International Friendly: Colombia 2 Senegal 2

Colombia’s winless streak has extended to three matches, after they coughed up a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Senegal in Buenos Aires.

Jose Pekerman’s men were all over their west African opponents in the first half of their friendly, and converted their dominance by taking a 2-0 lead into the interval courtesy of goals to Carlos Bacca and Teofilo Gutierrez.

Senegal’s response was emphatic, as they equalised within seven minutes of the restart via goals to Moussa Konate and Cheikh Ndoye – the latter a stunner from range.

Alain Giresse’s men had to battle for 24 minutes a man down, though, as midfielder Ibrahima Seck was sent off for picking up a second yellow card.

But despite their numerical advantage, Colombia could not capitalise as they slumped to their third straight stalemate in preparation for their Group C campaign at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Among those starting for Colombia was wing-back Camilo Zuniga, who had just 49 minutes for Serie A side Napoli since knee surgery in October.

Bacca’s back-post header from a Colombia corner found Gutierrez right in the goalmouth in the 11th minute, and he had an easy tap-in to convert their early dominance of possession.

There was more danger for the west African nation moments later, with midfielder Seck conceding a foul on Zuniga on the edge of the area, however, Juan Quintero’s effort bounced wide of the target.

Colombia were looking dangerous on the counter-attack, with multiple Senegal corners turning into forays forward for the South American nation.

And Colombia would double their lead just prior to half-time, when Victor Ibarbo got on the end of a long ball, centred a pass for Bacca, who lashed home an effort high into the net to send them into the break with all the momentum.

Senegal had a couple of shots from range in the final 10 minutes of the half, but none that had Colombia custodian Faryd Mondragon too concerned.

However, the African side would be level just seven minutes into the second half, after a barrage on Colombia’s defence.

Pekerman made four half-time substitutions – one of which being Zuniga – and it seemed to unsettle the fifth-ranked nation.

Konate made Colombia pay for a turnover in their defensive half, as he ran onto Mohamed Daf’s through ball to calmly slot the ball past Mondragon’s left hand.

That was followed by Ndoye’s thumping effort from outside the area, with his 52nd-minute shot giving Mondragon no chance.

Senegal were all over the World Cup-bound Colombians, and Zargo Toure almost put them ahead – only denied by a diving Mondragon, who parried to safety.

Giresse’s men were down to 10, though, when Seck received a second yellow for a raised foot on second-half substitute Alexander Mejia.

Quintero’s 74th-minute free-kick went over the bar, as Colombia pressed for a winner.

Sub Jackson Martinez – who came on for Bacca on 66 minutes – saw his shot deflected wide for a corner in the 77th minute, although the corner from Santiago Arias – who was looking dangerous out on the right – amounted to nothing.

And despite a flurry of possession late, the Colombians could not break down the Senegalese defence.

Sat 31 May, 2014
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Halilhodzic: Armenia are not Belgium

Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic made sure his players knew they would face tougher opposition following a 3-1 win over Armenia on Saturday.

Essaid Belkalem, Nabil Ghilas and Islam Slimani all found the net to put Algeria 3-0 up at half-time in the FIFA World Cup warm-up, with Artur Yuspashyan pulling one back just after the break.

And while expressing his satisfaction with the performance, Halilhodzic knows his men will need to up their game considerably before their World Cup opener against Belgium on June 17.

“We were well into the game by pressing high our opponent,” he is quoted as saying by Le Buteur . “We imposed our game to Armenia and that allowed us to score three goals.

“I enjoyed the performance of my players, even if I lived a nightmare in the last 20 minutes of the match.

“After that, we must also recognise that Armenia is not Belgium.”

As well as Belgium, Algeria line up alongside Russia and South Korea in Group H.

Sat 31 May, 2014
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Roma slap €61m price-tag on Benatia; Marquinhos will decide future after Toulon Tournament

A.S. Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini has placed a €61 million price-tag on centre-back Mehdi Benatia ahead of the summer transfer window.

A.S. Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini has placed a €61 million price-tag on centre-back Mehdi Benatia ahead of the summer transfer window.

