AFC World Cup qualifying wrap: Wins for Australia, Iran

16 October 2012 20:50

Australia grabbed a memorable victory over Iraq, while Oman, Iran and Uzbekistan also prevailed in World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

Goals from Tim Cahill and Archie Thompson in the dying stages saw Australia prevail 2-1 after substitute Alaa Abdul Zahra had given Iraq an unlikely lead.

The Socceroos controlled much of the tempo but were stunned when Abdul Zahra fired a shot past Mark Schwarzer in the 72nd minute.

Australia looked in trouble at the neutral Grand Hamad Stadium in Qatar but were rescued when Cahill equalised in the 80th minute and Thompson sealed the result four minutes later.

The win sees Australia climb to second at the halfway mark in Group B with five points, five behind leaders Japan with four matches remaining.

In the group’s other fixture, Oman claimed their first win of the campaign with a 2-1 defeat of Jordan in Muscat.

Oman move to third on five points with an inferior goal difference to Australia, while Jordan are fourth on four points and Iraq slip to the bottom on two points.

In Group A, 10-man Iran accounted for South Korea 1-0 in Tehran.

Masoud Shojaei was dismissed for receiving a second yellow card in the 55th minute, though South Korea were unable to capitalise on the advantage in personnel as Javad Nekounam scored the decisive goal on 75 minutes.

Elsewhere, a 13th-minute Sanzhar Tursunov goal proved the difference as Uzbekistan defeated Qatar 1-0 in Doha.

South Korea remain on top of the group with seven points, separated only by goal difference to Iran in second.

Anichebe treating Everton as priority

16 October 2012 20:05

Everton striker Victor Anichebe is prioritising keeping up his good Premier League form ahead of returning to the Nigeria squad.

The 24-year-old, who has scored three goals in seven appearances this term, has not featured for Nigeria since September last year.

Despite enjoying some fine early season form following an injury hit 2011/12 campaign, the forward has claimed he is not yet thinking about earning further call-ups.

“The thing with Nigeria is I am a fan and I follow the games and the team have done really well to qualify (for the Africa Cup of Nations),” Anichebe said.

“They have a great bunch of players there but I’m concentrating on here because this is the first time I’ve stayed fit for a while.

“I am thinking about Everton. They have stuck by me and helped me get back fit so I’m thinking more about cementing (my place in) the side.

“The national team aspect hasn’t come into my head. I just want them to do well.”

Everton, who are riding high in fourth place in the Premier League, face bottom-of-the-table QPR this weekend, but Anichebe has warned his team-mates to be wary of Mark Hughes’ side.

“They (QPR) are struggling so it is going to be even harder because they need results – they’ve bought a lot of players and have a lot of expectation on them,” he said.

“They haven’t really done so well so I am sure they will look to change that against us and we need to be wary of that.”

Marcelo set for surgery

16 October 2012 19:53

Real Madrid defender Marcelo will travel to Amsterdam to undergo an operation on his broken foot as he looks to cut his recovery time.

Marcelo fractured his fifth metatarsal while on international duty with Brazil and will reportedly be out for three months with the injury.

The club’s medical staff have determined that the 24-year-old will travel to the Netherlands on Friday to visit Dr. Niek Van Dijk, who has also operated on Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie.

Marcelo is an integral part of Real coach Jose Mourinho’s squad, but is unlikely to return to action before January, which would rule him out of the remainder of the Champions League group stage.

Reserve left-back Fabio Coentrao is also facing time on the sidelines after straining an abductor muscle in Portugal’s World Cup qualifying defeat to Russia on Friday.

Giroud relishing Premier League experience

16 October 2012 19:39

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has described the Premier League as ‘the best league in the world’, hailing the intensity of competition.

Giroud arrived at the Emirates Stadium after an impressive season at Montpellier in which he scored 21 times to help his side lift the Ligue 1 title.

After a tough settling in period the 26-year-old looks to be showing signs of improvement, and netted his first league goal in the Gunners’ 3-1 win over West Ham.

Despite struggling to find the net regularly, the Frenchman insists he is enjoying life in England.

” … I have to be prepared to battle against some very tough and physical defenders who go for it,” he told the London Evening Standard.

“That’s the fighting spirit you find in England. The Premier League is the best in the world and it has more intensity than the French league.

“You need to be ready physically and there are a lot more better players, like in La Liga.”

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side travel to face struggling Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Senegal get Cup of Nations ban

16 October 2012 19:15

Senegal have been banned from the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after fans incited a riot that saw their match with Ivory Coast abandoned.

With Ivory Coast leading last week’s qualifier 2-0 and winning 6-2 on aggregate, Senegal fans began throwing missiles onto the playing surface in Dakar before the referee took the players off the field after 74 minutes.

The Confederation of African Football has made the decision to officially confirm the 2-0 scoreline as the final result, though this may not be the end of the sanctions imposed on the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists.

The decision means Ivory Coast will join hosts South Africa, Zambia and Ghana in pot one for the draw of the competition, which begins in January and runs for just over three weeks.

Pot two is occupied by Mali, Tunisia, Angola and Nigeria whilst Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco and Niger are in pot three.

Ethiopia, who have reached the tournament for the first time in 31 years, will be alongside Togo, Cape Verde and DR Congo in pot four.

The draw takes place in Durban on October 24.