Messi Returns To Argentina Team After Eight-Month Absence

Argentina’s forward Lionel Messi (L) gestures next to assistant coach Lionel Scaloni during a training session at the team’s base camp in Bronnitsy, near Moscow, on June 11, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament.  JUAN MABROMATA / AFP

 

Lionel Messi was named in the Argentina squad Thursday for the first time since the World Cup, ending a self-imposed eight-month absence.

Interim coach Lionel Scaloni named the five-time World Player of the Year in his squad for the friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco.

READ ALSO: Ajax Knock Shambolic Real Madrid Out Of Champions League

The Barcelona star hasn’t pulled on the light blue and white national team jersey since Argentina were dumped out of the World Cup last June by eventual winners France.

AFP

Our Target Is To Be Europe’s Best Team, Says Sarri

Sarri Found Out He Was Sacked As Napoli Coach On TV
Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri gestures during the English Premier League football match between Huddersfield Town and Chelsea at the John Smith’s stadium in Huddersfield, northern England on August 11, 2018. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Maurizio Sarri said he knew he would face challenges at Chelsea despite a bright start to the season as he prepares his team to face Premier League leaders Manchester City on Saturday.

Chelsea were unbeaten in their first 12 Premier League games but lost 2-1 at Wolves on Wednesday — their second defeat in their past three league games.

Those dropped points have left them in fourth place, 10 points adrift of leaders City after 15 games.

“I knew very well that sooner or later we have to face difficulties,” Sarri said on Friday. “When you change the way of playing, the way of football, you need to change the mentality.

“You need to change the mentality in 25 minds, so it’s not a short way. It’s very difficult.”

Pep Guardiola’s City have won 13 of their Premier League games and are unbeaten in the league since April.

Sarri, who has experienced defeat to Guardiola with Napoli and Chelsea in August’s Community Shield, was asked how his side can beat City.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Against Guardiola, I lost every match, so I don’t know. You have to ask somebody else.”

Sarri accused his Chelsea players of a collective “blackout” at the first sign of trouble against Fulham, despite a 2-0 win, and against Wolves.

The Italian said: “We have a problem to manage the match at the moment. In the last two matches we played well for 55, 60 minutes, then (after) the first difficulty we suffered a blackout.

“In the first match (against Fulham) we were lucky because they didn’t score. In the last match (at Wolves) we were a little bit unlucky. For the opponents, five shots, only two on target. We conceded two goals.”

Sarri struggled to explain the reason for the lapses.

“It’s not really very easy to answer,” he said. “We didn’t react as a team, as 11 players. In 11 different ways. So it’s a big problem. We were not able to have the right determination to win the match.”

City, who finished 30 points better off than Chelsea last season, are the best team in Europe, Sarri said, and that is his target for the Blues.

“At the moment they are stronger than us but our final target is to be the best team in Europe,” he said. “We need to work, we need to improve. In 90 minutes anything can happen. We know it’s very difficult but we have to believe in it.”

AFP

Qatar World Cup: 48 Teams ‘Feasible’ For Tournament – Infantino

FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the inauguration of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on October 30, 2018.
Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams was “feasible” on Wednesday, as hosts Qatar pledged to come to a decision in the early part of next year.

Infantino said “Why not?” bring forward the expansion from 32 teams to 48, which is currently due at the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

“We have decided… to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup final tournaments from 32 to 48,” Infantino told the Asian Football Confederation’s annual congress in Kuala Lumpur.

“It will happen in 2026. Will it happen in 2022? You know me. It is possible. It is possible. Why not?” he added.

Infantino said an expanded tournament would see Asia’s allocation rise from 4.5 places to 8.5, raising cheers from the delegates assembled at a luxury hotel in the Malaysian capital.

“You will have (a bigger) chance. It is possible. It is feasible. We are discussing with our Qatari friends. We are discussing with many other friends in the region. We hope we have it happen. We always have to try,” he said.

Accommodating another 16 teams would vastly complicate Qatar’s task in preparing for the World Cup, which was awarded to the tiny desert state in 2010.

Qatar has also been involved in a stand-off with neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, who have cut off diplomatic relations and imposed a blockade on the resource-rich country, accusing it of endorsing terror activities.

Hassan al-Thawadi, head of the 2022 organizing body, told AFP that Qatar was studying the 48 teams proposal and would make a decision before qualifying gets underway.

“We are still looking at the feasibility studies and we will be in a better position to provide a feedback in the future,” he said.

“But it will be decided before the qualifications… sometime in the first quarter of next year.”

He added that preparations remained on track despite the blockade and that the budget of $200 billion for the entire infrastructure, including metro and expressway, has not been affected.

“We are very happy and excited with the progress. It is on track. By 2020-2021 all our (eight) stadiums will be ready,” al-Thawadi said.

“This is the first World Cup in the Middle East and is a perfect opportunity to bring people together and contribute to the process of healing,” he added.

Ahead of FIFA’s presidential election next year, Infantino said 180 out of the 211 federations had given him their support.