The Morocco international, who joined Roma from Udinese for €13.5 million last summer, enjoyed a magnificent debut campaign at the Stadio Olimpico — tallying five goals in 37 appearances in all competitions for the Italian Serie A runners-up.

Benatia’s stellar form has caught the attention of a host of European heavyweights, including the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Manchester City.

That being said, it would take a massive offer to force Roma to cash in on the highly-rated defender, as the player is contracted to the club until 30 June 2018.

The ‘number’ is a whopping €61 million, as previously mentioned.

“Benatia is a great footballer with a contract that expires in four years,” Sabatini told reporters.

“He is not for sale.

“I believe that Mehdi has been influenced by his agent [Moussa] Sissoko. He speaks of [a price of] €30 million, so we need at least 60, maybe even 61. Anyone who wants Benatia will have to pay €61 million.”

In other news, Sabatini also confirmed the club’s interest in Argentine winger Juan Manuel Iturbe, while revealing long-time servant Rodrigo Taddei is set to leave Rome when his contract expires at the end of June.

“We are interested in Iturbe and I’ve already met one of his agents. We’re following him but it is a complex negotiation,” added the Roma supremo.

“Taddei? We think he’s finished his time at Roma. This choice pains me, but I thank him for what he has done for Roma.”

 Marquinhos will decide future after Toulon Tournament

Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos has revealed he will decide his long-term future after the 2014 Toulon Tournament in France.

Marquinhos, 20, moved from Roma to PSG in a deal worth €31.4 million in July 2013 but his future in the French capital remains uncertain due to the pending arrival of compatriot David Luiz — for a reported fee of £50 million — last week.

Despite ongoing rumours linking him with an exit from the Parc des Princes, the 20-year-old stopper insists he will wait until the conclusion of the Toulon Tournament to decide his future.

“I’m very focused on this championship. It’s important to me, to wear the Brazil shirt,” Marquinhos told Globo Esporte.

“This group is strong and we want to be champions.

“I always want to evolve and grow but I need to talk to my agent and PSG about my future.

“I’m pleased Barca think of me. It proves I’m doing my job on the pitch.

“When I’ve finished this tournament I’ll speak with my agent and PSG and we will decide on my future.”

The 42nd edition of the Toulon Tournament will conclude on 1 June, with holders Brazil set to face hosts France in the final at the Parc des Sports in Avignon.

Sat 31 May, 2014
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We deserved to win, says Bento

Portugal coach Paulo Bento expressed satisfaction with his side’s performance despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Greece on Saturday.

Bento’s men failed to produce any real attacking threat during a dour game in which they were without the services of Cristiano Ronaldo due to the injury problems that were a concern throughout Real Madrid’s end-of-season run-in.

But, despite Portugal’s failure to break through a well-organised Greece side, Bento was quick to praise his players for their efforts, insisting that they deserved to win.

“We have to prepare to play and be competitive without Cristiano Ronaldo and even other players who are normally available,” Bento said in quotes reported by O Jogo.

“Today this has happened and we used the 4-4-2 system, we did well.

“From what we produced in the first half we deserved to be ahead, given the quality of our football in the first 20 or 25 minutes.

“Only in the last 10 minutes could we be accused of some fatigue, but we never failed to control the game.

“We were penalised for a lack of effectiveness, because we deserved to win.

“Anyway I have to congratulate the players for the work done throughout the week and the game today.”

Sat 31 May, 2014
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O´Neill delighted with Ireland display

Martin O’Neill was happy with the Republic of Ireland’s performance as they held 2006 FIFA World Cup winners Italy to a 0-0 draw on Saturday.

The former Aston Villa manager saw plenty of promise in the showing at Craven Cottage, which certainly provided more cause for optimism than Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Turkey.

After a shaky start Ireland soon began to dominate proceedings and created good openings for Shane Long and Anthony Pilkington, but neither were able to convert.

While Italy did threaten at times it was their opponents who looked more dangerous and, after Long had missed another chance, they went closest as substitute Stephen Quinn hit the bar late on.

