Thursday, August 14, 2008

Diego: Brazil's architect

While others have hogged the headlines, Diego has arguably been Brazil's best player at Beijing 2008. Today he spoke exclusively to All4All Blog.

Diego (L) of Brazil tries to score against China in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games first round Group C men's football match at the Qinghuangdao Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2008. AFP PHOTO



He has long been the quiet maestro of Brazilian football. While the likes of Ronaldinho, Robinho and Kaka have been grabbing the headlines in Spain and Italy, Diego has been the architect of the continuing rise of Werder Bremen. Now, he is putting his midfield expertise at the service of his country at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Thiago Neves was the two-goal hero for Brazil in their 3-0 victory over hosts China, but in the opinion of many experts, Diego was the real fulcrum of Brazil's success, laying on a goal for Thiago Neves and getting on the scoresheet himself.

It only reinforced the belief, established in Brazil's opening two games, that the Germany-based schemer will be a vital cog in Brazil's machinery if the South American giants are to gain that elusive first-ever Olympic gold medal. Shortly after the match with China in Qinhuangdao, Diego spoke to All4All Blog about his experiences in Beijing so far, and Brazil's next challenge.

All4All: Can you describe your emotions when Werder Bremen decided to release you for this Olympics?
Diego: I was very happy, because to play in the Olympics has always been one of my greatest career dreams. And now I have achieved that.

Why was playing here so important for you?
The Olympics is a great competition, which brings together several nations in different sports. And Brazil has not yet won the gold medal in men's football, so how good would it be for us to be the first?

Has the tournament been everything you dreamed about so far?
Yes, I am enjoying everything so far.

What was going through your mind after you scored against China?
I was very pleased to score my first goal in the Olympic Games. Playing for the Seleçao has always been an emotional experience, and to score a goal is something even better.

During the match you linked up well with Ronaldinho, do you think he is showing signs of getting back to his best?
Yes, he is a sensational player, who is returning to his peak fitness, and is showing all the technical excellence we know about.

The Chinese fans have been delighted to see him carrying a pair of bongos (drums) whenever he enters the team hotel. When do they get played - and do you ever have a go of them?
Brazilian people always love music! These bongos get the group in the mood when we're playing Pagode.

How much do you think your young midfield team-mates Anderson and Lucas have developed since their move to the Premier League?
These are two great young players, and their careers are evolving quickly there. They are better every time I play with them for Brazil.

With three wins, nine goals and none conceded, it's been a dream start for you. What's been key to this success?
Hard work and team unity. We all want that gold medal, you know!

What kind of a test do you think Cameroon will provide in your quarter-final match?
That will be a very difficult game against a team that's traditionally strong in the Olympics. And now that it's the knockout phase, we can't let our attention slip for one moment during the 90 minutes.

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Good while it lasted for Adu

The USA's Freddy Adu showed some of the promise which made him a household name before he was out of his teens at the Olympics.

The USA's Freddy Adu showed some of the promise which made him a household name before he was out of his teens at the Olympics.



USA prodigy Freddy Adu, a player forced to live with the huge expectations created for him in his early teens, sparkled for two games at the Olympics but left before he could make a real impact.

Adu, who is still only 19 but seems to have been around for years, picked up yellow cards in his first two games and had to watch helplessly as his team-mates lost 2-1 to Nigeria on Wednesday and were eliminated. It was an exasperating experience for Adu, who against Japan and Netherlands had been in the sort of form which justified the enormous hype created around him.

"For a player, it's not the greatest feeling sitting in the stands watching the team play in a must-win game," the Ghana-born player told reporters. "I hope this never happens to me ever again. I want to be on the field helping the guys out, I felt bad." He added: "I'm going to rebound from this."

Adu, who joins AS Monaco this season on loan from Benfica, left Ghana at the age of eight when his family emigrated to the United States. He was spotted by a local coach and was barely 12 when Italian clubs began to take an interest in him. By 14, he was being billed as an American Pele and had won publicity contracts from two large corporations. At 15, he was the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer. Yet, while never a flop, Adu has never quite managed to match the expectations which had been set for him.

Bright future
USA coach Peter Nowak said the future was still bright for Adu. "Freddy had a good tournament, he has a good mentality and a very good future in the team," he said. "He needs to establish himself, he needs to play, because with every single game, he got better. It's a question of continuity."

Brian McBride, the most experienced player in the USA squad, said Adu was handling the pressure with great maturity. "I think he's grown a lot, he's been through a lot of those trying times and I think he has a good grasp on what he should and shouldn't do," he said."There's a whole lot of pressure that he has to deal with and he's dealing with those things. We need to just let him grow."

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Finishing school for Asians

Asia's representatives at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament have all exited at the group stage, ruing their lack of bite in front of goal.

Players of Belgium (C) celebrate after scoring against China during their 2008 Beijing Olympic Games first round Group C men's football match at the Shenyang Olympic Stadium on August 10, 2008. AFP PHOTO



Four decades after Japan won bronze at Mexico City 1968, a milestone achievement which remains the best Asian result in Men's Olympic football, the continent's four hopefuls crashed out at the group stage.

Only four years ago, unfancied Iraq took the tournament by storm as they swept past the likes of Portugal and Morocco to reach the last four - the second-best result in Asia's Men's Olympic football history. With that fond memory still fresh, the four Asian teams, including hosts China, went into the competition with high hopes of emulating or surpassing the 2004 Iraqis.

"A medal would be enough to satisfy the Chinese people," said China coach Ratomir Dujkovic a month prior to the competition. Despite the expectations and the tremendous home support, the hosts were found wanting throughout, picking up only a point against 10-man New Zealand before suffering defeats at the hands of Belgium and Brazil.

"Our opponents are stronger than us both physically and technically, and the result reflects the disparity in the strengths of the two sides," China's executive coach Yin Tiesheng reflected after their 3-0 defeat by Brazil in the last group game.

Japan, whose Kunishige Kamamoto scored twice to seal a 2-0 victory over hosts Mexico in the 1968 bronze-medal game, packed for home empty-handed after three straight defeats. Australia fared a little better, holding Serbia 1-1 in their opener, but they could not find the net against Argentina or Côte d'Ivoire, losing 1-0 in both games.

Korea Republic, under coach Park Sung-Hwa, came the closest to booking a place in the quarter-finals after carving out a win over Honduras in their final group game - the only victory for Asia's four entrants.

"Asian teams usually fall short on the international stage, especially when we line up against Africans and Europeans," Park told Full4Free.com. "Asian players are pacy and flexible, but these advantages didn't cancel out the physical strength of our opponents."

Finishing problems
All the Asian sides admitted that their demise should largely be attributed to their inability in front of goal, with only 5 goals scored in a total of 12 games. All the Asians' creativity in the middle third came to nought, as nervousness and lack of precision in front of goal bedevilled their campaigns.

"We suffered from a lack of experience in the box, and we missed too many clear-cut chances," Japan coach Yasuharu Sorimachi glumly concluded after his team's 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands. "We've shown we are a decent attacking side, but our young players need to hone their finishing skills."

Sorimachi's views were echoed by his Australia counterpart Graham Arnold, who was quick to acknowledge the Olyroos' finishing problems after the 1-0 loss to Côte d'Ivoire. "We've had problems scoring with this team. This is generally a problem with all levels of Australia's national teams."

"Even against Brazil we created good chances, but our finishing problems made the difference. The lessons must be learned,"

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Honduras look on the bright side

Despite failing to win a point, Honduras coach Gilberto Yearwood is hoping his young footballers can build on their chastening Olympics experience.
Honduras's players applaud after their men's Group D first round soccer match against South Korea at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Shanghai August 13, 2008. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci (CHINA)

Three matches, three defeats, five goals against and none for. Not even the most pessimistic of Honduran followers could have predicted quite such a miserable return for Gilberto Yearwood's side at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament.

Even so, the Central Americans are departing China with their heads held high after doing battle with some of the world's top teams and gaining invaluable experience in the process.

"There is always a positive side to everything," said a resigned but relaxed Yearwood. "The players will just have to accept what happened here and we mustn't lose sight of our future objectives. The next step for them is the full national team, and there's no doubt in my mind that we've gained an awful lot in terms of experience in this tournament."

