Greek derby abandoned

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

The big Greek derby between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos Pireaus was abandoned after being interrupted twice by crowd violence on Sunday.

Three fire trucks were called in to extinguish flames as unruly Panathinaikos fans set several sections of the stands on fire.

The start of the second half was delayed by 45 minutes as fans fought running battles with police and was subsequently abandoned altogether with nine minutes remaining with Olympiakos 1-0 ahead through Djamel Abdoun’s 51st-minute goal.

Several petrol bombs exploded close to the pitch, prompting referee Anastasio Kakos to end the match prematurely and pull the players off the field.

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Ronaldo ‘working like an animal’

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Under-fire Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo may not be enjoying his best period of form but he is still “working like an animal” for the team, coach Jose Mourinho said ahead of Wednesday’s King’s Cup showdown with Barcelona.

Ronaldo has been whistled by some home supporters at Real’s Bernabeu stadium since a poor performance in last month’s La Liga ‘Clasico’ against arch rivals Barca.

The former Manchester United player reacted by refusing to celebrate his goal in a 5-1 win against Granada and makes his first appearance in front of Real fans since then in Wednesday’s quarterfinal first leg.

At a news conference on Tuesday, a cantankerous Mourinho said Ronaldo’s performance in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Real Mallorca had been his best of the campaign despite the fact that he had not added to his 21 league goals.

“He worked like an animal and did exactly what the team needed,” Mourinho said.

“He doesn’t need to score or be man of the match every time. I told him nobody can touch him after the way he worked in the second half.

“When the team wins everyone is responsible and when they lose everyone is responsible for that too. Simple.”

Mourinho has managed only one win over Barca in eight attempts since taking the Real job at the end of the 2009-10 season, when Ronaldo nodded an extra-time winner in a 1-0 triumph in last season’s Cup final.

The last time the two teams played each other over two legs in the Spanish Cup, in the 1996-97 campaign, the former Inter Milan and Chelsea manager was assistant coach at Barca and the Catalan club went through 4-3 on aggregate.

Mourinho refused to give any details about his tactics for Wednesday’s game, saying that whatever he decided would no doubt be criticised in the Spanish media.

Angel Di Maria, who has not played since injuring himself in the final training session of 2011, will be included in the squad and a decision will be made on his fitness on Wednesday.

“The (Spanish) league is the priority,” Mourinho added. “But tomorrow is also a great match and you want to do the best possible and use all the players if they are available.”

© Reuters
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Cannavaro, Crespo star in Indian league

January 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Italian World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro is to step out of retirement and make a comeback in India as part of a new competition aimed at kick-starting football interest in the cricket-obsessed country.

Cannavaro revealed the news on his Twitter account saying: “I’m getting back on the pitch with the Indian Football Association, West Bengal.”

It is only six months since the 38-year-old announced his retirement from the game due to a nagging knee injury.

He had played the final year of his career in Dubai with Al-Ahli having left Italy following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

He is to be part of the Indian Premier League, a six-team competition due to be run by the Indian Football Association and Celebrity Management Group (CMG).

Other famous names involved include Englishmen Robbie Fowler and John Barnes, France’s Robert Pires, Argentine Hernan Crespo, Spaniard Fernando Morientes and Jay Jay Okocha of Nigeria.

Each of the six franchises – Kolkata, Barasat, Howrah, Haldia, Durgapur and Siliguri – must have at least a famous foreign player and coach.

Argentine Juan Pablo Sorin is another player to be involved while Brits Peter Reid and Colin Todd – who both have English Premier League experience – join Barnes amongst the coaches.

Each team will be allowed to sign up to four foreign players while the rest will be made up of Indians.

The league will run for 10 weeks with matches played from Wednesdays through to Sundays, mostly at night, according to Italian press.

CMG have previous experience organising major sporting events in India having marketed a historic tour that saw Diego Maradona visit the country while they are also involved in AFC Champions League matches and were the marketing partner for Asia Cup Cricket in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2000.

Television rights are expected to be sold not only in South-east Asia but also Europe and America.

