Osieck wary of qualifying rivals

Australia coach Holger Osieck has cautioned against complacency after his team were handed a kind qualifying draw for the 2014 World Cup.

The preliminary draw, conducted in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, saw the Socceroos placed in Group D of Asian third-round qualifying, alongside Saudi Arabia, Oman and Thailand.

Australia begin their campaign – with a place in the final two fourth-round groups at stake – at home to Thailand, a team 96 places below them in the FIFA rankings and seemingly an easy target for the Asian Cup finalists.

But German Osieck, who succeeded Pim Verbeek as head coach in August 2010, dismissed any suggestion that his team were guaranteed a place in Brazil next year.

“There are a lot of strong teams in Asia right now. We know that from experience,” Osieck said.

“You shouldn’t underrate the teams we will play in the group, they all went through the second round, they qualified, so they must have some potential.”

“Take for instance the Asian Cup when we had India … it was important for us to go into the tournament, play well, score a couple of goals and build our confidence.”

“And the same happens here – we will definitely have the best team available.”

While attempting to play down expectations of a swift passage to the fourth round, Osieck did endorse the ability of his players, calling on them to demonstrate their quality with a flying start in the first match on September 2.

“Our target is simply to go through to Brazil,” he said.

“We are at the first stage, so we have to take every single step very seriously.”

“Football is not a wishing well, and you can’t predicate anything. It would be an ideal scenario that we could make the qualification for the second round as early as possible, but there’s a lot of unpredictability.”

“What I don’t like in football is to calculate. First we play, then we go from there.”

“I’m a positive thinker. I want to see our guys play. We have a lot of potential; I want to see them perform. It’s very important to have a very positive start to the campaign and … to really build on the confidence we should be in from that first game.”

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Mourinho plays down Adebayor link

Jose Mourinho has denied Real Madrid are closing in on the signature of Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor.

Adebayor spent the second half of last season on loan with the La Liga giants and has been linked with a permanent switch to the Spanish capital.

The ex-Arsenal man watched from the stands as Madrid beat Leicester City 2-1 in Saturday’s pre-season friendly, but Mourinho insists the 27-year-old was merely a guest, rubbishing suggestions he was in talks to secure a move.

“No. He is here because he is our friend and he belongs to us. He is one of us,” Mourinho said when asked if Adebayor was at the King Power Stadium to seal a stay in the Spanish capital.

“It doesn’t matter if he is playing at Real Madrid or Manchester City or another club, he is one of us. He was with us for six months and went to the heart of everybody. He is a great lad and everybody loves him.”

“When he called us asking permission to come here today, there was not one second of thought. He was with us in the dressing room and he is always welcome.”

“If he comes he comes, if he doesn’t it doesn’t matter. We will all know by August 31 who is in and who is out and where they are playing. But today he came as a friend and he is always welcome.”

Speculation over the European summer has linked Karim Benzema with a move away from Real with Arsenal mooted as a potential suitor, but Mourinho is adamant that the France international will not be leaving the club.

He said: “There is no speculation. He is not for sale, no chance.”

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Belgian First Division wrap: Genk, Mechelen start in style

Reigning champions Genk kicked off their defence of the Belgian First Division title with a 3-1 win over Beerschot on Saturday.

An own-goal from Beerschot’s Croatian defender Tomislav Mikulic gifted hosts Genk a 1-0 lead 20 minutes into the match at the Cristal Arena.

Israel forward Elyaniv Barda then doubled the lead on 32 minutes, and just three minutes later David Hubert netted to make it 3-0, effectively ending the match as a contest with 55 minutes still remaining.

Uruguayan Gary Kagelmacher pulled one back for the visitors from the penalty spot with 15 minutes to go, but it proved no more than a consolation.

Also on Saturday, Mechelen joined Genk on three points following a 2-1 win at home to Sint-Truiden.

French midfielder Julien Gorius struck the winner for Mechelen with five minutes remaining after Sint-Truden’s Gregory Dufer had cancelled out Boris Pandza’s opener.

In other matches, Jelle Van Damme’s second-half equaliser secured a point for Standard Liege as they drew 1-1 away to Mons.

Gambian Ebrahima Savaneh had put the home side ahead three minutes before half-time.

Kortrijk also drew 1-1 in their match at home to Lierse.

