Mosimane braced for Senegal test

South Africa will look for their first ever victory over Senegal when the two teams meet in an international friendly on Wednesday.

The match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban will see South Africa begin preparations for hosting the 2013 Nations Cup, as well as gearing up for their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The teams have met four times in the past, with Senegal winning twice and the other two matches ending in draws.

South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane expects a challenging encounter against a Senegal team still hurting from their unexpected group-stage exit from this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

“This match presents us with an opportunity to prepare well for the 2013 Afcon, which we are going to host,” Mosimane said.

“It’s important to play the likes of Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Senegal.”

“The challenge with playing these strong sides is that a win is not easily achieved, but we gain lots of experience in preparation for Afcon 2013, unlike winning easily against a small team and learning little.”

“It’s going to be a difficult match for us more so because we haven’t won for a while though, we have drawn against some top sides on the continent. We want to win but it won’t be easy against the wounded Teranga Lions (Senegal).”

Wed 29 February, 2012
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Ligue 1´s big guns chase Giroud

Olivier Giroud’s agent has claimed Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon and Marseille are all chasing the Montpellier forward’s signature.

Giroud’s representative, William Sola, claims Ligue 1’s leading scorer will consider his options at the end of the season.

Sola also said Giroud is fully focused on Montpellier’s fortunes and earning a place in the France squad for the Euro 2012.

“Teams from the four major championships in Spain, Germany, England and Italy are interested in Olivier,” Sola told Midi Libre.

“Marseille, Lyon and PSG have inquired, but one team’s interest is hotter than the others.”

Sola went on to say while it was ‘in the interest of all parties’ to resolve the 25-year-old’s future, Giroud will wait until the end of the season before talking to other clubs.

“Olivier wants to stay focused only on the season with Montpellier and the opportunity to play in the Euros with les Bleus,” he said.

Giroud, who tops the scoring charts in France with 16 Ligue goals this season, has also been linked with moves to English Premier League club Arsenal and Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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Solbakken wants Podolski to focus

Cologne coach Stale Solbakken wants Lukas Podolski to concentrate on the rest of the season amid rumours he has agreed a switch to Arsenal.

On Tuesday, German newspaper Bild reported Podolski has agreed personal terms with English Premier League club Arsenal.

Cologne-based publication Express later claimed a deal was yet to be confirmed, but that its completion was believed to be imminent.

And although he was careful not to reveal any details, Solbakken has appeared to suggest he would not attempt to block a move.

“Lukas’ decision is important for us all, but also for him. We must respect this,” he said according to SID.

“I know a little more than you,” Solbakken added.

“I know a lot, but for me it is important that he has everything under control and can concentrate on the upcoming games.”

“Podolski is a Cologne player at the moment and we know that he will be here until the end of the season. Then we will have to see what happens.”

Podolski has been in blistering form this season, scoring 15 goals and providing four assists in 19 Bundesliga appearances.

He is reportedly valued by Cologne at 20 million euros, but with his contract set to expire in 2013, that price tag may be negotiable.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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No Schumacher grudge from Battiston

Former France player Patrick Battiston says he has forgiven Germany’s Harald Schumacher over a horror challenge in the 1982 World Cup.

Battiston was knocked unconscious and later slipped into a coma after colliding with goalkeeper Schumacher during the semi-final between France and West Germany at the tournament in Spain.

There were suggestions Schumacher had deliberately thrown himself into his unsuspecting opponent, who had just dragged a shot wide of goal.

The incident is still highly contentious, particularly as the alleged offence went completely unpunished.

Battiston, speaking ahead of France’s friendly against Germany in Bremen on Wednesday, said he has long since moved on.

“I have forgiven (him),” Battiston told RTL.

“But I don’t want to speak about it in these circumstances.”

Schumacher recently apologised once again for his actions, but Battiston said he has no interest in meeting his assailant in person.

“I do not particularly want to meet him,” Battiston said.

“Over time, I realise that people have forever marked him with this. But now it’s finished.”

“It was (an incident) on the field of play; we’ll never know if it was deliberate or not.”

The game in Seville finished 3-3 after extra time.

West Germany progressed to the final on penalties, with Schumacher playing a key role in his team’s shootout success.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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Barca want end to Pep talk

Barcelona spokesman Toni Freixa has called for an end to speculation over Pep Guardiola’s future as coach.

Guardiola is out of contract at the end of the season and has requested time to reflect on whether to sign a new one-year deal with the club.

The 41-year-old has helped Barca to win 13 trophies since taking charge at Camp Nou in 2008, and Freixa has said the former Spain international’s request for an end to speculation should be respected.

“What Guardiola asks for is understandable and he should be allowed to work in peace,” Freixa told 8TV.

“It is normal for someone who has spent four years at the highest level to need to think about things like this.”

Freixa expressed his ‘full confidence’ in Guardiola and hailed him as ‘the best coach that Barca could have’.

The club spokesman also moved to assure fans Barca will not be left in disarray if Guardiola decides to leave his post.

“Guardiola, (sporting director) Andoni Zubizarreta and the rest of the team are already planning for next season,” Freixa said.

“The club will continue, with him or with another coach, and will remain the best team in the world. We do not have to worry about that.”

Guardiola spent a season in charge of Barca’s B team before assuming control of the senior side from Frank Rijkaard four years ago.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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Parker receives England armband

Scott Parker is set to captain England for Wednesday’s friendly clash with the Netherlands at Wembley.

The game will be Parker’s first taste of captaining his country in only his 11th appearance for the national side, having won just three caps up until last year.

The Spurs man has been praised for his fine performances this season both domestically and internationally, picking up the Vauxhall England Player of the Year award in the process.

Many had tipped Steven Gerrard to be handed the captain’s armband, with the Huyton-born midfielder having captained the side on 15 previous occasions.