A mitigating factor in Honduras's disappointing showing was the quality of their opponents in Group D. And as Yearwood acknowledged, facing rivals of the calibre of Cameroon, Italy and Korea Republic, all of them major powers on their respective continents, was never going to be an easy task.

"We know we didn't come away with the results we'd hoped for and you're always going to get criticised when you lose. But this is only our second appearance at the Olympic Games and we were in a very tough section. A lot of sides are used to competing at this level but it's tougher for us, and even though no-one wanted this to happen it's not really a surprise."

Yearwood was not entirely downbeat about his side's Chinese adventure, however. "We weren't overawed and we suffered two honourable defeats. You also have to remember that Italy are one of the strongest teams in the world. And while our finishing wasn't good enough, it has to be said we didn't have the best preparation. Some of our best players only joined up with the squad at the last minute and we paid for that."

The voice of experience
Asked for his views on Honduras's exit, Yearwood's 33-year-old captain Samuel Caballero, who plays his club football for Chinese outfit Changchun Yatai, also pointed to the benefits of acquiring experience.

"Before the last game we spoke to the boys about the importance of being here. Unfortunately we didn't get the result we wanted but experiences like this will stand us in very good stead for what's lies ahead. They'll really benefit from it.

"It's a shame we couldn't bring some joy to the Honduran people but you have to understand that we can learn a lot from this for the future," continued the defender. "I'm getting on so for me playing in the Olympics is just something I can be proud of. For them, though, it's another benchmark in their personal development and they'll get the benefit of it in the future." Honduran fans dreaming of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ will be hoping that is indeed the case.

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Nigeria's Obinna back on track

"I was so relieved to see the ball hit the back of the net," sighed powerhouse striker Victor Obinna, telling FIFA.com about scoring Nigeria's first goal of these Beijing finals 58 minutes into their 2-1 win over Japan in Tianjin.

The hulking forward, who plays his club football with Italian Serie A side Brescia after two seasons with Chievo Verona, missed a raft of clear chances in Nigeria's first game, a 0-0 draw with the Netherlands. He, his namesake Victor Anichebe and Peter Odemwingie were all guilty of profligate finishing on that day.

Against the Japanese, though, Obinna, 21, took the job of conjuring goals to heart, scoring a stunner and setting up another for Anichebe.

"We had to win that game against Japan," the former Enyimba player continued. "We left ourselves no choice but to attack them. We missed so many chances in our first game that we knew we just needed to relax and take our time and our chances against Japan. Ours is a very good team and the chances will always come."




Coping with pressure
With a handful of senior caps to his name, big Obinna knows the pressure is on for the so-called Dream Team to perform at these Olympic Games."I felt so good when that first goal fell, I can hardly even describe it," said Obinna, whose acrobatic celebration was almost as impressive as the goal itself. "I usually don't get so carried away with my goal celebrations but I was just overcome with emotion passion and joy all at the same time.

"Back home in Nigeria the expectations are very high for this team," added the player who begins his third year in Italy after the Beijing Games. "They want to see us vibing out there and playing the kind of football that Nigeria is known for. I think we are getting better with each game and that is the most important thing."

One of the major factors in the team's ever-improving form is the presence in the technical area of Samson Siasia. A FIFA World Cup™ veteran, the coach is regarded as a hero by his young charges and demands total respect.

"He's the best," was Obinna's concise assessment of the coach who took some of the current U-23 players to the FIFA U-20 World Cup final in 2005. "Everyone understands him. All he has to do is make a gesture or a face and we know what he wants. He has total faith in us and we have total faith in him as he has helped us get where he are today, playing for our country and for our names."

USA await
Up next for the Nigerians, on four points, is a Group B grudge match with the USA, who have also won one and drawn one. Obinna, unsurprisingly, is convinced the Nigerians will get the result they need.

"We are beginning to hit our rhythm here in China," he said. "After the first game we made some changes and now we are moving forward. The Americans will be tough as they will be fighting for their lives."

For the player - who is beginning to link up with the likes of Odemwingie and Solomon Okoronkwo to great effect in attack, only one result will do. "We want to win the game, win the group and hopefully go on to win the tournament."

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mutu And Gila Blow Slavia Away

A superb free kick from Adrian Mutu and a typical poacher’s strike by Alberto Gilardino got Fiorentina’s Champions League campaign off to a flying start. The home side were on top from start to finish and they take an important 2-0 aggregate lead back with them to Bratislava in two weeks...




A superb free-kick from Adrian Mutu and a typical poacher’s strike by Alberto Gilardino got Fiorentina’s Champions League campaign off to a flying start.

The home side were on top from start to finish and they take an important 2-0 aggregate lead with them to Prague in two weeks.

First Half

A hot and sticky night welcomed both teams to the Artemio Franchi as a 30,000-strong crowd showed up. Fiorentina got the game underway with Alberto Gilardino starting up front with Adrian Mutu.

The fans didn’t have to wait long for the show to get started as Gilardino was fouled following good link-up play by the home side. Mutu stepped up for the 30 yard free-kick and gave his side the lead on three minutes.

The Romanian’s effort was sublime: a brilliant right-foot smash which flew into the top corner, leaving Vaniak with no chance. It was the perfect start for Cesare Prandelli’s men as early nerves had to be settled.

Fiorentina kept the pressure up and Slavia Prague were carved open following great play by Juan Manuel Vargas and Kuzmanovic. The midfielder crossed a delightful ball into the box but it just missed Gilardino.

Mutu was again at the centre of the action as the Czech Champions could only watch a first-half master class. The prolific hit-man then saw his shot come off the crossbar as a rampant Viola side huffed and puffed for a second.

Slavia then decided to pull everyone back and they had to as Fiorentina ran riot. The Czech side had their only real chance midway through the half but they wasted the free-kick.

Hubercek tried to get things moving for his side with a good run down the wing but his cross was poor and Fiorentina cleared up field. Vargas slipped through on the counter but his first touch was poor and the chance fizzled out. The away side just couldn’t get into their stride as their coach Karel Jarolim jumped around the touchline in frustration.

La Viola were in control and always looked likely to double their lead.

Gilardino looked odds-on to score when Kuzmanovic picked him out with a pinpoint pass, only for the former Milan man to scuff his header wide.

Felipe Melo also got in on the action and he received a roar from the crowd every time he touched the ball. The Brazilian midfielder was outstanding in the first half.

The home side ended the first period with a flourish of chances but they went into the break with the score still at 1-0.

Second Half

Fiorentina came out and started where they had left off. Vargas tested Vaniak with a super strike from distance with the Czech goalkeeper pushing the effort away for a corner but the Viola couldn’t take advantage.

Soon after, Gilardino popped up to double his team’s lead. It was a typical strike by the former Parma man as he left his marker standing to head home just before the hour.

The Artemio Franchi erupted as the €14m signing made his mark and got his European scoring tally back on the move. It was a brilliant finish from the World Cup winner.

It was all Fiorentina. Sebastian Frey was just a mere spectator as Slavia were pegged back into their own half. A double chance fell to Gilardino and then Santana but neither were able to get the ball into the net as Vaniak pulled off two consecutive saves to spare his side more blushes.

Vaniak was once again called into action as Kuzmanovic tried his luck again only for the Slavia ‘keeper to punch clear. Prandelli was on the edge even though his side were comfortable. The former Parma coach gave instructions to his side; “no distractions” were the orders on the night.

Ten minutes before full-time Gilardino and Mutu were replaced by Osvaldo and Pazzini and both strikers came off to a standing ovation.

Osvaldo should have made it 3-0 but he got mixed up with Kroldrup and the chance was wasted. La Viola held on and take a well-deserved two-goal lead with them into the second leg in a fortnight.

Teams:

Fiorentina: Frey, Zauri, Dainelli, Kroldrup, Vargas(Almiron); Gobbi, Felipe Melo, Kuzmanovic; Santana, Gilardino(Osvaldo), Mutu(Pazzini).

Substitutes: Storari, Donadel, Jovetic, Osvaldo, Pasqual, Pazzini, Almiron.

