Xavi unsure of Spain future

Xavi has admitted that he does not know if he will feature in another major tournament with Spain after Euro 2012.

The 32-year-old has played a crucial role in La Roja’s domination of international football over the last four years, which has seen them crowned both European and world champions.

However, the Barcelona man could neither confirm nor deny whether Euro 2012 would be his last competition with the national side, with his full focus on trying to make history in another final against Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

“I don’t know if it will be my last tournament, I feel fine and I take part of all these victories,” he said on Saturday. “My priority is that the team win.”

The two sides battled to a 1-1 draw in their first game in Group C and Xavi believes the Azzurri are no longer defensive, making possession even more important.

“Italy are not the Catenaccio team we used to know,” he said. “One of the keys will be keeping the ball because both teams want it.

“We could have eliminated Italy in the group stage but we always go for the win so we will have no regrets if we lose tomorrow.”

Vicente del Bosque’s side have received criticism for their displays in Poland and Ukraine so far, with some labelling their ‘tiki-taka’ passing style as boring.

The midfielder stated that the players are not concerned what others think of their tactics, which for the moment are serving them well, insisting all that matters to the team is victory.

“If we are boring but we are winning, that is fantastic for us,” Xavi said.

“We are not bored. We will keep playing our game.”

Meanwhile, Spain keeper Iker Casillas respects Italy for their achievements this year, and insists La Roja are not favourites, while adding the Spanish side never thought they would be in their third final in as many tournaments.

“Italy are a great side and, as they showed the other day, they are worthy finalists,” the 31-year-old said.

“They have shown their quality and deserve to be here. We never go into finals thinking we are favourites; we go into them as equals.

“For me, this is different to four years ago. Back then, we achieved something nobody expected. It was the same at the World Cup, people hoped but didn’t expect. We could not have imagined we’d be in a third final four years ago.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Del Bosque vows to attack Italy

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has indicated that he will deploy three forwards from the start of Sunday’s Euro 2012 final against Italy.

The 61-year-old has shown variety in his selections during the tournament, utilising Cesc Fabregas as a ‘false nine’ on several occasions and also opting for Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Torres as more traditional centre forwards.

And though the Barcelona midfielder made the starting XI for the group match against Italy, Del Bosque has now given a strong indication that the 25-year-old may start the final on the bench.

“We will play with three strikers, but all the team have to help them,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Saturday.

“These three players will have the obligation to attack and to try to score a goal. We have more obligation to attack than to defend.”

Italy are known for their defensive approach to football, but Del Bosque does not expect Cesare Prandelli’s side to play ‘Catenaccio’ on Sunday.

“This next game is the most important one, we will play for something we have been working on for two years,” he said.

“We would all like to secure a victory.

“Italy have been on the rise and they deserve to be in the final.

“We cannot say that Italy played defensive football against us in the group game because they did not. They have made progress in recent years.”

Spain enter Sunday’s final as favourites after winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, but the Spaniard insists the game will be a close contest.

“I think we cannot look at the past,” the former Real Madrid boss said.

“Italy have won the World Cup four times, and we are talking about the present, which is the only reference.

“We were in the same group, we have both won matches on penalties and our playing style has been similar. That is why I do not think there will be a big difference.

“If our players have lost the desire to win? We haven’t noticed symptoms of that happening.

“Success can weaken the future, but we have a group of players that know what this sport is and we have not lost our competitive spirit.”

Del Bosque withdrew midfield lynchpin Xavi during his side’s draw with Portugal in the semi-final but has defended the Barcelona playmaker following criticism of his performance.

“It is very rare for Xavi to have a bad game,” Del Bosque said.

“He contributes with his talent, his quality, he does a lot of team work and he dictates our style of play.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Giggs disappointed with Beckham snub

Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs says he is disappointed David Beckham has missed out on a spot in the Great Britain Olympic squad.

The LA Galaxy star revealed earlier in the week that he had failed to make the cut for the final 18-man squad.