© Sapa – AFP
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Afcon 2012 Guide

January 10, 2012 Leave a comment

The 28th Africa Cup of Nations, jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, kicks off in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on January 21, 2012 and will run till the finals on February 12, 2012, in Libreville, Gabon.

Duration

Afcon 2012 will be held over a 22-day period from the opening match to the finals. There will be six match-free days in-between, meaning, there will be 16 match days. For the most part, there will be two matches daily on those days. All matches will be televised live on SuperSport 4. See our broadcast schedule for details.

Teams and Groups:

Sixteen countries will be taking part in the tournament, with Gabon and Equatorial Guinea qualified as hosts. They are joined by 14 countries from the qualifying rounds that have produced casualties in a proportion never seen in the history of the tournament.

Missing in Action

The traditional powerhouses of the tournament will be missing, including defending champions Egypt, who have won the last three tournaments and seven in total (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010), Cameroon (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002), Nigeria (1980 and 1994), 2010 World cup hosts, South Africa ( 1996), Algeria (1990) andCongo DR (1968, 1974).

Sweet Sixteen

The 16 teams have been grouped into four groups; two in the Gabonese cites of Libreville and France Ville and two in the Equatorial Guinea cities of Malabo and Bata.

Group A: Malabo – Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal, Zambia

Group B: Bata – Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Angola

Group C: Libreville– Gabon, Niger, Morocco, Tunisia

Group D: France Ville – Ghana, Botswana, Mali, Guinea

Format and Regulations

The 16 teams have been drawn into four groups of four each and will play a round-robin with mini-league groups. The top two teams from each group will progress to the quarterfinals. There will be six matches in each group and 24 in total during the group stage.

Article 72 of the Caf nations cup regulations clarify the parameters that will determine who progresses from the group in event of a tie .This will ease the pains of the qualifying rounds when there was a lot of misinterpretation.

In case of equality of points between two or more teams, at the conclusion of the group matches, the ranking of the teams shall be established according to the following criteria:

72.1. Greater number of points obtained in the matches between the teams in question;
72.2. The best goal difference in the matches between the teams in question;
72.3. Greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned;
72.4. Goal difference in all group matches;
72.5. Greatest number of goals scored in all the group matches;
72.6. Fair Play points system taking into account the number of yellow and red cards;
72.7. Drawing of lots by CAF Organising Committee.

Knockout stage

This will be a straight elimination series with games played out for 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of extra-time and, ultimately, if no winner emerges after full-time and extra-time, they will go straight to penalty shootouts (five kicks each) and thereafter, sudden death penalty kicks until a winner emerges.

Article 73

73.1. At the conclusion of the four group matches, the first and the second of each group shall be qualified for the quarter finals.

The quarterfinal matches shall be played in the following order:

i. Winner Group A/Second Group B

ii. Winner Group B/Second Group A

iii. Winner Group C/Second Group D

iv. Winner Group D/Second Group C

73.2. The quarterfinal matches shall be played in accordance with the direct elimination system of the loser. An extra time of 2 x 15 minutes shall be eventually played in case of a draw after the regular time. If, after extra time, the result is still not decisive, the winner shall be determined by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark.

73.3. The winners of the quarterfinals shall qualify for the semifinals. They shall be played in the following order:

– Winner of match (i) Winner of match (iii) or (iv)

– Winner of match (ii) Winner of match (iii) or (iv)

73.4. The semifinals shall be played in accordance with the same direct elimination system as applied in the quarter finals.

73.5. The losers of the semifinals shall play a match for the third place. In case of a draw after the end of the regular time, the winner shall be determined by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark.

73.6. The final shall be played between the winners of the semifinals. In case of a draw after the end of the regular time, an extra time of 2 x 15 minutes shall be played. If, after the extra time, the result is still not decisive, the winner shall be determined by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark.