Slavia Prague: Vaniak, Taveres, Braabec, Hubacek, Latka, Janda(Krajcik), Jarolim(Necid), Senkerik, Suschy, Svento, Gebre Selassie(Belaid)

Substitutes: Divis, Toleski, Jablonskj, Krajcik, Belaid, Necid, Cerny.

Goals: Mutu (Fiorentina), Gilardino(Fiorentina)

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Agent Threatens Roma: Pay Up Or Forget Baptista

Julio Baptista’s agent Herminio Menendez is threatening to pull out of the deal if Roma don’t offer his client the money he earns at Real Madrid.



The transfer saga which shows no sign of ending has taken yet another turn.

On Tuesday, Menendez revealed that Baptista wanted to play for Roma and that wages were an issue.

Now, in an attempt to get what he wants, the agent seems to be threatening the Giallorossi and he has given them an ultimatum, Real Madrid money or forget Baptista.

The agent is also unhappy with the way the Italian side have dealt with the deal and he is furious.

“Roma can’t expect to pay Baptista less than what he earns at Real Madrid,” an angry Menendez told Il romanista.

“The money they have offered just isn’t enough. Roma knew what Baptista earns. The player is important at Madrid and he is part of the Selecao.

“If Roma want him they have to pay him the wages he earns at Madrid.

“I don’t want my player to lose out by moving to Rome. It’s Real money or nothing at all.”

Menendez is trying hard to win the mega money battle but the Italian club are tryng to work out a deal so that everyone can go home happy.

It’s unlikely that the Giallorossi will bow down to the agent’s pushy demands even if the deal threatens to go up in smoke.

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Nigeria Hold Off Ten-Men USA


Goals from Victor Nsofor Obinna and Promise Isaac had Nigeria in the driving seat before a late Sacha Kljestan penalty for the ten-men US ensured a nervy finish...


The teams lined up in Beijing at the Workers’ stadium on a hot, humid evening in China’s capital. The air was full of smog, but that did nothing to cut the tension between these two nations. It was do-or-die for both of these sides as they both needed a win, or had to rely on external factors regarding the match between Holland and Japan.

First Half

After the usual routine of national anthems, team line-ups and the coin toss the first half started dramatically. After only three minutes Wolfgang Stark deemed it necessary to flash red, in the direction of American full-back Michael Orozco. Indeed, after replay inspection an elbow was thrown in the direction of the Nigerian and Stark did well to spot it.

The Nigerians controlled the proceedings as the half wore on after a bright start from the Americans. The red card had knock-on affects; Chibuzor Okonkwo posed constant threats down the right. The full-back played more like a winger and exploited the space left by Orozco.

The breakthrough came on 39 minutes via a well worked goal scored by Isaac Promise. The twenty-year-old captain, who once had trials at Manchester United, tapped in from six-yards after Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi stormed down the left, skinned a defender a crossed in to Isaac.

The only American highlight from the first half was a pacy run from Toronto FC’s full-back Marvell Wynne. He stormed down the right, and got in to the box, only to cross poorly for Brian McBride which ruined his fruitful run. The first half ended 1-0 to Nigeria.

Second Half

Pioter Nowak deemed it necessary at half time to make changes, and he replaced the disappointing Jozy Altidore for Derby County’s midfielder Benny Feilhaber. However, Feilhaber was booked for dissent and moments later nearly scored an own goal, with Brad Guzan making a great reaction save. Nigeria quickly took advantage of America’s ten men, and pressured fluently in the second half.

On 79 minutes Victor Obinna rounded off a great goal. The Chive man took on two defenders and blasted a shot in to the top right, too far for the over stretched Guzan.

After the goal, and substitutions from both sides the last ten minutes became somewhat farcical. Nigerian goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin came close to a red card after hacking down an American in the box giving away a penalty, and gaining a yellow card for his troubles. Sascha Kljestan scored his second goal of the tournament from the penalty spot, whilst the USA continued to pile on the pressure during the four minutes of injury time.

In stoppage time, both sides hit the crossbar, substitute Charlie Davies’s free header hit the bar and at the other end Robbie Roger’s defensive lapse nearly cost him an own goal. The game ended 2-1 to Nigeria, which means the Super eagles fly on, whilst the American dream is over.

Teams


USA- Guzan; Wynne, Orozco, Parkhurst; Edu, Holden (Davies), Szetela (McCarty), Rogers, Kljestan; Altidore (Feilhaber), McBride.

Nigeria- Vanzekin; Okonkwo, Adeleye, Ambrose; James, Kaita, Isaac (Anichebe), Ajilore (Ekpo); Ogbuke Obasi, Obinna, Okoronkwo (Odemwingie).

Goals: Isaac, Obinna; Kljestan (p).

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Berbatov To United In 48 Hours


According to the English press, Manchester United are on the verge of completing the long-awaited signing of Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur. Having already lost Robbie Keane to Liverpool, it seems that Spurs are also going to lose Berbatov.




The Sun claims that Berbatov has effectively parted company with Spurs and that only routine paperwork stands between he and Old Trafford.

Pirin Blagoevgrad's most famous product has reportedly told his Lilywhites team-mates that the move is all but complete. He is expected to join Sir Alex Ferguson's squad within the next two days, and could feature in the Red Devils' Premier League opener against Newcastle.

The Bulgarian striker has been yearning for the deal to go through all summer, as he is desperate to play Champions League football this season. Spurs can only offer the UEFA Cup.

Exactly how much the Red Devils will pay for the 27-year-old remains unknown, but the fee is believed to be somewhere between £25million and £28million.

Berbatov's departure will mean Juande Ramos has lost three international-class forwards since January, as Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane have already left White Hart Lane.

This latest development may be a sign that Darren Bent has earned himself a place in the first team with his excellent pre-season form.

It could also mean the North London club are close to landing Zenit St Petersburg star Andrei Arshavin.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ronaldo Could Have Gone Anywhere But Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo was told by Sir Alex Ferguson that he could join any club in the world this summer, including Barcelona, as long as he did not go to Real Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo was told by Sir Alex Ferguson that he could join any club in the world this summer, including Barcelona, as long as he did not go to Real Madrid.

The pledge was made when the pair met in Lisbon last month after the Manchester United manager flew out to convince the star that he should not go to the Bernabéu.

Barcelona had made tentative enquiries about Ronaldo earlier in the season and, according to Marca, Ferguson said that he could go there for half the money that the media were stating Madrid would pay.

It was a clear indication of how bad relations between Los Merengues and the Red Devils had become after the Premier League giants accused the Spanish outfit of tapping up the player.

Ronaldo only had eyes for Madrid, however, and told Ferguson that if he would not be allowed to join them then he would be willing stay at Old Trafford, albeit for just one more season.

Marca also state that the 23-year-old has told friends in the Madrid team that if he is not allowed to join for the 2009-10 campaign then he will force through a transfer himself.

In other reports it is alleged that Madrid used the same plan that saw them prise Luis Figo away from Barcelona in 2000 when tying Ronaldo down to a pre-contract agreement to join them.

If he then did not move to the club, as has now happened, then he would be liable to pay Madrid a clause which could add up to millions of euros.

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Italy Lose Rocchi To Injury

Italian national team coach Pierluigi Casiraghi has been dealt a huge blow as Tommaso Rocchi has picked up a serious injury which will rule him out of the remainder of the Olympics tournament.

Italian national team coach Pierluigi Casiraghi has been dealt a huge blow as Tommaso Rocchi has picked up a serious injury which will rule him out of the remainder of the Olympics tournament.

Casiraghi’s plans have been foiled as Rocchi will have to miss the remainder of his side's participation in the Olympic games following an injury which saw him pack his bags for a return to Italy in the coming days.

This means that the Italian national coach will have to rely on Cagliari striker Robert Acquafresca in attack as they face Cameroon tomorrow in the final group game prior to the quarter finals.

The Azzurrini have already qualified for the last eight, but this injury dents their chances of winning the gold medal.

It is not yet known the time the Lazio forward will have to remain away from the playing field, but from the first tests it seems that this is quite a serious injury.

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Official: Villa Agree Cuellar Fee With Rangers

Rangers and Aston Villa have both confirmed that Spanish centre-back Carlos Cuéllar is set to move to Villa Park after a fee was agreed between the two sides for the player...