Giggs is expected to be named as one of three overage players when it is announced on Monday and, despite his feelings on the decision, accepts that Stuart Pearce must select a side that can win the tournament.

“As a former team-mate and friend of David’s, I’m immensely disappointed for him,” Giggs told Sky Sports.

“I wish he was in the squad, but it’s Stuart Pearce’s job to pick a team that he feels can win the gold, and that’s what he’s done.

“Unfortunately David isn’t in that 18, but he’ll take it on the chin. It’s one of those things that just wasn’t meant to be.”

Great Britain have been drawn in Group A of the tournament, along with Uruguay, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates, and Giggs admits he is excited to play in an international tournament after missing out on numerous occasions with Wales.

“Just coming to London and feeling the buzz around the place for the Olympics and seeing the signs everywhere has got me really excited,” he said.

“It’s a massive event and one that I’m looking forward to, and I’m sure the lads who are picked will go out and do the best they can.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Platini against technology ´invading´ football

UEFA president Michel Platini has maintained his anti-technology stance and insisted football should not be invaded by cameras and sensors.

The former France international has long been an advocate of extra refereeing, but FIFA look to be finally coming around to using goal-line technology.

There were fresh calls for it to be introduced after Ukraine saw a goal ruled out against England despite the ball crossing the line but Platini pointed out that the official’s error made amends for the missed offside.

“The goal between England and Ukraine: it was a goal. It was a mistake from the referee,” Platini said.

“But there was an offside before then.

“If the officials had given offside there wouldn’t have been a goal.

“So why don’t we have technology for offside decisions as well? Where does it stop?”

Platini insists his qualms with goal-line technology exist because he sees any introduction as a potentially slippery slope into an invasion of more complications within the sport.

“It’s not goal-line technology in itself,” said the UEFA chief. “I am against technology coming into force to actually make decisions.

“It invades every single area. If tomorrow someone handballs it on the line and the referee doesn’t see it, what then?

“We can’t just have goal-line technology. We also need sensors to see if someone has handballed it.

“We need cameras to see if it should be a goal or not.”

Tests have already been carried out regarding the mooted advancements but Platini remains adamant that his doubts about it are valid.

“Are you sure that it works?” the Euro 1984 winner asked. “No-one has seen the trials, no-one has seen anything.

“I read an article from a journalist saying: ‘We are not 100 percent sure but we think it will help the referee. We don’t know any more than that’.”

But Platini warned that even if FIFA make goal-line technology available at the highest level that UEFA could still choose not to use it.

“We are going to see if this is suggested and proposed to all federations,” he said.

“The national federations will have then have the chance to decide whether they want goal-line technology.

“Mr Blatter knows what I think of this and I know his thoughts on the issue.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Chelsea re-enter Modric race; Joao Moutinho earns Premier League interest

Chelsea have re-entered the race to sign Tottenham Hotspur midfield maestro Luka Modric, according to Express.

The Blues have already brought the likes of Marko Marin and Eden Hazard to Stamford Bridge, with Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Jose Bosingwa and Jacob Mellis.

Drogba, Kalou and Bosingwa surely need no introduction, but Mellis might for some.

The former England Under-19 star was sacked by the club back in March after he admitted setting off a smoke grenade at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground.

Subsequently, Mellis has agreed to take his talents to South Yorkshire to play for Barnsley Football Club, BBC Sport reports.

“I’m really pleased to have got Jacob. He’s a quality player and I’m looking forward to working with him,” Barnsley boss Keith Hill told the club’s website.

“We’re both on the same page as to what is to be expected and demanded from him.”

Now then, enough about smokes grenades.

Manchester United and Real Madrid have also shown considerable interest in Modric, but the 26-year-old has been linked with a move to west London for awhile now.

With that said, Los Blancos are reportedly only willing to offer £20 million for the Croatian playmaker, while Chelsea are preparing a £36 million bid for the former GNK Dinamo Zagreb youth star.