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea 
• Full name: The Republic of Equatorial Guinea
• Population: 507 000 (UN, 2007)
• Capital: Malabo
• Area: 28 051 sq km (10 830 sq miles)
• Major languages: Spanish, French
• Major religion: Christianity
• Life expectancy: 50 years (men), 53 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
• Main exports: Petroleum, timber, cocoa
• GNI per capita: US $930 (World Bank, 2001)
• Internet domain: .gq
• International dialling code: +240

Gabon
• Full name: The Gabonese Republic
• Population: 1.5 million (UN, 2009)
• Capital: Libreville
• Area: 267 667 sq km (103 347 sq miles)
• Major languages: French, Bantu-group languages
• Major religion: Christianity
• Life expectancy: 59 years (men), 62 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
• Main exports: Crude oil, timber, manganese, uranium
• GNI per capita: US $7 240 (World Bank, 2008)
• Internet domain: .ga
• International dialling code: +241

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Rooney riposte sinks City

January 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Wayne Rooney delivered the perfect riposte to those who suggest his future lies away from Manchester United as his two-goal salvo helped his side to a 3-2 victory in the most remarkable of derbies at the Etihad Stadium.

Wayne Rooney: Double helped United to victory in a Manchester derby that will live long in the memory

 

Manchester City deserve great credit from a pulsating FA Cup third round tie as a spirited comeback in the second half saw Roberto Mancini’s side come within a whisker of earning the most unlikely of replays.

The home side were incessant despite a numerical disadvantage as they fought their way back from being three goals down at the break, despite being reduced to ten men not long after Rooney’s first half opener.

Against the run of play Rooney gave United the lead with the most majestic of headers, thumped in from the penalty off Antonio Valencia’s cross, before Chris Foy controversially sent-off Vincent Kompany for a two-footed challenge on Nani.

 

Danny Welbeck’s improvised volley doubled United’s lead before Rooney, at the second attempt, got his second of the afternoon after Costel Pantilimon had initially saved his spot-kick after Welbeck had been upended by Aleksandar Kolarov.

The second half, which saw United introduce Paul Scholes for a sensational return to first team action, saw City stage a remarkable effort as Kolarov and then Sergio Aguero reduced the deficit. It was not to be though as United held on in a game that will live long in the memory.

A contest played on a greasy surface in continual drizzle, more than lived up to all the pre-match hype.

Thriller

 

At one stage it seemed United were on course to avenge their 6-1 thrashing last October in the most incredible fashion but City’s recovery left them to settle for a narrow win.

Nevertheless, it was Premier League leaders City’s first home defeat since December 2010 and reminded them that United remain in the way of their bid for domestic dominance.

The afternoon began unbelievably enough as United announced prior to kick-off that 37-year-old Scholes had rejoined the playing staff to help them through their injury problems and would be on the bench, having retired at the end of last season.

Yet what followed was even more dramatic as Rooney, after speculation over his own future, made an emphatic statement and United, initially, were ruthless in taking advantage of Kompany’s dismissal.

There was little hint of that as City pressed United’s reorganised defence in the opening minutes.

 

Explosive start

Chris Smalling slotted in at centre-back alongside Rio Ferdinand while Phil Jones was moved to right-back.

Anders Lindegaard, again preferred to David de Gea in goal, was almost caught out by Sergio Aguero as he delayed a clearance but escaped with a goal kick.

The game exploded into life as United took the lead against the run of play in the 10th minute.

Valencia found space on the right as the visitors counter-attacked and delivered a cross for Rooney, who had laid the ball off to the winger, to power home a superb header off the underside of the bar.

The England striker showed great technique as he rose above the City defence and then ran away to celebrate clutching the United badge on his shirt.

 

City were then dealt an immediate blow to their hopes of making a quick replay as Kompany was sent off for a challenge on Nani.

Kompany clearly won the ball but referee Foy showed a straight red card for the offence of lunging forward with both feet.

City were angry with the decision but recovered their composure and Aguero brought a fine save from Lindegaard from distance.

David Silva then had a shot deflected wide and Aguero fired into the side-netting but United remained a threat on the break and took control after 30 minutes.

 

Full control

Nani was denied shooting space on the edge of the box but he fed the ball wide to Patrice Evra, who crossed low.

Samir Nasri attempted to clear but did not make firm contact and Welbeck hooked in his seventh goal of the season on the volley.

