nigeria withdraws from international competition for two years to enable the country to put its house in order,” spokesman Ima Niboro told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

Nigeria finished bottom of their group in South Africa with just one point from three matches.

They lost to Argentina and Greece and drew with South Korea.

Rotimi Amaechi, governor of a key oil-producing state, Rivers, who heads a special presidential task force on the World Cup campaign, said Nigeria would write to football’s world governing body FIFA to explain its decision.

“We went to the World Cup and found all sorts of problems and we felt we should sit back and look inward,” said Amaechi.

Jonathan also ordered an audit into how the funds allocated for the team at the World Cup were used.

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Brazil´s Elano still in doubt ahead of Dutch clash

Brazilian midfielder Elano remains troubled by an ankle injury and is in doubt to play against the Netherlands in their World Cup quarter-final in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

Team doctor Jose Luis Runco said Elano could be ready to play next week if Brazil progress, but there was also a chance that the Galatasaray midfielder could miss the rest of the tournament.

“Elano has been undergoing intensive treatment which can take a few days, weeks or a month,” Runco told a press conference here on Wednesday.

“Each day we will make an evaluation of him. It’s hard to gauge his exact prospects at this stage.”

Runco said scans had revealed that Elano has a deep-seated bruised bone which will prevent from having impact training with the rest of the players until at least Friday.

Complicating the issue for coach Dunga is that Elano’s likely replacement Benfica’s Ramires is suspended from the next match after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament against Chile.

Elano picked up the injury in Brazil’s second group match win over Ivory Coast and he subsequently missed the scoreless draw with Portugal and Monday’s 3-0 round-of-16 win over Chile.

Elano, who found the net in each of Brazil’s first two matches, said he was forced to cut training short on Tuesday after feeling sharp pain in the ankle.

“It was a spectacular start to the tournament after scoring two goals in the first two matches,” he told the press conference.

“I am disappointed, but I remain positive. I’m hopeful that I will still be able to play.”

Elano’s ankle took the full brunt of a crunching tackle from Ismael Tiote midway through the match against Ivory Coast at Soccer City on June 20.

“I don’t like to complain, but this type of violence needs to be analysed,” he said. “People talk about the ball, about using video to see if it was a goal or not, but I wanted to go to the referee and say, ‘You didn’t even call a foul?'”

Although Tiote was not cautioned for his tackle on Elano he received a yellow card later in the same match.

Runco said that midfielder Felipe Melo also has a left ankle injury, but it was too early to say whether he would be able to play against the Netherlands.

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Official:- PSG sign Lyon midfielder Bodmer

Paris Saint-Germain have completed the signing of midfielder Mathieu Bodmer from domestic rivals Olympique Lyonnais. Bodmer, 27, moves to PSG for a reported 3.5 million euro fee, and has signed a three year contract with the capital outfit.

The transfer brings an end to Bodmer’s three year association with Lyon. He had joined the Rhone Valley giants from Lille OSC in 2007 for 6.5 million euros.

Evreux born Bodmer is primarily a central midfielder, but can also play in defence if required.

Bodmer is PSG’s first signing of the 2010 summer window. PSG, coached by Antoine Kombouaré, finished a disappointing 13th in Ligue 1 last season.

[Source:- Paris Saint-Germain]

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Silva on verge of joining City

(GSM) – Manchester City have reached an agreement with Valencia to sign David Silva.

The Spain midfielder is set to undergo a medical and complete his move to the Eastlands after the World Cup.

Silva will sign a four-year-deal at City when he passes the medical, becoming the second star player to leave Valencia after David Villa already joined Barcelona earlier this summer.

“Firstly I would like to thank Valencia as a club and all of their loyal fans, and my team mates there and staff. I have enjoyed six years at Valencia, they discovered me as a footballer and they will always be a special club for me,” said Silva, according to City’s official website.

“The time is right for me to seek a new challenge, and I am thrilled about playing in England with Manchester City. I believe the Premier League is one of the best competitions in the world and I want to bring success to City and win trophies for them.

“I want to say that I always hoped to come to Manchester City and I am excited about my future there. They are a club with a great future with fantastic players.

City manager Roberto Mancini was very delighted with his new signing, and was looking forward to working with the Spain star.

“I think that David Silva is one of the best midfielders in Europe, and I hope he will be a very important player for Manchester City,” the Italian said.

“I am so pleased he is coming to us, I think he can make a big, big impact for Manchester City. In signing David, we are showing the World that we are bringing the best players here and that we hope to compete to win the Premier League. When players see what is happening at Manchester City and the ambition they are attracted to what we are building and want to be a part of it.”

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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Japan coach Okada has last laugh after W.Cup showing

Japanese coach Takeshi Okada can approach his likely new vocation of farming in a confident frame of mind after probably bowing out of football with his head held high following Japan’s impressive showing at the World Cup finals.

The bespectacled, undemonstrative 53-year-old could be forgiven also for cocking a snook at the sceptics, who ridiculed his target of a semi-final spot for a side that was on a four-game friendlies losing streak and finding goals hard to come by.

However, they came within a penalty shootout defeat by Paraguay in their Last 16 clash on Tuesday of getting closer to that dream – no shame there and backed up by group stage wins over Cameroon (1-0) and Denmark (3-1) while only losing 1-0 to The Netherlands.

Okada, though, was as humble after the Paraguay defeat as he has been throughout his second spell in charge of the national side – the former international having guided Japan through the 1998 finals where they lost all three matches.

“They have not come with the sole purpose of surprising you but they’ve come with the purpose of surprising you by winning,” Okada said after Yuichi Komano’s failed spot kick ended Japan’s dream of progressing.

“However to that end, I’m not satisfied because we’ve fallen short of that goal (against Paraguay).”

Whether he was happy or not at the Paraguay loss he earned unstinting praise from an unlikely media source, the Sankei Sports, which only six months ago published a poll that revealed 86 percent of those asked wanted him sacked and 80 percent responded that they didn’t think Japan would win one match at the finals.

However, on Wednesday the Sankei Sports struck an entirely different stance.

“Manager Okada has strongly impressed the world with an aggressive defence led by a battling spirit,” the Sankei Sports said.

Okada was typically philosophical about the sudden turnaround in the media’s estimation of him.

“As it has changed so much, it will change again,” he said. “Either I am praised or get a media-bashing, I won’t change.”

Okada got special credit for having changed his tactics from an all-round style of play, which had worked in Asian qualifying, to a defensive strategy with rising CSKA Moscow star midfielder Keisuke Honda boosting Japan’s feeble firepower as a lone striker.

“Many people criticised us before the tournament and I accept that,” said 24-year-old Honda, who scored two goals and created one at the finals.

“If not for them, I don’t know if we’d come this far.”

Okada, a Zen student who has often mixed his team talks with lectures on religion, philosophy and history, has repeatedly said he would leave football after the finals though, he has been suggested as a viable candidate for the top FA job.

He told a British football magazine that he would retire to become a “farmer” who reads books when it rains and toils on the land when the sun shines, a lifestyle idealised by intellectual recluses in Japan.

“I probably won’t do it any longer,” Okada said after the Paraguay defeat.

Okada – who could be replaced as Japan coach by German 1990 World Cup winning defender Guido Buchwald – warned that the relative success in South Africa doesn’t mean that Japan have established themselves permanently among the world’s elite.

“When you keep on piling bricks vertically, they will eventually crumble,” he said. “There are times when you have to lay them sideways.”

Wed 30 Jun, 2010
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