The visitors led from the 17th minute courtesy of Milos Maric’s opener.

Kortrijk went a man down when Cameroonian Ernest Webnje Nfor was shown a red card just five minutes into the second half.

But the 10-man hosts still managed to produce an equaliser through Brecht Capon’s penalty on 54 minutes.

Cercle Brugge struck late to take all three points in their match away to Gent.

Ukrainian Oleg Iachtchouk hit the winner for Cercle in the 80th minute of the match, just two minutes after Gent were reduced to 10 men.

Defender Valery Nahayo, who joined from South African outfit Kaizer Chiefs earlier this month, was the man to go, shown a second yellow card on his league debut for the club.

Elsewhere, Lokeren were held 0-0 at home by Zulte-Waregem.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Wenger calls for commitment

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claims that no sum of money would tempt the club to part with Cesc Fabregas providing he wants to stay.

But Wenger has also suggested that his captain and Samir Nasri, both transfer targets of some of Europe’s biggest teams, must be committed to the north London club if they are to stay at the Emirates.

Fabregas has long been linked with a move back to Barcelona while France international Nasri has been attracting interest from Premier League rivals Manchester City.

Despite reiterating his desire to keep the duo beyond the European summer, Wenger hinted that he wants the futures of two of his star players to be sorted out within the next 10 days.

“If Fabregas is committed to this club and wants to stay, no money will get him out of here,” the Gunners boss said after seeing his side draw 2-2 with Boca Juniors in Saturday’s Emirates Cup clash.

“We are not in a position where we need to sell our players. We want to keep our players. We are not looking after money. We want the players to stay here, from our side that is clear.”

“It’s not ideal for us on the financial side (Nasri potentially leaving on a free transfer next summer) but, on the sporting side, he is an important player. We have to deal with the situation one way or another. In the next 10 days we have to be clear on that front.”

“If you ask me if I want to keep him (Nasri), I say yes. But he needs to be committed to that as well. I don’t give them (Fabregas and Nasri) 10 days, the transfer period is until August 31.

“Ideally, we go into big games in two weeks, in the next two weeks we have to sort our problems out. There is no specific deadline of one day or 24 hours. It’s not like you shoot a shuttle into space. Sometimes it’s very quick on that front and sometimes it’s very slow.”

Sun 31 July, 2011
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France face Spain test in World Cup draw

Reigning champions Spain and fellow European powerhouse France have been drawn together in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Following Saturday’s preliminary draw in Rio de Janeiro, the two heavyweights will be joined in UEFA Group I by Belarus, Georgia and Finland.

Fierce local rivals Croatia and Serbia were placed together in Group A, along with Belgium, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Macedonia.

The Netherlands, beaten 1-0 by Spain in the 2010 final, will be up against Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia and Andorra.

Three-time winners Germany were drawn in Group C, together with Sweden, the Republic of Ireland, Austria, the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan.

Four-time champions Italy will face Denmark, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia and Malta.

England’s biggest obstacle could be their Euro 2012 qualifying rivals Montenegro, as well as Ukraine and Poland, with Moldova and San Marino making up Group H.

In the third round of Asian qualifying, Australia must tackle Saudi Arabia, Oman and Thailand.

Of the confederation heavyweights, Asian Cup winners Japan have arguably the toughest assignment, drawn against Uzbekistan, Syria and North Korea.

The top two in each of the five third-round groups will progress to form two fourth-round groups.

The teams finishing first and second in the fourth round groups reach the finals automatically, while the third-placed team in each group then meet in a playoff.

The winner of the Asian playoff will contest an intercontinental playoff against the fifth-place team in South American qualifying.

There was no draw for South American qualifying, with all CONMEBOL teams to play one another, except Brazil, who qualify automatically as hosts.

In North America, Central America and Caribbean qualifying, a second round of group-stage qualifying will determine the right to face the seeded nations, including the United States and Mexico.

The top two in each of the CONCACAF third-round groups will then contest a six-team fourth round group.

The top three in the fourth round will qualify automatically, with the fourth-placed team entering an intercontinental playoff against the winner of Oceania.

That is likely to be New Zealand, who will be play Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea in Group B of Oceania’s second round.

In Group A, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Tahiti will be joined by a round-one winner.