O’Neill was pleased with the attitude on show and expects his squad to go into their matches with Costa Rica and Portugal in June with renewed confidence.

“We were disappointing (early in the game),” he told Irish television station Setanta. “David Forde kept us in it with a couple of great saves, but outside that we were phenomenal.

“We played some good stuff, I thought we were magnificent.

“We got a little nervous (at the start), but suddenly roared into the match.

“It was great game despite the scoreline, and we go into the next games with some confidence.

“There is genuine disappointment we haven’t won the match.”

Sat 31 May, 2014
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Montolivo out of World Cup with fracture, says Italy doctor

Riccardo Montolivo will miss the FIFA World Cup after fracturing his leg against the Republic of Ireland, according to Italy’s team doctor.

The Milan midfielder was taken from the field on a stretcher after a challenge with Alex Pearce in the eighth minute of the 0-0 friendly draw on Saturday.

And after the match Italy team doctor Enrico Castellacci confirmed to Rai Sport the extent of the problem, which will end Montolivo’s hopes of making the finals in Brazil.

The 29-year-old was immediately taken to hospital and will now undergo further tests.

“Montolivo has what we suspected,” Castellacci said. “(He) has a fracture of the tibia.

“I have not seen the X-ray to assess the severity, but more or less every tibia fracture needs surgery.

“There will be no World Cup for Montolivo.”

Sat 31 May, 2014
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Wasteful Netherlands frustrate Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal bemoaned the Netherlands’ profligacy in the first half of their 1-0 friendly win over Ghana in Rotterdam on Saturday.

Robin van Persie scored the only goal of the match in the fifth minute on the day Van Gaal confirmed his 23-man squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

But the national coach expressed his disappointment at his side’s failure to build on that early lead, despite numerous opportunities to find the net.

“We are too careless with the ball,” he is quoted as telling SBS 6. “In the first half, there were many opportunities for us to create opportunities, but we have not taken advantage of them.

“We have made a brilliant goal, but it should have been 3-0. We had two fantastic attacks.”

Van Gaal looks set to employ a five-man defence in Brazil, and praised his backline for limiting Ghana’s attacking threat.

“In the second half we created nothing, but gave absolutely nothing away,” he added. “That goes for both the first and the second half. This is the advantage of this system.”

The Netherlands meet Wales in Amsterdam on Wednesday in their final pre-World Cup warm-up.

Sat 31 May, 2014
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Capello laments Russia profligacy

Fabio Capello bemoaned Russia’s failure to convert their chances after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Norway on Saturday.

Russia produced a disappointing display in Oslo in their penultimate friendly before the FIFA World Cup.

A third-minute strike from midfielder Oleg Shatov put them ahead but Anders Konradsen struck 13 minutes from time to earn a draw for the Scandinavians.

And Capello was disappointed to see his side waste a number of opportunities, while also rueing a lack of defensive concentration.

“The game was played in hot conditions and we did not expect that,” Capello said.

“The Norwegians have a quick team and I had an excellent opportunity to once again look at my players, playing at international level. I must say that we have been lucky as none of the players have picked up an injury.

“We created four good goal scoring opportunities, but we weren’t able to take them. The Norwegian goalkeeper and their defence managed to keep them out.

“At the end of the second half, we gave our opponents too much space and then made a silly mistake, which allowed them to equalise.”

Russia’s 25-man squad has to be trimmed to 23 by Monday, and Capello will wait to the very last moment before naming his final group.

The Italian added: “You will be able to read it on the official site of the Russian Football Union on June 2.”

Sat 31 May, 2014
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International Friendly: Mexico 3 Ecuador 1

Luis Montes’ FIFA World Cup dream could be over after he suffered a serious-looking injury having scored in Mexico’s 3-1 win over Ecuador.

The Leon midfielder, who won the Apertura and Clausura titles in the 2013-14 Liga MX campaign, netted a stunning goal just past the half-hour mark but was carried off the field before half-time.

The 28-year-old, named in Mexico’s 23-man squad in early May, lunged into a challenge with Segundo Castillo and both were hurt as their shins collided, with Montes needing several minutes of treatment before he was taken off on a stretcher in clear distress.

