Deschamps worried over Lloris limbo

4 September 2012 04:53

Didier Deschamps has expressed his concern over Tottenham Hotspur coach Andre Villas-Boas’ comments regarding goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Lloris joined Spurs from Lyon last week, but Villas-Boas has claimed USA veteran Brad Friedel will remain his first-choice goalkeeper.

The decision could jeopardize Lloris’ place in the France starting line-up, with national coach Deschamps confirming the player is concerned.

“Lloris did not appreciate Villas-Boas’ statements,” Deschamps was quoted as saying by Telefoot.

“I saw what Villas-Boas said. If I comment on this, it is going to echo on the other side of the (English) Channel, but it surprised me.

“I’m not going to create a problem that I’m not part of, but if it happens (Lloris does not play) then it will be worth talking about.

“You all know the value of Hugo. I do not know what will happen but I hope everything goes well for him.”

Deschamps also discussed his team’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, which starts against Finland in Helsinki on Friday.

“Our objective is clear, to qualify for the World Cup and it starts with the first match,” he said.

“We will first think of the first game. The goal is to start well and ideally win in Finland.”

France have been drawn against Georgia, Belarus, Finland and reigning champions Spain in Group I of UEFA qualifying.

Hulk, Witsel head to Russia

4 September 2012 04:11

Zenit St Petersburg have signed Hulk from Porto and Axel Witsel from Benfica, both on five-year deals, for fees of 40 million euros each.

Hulk, 26, will wear the number 29 shirt for Luciano Spalletti’s side, who currently sit top of the Russian Premier League after seven games.

Hours after announcing a deal for the Brazilian, Zenit also confirmed the signing of Belgian midfielder Witsel, who will take the number 28 jersey.

“It’s now official. Both players had signed five-year deals,” Zenit spokesman Dmitry Tsimmerman said.

“We were trying to sign them before the September 3 deadline for the Champions League so they can play for us in that competition as well as the Russian league.”

Having cut his teeth in Japanese football with Kawasaki Fontale, Consadole Sapporo and Tokyo Verdy, Hulk moved to Porto in 2008 and helped the club to three league titles, three Tacas de Portugal and the UEFA Cup.

He has won 13 Brazil caps since making his debut in 2009, and was part of their Olympic team that claimed silver in London.

Witsel, meanwhile, had been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, but the former Standard Liege man, who has represented Belgium at every age group, has now made the move to Zenit.

Benfica confirmed on their official website that the fee paid for their prized asset was the contractual release clause of 40 million euros.

The St Petersburg club have been drawn against AC Milan, Anderlecht and Malaga in the Champions League.

Prandelli urges caution in Bulgaria

4 September 2012 03:22

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has urged caution ahead of their tricky opener to their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign in Bulgaria on Friday.

Bulgaria – ranked 94th in the world – will go into the game as massive underdogs, having not qualified for a major tournament since the 2004 European Championships.

The two sides also met in qualification for the 2010 World Cup, with Italy unable to break down the Bulgarian defence in a 0-0 draw in Sofia.

And Prandelli is keen not to fall into the same trap.

“I’m focused on Friday’s match. I’m worried because we’re going to find a renewed team with a strong mentality and we’ll be playing in a difficult stadium,” he said.

“In addition to this, they believe they will be playing against a very strong team. That’s why I believe we may have to face many difficulties on Friday and that’s why I’m only focused on Friday’s match. Once we qualify, we can think about future plans.”

Giampaolo Pazzini has been recalled to the Italy squad after a hat-trick for AC Milan in Serie A, while Roma’s Pablo Osvaldo has also been brought into the team with Manchester City star Mario Balotelli missing the match to undergo eye surgery.

Prandelli said the final make-up of his team is still undecided.

“We only have very few days to train the team and it is impossible to find the right balance in two days,” he said.

“As we have seen in the European Championship, we could possibly go with four players at the back if we work daily, but right now I can’t say we’ll be playing with four defenders.

“First I want to check with the players and try a defence with three players, since the players are more used to it.

“We have started this season trying to look at how we can alter things positionally on the pitch, given the problem posed by Balotelli.

“We have decided to cap Pazzini and Osvaldo to cope with this issue and also to let everyone know that there is place for players who not only play well, but can also consistently perform.”

Mainz man Rukavytsya looking to shine

4 September 2012 03:21

Nikita Rukavytsya wants to impress for club and country after earning a move from relegated Hertha Berlin to Bundesliga club Mainz.

Forward Rukavytsya clinched a deadline-day move from Hertha to Mainz on Friday, ensuring an immediate return to the German top flight after the capital city side were demoted last season.

He has had little time to celebrate, however, departing soon after for Beirut, where he will hope to be involved for the Socceroos in their friendly against Lebanon on Thursday.

The match will serve as preparation for next Tuesday’s crucial AFC World Cup qualifier against Jordan in Amman, with Rukavytsya highlighting the importance of the match to Australia’s quest to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

“The Lebanon game is leading up to the qualifier so it’s going to be a good preparation,” he said from the Socceroos camp in Beirut.

“Going in the next game, we have to win, so we have to be switched on and get the three points.”

Rukavytsya’s move to Mainz reportedly cost the Rhine river club 1 million euros, with the former Perth Glory and FC Twente player signing until the end of the 2014/15 season.

The 25-year-old revealed he would miss Berlin, but was delighted to get another chance in the top flight.

“It’s a good move for me. Obviously to play in the Bundesliga … (It’s) one of the top leagues in the world. It was sort of sad to leave Berlin. I’ve been there for two years and I love the club, the people. I have friends there,” said Rukavytsya, who made 58 appearances for Hertha, scoring six goals.

“(The Bundesliga is) a great league with a lot of great players. There’s no easy games, even if you play against the bottom team, it’s still a tough game.

“Anything can happen in this league, so you have to be switched on every week and do your best in every game.”

Socceroos call on Liverpool´s Jones

4 September 2012 02:42

Australia coach Holger Osieck has handed Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones a late call-up for Thursday’s friendly with Lebanon.

Jones, 30, has not been with the Socceroos since the 2011 Asian Cup, but has been recalled after Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici withdrew through injury.

He will be with the Australia squad for both the friendly against Lebanon and the crucial AFC World Cup qualifier against Jordan in Amman next Tuesday.

It is not the only late change for Australia to contend with, after the announcement the match in Beirut has been moved to the Saida Municipal Stadium due to a virus in the grass at the Sports City Stadium.

Former Middlesbrough goalkeeper Jones had appeared destined for an exit from Anfield under former manager Kenny Dalglish, having spent much of the 2012/13 English Premier League season as third choice.

He did feature notably in the Reds’ run to the 2012 FA Cup final, shortly after the death of son Luca from Leukaemia.

The arrival of new Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has reinvigorated Jones’ career somewhat, with the Perth-born shot-stopper now number two at the club behind Pepe Reina.

He has made one appearance for Liverpool this campaign, keeping a clean sheet in his side’s first-leg victory over Gomel in the third qualifying round of the Europe League.