Furthermore, Roman Abramovich usually finds a way to get who he wants. All signs seem to be suggesting that Modric will be a Chelsea player next season.

Joao Moutinho to Spurs?

According to the Daily Mail, Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho has earned interest from the top clubs in the English Premier League following his solid performances at Euro 2012.

Moutinho has been tipped to replace Luka Modric at Chelsea, but Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and the aforementioned Chelsea also reportedly interested in the Portuguese.

The buy-out clause in the 25-year-old’s contract is a whopping £40 million, but FC Porto are apparently willing to part ways with Moutinho for £32 million.

Dos Santos nears White Hart Lane exit

Mexico international Giovani dos Santos is close to joining La Liga side Atletico Madrid for a fee of £8 million, the Daily Mail understands.

The 23-year-old is looking to rejuvenate his career elsewhere after being out-of-favor at Spurs for quite some time.

Many feel that the former FC Barcelona winger was treated unfairly at Tottenham. I agree.

No disrespect to Niko Kranjcar, but Dos Santos surely should have been ahead of the Croatian in the pecking order.

Unfortunately, Harry Redknapp did not feel the same way, spurring on the Mexican to leave White Hart Lane.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Balotelli unfazed by Euro pressure

Mario Balotelli says Manchester City’s title success means defeat in the Euro 2012 final for Italy would not signal a personal failure.

Cesare Prandelli’s men beat a much-fancied Germany team 2-1 in their semi-final, with Balotelli netting an impressive double to set up a final against reigning champions Spain.

The unpredictable forward has already tasted English Premier League success with club side City last season, and he feels the pressure is off going into the European Championship decider in Kiev on Sunday.

“We won the league at Manchester City so having a good season for me doesn’t depend on winning the Euros,” he said.

“If we don’t win it, it wouldn’t spoil the other things but it would be special.”

The 21-year-old hopes to repeat his goal-scoring form from the semi-finals in the clash on Sunday, but insists his country winning the trophy is more important than his individual return.

“If we win and I score, it will be amazing,” he said.

“If I don’t score and we win it will still be amazing.

“I am really happy at the moment and on Sunday I hope I will be even happier.

“We are in the final. We are one of the two best teams in the tournament. We have to go there and play to win.”

Spain and Italy have already met at the tournament, the teams played out a 1-1 draw in their Group C opener on June 10.

Balotelli is looking forward to renewing acquaintance with City team-mate and Spain playmaker David Silva.

“I know David very well,” he said.

“I played against him in the first game. It is going to be fun.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Rodwell sets sights on England role

Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell has targeted securing an England starting berth in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

The 21-year-old was sidelined by injury for the majority of the 2011/12 Premier League season but hopes to regain fitness for the next campaign.

The Everton man had been tipped to become an England star prior to his injury woes and has now set his sights on making those expectations a reality.

“The World Cup is every player’s dream,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

“That’s what my next goal is, to keep working hard and trying to get in the England squad.”

The midfielder also expressed his belief England’s crop of youngsters point to a bright future for the national team.

“There’s the likes of Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, myself and others, that can play regularly,” he said.

“You look at Manchester United, who had Danny Welbeck competing in the Euros, and Phil Jones was there too. There’s a good spine of players. I’m sure in the next few years that these players will grow and mature.

“They say part of the European game is about being able to keep the ball – you look at the likes of Spain and teams like that – so hopefully we’ll emulate that.

“We’ve got the players to do it, so I think once we put it together, it’ll work out.”

The Everton midfielder has represented England at every level from the Under-16 side upwards and earned two full international caps last year.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Prediction: Spain vs Italy

30th June 2012

European Championship 2012 has fully lived up to the expectations and the final between reigning champions Spain and resurgent Italy is certainly worthy of the occasion. La Furia Roja are on the road to become the first ever national team to win three major competitions in a row, but the Azzurri are there to make sure they are the ones to enter the history books instead.

