Hleb writes off Belarus

11 October 2012 19:57

Alexander Hleb said Spain are unquestionably the best team on the planet ahead of Belarus’ clash against the world and European champions.

The BATE Borisov midfielder helped the club shock Bayern Munich in the Champions League in the most recent round of European fixtures.

However, Hleb seems a lot more doubtful of pulling off a surprise victory against Vicente del Bosque’s men in their World Cup qualifier in Minsk on Friday.

“Spain are the best team in the world. Who can beat them?” the 31-year-old said on Thursday.

“They are pure talent. When they play they look like they enjoy their football.

“The Spanish have the ball most of the time and we will have to defend ourselves. A draw would be great. Victory? Unrealistic, (it would take) a miracle.”

Belarus lost their first two matches 1-0 and 3-1 against Georgia and France respectively and Hleb insists his nation’s senior side is going through a transitional period.

The former Barcelona midfielder said: “We are under reconstruction. Veterans are no longer around, but young people still need time to mature.

“Belarusian football is evolving, but it is still difficult to compete with other European teams.

“(But) if we go out without fear, as in the second-half against France, we can play well.”

Hleb admitted he has fond memories of his time at Camp Nou despite being very limited in terms of appearances under former coach Pep Guardiola.

“I think I could have played more,” he said.

“But Guardiola relied on other players. I tried to find a common language, but now I blame myself more.

“I was angry with him. I behaved like a child. Now, it makes me angry, but that’s football.”

Gomes: Ronaldo still on rise

11 October 2012 19:20

Veteran Portugal striker Nuno Gomes believes Cristiano Ronaldo has a lot left to achieve in his career.

Real Madrid forward Ronaldo has established himself as one of the best players in the world, scoring 160 times in just 155 appearances in all competitions for Real.

The 27-year-old is in his fourth season at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Gomes has praised Ronaldo as one of the game’s best-ever players, but is expecting a lot more from the Portugal international.

“He’s young and he still has a lot of things to do yet in football,” the 36-year-old told Sky Sports.

“He still has a lot of things to do at Real Madrid and I don’t know if he wants to move or not, even if another team wants him. In football, we never know.

“It’s not easy to stop him. For me he is one of the best that I’ve ever seen and it’s very hard to stop him if he has a good day.

“I’m glad that he’s Portuguese and that I don’t have to play against him.”

Meanwhile, Gomes, who is now plying his trade at Blackburn Rovers, is hoping for a new manager to be swiftly appointed at Ewood Park, after Steve Kean resigned in September.

“We have some problems now with the coach situation and everything but we are united and we know that we have to work hard to reach our goal,” he added.

“We want to return to the Premier League this year and will fight until the end to do that.”

Hodgson goes easy on foul-mouthed Bertrand

11 October 2012 18:41

England manager Roy Hodgson has criticised Ryan Bertrand for his Twitter outburst, but feels no action needs to be taken against defender.

The Chelsea full-back reacted angrily to suggestions he had withdrawn from England’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against San Marino with mere a sore throat, tweeting: “Do you think a “sorethroat” could stop me being a part of a match for my club or country #yourf***ingnuts this is what every boy dreams of.”

Hodgson, speaking at a press conference ahead of Friday’s sell-out clash at Wembley, sympathised with the 23-year-old’s frustration, but said footballers’ use of Twitter needs to be more thoughtful.

“I think his sentiments were laudable, in telling you how much he wants to play for England, being a little bit irritated that someone should suggest he doesn’t play when he gets a sore throat,” said the 65-year-old.

“But his choice of words was wrong, I’m pleased to see he’s apologised for it. It just reminds us how remarkably careful players of this profile have to be.”

Bertrand’s Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole found himself in trouble earlier this month after launching a Twitter tirade against the Football Association when they questioned his evidence in support of colleague John Terry, who was banned for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

Incidents such as Cole’s outburst prompted the FA to this week issue England players with new guidelines on the use of social media.

But despite Bertrand seemingly breaking them days later, Hodgson does not expect repercussions in this case.

“I believe the governance of the FA have already made a decision on (a punishment),” he said.

“There’s not really a question from the FA’s point of view that he’ll be charged … but it’s a lesson that needs to be learned and hopefully a lesson we can all learn from.

“It’s not a great problem for me as I have no Twitter account.”

Wayne Rooney, who will captain England in Friday’s match, has over five million followers on Twitter, and echoed the sentiments of his manager.

“As a player we know we’ve got responsibilities – whether that’s on social network sites or in general life and we have to try and live to them expectations as best we can.

“I think this week has been isolated occasions but we’re well aware of how we need to conduct ourselves and I’m sure we’ll do that well.”

Sporting Kansas´ stadium name remains

11 October 2012 18:31

Sporting Kansas City will keep their ground name Livestrong Sporting Park, despite the recent finding against brand creator Lance Armstrong.

In the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report, it concluded seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong – who has since been stripped of his titles – was said to have orchestrated ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen’.

Armstrong has also been banned from professional cycling for life.

Despite the overwhelming evidence about Armstrong’s cheating, Sporting KC owner Robb Heineman, speaking at the Leaders in Football conference in London, denied his team’s stadium would undergo a name change.

“The reason we did the partnership was for everyone affected by cancer and the 80 million members of Livestrong worldwide,” Heineman said.

“That is how we think of the relationship with the brand. The Lance information is less relevant around our partnership.”

Livestrong Sporting Park opened in 2011 and has a deal to donate at least US$7.5 million in revenue over six years to the foundation.

“It is really about the 28 million cancer survivors worldwide and what we can do to support them,” Heineman said.

“It truly is about helping those afflicted with cancer and the lifestyle they live with every day.”

Menezes hoping for Pato resurgence

11 October 2012 18:01

Brazil coach Mano Menezes wants Alexandre Pato’s to resolve the injury problems that have hampered the forward in the recent seasons.

Pato, 23, was part of the Brazil team which finished runners-up to Mexico at the London 2012, but has yet to make an official appearance for club side AC Milan this season due to an abductor complaint.

The talented attacker has seen his early career blighted by injuries, but Menezes has stressed the striker still has a big part to play for his national team once he resolves his fitness problems.

“In my Brazil Pato has played very little,” Menezes told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Despite this, however, he is the second-best goal-scorer of the team, which means that his quality is extraordinary. I’m looking forward for his return on the field, but the more important thing is that he heals once and for all.”

Pato was restricted to just 17 appearances for Milan last season due to a string of injuries, and while Menezes maintains the forward is still in his plans, he is baffled by the former Internacional man’s continual problems.

“In my opinion his constant physical problems are not due solely to bad luck,” he said.

“I talked about Pato with my medical staff and they told me that he has no structural abnormality, so he is not a player destined to be injured. Therefore, we need to understand why there are so many accidents.

“Pato can return to be great, but this negative moment must end. I still look at him for my national team.”