International friendly preview: France v Germany

5 February 2013 01:13

Germany will hope to reverse their poor recent record against France when the two sides clash at the Stade France on Wednesday.

The friendly pits two of the best sides in Europe against each other in what is sure to be an entertaining clash as they look to gain momentum ahead of crucial 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers later this year.

There is no shortage of history between the two nations, with Germany – then West Germany – winning two World Cup semi-finals against France in 1982 and 1986 respectively.

But more recently the ledger has been one-sided, with France winning five and drawing one of their last six matches against the Germans.

That includes a 2-1 friendly win last year in Bremen, with Olivier Giroud and Florent Malouda scoring for the victors.

Germany’s recent record in friendlies is poor – they have only won two of their last eight – and manager Joachim Low will be hell-bent on turning that around as well on Wednesday.

He has recalled Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez into his 23-man squad for the match with the 27-year-old set to make his first appearance for Germany since the European Championships in June.

Since the arrival of Croatian Mario Mandzukic at Bayern – who is now the Bundesliga’s leading scorer – Gomez has become a bit-part player at the Bavarian giants.

He has played just eight league matches, scoring twice, a far cry from his last three seasons when he bagged 64 Bundesliga goals in 94 appearances.

Low is also using the fixture as an opportunity to cast his eye over Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler.

The 28-year-old will play ahead of regular No.1 Manuel Neuer against Didier Deschamps’ side.

Veteran striker Miroslav Klose is a late withdrawal with a knee injury.

Klose damaged knee ligaments in Lazio’s 3-2 defeat at Genoa in Serie A on Sunday, which could force him out of action for several weeks.

France have included Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema after he missed his country’s last fixture due to injury.

Benzema is just one of many attacking options at the disposal of Deschamps, who can also call on Olivier Giroud, Franck Ribery, Jeremy Menez and Bafetimbi Gomis in the final third of the pitch.

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will be hopeful of continuing his impressive form at Tottenham while Moussa Sissoko also enters the match in high spirits.

The midfielder – who joined English Premier League outfit Newcastle United from Toulouse in the January transfer window – bagged a brace for his new club in a 3-2 win against Chelsea on Saturday.

International friendly preview: England v Brazil

5 February 2013 01:09

England tackle five-time World Cup winners and 2014 hosts Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday in honour of the FA’s 150th anniversary.

But already some of the shine has been removed from what should be a special occasion with several key England players pulling out through injury.

Three Lions manager Roy Hodgson’s selection plans have been hit with news that Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe, Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick and new Liverpool recruit Daniel Sturridge are all injured.

Defoe is expected to miss three weeks with an ankle injury suffered in Spurs’ 1-0 win at West Brom on Sunday.

Carrick has also been ruled out with a hip problem, leaving Hodgson short on resources for the game at Wembley against the 2002 world champions.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed Sturridge was struggling with a thigh knock which he aggravated in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City.

“I think he will be a doubt. He was with the medics and they will have a check with the England doctors, but he is obviously struggling,” he said.

Sturridge, who was expected to win his fifth senior cap, had been troubled by the injury during the first half before being replaced.

Chelsea’s Ashley Cole will win his 100th international cap against Brazil but the left-back faces intense pressure from Everton’s Leighton Baines to retain the England shirt.

“If Ashley is fit he will play on Wednesday and get his 100th cap,” Hodgson confirmed.

“But there will come a time when both are fit for an important match and I will have to disappoint one of them.

“They will just have to fight it out and I’m sure the competition between them will be fierce.

“Then I’ll have to make a decision.”

Meanwhile, Brazil have an impressive record against England having been beaten only three times in 23 internationals dating back to 1956.

England won that opening encounter 4-2 in front of 97,000 at Wembley but they have since only enjoyed two wins – 2-0 in 1984 and 1-0 in 1990 while Brazil have won 11 times.

Former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was late last year put in charge of leading Brazil’s dreams of winning their sixth World Cup at home in 2014.

Scolari has already been successful at the ultimate level, guiding Brazil in 2002 to a 2-0 World Cup final win over Germany to clinch their fifth world crown.