Cuéllar, 26, arrived at Ibrox last summer from Osasuna in a €3m (£2.37m) move, setting the Scottish Premier League alight with a series of confident performances.

The former Numancia ace won the SPL Player of the Year award last season, as well as the Scottish Football Writers' Player of the Year prize after racking up 36 appearances in the League. He was also integral to the Gers' run to the UEFA Cup final.

However, it now seems that his spell in Govan has come to an end just a single year into his four-season contract after the Teddy Bears agreed to sell him on to Aston Villa.

A statement on the official Rangers website read: "On Sunday morning the player and his representatives informed the Club it was their desire to invoke an exit clause for 10 million Euros and today an offer for that amount was received from Aston Villa.

An offer to extend the player's contract and to increase his salary substantially was declined as the player was adamant it was his desire to leave and play in the Premiership.
"

As such Villa are likely to unveil their new acquisition tomorrow, subject to the successful completion of a medical.

Personal Ambitions

Cuéllar himself stated that a desire to break through to the Spanish national side was key to his seeking pastures new.

He said, ""I came to Rangers due to the professional manner of their officials and management and their promise of success. Everything I had been told about this fantastic Club has been true and last year's UEFA Cup run is something I will never forget.

"My ambition has always been to play for my national team and I believe that playing in the biggest league in the world for Aston Villa will help me realise that.

"When I told Martin Bain on Sunday that I wanted to leave, I did so with sadness. The Rangers supporters have been fantastic to me, but I am young and want to play at the highest level and I hope they will always welcome me back. I want to thank them for everything."

Rebuilding

Rangers' inability to scale past FBK Kaunas in the second qualifying round of the Champions League may also have played a part in Carlos' desire to move on.

Coach Walter Smith, who just three days ago stated that he expected to have Cuéllar at his disposal for the new season, may now settle on a central pairing of Andy Webster and David Weir, although Kirk Broadfoot is also available.

He said, "This has come as a surprise and I am disappointed. Carlos Cuéllar has been a great player for the Football Club and inevitably there has been speculation about him playing in the Premiership.

"The Club has received a substantial uplift in fee and we will now reinvest in the team."

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Tasci Called Up To German Squad

German national team trainer Joachim Löw has announced his squad for the forthcoming friendly international against Belgium with Stuttgart defender Serdar Tasci the surprise call-up. Robert Enke and Rene Adler have been selected as the two goalkeepers.


Löw has called up a total of 21 players for next week’s friendly against Belgium in Nürnberg- the countries first match since losing to Spain in the European Championship final in Vienna.

Alongside Tasci, Löw has called up Marko Marin, Patrick Helmes and Jermaine Jones, who were all dropped from the Euro 2008 squad. Bayern youngster Toni Kroos however has not been selected. He will play for the U-21 team instead.

On his selection Tasci said: “I’m delighted, but I will not get too euphoric. I’ve been selected a few times now but I’ve been cursed with injury each time.”

With the retirement of Jens Lehmann from international football, Löw has called up both Robert Enke and Rene Adler to the squad. Schalke’s Manuel Neuer is injured. Valencia's Timo Hildebrand has once again been overlooked although the trainer is not ruling out recalling him in the near future.

Also injured and unavailable are Per Mertesacker, Bernd Schneider, Tim Borowski, David Odonkor, Arne Friedrich and Oliver Neuville.

The match against Belgium will serve as a warm-up ahead of Germany's up-coming World Cup qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Finland on September 6 and September 10.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Rene Adler (Bayer Leverkusen), Robert Enke (Hannover)

Defenders: Christoph Metzelder (Real Madrid), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Marcell Jansen (Bayern Munich), Clemens Fritz (Werder Bremen), Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart), Heiko Westermann (Schalke)

Midfielders: Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Thomas Hitzlsperger (Stuttgart), Simon Rolfes (Bayer Leverkusen), Torsten Frings (Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Marko Marin (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Lukas Podolski (Bayern Munich)

Forwards: Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Mario Gomez (Stuttgart), Kevin Kuranyi (Schalke), Patrick Helmes (Bayer Leverkusen)

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Silva Rejected United Move

David Silva rejected the chance to move to Manchester United, has confirmed he will never move to the Premier League and will start the season with Valencia, according to his agent...



News has recently emerged that the Euro 2008 winner is not keen on a move to the Premier League, as reported by the Daily Mail.

His agent, Julio Llorente, has confirmed this exclusively to Sky Sports News that Manchester United made a formal approach for the player and were rebuffed, with the young midfielder thought to be certain to start the season with Valencia.

"Manchester United have made an offer for David Silva, but Valencia have turned it down and that is because of the player's wishes," Llorente said.

"He wants to stay in Spain. We can confirm he will be starting the season in Valencia, and if does ever make a move, it won't be to the Premier League."

It was also revealed that the player is happy in Spain as his family are settled and would therefore only consider a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona, with the latter strongly linked for a big-money move for the 22-year-old. This also rules out the remote possibility that Rafa Benitez was set to raid his former club for the youngster and bring him to Liverpool.

It has not yet been revealed what the nature of United's offer was, but as Madrid's dealings are over for the summer, it will now be just Barcelona left in the running for the versatile prodigy, although Los Che remain as confident as ever they will keep the player at the club.

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Kezman's PSG Move In Doubt

Mateja Kezman’s proposed move to Paris St Germain is in jeopardy as Fenerbahce are insisting on a high price for the striker.



The ex-Chelsea forward is thought to be surplus to requirements at Fener, with new manager Luis Aragones bringing in Daniel Guiza from Real Mallorca this summer.

As such, it was expected that Kezman would complete a move to the French capital, as PSG seek to add striking options to their squad, following David Ngog’s sale to Liverpool.

However, any potential deal is in doubt as the Turkish club’s valuation of the Serbian does not match that of the Ligue 1 side.

Kezman admits that the deal has stalled, and has laid the finger of blame in the direction of Fener club president, Aziz Yildirim. He revealed his fears that PSG are going to seek striking options elsewhere as the transfer window begins to close.

He told Le Parisien: "I think Paris are going to have to look for another solution because it is very tricky to find an agreement with Fenerbahce. I am very disappointed by this situation.

"I would love to play for Paris but I still have two years left on my contract with Fenerbahce, the clubs can't come to an agreement and the president is playing a very hard game with me."

PSG could move for Milan Baros of Lyon should they fail to land the 29-year-old Kezman, while Rennes striker Jimmy Briand remains a long-time target.

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Unhappy Kompany Heads Back To HSV

Vincent Kompany has decided to not risk the full wrath of Hamburger SV after all and is now on his way back from Beijing.



The 22-year-old was prepared to defy his club's orders by staying at the Olympics beyond the second game that they had grudgingly agreed to, but he has since had a change of heart as a result of the Belgian federation's refusal to support him in his stance.

"It's a crying shame that I have to leave my country in a time of need," Kompany told a Belgian reporter.

"I am very disappointed that I didn't receive the support of the federation. I had informed everybody in Hamburg that my place is here.

"But I think that under the current conditions it's too risky to stay here," he concluded, referring to the prospect of disciplinary action by his team.

Whether Kompany has incurred any punishment already as a result of his short-lived rebellion remains to be seen, though it is unlikely that HSV will shoot themselves in the foot by suspending him, with the season opener against Bayern Munich coming up on Friday.

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Capello Indifferent To Smoking Rooney

Fabio Capello insists that he is not perturbed by pictures of Wayne Rooney smoking on his honeymoon.



The Manchester United striker was snapped while in the swimming pool of his Las Vegas hotel with a cigarette in his hand.

The subsequent furore caused observers to question the 22-year-old’s fitness, which was exacerbated by a virus he picked up in Nigeria.

Rooney is currently struggling to complete a full pre-season campaign, as the effects of his health problems are preventing him from training.

The ex-Everton star is expected to be named in Capello’s upcoming England squad, and the Italian does nto mind that he has a smoker in his ranks.

He told the press: "I know a lot of players who smoke, it is part of life. When I was a player, a lot of my friends and team-mates smoked. It depends if he smokes five cigarettes or 20 cigarettes."

Rooney is the latest in a long line of talented footballers who enjoy a crafty fag; Socrates, Johann Cruyff, Robert Prosinecki and Zinedine Zidane are all known to have been partial to a puff during their playing days.