“You know there is an election coming. I have announced I will be a (presidential) candidate. I have received over 180 letters of support,” he said.

“And when it comes to Asia, only a couple are missing.”

AFP

Real Madrid More Of A Team Without Ronaldo, Says Bale

Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale warms up before the Spanish league football match between Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Madrid CF at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on September 15, 2018. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

Gareth Bale has won four Champions Leagues in five years at Real Madrid but believes the Spanish giants can be even better in their quest for a 14th European crown despite the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Bale has shone in the spotlight since Ronaldo’s departure for Juventus, scoring in all of Real’s opening three La Liga wins and providing the equalizer for Isco in a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

“Obviously it’s going to be a little different from having such a big player there,” Bale told British newspaper the Daily Mail.

“It’s maybe a bit more relaxed, yes. I suppose there is more of a team, more working as one unit rather than one player.”

Fired by his anger at being left out of the starting line-up in Zinedine Zidane’s last match in charge of Madrid, Bale came off the bench to score twice in last season’s Champions League final to beat Liverpool 3-1.

However, it is Ronaldo’s goals that have led Real to so much success on the continent in recent times.

The Portuguese has been the competition’s top scorer for the past six seasons.

But ahead of their Champions League opener against last season’s semi-finalists Roma on Wednesday, Bale insists Real can be even better this season.

“We can be even better again,” he added. “Another start and another challenge. We’re ready for it.”

The strained relationship between Bale and Zidane may have led to the Welshman looking for an exit this summer had the French coach not decided to bow out after winning a third straight Champions League in just two and a half years in charge.

Bale avoided the question of whether new boss Julen Lopetegui is a better manager than the French great, but accepts Lopetegui’s command of English has made it easier to communicate.

“Obviously it helps,” said Bale. “In Spanish, I can talk but maybe not go into that amount of detail with them that I would need to.”

AFP

Sunderland Confirm Anichebe Out For Ten Weeks With Knee Injury

sunderlandNigerian forward, Victor Anichebe, has been ruled out of action for three months after sustaining a knee injury in Sunderland’s 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the weekend.

Anichebe, who just returned from a hamstring injury, was brought on as a second half substitute but later went down clutching his right knee.

Sunderland manager, David Moyes, confirmed that the 28-year-old will be out until April.

Anichebe’s latest injury will be a big blow to the Black Cats who already have Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff, Paddy Mcnair, Jordan Pickford and Duncan Watmore all out with long-term injuries.

Rio 2016: Buhari Commends Nigeria’s Paralympic Team

Paralympics-Team-NigeriaPresident Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Team Nigeria for an outstanding performance at the Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

President Buhari commended the athletes for doing the country proud by winning 12 medals and setting new records, which made them the top-performing African team at the 2016 Games.

The President acknowledged the resilient spirit of the Nigerian Paralympic athletes, who were able to excel in the face of adversity.

He applauded the athletes for their tenacity, focus and determination, which has brought glory to the country.

The President also expressed gratitude to all the officials and trainers of the Paralympic athletes, who made sacrifices and persevered to fly the country’s colours.

Hundreds of Nigerians turned out at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja to welcome the first batch of Rio 2016 Paralympics athletes who returned to Nigeria on Sunday.

Arsenal bids £9 million for Corinthians midfield maestro Paulinho

Arsenal showed their optimism to bring over Corinthians midfielder, José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Jùnior, majorly known as Paulinho to their fold as a Gunner as a bid of £9 million was thrown at his Brazilian club.

His form in the last 18 months, impressive string of results for his club, has combined to create a firestorm of interest from Italy to England.

With this stated, Arsenal may have be ready for a showdown with Inter Milan as reports of interest from Inter Milan were made public but Corinthians for now are insisting the maestro stays at home and to make sure that happens the team President Mario Gobbi released a statement to that effect and also decided that the player’s wages be increased in an effort to keep him happy in Brazil.

The 23-year-old midfielder was instrumental in helping Corinthians win their first Copa Libertadores Trophy in 2012. His play in this tournament came on the heels of an impressive 2011 campaign in the Brasileirao Série A, where he drove Corinthians to their sixth league championship.

He is known for his clever runs into the attacking third and his ability to finish in the air or on the ground. His intelligence and creativity will undoubtedly fit right in with Arsenal’s attacking mentality.

As for Paulinho’s say in all of this, it would seem that he would prefer to stay in Brazil. In response to learning about Inter’s interest in him, the midfielder said for Inter Milan to have interest in his person affects him but his preference will be Corinthians and they insist that he should stay at home in brazil which is with Corinthians, then he is ready to go into talks with his club.

For Arsenal, this move if it comes through makes so much sense for the Gunners’ club as the 5’11” attacking midfielder would seem to fit perfectly in the maestro role left vacant since Cesc’s departure in 2011 which is why an offer of £9 million shouldn’t not matter to the club also a re-think should be done on this offer on the part of Corinthians and Paulinho himself.