Sat 30 July, 2011
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Club friendly wrap: Inter trump Celtic, Gunners held by Boca

Inter Milan defeated Celtic 2-0 despite being reduced to 10 men in their Dublin Super Cup pre-season match on Saturday.

Luc Castaignos and Giampaolo Pazzini scored first-half goals to put the Italian side ahead at the Aviva Stadium, and despite Tiago Motta’s dismissal for a second yellow card, Inter held on to record a victory.

Despite the win, Inter remain second on the Super Cup table after day one following Manchester City’s 3-0 victory over an Airtricity XI of players from the Irish Premier League.

With new signing Sergio Aguero watching on from the stands, Roberto Mancini fielded a side largely made up of reserve and youth team players, but it made little difference as the English Premier League side controlled the match.

One of City’s forgotten men, Shaun Wright-Phillips, broke the deadlock on 52 minutes, before Adam Johnson made it 2-0 seven minutes later and young substitute Luca Scapuzzi finished off the victory with a third on 83 minutes.

City will face Inter on Sunday to decide the winner of the tournament.

In London, Arsenal threw away a two goal lead and were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw against Boca Juniors in the Emirates Cup.

Robin van Persie and Aaron Ramsey had given the Gunners a comfortable lead in the first half, only for defensive lapses to allow Lucas Viatri and Pablo Mouche to equalise for the Brazilian side after the break.

The New York Red Bulls top the Emirates Cup table after day one following their 1-0 win over French side Paris Saint-Germain, with Joel Lindpere scoring the winner in the 27 minute.

Fernando Torres was on target as Chelsea won the final of the Barclay’s Asia Trophy 2-0 against fellow EPL side Aston Villa.

Youngster Josh McEachran opened the scoring in the first half before Tores deflected a Florent Malouda strike past Villa goalkeeper Shay Given to register just his second goal in a blue shirt.

Blackburn easily defeated Hong Kong side Kitchee 3-0 in the third-place playoff.

Elsewhere, Everton beat newly relegated Birmingham City 2-1 at St Andrews, Bolton defeated Conference outfit Newport County 3-1 and Norwich won 3-0 away to Coventry City, while West Brom and Wolves also recorded narrow victories over Bristol City and Ipswich Town respectively.

Sat 30 July, 2011
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Scottish Premier League wrap: Rangers register first win

Rangers have bounced back from their opening day draw with a 2-0 win over St Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League on Saturday.

The champions struck once in each half to take all three points from McDiarmid Park after drawing 1-1 at home to Hearts last weekend.

Forward Steven Naismith opened the scoring after 31 minutes as he headed in a well-delivered free-kick from Lee Wallace.

The hosts were in the game until five minutes into the second half when Croatia international Nikica Jelavic made it 2-0.

Naismith turned provider as he played Jelavic behind the St Johnstone defence and the striker slid his shot past Finnish shot-stopper Peter Enckelman.

In other games, Nigel Hasselbaink’s first goal for Aberdeen helped them to a 1-0 win over St Mirren.

The striker scored what proved to be the winner five minutes after the interval, his first goal since joining from Hamilton Academical.

Hibernian left it late and were fortunate to record a 1-0 win over Inverness CT.

Striker Garry O’Connor scuffed a shot at goal in added time and Inverness goalkeeper Ryan Esson, who had enjoyed a superb match, fumbled the effort over the line.

In the day’s other game, Motherwell remain on top after playing out a 0-0 draw with Kilmarnock.

Sat 30 July, 2011
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Gerrard to miss start of EPL season

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been ruled out until September due to a groin infection.

The midfielder, 31, had groin surgery that ended his last campaign in April and has now suffered another setback.

Gerrard did not travel with his team-mates on their recent tour of Asia, but despite the cautious treatment from the club, the England international has been hospitalised with an infection.

At least, he will miss the Merseyside club’s first three games of the English Premier League season, against Sunderland, Arsenal and Bolton.

A club statement on Saturday read: “Steven Gerrard today began a course of antibiotic treatment for an infection related to an ongoing groin problem.”

“He is expected to remain in hospital for several days while the precautionary procedure is completed.”

“The player will then return to Melwood to continue his rehabilitation program and is expected to be available for selection in September.”

Gerrard is also unlikely to be fit for England’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria (September 2) and Wales (September 6).

Liverpool meet Sunderland at Anfield on August 13 in their first league game of the season.