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Ajax After Biglia

Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam have been one of the more pro-active sides on the transfer market this summer. They aren’t done yet, though, and are after Anderlecht midfielder Lucas Biglia.

Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam have been one of the more pro-active sides on the transfer market this summer. They aren’t done yet, though, and are after Anderlecht midfielder Lucas Biglia.

New manager Marco van Basten is happy with the new signings so far, but wants to add one extra defender and one more midfielder to his squad. Anderlecht midfielder Biglia is top of Van Basten's list, according to reports.

Anderlecht's ability to hold on to their star players will be significantly diminished after their early Champions League exit. In fact, Argentinean midfielder Lucas Biglia has already been transfer listed in order to raise funds.

Ajax are monitoring the situation of El Principito closely, but the Belgium side are only letting him go if the price is right. “Nobody is leaving for a price below our asking price,” said Anderlecht sporting director Herman van Holsbeeck.

The 22-year-old playmaker signed for Anderlecht in 2006 from Argentinean side Independiente and also played for Argentinos Juniors. His contract with Anderlecht expires in 2012.

Biglia is also linked with French side Paris Saint Germain and Spanish team Racing Santander. Sources suggest Anderlecht want €7million for their midfielder.

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Atlético Are Excited Not Nervous - Antonio López

Antonio López has revealed that Atlético de Madrid are not nervous ahead of their Champions League qualifier against Schalke 04 and are instead excited by the hotly-anticipated tie.

Antonio López has revealed that Atlético de Madrid are not nervous ahead of their Champions League qualifier against Schalke 04 and are instead excited by the hotly-anticipated tie.

The Spanish international defender believes that after all the waiting and preparation, Los Colchoneros are keen to test themselves and to try and make it through to the group stages.

Hopes were high that Atlético would be given an easier task in the preliminary round, but they are ready to take on the task of beating the Bundesliga giants.

“More than feeling nervous, we can’t wait for the match to get here. We’ve waited for so long to experience this moment, and the only thing that we want is for Wednesday to get here already," he told Atléti's official website.

“I think that the qualifying tie is 50-50. There’s going to be a great environment, but we hope that the game will go our way. We’re aware that we’re going to face a tough team, but we have to focus on ourselves.

"We have to plan, read the match well and impose our style of play. It’s important to leave there having scored.

“I don’t like to make predictions. It wouldn’t be bad to score, although what we have to try to do is keep a clean sheet, as that way we’d play at Vicente Calderón more tranquilly.”

The club have planned their summer rebuilding programme around their return to the Champions League and everyone connected with Atlético is ready for the tie.

“We’re taking the Champions League qualifier very seriously. Since the pre-season started we’ve been working hard and we don’t want this opportunity to escape," Antonio López continued.

"Atlético de Madrid hasn’t been in Champions League for a long time and it’s time to take another step. We can’t throw away last season’s work as well as those before it. We’re not going to waste this chance."

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Maldonado Leaves Napoli

Paraguayan defender Ruben Maldonado has officially left Napoli on loan to Gimnasia La Plata...

Paraguayan defender Ruben Maldonado

Napoli have sent 29-year-old defender Maldonado on a season long loan to Argentinian club side Gimnasia La Plata with an option for a second year extension.

The Paraguayan player has passed the routine medical at the side and put pen to paper on the deal, which sees him move away from Italy for the first time in eight years. Maldonado debuted in Serie A with Venezia in 2000, going on to have loan spells with Cosenza and then Chievo while owned by Napoli.

The Partenopei have decided to release him on loan, thereby opening up a spot in the team for a non-European Union citizen. A new ruling in Italy concerning the nationality of players creates the possibility of signing two non-EU players where at least one is to replace a non-EU player who has become a free agent or moved abroad.

This means that clubs in Italy now have some more freedom with regards to acquiring players from Africa, Asia and South America. This may be the reason for the deal, as Napoli may have their sights set on a South American to strengthen their squad.

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Tottenham Vs Roma (All The Goals)

The goals from the Pre Season game between Tottenham and Roma.

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Olympic Video: USA let Holland get away with a draw

Ryan Babel put the Netherlands 1-0 up in the 15th minute.USA drew went ahead with two goals in the second half. (Sasha Kljestan and Jozy Alatidore).Sibon scored the equaliser three minutes into stoppage time. Alas...

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Late goal saves Netherlands in USA draw

Benny Feilhaber of the US celebrates his goal against Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final 24 June 2007 at Soldier Field in Chicago. The US won 2-1. AFP PHOTO/Tasos KATOPODIS

A goal three minutes into stoppage time spared the Netherlands blushes and kept their Olympic men's football hopes alive as they snatched a 2-2 draw with the United States here Sunday.

The United States had earlier taken control of the game with a two goal burst midway through the second half but in the end they let themselves down.

The Netherlands were staring at defeat and the prospect of having to beat Japan by a wide margin in their final pool game when Gerald Sibon cracked home a late free kick to put them in the box seat of Group B for the play-offs.

The United States and Nigeria head the pool on four points each but they are to play each other in the final round-robin match, while the Netherlands are a point behind and left with winless Japan to play.

Liverpool striker Ryan Babel put the Netherlands 1-0 up in the 15th minute when he slammed home a rebound from close range after United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan had blocked his initial shot.

The Netherlands clung to the lead for 50 minutes, but not without effort, as the United States fought their way back into the game.

A free kick by Michael Bradley was successfully deflected and Netherlands guardian Kenneth Vermeer easily covered a shot from Stuart Holden 15 minutes later.

But the pressure was telling and the Netherlands cracked in the 65th minute when they let Sasha Kljestan work his way through the Netherlands defence to equalise.

Seven minutes later Michael Orozco whipped the ball across the front of the Netherlands goal for substitute Jozy Alatidore to bang into the net and the US were ahead 2-1.

But with only a few seconds remaining they conceded a freekick and Sibon slammed the ball through the wall and past Guzan to achieve a late escape.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Beckham vs Gerrard, Rocket Goals


Duration : 3.38 Min
File Size : 7.19 MB

grindance.gif Press Here To Download grindance.gif

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KaKa Vs C.Ronaldo Vs Messi


great compilation between the best 3 players in the world

KaKa and Ronaldo and Messi



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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic Video:Brazil destroys New Zealand 5 - 0

Ronaldinho scored twice as Brazil did a samba steamroll over New Zealand.

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Olympic Video: Argentina beat Australia 1 - 0

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Baptista Flies To Rome To Sign Contract

Roma target Julio Baptista has flown to the Eternal City to talk with the Giallorossi and sign a deal with the club according to Sportmediaset.



Luciano Spalletti’s side are on the verge of landing their man after both Real Madrid and Roma reached an agreement over Baptista’s transfer fee, around €12m.

Sportmediaset claims the player has already left the Spanish capital and boarded a flight to Rome in order to put the finishing touches on his new deal.

He is expected to put pen to paper on Monday should he pass a medical at Roma’s Trigoria headquarters. The Brazilian will sign a four year deal worth €2.5m per season, which hits Roma’s salary cap right on the knuckle.

The Giallorossi have been after the ‘Beast’ all summer but Real were playing hard ball as their attentions were distracted by the Cristiano Ronaldo saga.

Los Merengues’ recent signing of Rafael van der Vaart seems to have opened the door to the Brazilian's exit as negotiations regarding the transfer to Roma went through the roof once the Dutchman landed in Madrid.

Baptista’s arrival will go down well at the Olimpico as he is what the Giallorossi needed given their ambitions in both the Scudetto and Champions League.

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Eto'o Is Vital To Barcelona - Messi

Lionel Messi believes that Barcelona must not let Samuel Eto'o leave and thanked Pep Guardiola for understanding how he felt about playing in the Olympic Games.




The 21-year-old is on international duty at the Olympic Games, but hopes to return to Camp Nou to find his Cameroonian team-mate still at the club next season.

With rumours that Eto'o may be forced out at the end of last season, the striker's impressive pre-season form may have meant Barça have changed their plans and could now keep him and that would pleased Messi.

"The truth is that I had no problems because I have already spoken to the club on several occasions. There was good communication and I was under no pressure," he told AS.