Marco Fabian and a Maximo Banguera own goal extended Mexico’s lead after the break at a packed AT&T Stadium on Saturday, with substitute Enner Valencia scoring for Ecuador late on.

But it was the injury to Montes, rather than Ecuador’s consolation, that will have overshadowed the game for Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, who maintained his unbeaten run at the helm.

There were happier scenes before the game as defender Andres Guardado was presented with a trophy to mark his 100th appearance for his country, the 10th Mexican to achieve the feat.

A series of long-range free-kicks were the only openings to punctuate an otherwise tame first 30 minutes as both sides were guilty of playing loose passes in the final third.

Giovani dos Santos was the first to fire a set-piece over the crossbar in the fourth minute, while Jorge Guagua was also wayward with his 27th-minute effort.

But Montes provided the first moment of genuine quality as he collected Rafael Marquez’s pass before arrowing a superb strike past goalkeeper Banguera from 20 yards.

His night turned sour just a few minutes later, though, in a challenge that also led to Castillo being withdrawn from the action.

Montes was guilty of mistiming his tackle and, while he looks almost certain to miss the trip to Brazil if reports of a suspected fracture are confirmed, Castillo may also be a doubt for Reinaldo Rueda’s yet-to-be-finalised squad.

Some of Montes’ team-mates were visibly upset by the incident and the match was understandably subdued for a while after the interval, with Marquez also having to be taken off with an apparent foot injury.

To their credit, Mexico found their rhythm after a slow start to the second half and, after Paul Aguilar cleared from underneath his own crossbar, they doubled their lead in the 69th minute courtesy of Fabian’s dipping effort from well outside the box.

Banguera then made a mess of trying to keep out Dos Santos’ tame shot seven minutes later, the ball coming back off the post and going in via the goalkeeper to make it 3-0.

Valencia’s deflected free-kick gave Ecuador something to cheer, but there was also plenty to ponder for Rueda with a friendly against England to come before their World Cup campaign begins with a Group E clash against Switzerland on June 15.

Mexico, meanwhile, are likely to need to draft in one of their standby players before next week’s friendlies against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal, with group-stage clashes versus Cameroon, Brazil and Croatia to follow.

Sat 31 May, 2014
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International Friendly: Italy 0 Republic of Ireland 0

Italy drew 0-0 with the Republic of Ireland in a game that could have serious repercussions for Riccardo Montolivo’s FIFA World Cup hopes.

The Milan midfielder needed extended treatment to his left leg after an eighth-minute challenge from Alex Pearce, and was taken off the pitch on a stretcher leaving his fitness for the showpiece in the balance.

Italy were far from their most fluent at Craven Cottage and were lucky not to be behind as Shane Long and Anthony Pilkington both missed good chances for Ireland.

Cesare Prandelli’s side raised their game in the second half, but Montolivo’s injury could be the major talking point ahead of the finals.

Italy started the game well with plenty of energy and created their first chance within five minutes.

Claudio Marchisio was given too much room in midfield and it took a fine save from David Forde to keep the Juventus man’s 25-yard strike out.

The impressive start was halted almost immediately, though, with Montolivo’s departure – and Ireland seized the initiative.

Long, Pilkington and David Meyler all had excellent sights of goal before the break for Martin O’Neill’s men, but Salvatore Sirigu was equal to all of them and pulled off a series of excellent saves.

Ireland started the second half as they finished the first, and Long should have done better after escaping his marker early on, but again Sirigu was there to deny him.

Ciro Immobile had the ball in the net five minutes before the hour but after the Torino striker had converted Giuseppe Rossi’s cross he was flagged offside.

Marchisio brought the only save out of Forde in the second half with a low shot after good work from substitute Antonio Cassano, however he was unable to convert on a frustrating night for the 2006 World Cup winners that nearly got worse as substitute Stephen Quinn struck the crossbar in 80th minute.

Italy now face one more warm-up game, against Luxembourg in Verona, before they travel to Brazil for their first match against England on June 14.

Sat 31 May, 2014
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