Sat 30 July, 2011
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Is Jurgen Klinsmann the best man for the USA national team job?

Former-Germany manager and player Jurgen Klinsmann has been announced as the new head coach of the USA national side.

The German will replace Bob Bradley, who was fired earlier this week. Details of his contract have yet to be revealed but he will be unveiled as USA boss at a press conference on Monday.

Proud

Klinsmann told the media: “ I am proud and honoured to be named the head coach of the US Men’s National Team,”

“I would like to thank the US Soccer Federation for the opportunity, and I’m excited about the challenge ahead. I am looking forward to bringing the team together for our upcoming match against Mexico and starting on the road toward qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”

Love

Nobody can deny that Klinsmann loves the United States. The former-Bayern boss loved the USA that much that shortly after his retirement from playing he moved to the States. He even got in trouble with his home nation when he refused to relocate full-time to manage the national team.

He commuted from America to Germany and split his time between the two countries. There is no doubt that Klinsmann considers the USA his second home and this job could be ideal for everybody.

Legend

Klinsmann is a true living legend. He helped Germany win the World Cup in 1990 as a player and also the 1996 European Championship in England. In club football he also won numerous trophies with Bayern Munich, Inter, Stuttgart and Monaco.

Boss

However his managerial experience is very limited. Klinsmann enjoyed a two year spell in charge of national side, in which he lead his country to third place in 2006 World Cup. The 46 year-old then took charge of Bavarian giants Bayern Munich.

He was replaced after less than a year after encountering problems with the Bayern hierarchy, despite being just three points behind Bundesliga leaders Wolfsburg.

Development

Although he hasn’t had a great deal of success as a boss he has so much knowledge of the game to pass on. He could be just the man to take football to the next level in the United States. The national side have enjoyed a creditable rise up the football rankings in recent years and will be hoping to even further under the German.

MLS

The key to the national side has to be the success of the MLS. The league has shown a steady growth in popularity in the last five years and the construction of purpose build ‘Soccer’ stadiums is only good for the development of the game in America.

Attendances at MLS games are also growing and it seems that the beautiful game is finally starting to hold its own against the nations other national sports.

Inspiration

The key ingredient to Klinsmann being the boss of the USA national side is that he will inspire his players to better themselves and hopefully that will lead to the sport kicking up a notch in the USA. I really do think that Jurgen Klinsmann is the right man for the job and will really help improve the state of the game in the USA.

Is Jurgen Klinsmann the right man for the USA job?

Sat 30 July, 2011
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J.League wrap: Urawa continue resurgence

Urawa Reds have extended their unbeaten run in the J.League to seven matches with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday.

The 2007 AFC Champions League winners made a slow straight to their domestic campaign this season, but continued their resurgence to move into 10th at Kawasaki.

An own goal from former Yokohama F Marinos defender Takanobu Komiyama in the ninth minute was enough to earn them the three points against the fifth-placed Kawasaki Frontale.

Meanwhile, league leaders Yokohama F Marinos made it seven wins from their last eight outings with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Omiya Ardija.

A second-half brace from striker Masashi Oguro put them three points clear of Kashiwa Reysol – who play on Sunday – after Rafael had put the visitors 1-0 up on 36 minutes.

Gamba Osaka moved into fourth with a 2-1 win at Jubilo Iwata.

Defender Daisuke Nasu had cancelled out Sota Nakazawa’s first-half strike before Rafinha struck a 72nd-minute winner for Gamba.

Elsewhere, Sanfrecce Hiroshima found the net twice in each half on their way to a surprisingly comfortable 4-0 win over Shimzu S-Pulse.

Striker Tadanari Lee and an own goal from Australian defender Eddy Bosnar had the hosts 2-0 up at the break.

They sealed the win with two goals in the last eight minutes as Georgia international David Mujiri scored, followed by Lee completing his brace.

A double from Takayuki Yoshida helped Vissel Kobe to an entertaining 4-2 win over Ventforet Kofu.

Defender Yosuke Ishibitsu and midfielder Hideo Tanaka also found the net for the home side, while Paulinho and Kim Sin-Young were on the scoresheet for Ventforet Kofu.

In the day’s other game, Montedio Yamagata remain in the relegation zone after a Atomu Tanaka strike gave Albirex Niigata a 1-0 win.

Sat 30 July, 2011
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