Argentina have quality forwards but not defenders: Lothar Matthaus

Argentina have Lionel Messi leading a pack of quality forwards but the absence of good defenders and a top notch goalkeeper could hurt their chances severely next year in Russia, observed World Cup winning former German captain Lothar Matthaus.

Matthaus, who led Germany to 1990 World Cup triumph and also played in 1986 finals, feels that ‘Albicelestes’ have too many players for a single position.

“When you see the Argentine team, you will see they have 10 great strikers. But you can’t play only strikers, you need defenders too,” Matthaus, who had some great rivalries with Diego Maradona at the international level as well as Serie A, told PTI during an interaction.

“I know the quality Argentina team has but most players play in the same position. Messi, (Sergio) Ageuro, (Gonzalo) Higuain, (Mauro) Icardi, (Paulo) Dybala everybody plays in the offence but then you need midfielders and you need a good defence, you need a good goalie,” Matthaus said on the sidelines of ‘Royal Stag Barrel Select Perfect Strokes’ event.

In 18 matches in the World Cup qualifiers, Argentina conceded as many as 16 goals, which may be the reason for Matthaus’ observation.

“The Argentine coach (Jorge Sampaoli) is lucky he has a good offence but unlucky that he has a bad defence. There was so much nervousness till they won against Ecuador in their last game. It would have been a shame if Argentina would not have qualified for the next year’s World Cup,” said Matthaus.

While it is a well-known fact, Matthaus made it clear that Argentina are not half as good a team if Messi is not around.

“Argentina without Messi and Portugal without Cristiano (Ronaldo) cannot give the same results as they give with them. It’s not about just scoring goals. These two are magicians who know how to score at crucial junctures,” the Bayern Munich and Inter Milan legend said.

Matthaus also gave his perspective on the eye popping 222 million euro transfer deal of Brazilian superstar Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

“It’s irrelevant whether it’s good or bad. What is possible (such a deal) is possible!

“Paris had this kind of money to bid for Neymar — not only for the transfer fee but also the salary. I know the PSG president (Nasser Al Khelaifi). I know they have not only invested to win the Ligue 1 in France or the Champions League but the investment is to make PSG’s name more famous, more public. Neymar is also face for Qatar 2022 World Cup,” said Matthaus.

Over the years, the German national team has seen presence of coloured players including the likes of Jerome Boateng and Sami Khedira, and Matthaus believes that it is because they are integrated into their social system from the onset.

“We have always had a nice system of integration and don’t forget most of these players have been born in Germany.”

He added: “The likes of Boateng and Khedira have not just come here in search of a German passport. They have grown up in German culture, learned the language, German mentality and above everything, they love to play football. They are German passport holders from the start of their lives.”

Matthaus is happy that unlike some of the other European nations, Germany does not readily integrate South American professionals especially Brazilians, who arrive in European countries to make a career in football and then get into national teams with respective country providing them citizenship.

“It’s different from somebody coming in and getting a passport in three years. I know Brazilian players coming and playing in other leagues. But here you have to be born in Germany to have rights to play for the country. I was the national coach of Bulgaria. There was this Brazilian player playing there in the league and he got a Bulgarian passport,” he recollected his stint in the East European nation back in 2010-11.

“But we (Germany) don’t just bring anyone and give them passport in order to get better results. You have to build your players and athletes. At the U-17 levels, there are players who don’t possess my skin colour yet they are going up the system,” he signed off.

Tammy Abraham, Joe Gomez and Ruben Loftus-Cheek win first England call-ups

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England have called up the uncapped Tammy Abraham, Joe Gomez and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for their friendlies against Germany and Brazil at Wembley this month, the Football Association said on Thursday.

Abraham and Loftus-Cheek, who are both Chelsea players out on loan at Swansea City and Crystal Palace respectively, have broken into the Gareth Southgate’s senior squad on the back of some impressive performances in the Premier League.

Striker Abraham has scored four of Swansea’s seven league goals this season, while midfielder Loftus-Cheek has made six appearances for Crystal Palace despite missing some games with a thigh injury.

Defender Gomez, who has rebounded well since returning from a 15-month layoff with a ligament injury in January, started seven league games for Liverpool this season.

“We’re in a position now where we’ve qualified for the World Cup and we always wanted to look at the team and how we want it to evolve,” Southgate said in a statement.