However, it is the former West Ham man who has got the nod, as interim manager Stuart Pearce has continued the trend of a new look England side, naming the uncapped Fraizer Campbell in the 25-man squad.

Parker has helped Harry Redknapp’s side climb to third in the Premier League table since moving across London following West Ham’s relegation last season.

Though a 5-2 defeat to Arsenal last time out has dampened hopes of a maiden Premier League title, Spurs look set to seal Champions League qualification this season.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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Hart reveals Tancredi gaffe

England’s Joe Hart says Fabio Capello’s goalkeeping coach Franco Tancredi called him ‘John’ early in his international career.

Hart was England’s third-choice shot-stopper for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, but later claimed the number one jersey thanks to some impressive performances for club side Manchester City.

The 24-year-old has become a lucky charm for England, who have not lost in any of his 16 international appearances.

Communication problems aside, Hart said he enjoyed playing under former manager Fabio Capello, and thanked the Italian coach for handing him a starting berth.

“For myself, it (the Capello era) was an adventure,” he said.

“I’m very grateful for what Mr Capello did for my career. I was really honoured that he put me in as his number one.”

“But I’ll do my best for any England manager. Not losing is a great record to have and I want that to keep going.”

Caretaker England manager Stuart Pearce, appointed to lead the senior team for Wednesday’s friendly international against the Netherlands, signed Hart from Shrewsbury for 600,000 pounds during his time as City manager, before also selecting him for England’s Under-21 side.

And Hart feels Pearce should be seen as a genuine contender for the vacant full-time manager’s position.

“For myself, he is a candidate,” Hart said.

“He’s a passionate guy. England is perfect for him.”

The City goalkeeper believes the match against the Netherlands will be a tough test and commended the form of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie.

“He (Van Persie) is slapping goals in left, right and centre,” Hart said.

“But he’s not invincible. We beat Arsenal 1-0 at Manchester City.”

“Holland could be one of our biggest rivals at the Euros so we have to play like a tournament game. They are World Cup finalists and we need to be winning games like this.”

Wed 29 February, 2012
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AFC World Cup qualifying wrap: Saudis exit, Oman through

Oman progressed to the fourth round of AFC World Cup qualifying with a win over Thailand, while Australia edged Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia were leading Australia midway through the second half in Melbourne as they looked certain to clinch second spot in Group D.

But three goals in three second-half minutes saw Australia surge to a memorable 4-2 win at AAMI Park, sending them into the final stage of World Cup qualification on a massive high.

Australia looked set for their first defeat on home soil in almost three years when Saudi Arabia led 2-1 with just 17 minutes left.

But just as the visitors were dreaming of keeping their hopes of qualification for Brazil alive, Harry Kewell, Alex Brosque and Brett Emerton each scored to secure the points in emphatic fashion.

Brosque finished with a brace after initially cancelling out Salem Al Dawsari’s 19th-minute strike just before the break, only to see Nasser Al-Shamrani restore Saudi Arabia’s advantage moments later.

It meant Oman advanced after securing a hard-fought 2-0 win over Thailand at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Oman.

Hussain Al-Hadhri gave Paul Le Guen’s team a 10th-minute lead, before Oman sealed the win through Abdullah Al Muqbali’s powerful left-foot effort in stoppage time.

In Group A, a brace from Hao Junmin led China to a 3-1 win over Jordan.

Jordan were already assured a place in the next round of qualifying before their loss in Guangzhou, while Iraq take on Singapore later with the former having already progressed.

Elsewhere, Tajikistan secured their first point in Group C after a 1-1 draw at home to North Korea.

Akhtam Khamroqulov and Jang Song-Hyok exchanged goals as the bottom two sides finished their qualifying campaigns, with top two Japan and Uzbekistan still to play.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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Terry: Knee surgery went well

Chelsea captain John Terry has revealed surgery on his injured right knee went well and is now hoping to be back in action in four to six weeks.

The news means Terry’s domestic season may not be over and he will almost certainly be ready for the European Championships in the summer should he be selected.

The former England captain initially reported the injury at the turn of the year but played through the pain barrier before accepting the need for medical intervention.

“The operation went well and I’m feeling really good,” he told The Sun.

“The surgeon has shaved off a bit of bone in my right knee that was rubbing and causing a lot of swelling.”

“We’re all confident the operation has solved the problem and it is looking good for a quick return.”

Terry has been given an estimated return date by the Chelsea medical staff, but the 31-year-old is hopeful of an even quicker comeback.

“The medical staff say four to six weeks before I can play again. But, hopefully, it might be sooner.”

“I’ll definitely be back before the end of the season to help the team in the Premier League run-in and for the Euros.”

Should he be fit within the forecasted four weeks, the defender could take part in Chelsea’s last seven games, including crucial trips to Liverpool and Arsenal in the race for fourth place.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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PSG chief admits interest in Higuain

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has confirmed his interest in Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain.

The Argentine striker is unhappy with his status at Santiago Bernabeu and he could decide to ask for a transfer at the end of the season.

His international teammate Javier Pastore recently asked Paris Saint-Germain chiefs to try and sign the Real Madrid forward and the Saints president admits that is a realistic possibility.

“Maybe he can come one day,” Al-Khelaifi told CNN.

“But you know, I mean Pastore he is a great player and he wants his friend to come here.”

In spite of his great scoring form this season, Higuain only started 10 La Liga games and he is becoming fed up with playing second fiddle to Karim Benzema.

The player’s representative revealed earlier this month that his client would consider his future at the end of the season and Paris Saint-Germain will be looking to take advantage of the situation in the summer.

Higuain amassed a total of 22 La Liga appearances this term, and managed to score 14 goals in the process.

Wed 29 February, 2012
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