"I think that he is the best striker in the world at the moment and I do not think there is anyone comparable available. To have him in our team is very important.

The Argentinian star is currently in China representing his country after the Blaugrana relented in their quest to take him back for the Champions League qualifiers in midweek.

After scoring in his first game, Messi revealed how Guardiola talked to him and was able to relate after being on of the star's of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona when Spain won the football gold.

"He was a player himself and knows how footballers feel in moments like this and he knew it was a complicated situation," he continued. "The coach has supported me since he took at the club and from the first day we have talked about the Olympic Games.

"I spoke to him a bit about Beijing, but he told me more about when he played and how great it was and that was why he understood my position and why I wanted to stay out here.

"He was fantastic with me and I am very grateful for that.

"I always remained calm. I also said what I wanted, even when the CAS ruling was made, because the club knew how I felt. They behaved very well with me and let me stay."

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Mourinho Is Not Invincible - Terim

Former Milan and Fiorentina coach Fatih Terim believes that Jose Mourinho’s Inter side are favourites for the Scudetto but he insists the ‘Special One’ is not invincible.




The coach, who spent two years in Serie A, has spoken about all things calcio and he has given his views on the top four’s chances for Scudetto glory this term.

The Turkey coach began with Inter, who are the bookies favourites to retain their Serie A crown.

“Inter are the favourites if they have the best [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic at their disposal,” Terim told La Gazzetta Dello Sport.

“Mourinho? I heard about the verbal fight with [Claudio] Ranieri, the Inter coach has always been a fighter.

“I remember when he was at Chelsea and all the scuffles with Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson.

“His might just be a tactic. Mourinho raises the tension to keep the reality of work alive.

“However, no-one is invincible. Ranieri? He’s a good man, I like him.

“Behind Inter there is Milan, they have a fierce attacking line up, Pato, Ronaldinho and Kaka form the perfect attacking trident.

“Juve? Their secret is Buffon. I like Amauri as well because he has a sense of goal and he is powerful.

“As for Fiorentina, Gilardino and Mutu will form a great attacking partnership, perhaps, the strongest in the world.

“Fiorentinta have always been strong but now they are even stronger.

“Roma? Spalletti has had the courage to start something new their and they will be amongst the protagonists.”

All the Scudetto challengers have done well on the transfer market this year.

Milan have made their objectives clear and Inter can expect a hard fight for the Tricolore as the big guns battle for glory next term.

Terim enjoyed a mixed career in Serie A. After a good start with Fiorentina, some clashes with the then president, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, led to his exit.

At Milan, a run of poor results cost him his job.

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Source says Chelsea set for Kaka swoop

Source says Chelsea set for Kaka swoop



Chelsea are set to swoop for AC Milan's Brazilian international Kaka, the player's personal assistant Diogo Kotscho claimed on Sunday. Reports suggest a 100 million euro (150 million dollar) deal could be brokered before the closure of the transfer window at the end of the month.

And Kotscho told The Observer: "I spoke with Kaka yesterday (Saturday). We know that the clubs are talking about the transfer, although they have not reached a conclusion yet.

"I think an August transfer is still a possibility, though Kaka will only talk about that when they do a deal. He is waiting for a deal and then he will start to negotiate with Chelsea.

"Normally, Milan do not sell their best players. We think they like the proposal, but it is not so easy for them to accept it. For now we must just wait and see."

The Brazilian has been linked with the Premier League outfit following the appointment of compatriot Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager.

Kaka, who is under contract at the San Siro until 2012, is said to be unhappy over Milan's refusal to allow him to represent his country at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

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Azzurrini reign supreme

Giuseppe ROSSI (ITA) celebrates the first goal scored by Italy during their match against Korea Republic at the Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Center Stadium, on 10 August 2008.

Goals from Tommaso Rocchi, Giuseppe Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo earned Italy a 3-0 win over Korea Republic and a place in the quarter-finals.

Straight from the first whistle, the match was played at a frenetic pace. Sebastian Giovinco stung the hands of Jung Sung-Ryong with an inswinging free-kick, while Park Chu-Young's effort from 20-yards almost caught Emilian Viviano unawares.

However, it took just 15 minutes for Italy to open the scoring. The Azzurrini's only over-age player, Rocchi saw his shot blocked, but the rebound fell in the path of Rossi who outmuscled the Korean defence to fire home an unstoppable shot.

Salvatore Bocchetti had a chance to double the Italians' advantage, firing over when well-placed, but they did not have to wait too long. Giovinco played the ball to full-back Marco Motta who cut the ball back to the onrushing Rocchi who made no mistake.

Italy thrashed Korea Republic 3-0 in Group D second game at the Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Center Stadium

With time ticking down in the first-half, Korea Republic almost pulled one back when Shin Young-Rok's cross was headed against the crossbar by Park. However, Pierluigi Casiraghi's side almost scored a third when Rossi flashed a shot wide with just the keeper to beat.

The half-time interval saw Park Sung-Wha make a double substitution to try and bring his side back into the game, but it was still the Italians who created the better chances.

Giovinco again had Jung scrambling to his right to claw away a free-kick, while Italy's two R's, Rocchi and Rossi, combined well to set up a chance which the latter fired over the crossbar. The Taeguk Warriors enjoyed their best spell midway through the second half, but aside from some territorial advantage, they had little to show for their efforts.

With his side enjoying a two goal advantage, Casiraghi had the luxury of replacing Giovinco and the goalscorers in the second half to keep their powder dry for the final group game with Cameroon in three days' time.

Then in the final stages, Italy added insult to injury when Robert Acquafresca broke quickly down the right hand side and squared the ball to Montolivo. The Fiorentina midfielder hit the post with his initial effort, but the ball rebounded kindly for him, and he made no mistake with the second opportunity.

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Belgium Down Nine Men China

Belgium 2-0 China

Belgium clinched a 2-0 win over China in a hot-tempered encounter at the Shenyang Olympics Sports Centre on Sunday evening.


Belgium Down Nine Men China

Belgium, who lost 1-0 to Brazil in their opening game, were looking to put behind their defeat against the Brazilians. China, on the other hand, were spared their blushes against New Zealand when Manchester United’s Dong Fangzhuo came off the bench to score a late goal for the Chinese.

With both teams needing a victory, Belgium and China battled doggedly in front of the partisan crowd at the Shenyang Olympics Sports Centre.

A first-half strike from striker Moussa Dembele and 80th minute goal from midfielder Kevin Mirallas helped seal victory for Jean Francois de Sart’s team.

First Half

Both teams were fired up straight from the kick-off but clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.

China were fired up by the voracious support in the opening minutes, as they forced Belgium goalkeeper Logan Bailly to an early save in the second minute. Midfielder Jiang Ning threaded a pinpoint pass to Gao Lin, who was waiting outside the penalty box.

But the Shanghai Shenhua striker’s shot was comfortably collected by Bailly. As China looked like they were going to take the lead, it was Belgium who went ahead in the eighth minute.

Moussa Dembele controlled the ball superbly, and the AZ Alkmaar beat two Chinese defenders from the left to stab the ball into the net.

Dembele’s goal silenced the capacity crowd at the stadium, as the Belgians attempted to pry open the Chinese defence.

Despite being a goal down, China were desperately unlucky not to draw level on 43 minutes.

China skipper Zheng Zhi skipped past Belgium defender Sebastien Pocognoli and dragged the ball into the penalty box, only for Sepp De Rover to intercept the Charlton Athletic player to put the ball out for a corner.

Second Half

The second 45 minutes was a ill-tempered affair, which saw China reduced to nine men.

Defender Feng Xiaoting was first to receive his marching orders from Argentinean referee Hector Baldassi in the 53rd minutes. The Dalian Haichang player let fly a high boot at Pocognoli, as the Belgian went down clutching his chest in pain.

11 minutes later, China executive coach Yin Tiesheng’s misery was compounded further, when Zheng Zhi was red carded for an off-the-ball challenge with a Belgian defender. As frustration continued to mount for the Chinese, Belgium scored their second goal 10 minutes from time.

The Belgians, who came out after the break with more zeal, consolidated the first-half lead through Mirallas.