“This is an opportunity to look at new players and a different way of playing and I think the beauty of my position is that I know the young players in the system.”

Manchester United’s Ashley Young, who last played for his country in September 2013, was recalled for his impressive run under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, while full back Danny Rose and Jamie Vardy returned from injury.

Liverpool duo Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Manchester United defender Chris Smalling were not included in the 25-man squad.

England host World Cup holders Germany on Nov. 10 and Brazil four days later

Chelsea vs Manchester United: Just another match from an emotional point of view, says Jose Mourinho

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has played down the emotional significance of Sunday’s Premier League visit to his former club Chelsea and is focused on helping his team seal three points at Stamford Bridge.

Ahead of his sixth meeting with Chelsea as manager of an opposing team, Mourinho is hopeful second-placed United can go seven points clear of the defending champions before next week’s international break.

United, who have just one win in their last 15 meetings with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, are also looking to close the gap on table-topping neighbours Manchester City.

“It is a big match, a match between top teams in country… It is a big match because they are champions. But from an emotional point of view, it is just one game,” Mourinho told a news conference on Thursday.

“It is normal… It is football life. One day you are in one club, the next day you are in another… In four or five years no one will remember I was Chelsea manager.”

United were hammered 4-0 at Stamford Bridge last season but Mourinho, who guided Inter Milan to two Champions League wins over Chelsea seven years ago, suggested that he wanted his team to win in the manner the Italian side did.

“I played there with Inter, twice with United,” added Mourinho, whose treble-winning Inter Milan ground out 2-1 and 1-0 wins. “I have to admit it is a little bit different. In the end, I want to win like I did with Inter.”

The Portuguese said United deserved credit for their gritty defensive performances amid recent criticism of their approach to games.

“Similar performances for other clubs are magic, or examples of brilliant tactics and amazing attitudes by the players. For other teams the same kind of performance becomes conservative, negative,” he said.

“As an example, Tottenham beat Liverpool 4-1 and Real Madrid 3-1. They didn’t score against Manchester United. A bit of credit that my players deserve.”

Mourinho said the next two days will decide if any of his injured players would return. United are without midfielders Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo are long-term absentees.

United have 23 points from 10 games, while Chelsea are fourth in the table with 19 points.

New driver helps Nicolas Colsaerts share the lead in Turkey

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A magical burst of scoring either side of the turn helped Nicolas Colsaerts fire a 64 as the Belgian sprinted into a share of the lead after the first round of the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open on Thursday.

The former Ryder Cup player reeled off an eagle and six birdies in an inspired 12-hole run from the fourth to join Dutchman Joost Luiten and Haydn Porteous of South Africa on seven-under-par. One stroke adrift on 65 were evergreen Irishman Padraig Harrington and Andres Romero of Argentina, who had a brief scare when Richard Sterne wandered off without signing his playing partner’s card.

The South African had to be reminded of his obligations and returned to the recorder’s hut a short time later to fulfil his duties.

Colsaerts, one of the biggest hitters on the European Tour, said his performance was largely down to a recent decision to switch the longest club in his bag.

“I’ve changed to another Callaway driver,” the 34-year-old told reporters at the picturesque Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort that overlooks the Mediterranean.

“It seems like I can do what I want with this one. I’m really happy with the way it’s been going. “Once I’m comfortable off the tee, I’m always going to be up there,” said Colsaerts who made his one and only Ryder Cup appearance in 2012, the year he achieved the last of his two victories on the European Tour. On a day of glorious sunshine and barely any wind, Luiten produced a bogey-free round that contained birdies at the first, fifth, seventh, ninth, 12th, 13th and 16th, where he holed out from off the putting surface.

WRONG CLUB

“That’s a bonus,” said the 31-year-old Dutchman. “I basically hit the wrong club into the green and to walk away with a birdie, that’s maybe two shots difference. “That’s what you need sometimes, to hole shots like that and get away with it. That keeps the round going,” added Luiten who registered the last of his five victories at the 2016 KLM Open on home soil.

Porteous, winner of the Czech Masters in August, also claimed seven birdies in another faultless round. The 23-year-old South African is not yet certain of a place in the money-spinning season finale in Dubai in two weeks’ time but Thursday’s round has given him the perfect confidence boost.