Things got worse for City as they conceded a penalty six minutes before half-time when Kolarov brought down Welbeck.

Costel Pantilimon, playing in place of the rested Joe Hart, saved Rooney’s spot-kick but was unable to deny the United forward as he followed up to head in the rebound.

It seemed the best City could achieve in the second half was damage limitation, but they gave themselves hope as Kolarov pulled one back after 48 minutes.

Evra was booked for felling Micah Richards outside the area and Kolarov stepped up to bend a superb free-kick around the wall and into the net.

Scholes came off the bench to make an unexpected 677th United appearance when he replaced Nani just before the hour.

United wanted another penalty moments later when Valencia went over as Kolarov challenged him just inside the box but Foy gave nothing.

City got themselves right back into the game after 65 minutes as Milner nicked the ball off Scholes following a throw-in and whipped the ball in for Aguero.

The Argentinian shot straight at Lindegaard but the Dane could only parry and Aguero blasted in the loose ball.

Scholes got his first sight of goal when he struck a trademark long-range shot after 71 minutes but Pantilimon saved comfortably.

 

Remarkable spirit

City sent on former United midfielder Owen Hargreaves in place of Nasri with eight minutes remaining.

City appealed long, but in vain, for a penalty when a low ball from Kolarov took a ricochet and appeared to catch Jones’ arm.

And City had United holding on as they pressed at every opportunity, but the ball would not fall for them in the box.

Richards attempted a spectacular overhead kick but failed to make contact.

Kolarov tested Lindegaard with a free-kick in injury time but United, with victory in sight, scrambled the ball clear.

 

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Burkina face Afcon expulsion

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Burkina Faso could be kicked out of this month’s African Nations Cup by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Friday and be replaced by Namibia.

The Lausanne-based sports tribunal said on its website (www.tas-cas.org) on Thursday that it would be hearing the case.

Namibia have protested against Burkina Faso’s use of Cameroon-born defender Herve Zengue in two African Nations Cup qualifiers against them, saying he was not born there, had no blood ties with the country and had never lived there.

They went to CAS after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) threw out their protest on a technicality.

Soccer’s governing body Fifa has said it cannot get involved.

Burkina, drawn in Group B along with Ivory Coast, Sudan and Angola, said Zengue was given a passport because he was married to a Burkinabe woman.

Fifa statutes say however that, in addition to being granted nationality, a naturalised player must have lived in his adopted country for at least five years.

Zengue, who plays for top-flight Russian club Terek Grozny, has not been included in Burkina’s Nations Cup finals squad.

Nambia lost 4-0 away and 4-1 at home to Burkina but want to be handed 3-0 forfeit wins for each game.

If they are successful they will top the group in Burkina’s place.

“We know we have got a case and it would not be good for us to go to the Nations Cup without prior preparations,” Namibia FA president John Muinjo told the BBC while announcing his squad would begin training immediately.

“It’s our ultimate goal to play at the Nations Cup, everyone is positive. We have to take a team that is adequately prepared.”

The Nations Cup, being staged in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, kicks off on January 21.

 

© Reuters
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Neymar voted South America’s best

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Brazil’s teenage striker Neymar, who won the Copa Libertadores with Santos, has been voted South American soccer’s Footballer of the Year.

Uruguay’s Oscar Washington Tabarez was named coach of the year for the second time in a row after steering his World Cup semifinalists to a record 15th Copa America crown in July.

Neymar, who inspired Santos to victory over Penarol of Uruguay in the Copa Libertadores final in June, succeeds Argentine midfielder Andres D’Alessandro of Brazil’s Internacional in the annual South American poll conducted by the Uruguayan daily El Pais.

The 19-year-old took 130 votes to 70 for second-placed Chilean striker Eduardo Vargas, whose exploits in helping Universidad de Chile win the Copa Sudamericana and both domestic league titles this year earned him a transfer to Napoli.

Neymar’s Santos teammate Paulo Henrique Ganso was third, while Universidad de Chile’s Argentine trainer Jorge Sampaoli was voted second among the coaches.

© Reuters
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