The forward, who plies his trade in France with Lille FC, netted a spectacular goal, ghosting past the Chinese defence on the left to let fly a powerful shot that gave goalkeeper Qiu Shenjiong no chance at all.

With the clock ticking away, China threw everything they had at the Belgium goalmouth, but it was too little too late as the Belgians held on to the win to keep their hopes of progressing to the next round alive.

Belgium: Logan Bailly (gk), Jan Vertonghen, Sepp De Roover, Thomas Vermaelen, Sebastien Pocognoli, Jeroen Simaeys, Faris Haroun, Maarten Martens (capt), Tom De Mul, Kevin Mirallas, Moussa Dembele

China: Qiu Shenjiong (gk), Tan Wangsong, Feng Xiaoting, Yuan Weiwei, Li Weifeng, Zhou Xuri, Zhou Haibin, Zheng Zhi (capt), Cui Peng, Gao Lin, Jiang Ning

Goals: 8th minute - Moussa Dembele (Belgium) | 80th minute - Kevin Mirallas (Belgium)

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Elephants edge Serbia six-goal thriller

Serbia 2-4 Cote d'Ivoire

In the most free-scoring match of the tournament so far, the Côte d'Ivoire beat Serbia in a six-goal thriller in Shanghai...



Elephants edge six-goal thriller

Côte d'Ivoire bounced back from their ill-deserved opening defeat to Argentina to revive their Olympic hopes with a thrilling 4-2 win over Serbia in Shanghai.

The Ivorians now lie second, three points behind the already-qualified Albiceleste and two in front of both the Serbs and Australia, a victory over whom would now guarantee Gerard Gili's side a place in the last eight.

In an open, end-to-end match full of attacking enterprise, the Elephants raced into an early lead, the lively Gervinho embarking on a fourth-minute run that ended in him setting up Sekou Cisse for the Roda star's second goal at Beijing 2008.

Serbia remained dangerous, however, and within 11 minutes they were level, Miljan Mrdakovic finishing brilliantly following a delightful pass from Alexsandar Zivkovic.

The crowd were loving every minute, and they had another goal to cheer just 10 minutes later when the unfortunate Slobodan Rajkovic headed through his own goal from an Ivorian corner.

Re-establishing their lead appeared to relax the Ivorians in the second half and, after Kalou had struck the crossbar with a fine effort, the Chelsea striker finally scored his first Olympic goal. It came with 20 minutes remaining, a neat combination with Gervinho providing Kalou with the opening to fire home a right-footed shot.

That, we all assumed, was that, but then in the last minute of normal time, Djorde Rakic popped up to spark a dramatic finish with a well-placed header.

Any doubt over the outcome was removed for good, however, when Gervinho struck deep into injury time to edge Côte d'Ivoire to within one more victory of a place in the quarter-finals. Serbia, meanwhile, must now beat Argentina to have any hope of advancing to the last eight.

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Capello: Ranieri's Juve Are Just Like Mine!

England manager Fabio Capello has compared Claudio Ranieri’s Juventus side to that of his own, and is convinced that the Bianconeri can make an impression in Serie A and on the continent this season.

Capello: Ranieri's Juve Are Just Like Mine!

Capello was in attendance to watch the Old Lady’s friendly with Manchester United at Old Trafford, and admitted that he came away with a positive impression of the Italian side.

The England coach was in charge at Juve for two seasons, before the club became involved in the calciopoli scandal, and believes that Ranieri’s side are now capable of competing again for major honours.

He told the press: “I admit, against Manchester, the Bianconeri made an impression on me. I saw a solid team against Manchester, with the ability to compete with the champions of Europe. In their attitude, they truly reminded me of my Juve.

“I left Old Trafford convinced that Ranieri’s squad can cause a lot of problems in Serie A and also the Champions League. They can resist all the teams in both competitions.”

Capello went on to laud the change in attitude of the Juve players. He stated that the team ‘know when to change skin’ and suggested that an added degree of aggression could help propel the team forward.

He continued: “It’s a very important thing (changing attitudes), on par with experience, to make in-roads in the Champions League.

“And no doubt, the old-guard want to make good in-roads in Europe. The anger, hunger for victory that comes after a year in B can be seen in every one of their attitudes. The lads deserve a big stroke of luck, and I would be happy to see it.”

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Champions Celtic Make Winning Start

Celtic 1-0 St.Mirren

Reigning SPL champions Celtic got their title defence off to a steady start after a 1-0 win over St. Mirren at Celtic Park.


Champions Celtic Make Winning Start

In a subdued first period, the resilient visitors prevented Celtic from creating any clear-cut opportunities, and indeed struck the post themselves just moments into the second half from Billy Mehmet’s curling shot.

But the game was turned on the hour mark when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink was brought down in the penalty area by St. Mirren defender Will Haining - who was sent-off as a result of being the last man – giving Barry Robson the chance to give Celtic the lead from the penalty spot, a chance which the winger gladly took.

The visitors did not subside however, and despite their failure to grab an equaliser, they can be content with their performance, arguably deserving to take a point from the match after a spirited display.

First Half

Pre-match formalities proceeded the kick-off to the match, with a touching tribute to the late Tommy Burns taking place as his widow, Rosemary, unfurled the championship flag to celebrate Celtic’s third successive league title success last season. Marc Crosas, the 20-year-old midfielder recently signed from Barcelona, was unveiled to the home support to rapturous applause.

There were no real surprises in the champions’ team selection, with Shunsuke Nakamura the only star name absent from the starting eleven due to a groin injury. The visitors, meanwhile, fielded a compact 4-5-1 formation as they looked to restrict the creative potential of the Bhoys.

The Saints made a decent start to the game and Gary Brady tested Hoops goalkeeper Artur Boruc at his near post in what was just the second minute of the match. The Celts soon established control of possession but struggled to create any clear openings for the first 30 minutes as the visitors packed men behind the ball, while still posing the occasional threat on the counter-attack.

Scott McDonald and Barry Robson both shot off target as Celtic began to up the tempo slightly towards the end of the first period, but a breakthrough still looked a long way away and Saints striker Billy Mehmet almost took advantage of confusion from home captain Stephen McManus in defence moments before the half-time whistle.

Second Half

There were no changes at the start of the second period, although Celts boss Gordon Strachan would undoubtedly have demanded a vast improvement from his side after a sluggish first-half performance that produced very little in terms of chances.

But it was the visitors who created what was the best chance of the match so far just three minutes into the half. After some neat passing Stephen O’Donnell set-up Mehmet, who had peeled away from his marker, McManus, and his curling shot from the edge of the area was tipped on to the foot of the post by a fantastic fingertip stop from Boruc.

Moments later Gary Caldwell forced a save from Saints goalkeeper Mark Howard after a strong header from Lee Naylor’s free-kick. After 55 minutes Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink had a penalty claim declined after he was felled after contact from Howard, but the ball had ran out of play as the contact was made.

McDonald then tested Howard, who was fast becoming extremely busy, with a header from an Aiden McGeady cross, but the ‘keeper was up to the task.

However, the game was completely changed on the hour mark as the breakthrough came for the champions. Naylor’s long ball caused havoc in the Saints defence and a slip from defender Will Haining allowed Vennegoor to be clear through on goal.

Vennegoor was then allegedly held back by Haining as he desperately tried to make up for his error and after the Dutch striker’s shot slipped narrowly wide of the post the referee brought the play back and awarded a spot-kick to the Celts and Haining as the last man was subsequently sent-off.

Robson then converted the penalty, which just crept over the line despite a strong touch from Howard, with the winger clearly relieved after what had been a close shave.

Vennegoor then squandered a great chance to make it two as he headed wide from close range after a goal-mouth scramble that also involved Naylor and McDonald, but O’Donnell forced Boruc into a reaction save as the visitors issued reminder that they were still in the game despite their numerical disadvantage.

Howard then saved Scott Brown’s long-range effort with twenty minutes remaining as the champions looked to put the result beyond doubt.

Substitute Marc McAusland headed over the bar from a St. Mirren corner just seven minutes from time before Mehmet struck wide as the spirited ten man fought until the finish.