“I needed a really big start and put myself on the right foot heading into these next couple of weeks to get me into the DP World Championship,” he said. “To shoot a bogey-free 64 is exactly what I was looking for.” England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who has a lead of more than 850,000 points at the top of the money-list, opened his campaign with a level-par 71.

Spain’s Sergio Garcia, in second spot, is missing this week but third-placed Justin Rose, fresh from his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China on Sunday, carded a 69. Rose’s fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, fifth in the money-list, returned a 67, as did former world number one Lee Westwood.

Ian Poulter was among a group of four players on 66.

Juan Martin Del Potro reaches Paris Masters last eight

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Argentine Juan Martin del Potro moved a step closer to qualifying for the season-ending ATP Finals when he reached the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters with a 7-5 6-4 win against Robin Haase on Thursday. The 13th seed converted all his break points against the Dutchman, who eliminated fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the previous round, to set up a meeting with John Isner.

Del Potro is hoping to keep up his recent run, when he has contested two finals and a semi-final in his last three tournaments, as he bids to secure one of the two remaining spots for the season finale in London.

The Argentine, playing in Bercy for the first time since 2013, needs to reach the semi-finals in Paris to book a ticket for the Nov. 12-19 ATP Finals.

“It’s extra motivation to me,” said Del Potro. “It’s going to be a good battle next round trying to qualify for London. Of course, I would love to reach London once again. It could be a fantastic moment for me. But it’s still a really hard challenge to me.”

World number one Rafael Nadal, chasing his maiden title in Paris, takes on Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas later on Thursday.

As the season winds to a close, fatigue continued to take its toll as fifth seed Dominic Thiem and sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov were both knocked out in the third round.

Austrian Thiem lost 6-4 6-4 to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco while Bulgarian Dimitrov fell 7-6(10) 5-7 7-6(3) to American John Isner.

Three weeks before France take on Belgium in the Davis Cup final, local favourite Julien Benneteau beat world number 10 David Goffin 6-3 6-3 to secure a place in the last eight.

Claude Puel compares Leicester City winger Demarai Gray to former protege Eden Hazard

Demarai Gray has similar qualities to Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and must strive to match the Belgian’s high standards, Leicester City manager Claude Puel said on Thursday. The 21-year-old Gray, who signed a new four-year contract on Thursday to keep him at Leicester until June 2021, scored his first league goal in more than a year in last week’s 2-0 win over Everton in Puel’s first game in charge.

Puel, who worked with Chelsea playmaker Hazard while in charge of Lille, said winger Gray has the same attributes that helped the Belgian break into the French club’s first team as a 16-year-old.

“He (Hazard) was unique. Demarai is the same, he can keep the quickness a long time with the ball,” Puel told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s Premier trip to Stoke City.

“He’s good with the ball and good without the ball… a good player with good penetration, quality and he can make a difference. Now it’s important to confirm and to stay at this level is the most important thing but the most difficult.

“He is technical and can play with good relationships with team mates. (It is) a good opportunity and we will see if he can continue to perform.”

Leicester, who are 11th in the table with 12 points, have collected just five points from a possible 15 on the road this season.

World Series 2017: Houston Astros beat Los Angeles Dodgers for 4-3 series win

George Springer (right) celebrates his home run with Houston Astros team-mates

The Houston Astros won their first World Series title by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in the decisive seventh game.

Astros centre fielder George Springer was presented with the series’ most valuable player award after becoming the first man to hit home runs in four successive World Series games, and only the third to hit five homers in the same Fall Classic.

Since the Houston area suffered heavy flooding after Hurricane Harveythis summer, the Astros players have worn a “Houston Strong” patch on their uniforms, while also helping with relief efforts.

“We wore that patch, we wore it proudly, and the people of Houston were never far from our minds,” said Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr.

Springer added: “Our fans have endured a lot, and we’re coming home champions.”

Shortstop Carlos Correa, who proposed to his girlfriend during celebrations on the pitch, also dedicated the win to those affected by Hurricane Maria in his native Puerto Rico.

“To be able to bring joy and happiness to their lives is special in this moment,” he said.

Houston Astros fans
While the players were in action in California, Astros fans also packed into Houston’s Minute Maid Park to follow the game on the big screen

Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish, who was racially abused by Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel in game three, struggled early on at Dodger Stadium and failed to make it through the second inning.

