Keshi looks to add local flavour

19 December 2012 06:45

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi is eager to take home-based players to the African Cup of Nations if they can prove their value to the team.

Keshi opened a training camp on Monday for 22 home-based players in preparation for the tournament, which kicks off in Johannesburg on January 19.

And the 50-year-old said he would be pleased to take players from the Nigeria Premier League to South Africa, but is not making any promises.

“It will be my delight if 10 players prove good enough to make the championship roster,” Keshi said.

“I will be happy if at all times four of such players start every game but you have to prove it on the pitch that you are ready for the challenge.”

Kano Pillars players Gabriel Reuben and Papa Idris, who have been out of action for three months through injury, got through Monday’s session with no fresh concerns.

Team doctor Ibrahim Gyaran was pleased that both players had been passed fit for the camping exercise.

“The only fear I have is that since they have not played competitive football for sometimes they will still experience some mind jitters,” he said.

“But that is only a thing of the mind and the team psychologist, Robinson Okosun, and the coaching crew are already working on that aspect.”

Akpoborie plays down Nigeria hopes

19 December 2012 06:31

Former Nigeria international Jonathan Akpoborie says his country can only win the Africa Cup of Nations with luck on their side.

Akpoborie believes that Stephen Keshi’s side are not ripe enough to win the trophy because the squad is just evolving.

He told that he is not a pessimist, but is merely stating the obvious so that Nigerians will not expect too much from the players.

“Stephen Keshi has done well. The players have responded to training and have shown enough commitment,” Akpoborie said.

“There is a new playing culture in the team where the players are not sure of their positions again. The atmosphere is good for the team, but re-building a team takes more than two years to begin to see the benefits.

“We have good players that are ready to write their names in gold, but the Nations Cup might be coming too soon for them.

“For the Super Eagles to make it in South Africa, they will need a lot of luck. The atmosphere must be right for them at all times in every match.

“Without luck I don’t see Nigeria laying their hands on the trophy. And for you to have the luck, you must train and prepare very well.

“You don’t just sit down and expect that luck will shine on you. You must do your part by preparing very well.

“I think the team is preparing well and what they now need is for luck to come their way in the tournament.”

Nigeria will play in Group C alongside Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.

McFlynn tips Del Piero stay

19 December 2012 05:03

Sydney FC captain Terry McFlynn believes Alessandro Del Piero will stay at the struggling A-League club beyond this season.

The Italian superstar’s future at Sydney beyond the current campaign is in doubt, with Sydney yet to table an offer amid strong interest from rival clubs.

But with the team sitting in last position on the table, McFlynn hopes the prospect of reviving Sydney’s fortunes will prove irresistible to the 38-year-old.

“He’s won everything in the game. Every competition he’s entered since he was a kid, he’s won it,” McFlynn said of Del Piero on Wednesday.

“This is no different. He wants to win it and he sees this as something unfinished for him.”

McFlynn is not concerned or surprised rival clubs are circling the World Cup winner.

“He’s a world-class footballer and I think any football club in the world would have him and we’re just privileged and honoured to have him here,” the skipper said.

“He’s a fantastic person and a great character and for everyone at this football club, from the management to the players, we learn something from him every day.”

McFlynn returns against Newcastle on Sunday after serving a one-match suspension.

The Sky Blues crashed to a 2-0 defeat to the Wanderers last start, but the Jets are also experiencing hard times following three straight losses.

“We have to get our own backyard in order first and not worry about what they’re (Newcastle) doing,” McFlynn said.

“We’re still within touching distance of the rest of the pack but we have to start winning games.”

FC Santa Claus upstaged by elves

19 December 2012 04:45

They are not full of fat, sack-carrying figments of children’s imaginations worldwide, even though they take St Nicholas’ other name.

Welcome to FC Santa Claus, a second division football club in Finland’s Kakkonen league, who are about to hit their busiest period of the year, right in the middle of the season.

While they do don the red colour of their namesake when playing at their home ground in Rovaniemi, they do not spread much Christmas cheer, nor do they enjoy it on the field themselves.

They were beaten 6-5 in a five-a-side friendly against a group of Santa’s elves, as the workers outdid their supposed masters.

Looks like it is Santa’s year to be on the bad list after the loss to the elves, while kids worldwide hope the Santa that does deliver to their house can produce the right result on December 25.

Khedira details Real disappointment

19 December 2012 04:11

Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira says the team’s performances so far this season have not been worthy of the club’s proud heritage.

The reigning La Liga champions are 13 points off the pace of league leaders Barcelona, with Real already dropping more points this season than they did in their entire title-winning campaign.

“Our season is not worthy of a club like Real Madrid. We cannot be happy with the season we are having,” Khedira told Sport Bild.

“We haven’t been able to find our rhythm since the start of the season, and there’s not been a single period in which we’ve gone on a run away from home, which is where we have dropped so many points.

“This is not how things should be and we cannot be satisfied with ourselves.”

Khedira admitted the team’s priorities have now changed, with Jose Mourinho’s men now targeting the Champions League in a bid to salvage their faltering season.

“In Madrid we have made one objective our priority, which is to win the Champions League,” he said.