However, an equaliser proved to be too much to ask for from the Paisley side and as a result Celtic successfully matched their rivals Rangers’ 1-0 victory of yesterday as another SPL season got underway in earnest.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor (Wilson, 74), McGeady, Brown, Hartley, Robson (Caddis, 81), Vennegoor of Hesselink, McDonald (Samaras, 75).

Goals: Robson (pen, 62).

St. Mirren: Howard, Ross, Haining, Potter, Miranda, Murray, Brady (Tonet, 63), O’Donnell (Wyness, 82), McGinn, Brighton (McAusland, 63), Mehmet.

Goals: None.

Sent-off: Haining (60).

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Fit Again Owen Raring To Go

Despite not featuring for Newcastle in pre-season, striker Michael Owen is aiming for all three points at Old Trafford next weekend as Newcastle begin their Premier League campaign against the champions.

Fit Again Owen Raring To Go

The injury-prone striker looked to be approaching something close to his best towards the end of last season as he finished the campaign with 11 league goals from 24 appearances.

However, a recent calf injury has meant he has missed most of Newcastle’s pre-season including yesterday’s 2-1 victory over Valencia. Speaking to the Sunday Sun, however, he revealed he was returning to fitness and hoping to play a part in his side’s opening game of the Premier League. He revealed: “I’ve had to go steadily but this last week I’ve been running more and more quickly and continuing to progress; Manchester United is what we’re aiming for.”

After suffering an injury plagued career so far at Newcastle, Owen will be hoping for a long run in the side this season and admitted he was raring to go and looking forward to the new season.

“Physically I’m fine” said the Toon striker before adding, “In fact I’ve almost had to be reined in, but always in the back of all our minds has been that you don’t want to be pushing further than your body tells you to.”

Whilst Owen appears to be physically fit he may be short on match fitness having missed Newcastle’s pre-season. Yet despite this he is desperate to play in Newcastle’s opening game against the champions, who he openly admitted he had huge admiration for. Owen confessed: “They are the champions of England and Europe and in my view the best team in Europe.”

Yet despite Owen's praise for Manchester United he did admit that the opening day of the season might be the best time to play them. He revealed: “But the first game of a new season could be just the time to play them, when they might not be firing on all cylinders.”

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Madrid Nip Robinho Saga In The Bud

Real Madrid have decided that Robinho is untransferible and will remain at the club despite Chelsea preparing to increase their offer for the player.

Madrid Nip Robinho Saga In The Bud

Los Merengues believe that they can calm the Brazilian star down and make him stay with them and are set to refuse any bids that come in for him in the current transfer window.

Bernd Schuster sees Robinho as a key part of his plans for next term and has always asked the club's hierarchy to try their best to keep him.

During the lengthy saga to prise Cristiano Ronaldo away from Manchester United, Robinho's name was mentioned as a possible makeweight in the deal and that opened up the current rift.

Allied with the 24-year-old's desire to be paid a similar wage to the club's top earners, Madrid looked set to lose one of their main assets.

By denying Chelsea's improved offer however, the Spanish champions hope that will be the end of the matter and that they can placate Robinho with a new deal.

The Premier League team made it clear that they were willing to pay him around €6m-per-season and that has made Madrid's €4m pale and left them having to draw up a fresh plan.

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Ravishing Ronaldinho Rips NZ Apart

New Zealand 0-5 Brazil

Anderson, Alexandre Pato, Ronaldinho and Rafael Sobis all scored to help an impressive Brazil side ease past unfancied New Zealand in Sunday's Olympic Games encounter...



First Half

The second group C game against A Seleção may have been a daunting prospect for the Oly-Whites, but ahead of the encounter coach Stu Jacobs promised to throw caution to the wind against the South American stars.

However, defender Steven Old was suspended having seen red during the 1-1 draw with hosts China, with several more New Zealanders walking a suspension tightrope and they made the worst possible start.

Manchester United's Anderson took advantage of a mix-up in the defence in the fourth minute to head the opener and give Brazil the upper hand.

New Zealand were not a team lacking in application, but the South Americans were clearly the superior side and just after the half-hour mark AC Milan's Alexandre Pato doubled the advantage when he found space ten-yards out and produced a crisp finish.

Pato's new club-mate Ronaldinho showed some deft touches throughout the first half and had an effort ruled out for offside.

Second Half

New Zealand started the second half in a positive manner, enjoying good early possession after the interval, but unperturbed by his first half frustrations, though, Ronaldinho soon took the game by the scruff of the neck.

On 55 minutes, he played in the rampaging Marcelo, who was then scythed down clumsily. From a wide-left position, Ronaldinho himself smacked a low free-kick effort which trickled trough a packed penalty area and finished in the far corner.

By the hour mark the Oly-Whites looked beleaguered and it was perhaps a question of how comfortable dominant Brazil wanted the scoreline to appear.

Most of their play came down the left channel and a cutting passing moved ended with Ronaldinho being bundled to the ground by Sam Jenkins as he raced into the penalty area. The ref pointed to the spot and the former Barça star stepped up to side-foot the ball under Jacob Spoonley, who had guessed the right direction at least.

Four goals to the good, the rest of the match was played at exhibition pace and Brazil started to go through their repertoire of tricks, much to the delight of the Chinese crowd.

New Zealand did threaten the Brazil clean sheet late on. Jenkins' drive was repelled and midfielder Cole Peverley should have done better when he pulled his shot agonisingly wide.

Deep into injury time, Brazil put the icing on their own cake. Ronaldinho shimmied outside the area, Liverpool's Lucas took over, flicking the ball into the path of sub Rafael Sobis, who toe-poked the ball under the overworked 'keeper to round off the scoring.

Six points, six goals and none conceded. Cool in defence and clinical in attack, Brazil will be firmly amongst the favourites for gold after a commanding display, albeit against Olympics débutantes.

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Sensational Lavezzi Volley Lifts Argentina Over Australia

Argentina dominated a defensive Australian side but required a late strike from Ezequiel Lavezzi to ensure them of passage into the quarter finals of the Olympic Games.

Sensational Lavezzi Volley Lifts Argentina Over Australia

First Half

The Albiceleste were the stronger of the two sides early on and created several clear-cut opportunities to go ahead but were kept out by some heroics from goalkeeper Adam Federici..

The highly fancied Argentinians completely dominated possession in the midfield and came close to going ahead on a Juan Román Riquelme free-kick that flashed inches wide of the right post.

Lionel Messi and his team-mates created several openings during the first half, but were restricted to long range efforts by an Australian side that defended their goal with ten players at times.

Argentina went into the break without having been able ot break the deadlock, although they created more than half a dozen good opportunities to go ahead in a half that they proved much superior in.

Second Half

After the break it was much of the same again, but this time the Argentinians pressured the opposition goal with much more authority.

Inside the first five minutes of the second half Sergio Batista's side had already created three clear goal scoring opportunities, after efforts from Luciano Fabian Monzon, Riquelme, and a brilliant shot from Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano that hit the side netting.

In the 71st minute substitute Nikita Rukavytsya had an excellent opportunity to put the Olyroos ahead when he was put through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat, but the Perth Glory striker hit the side netting.

Minutes later Messi should have put Argentina in the lead, but he fired the ball over the bar when he had the goal at his mercy.

Argentina created a couple more opportunities to score, before they finally broke the deadlock in the 77th minute. After a sensational exchange of passes Angel Di Maria found Lavezzi at the back post and the Napoli striker volleyed the ball home.

Towards the end of the match Argentina had numerous opportunities to extend their lead, but failed to capitalize. They came closest when a Riquelme long range effort flashed inches wide of the left post.

Team Line-ups:

Argentina: Oscar Ustari, Ezequiel Garay, Luciano Monzon, Pablo Zabaleta, Federico Fazio, Fernando Gago, Juan Roman Riquelme, Javier Mascherano, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero (Angel Di Maria 61').

Australia: Adam Federici, Jade North, Mark Milligan, Matthew Spiranovic, Neil Kilkenny, Stuart Musialik, David Carney, Ruben Zadkovich, James Troisi (Mark Bridge 65'), Billy Celeski and Archie Thompson (Nikita Rukavytsya 72').

Goal: Ezequiel Lavezzi (77')

Yellow Card: Adam Federici (74)

Referee: Viktor Kassai

Venue: Shanghai International Stadium. Att: 38,182

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