The 64-year-old is certainly willing to experiment with the recall of veteran striker Ronaldinho raising a few eyebrows.

The former Barcelona marksman said while the friendly will be a special occasion, his main aim was to guarantee a place at the next World Cup.

“It is obviously a special occasion, and a game between two big footballing nations,” he said.

“But the thing that matters is that I am back in the Brazil squad. I need to show I can play a big part in the next World Cup.”

Neymar impressed by Scolari knowledge

5 February 2013 01:04

Brazil forward Neymar has hailed the impact of new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ahead of Wednesday’s friendly with England.

Scolari, who led Brazil to a record fifth FIFA World Cup triumph in 2002, replaced the sacked Mano Menezes in November following stints with Bunyodkor and Palmeiras.

“I think Scolari knows where each player can contribute more and what he asks of us we will do with pleasure to help the team,” Neymar said.

“He is like a big daddy. It is very easy to work with. He treats every player with the same amount of respect.

“I had the opportunity to play against him and this will be my first time with him on my side. It will be an honour.”

Neymar has been in superb form this season with five goals in five games for Santos in the Campeonato Paulista.

The 20-year-old has been linked with moves to the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid, but remains focused on the task at hand.

“I hope I have a great match and help my team win,” he said.

“I think a match involving England and Brazil will always be a great match.

“It’s a big field and I think both teams will want to win. For those who like football it will be a great match.”

Astiazaran rejects doping claims

5 February 2013 00:10

Jose Luis Astiazaran has denied allegations Real Sociedad bought illegal doping products during his presidency between 2001 and 2005.

Astiazaran, now the head of the Spanish football league, came under fire after Inaki Badiola, who had a stint as Sociedad president in 2008, claimed the Basque club had purchased banned substances in the six years before he took over and possibly earlier.

Speaking in an interview with sports daily AS, Badiola said he believed two club doctors had been given money to purchase the doping products from Eufemaniano Fuentes, a doctor who is on trial in Madrid for his involvement in the widespread doping of professional cyclists.

“During my period as president of Real Sociedad, I never had knowledge or suspicion of illegal practices in relation to the medical services, which always worked with the utmost ethics and professionalism” Astiazaran said in a statement released on Monday.

“If I had, I would have acted forcefully and with due diligence.

“Real Sociedad has always, and obviously under my presidency, collaborated closely with authorities charged with testing for doping and there has never been any incident in the numerous anti-doping tests taken.

“Given the statements and falsities expressed by Mr Badiola, I reserve the right to begin whatever legal proceedings will be necessary to defend my honour.”

Sociedad issued their own statement later on Monday, declaring they were willing to actively cooperate with the authorities to confirm their innocence.

“Real Sociedad reserves the right to any legal action it considers appropriate to re-establish its honour,” the club said.

The club also made note that judges overseeing the case involving Fuentes had not implicated anyone from Sociedad.

Gascoigne to be treated in US

4 February 2013 23:42

Paul Gascoigne has flown to America for treatment after suffering a lapse in his recovery from alcoholism.

The former England star’s agent revealed on Sunday the 45-year-old was in need of “immediate help” after he was seen shaking and slurring his words at a charity event in Northampton on Thursday.

A statement released by his management agency, GamePlan Solutions, reads: “Alcoholic Paul Gascoigne has been experiencing a tough time of late.

“He has been asking for help and has willingly been admitted to a treatment centre in America.

“He has complex issues that are currently being dealt with by professionals.

“Paul has been extremely touched and overwhelmed by the generous offers of help and support over the past few days.

“He is motivated to fully understand and control his addiction problem under guidance.”

Meanwhile, in light of Peter Schmeichel calling on the PFA to do more to help Gascoigne, chief executive Gordon Taylor has insisted the union has offered support to the former Tottenham midfielder on a number of occasions.

He said: “I can’t think of a player who has had more support and constant help over the number of years that we have been there for Paul.

“It is quite ironic – it is nice that people like Peter Schmeichel care about him, but they don’t appreciate the work we have done for him, a lot of which has to be confidential.

“If anything, I have been criticised at times for keeping faith and trying to keep going with him.”