If Spain have been thoroughly impressive at the Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, we cannot really say they reached the Euro 2012 final in style. La Furia Roja were forced to grind out results in group stage and they were on the verge of elimination for most of the game against Croatia. Following the comfortable victory over France in the quarter-finals, Vincent del Bosque’s side were again made to work hard for the win, but they managed to reach the final after beating Portugal on penalties. La Furia Roja are now just one step away from their third consecutive title, but that could prove to be a huge obstacle unless the team show a massive improvement. Even if Spain continue to dominate possession in each and every game, the team are not as dangerous up front as they once were, seeing that the tip if the attack is pretty blunt regardless of which one of Fabregas, Negredo and Torres gets the nod. The first match against Italy showed that the Azzurri are much more concrete in attack and the odds are we will see a similar game to the one played in Gdansk.

Given that Italy were not even seen as one of the candidates for the trophy in Poland and Ukraine, Cesare Prandelli has got to be congratulated for taking his team to the final. The interesting thing is that Azzurri’s showings have been even better than their results at the Euro 2012, which is a major surprise, especially for a team famous for grinding out results and winning the games they do not dominate. Having said that, football fans all over the world were certainly happy to see attack-minded Italy, playing their best football in years, so the Euro 2012 trophy would be a just reward for Cesare Prandelli’s brave approach throughout the tournament. It is easy to see that the talented tactician has found a right balance in the side, with the back line as solid as ever, compact and adventurous midfield, and a lethal attack. While this Italy side feature plenty of individual talent in the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano, to name just a few, it appears that team spirit is their biggest strength and the thing that could ultimately win them the coveted title. It is only fair that Prandelli will have Abate, Maggio and Cassano back in contention as it would be a shame for any one of these players not to be considered for a place in the final.

Conclusion

Online bookmakers may see Spain as the favourites for the trophy, but looking at teams’ performances at the Euro 2012, Italy certainly look closer to the title. The Azzuri have been absolutely magnificent throughout the tournament and I believe they have what it takes to deliver the final blow and lift the European Championship title.

Verdict: Italy to lift the trophy

Best Odds: 3/2

Bookmaker: bet365

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Mandzukic delighted with Bayern switch

New Bayern Munich signing Mario Mandzukic says he is thrilled to have made the move to the Bavarian giants.

The Croatia international made the switch to the Allianz Arena from Wolfsburg after an impressive Euro 2012 campaign, in which he scored three goals.

“The first steps on Bavarian soil feel good. It is great to be here,” the 26-year-old told Bild.

Lacking the star quality expected by the club’s supporters of a new arrival, Bayern sporting director Christian Nerlinger said Mandzukic will be judged by his performances on the pitch for Jupp Heynckes’ side.

“It’s not about names and transfer fees, only performance and quality,” he said.

“I am convinced that Mario is raring to go and totally focused on his new challenge at Bayern.

“His qualities were clear at the European Championships and they will be put to the test in the Bundesliga. We expect a lot from him.”

Mandzukic will provide competition for Germany international Mario Gomez in attack.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Guardiola backs Alba to shine

Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has endorsed the club’s decision to sign Valencia left-back Jordi Alba.

Barca announced on Thursday they had reached an agreement worth 14 million euros for the defender, ending weeks of speculation about the 23-year-old’s potential switch to Camp Nou.

Alba, who spent part of his youth career at the Barca academy, has impressed for Spain at Euro 2012, and Guardiola has no doubt the defender will be a quality asset to the club.

“Jordi Alba is a great signing,” he told RCTI.

“I will enjoy seeing him at Barca next season because he is a very good player.”

Guardiola reflected on his successful four-year reign at Barcelona and declined to single out a particular player when asked about the best footballer he coached.

“I had the privilege to coach an incredible team, with a philosophy in which everyone believed and with players who are very talented and wanted to do things better every day,” he said.

“That was the secret behind all the successes we had.

“The best player? Everyone is very good. Xavi (Hernandez), Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta have a lot of talent, but also Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Thierry Henry or Samuel Eto’o.

“The merits belonged to the squad.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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