After Houston went 2-0 ahead in the first inning and Darvish’s opposite number McCullers Jr drove in a third, Springer’s two-run shot prompted Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to lift his starter with the score 5-0.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who had the highest payroll and the best regular-season record in Major League Baseball this year, stranded eight baserunners in their first five innings.

After four scoreless innings from their ace Clayton Kershaw, pitching in relief on two days’ rest, the hosts rallied in the sixth as pinch-hitter Andre Ethier drove in a run.

However, Houston right-hander Charlie Morton kept the Dodgers quiet for the final three innings.

The Astros – in their 56th year in the majors – had appeared in only one previous World Series, when they were swept 4-0 by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

The Dodgers have not won the World Series since 1988.

“It’s a tough one – we just didn’t get it done,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

“We went a little further than we did last year and I expect us to be in this same position next year.”

World Series result: Dodgers 3-4 Astros
Game 1: Dodgers 3-1 Astros Game 5: Astros 13-12 Dodgers
Game 2: Dodgers 6-7 Astros Game 6: Dodgers 3-1 Astros
Game 3: Astros 5-3 Dodgers Game 7: Dodgers 1-5 Astros
Game 4: Astros 2-6 Dodgers Home team listed first

Analysis

BBC Sport presenter Nick Marshall-McCormack in Los Angeles

For decades to come we will be talking about this baseball World Series as one of the best ever – a seven-game marathon of beautiful baseball between the two best teams from the regular season.

If that wasn’t enough to pull the heart strings, we also saw a marriage proposal as Carlos Correa popped the question to his girlfriend, Miss Texas Daniella Rodriguez.

While this victory won’t go close to fixing the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, it will give a massive boost to the city’s morale. Watching the tears of joy flow down fans’ faces at Dodger Stadium was just another indelible image of this baseball epic.

This has put Houston into the history books – a classic that went all the way to game seven and gave players and fans a rollercoaster ride of emotions they’ll never forget.

Tottenham 3-1 Real Madrid: The result that makes Spurs Champions League contenders?

Tottenham fans

Mauricio Pochettino was not hiding his ambitions or Tottenham’s aspirations after they illuminated Wembley with a magnificent Champions League victory over holders Real Madrid.

Spurs manager Pochettino saw enough to say they can now keep company with the best in Europe as well as England – and few would argue with the Argentine based on the compelling evidence offered in a thrilling 3-1 win.

Pochettino now wants Spurs to cross the threshold from progress to the tangible reward of trophies having previously made it clear he regards the Premier League and Champions League as the serious prizes.

So how significant was the message sent out by the manner in which Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and company were sent packing?

  • We are among Europe’s best – Pochettino

Is this Spurs’ landmark moment?

Spurs have had their highlights in the Champions League before. In 2011 a campaign ended with a 5-0 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, but not before a thunderous night at White Hart Lane when Inter Milan were beaten 3-1 and a 1-0 win in the San Siro that helped put AC Milan out in the last 16.

This, however, may be the moment and the night that Pochettino’s Spurs announced themselves as a European power to be taken very seriously – perhaps too early to be considered potential winners but a team with the capabilities to trouble any other in the Champions League.

If nothing else, victories like this will convince Spurs that they need fear no-one left in this competition.

Pochettino said the win would “make us more visible”. In others words, the rest of the Champions League elite would sit up and take notice.

  • ‘Spurs’ progression is frightening’
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And so they should because Pochettino and Spurs were brave in their tactical approach, played with an intoxicating combination of intensity, pace, power and subtlety that was, as coach Zinedine Zidane admitted at his rather sombre post-match briefing, simply too good for Real Madrid.

Spurs
Dele Alli, third from left, scored twice in Tottenham’s 3-1 victory at Wembley

The club of “Galacticos” had not lost a group stage game in the Champions League for five years, a run stretching back 30 games, but they were given a thorough going over at an ecstatic Wembley.

It was Real’s biggest margin of defeat in a Champions League group game since they lost 2-0 to Juventus in November 2008 and it was Spurs’ first win against the Spanish giants at the sixth attempt.

Real may have been missing Spurs old boy Gareth Bale but Pochettino’s side still had Ronaldo, Modric, Isco, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema to deal with and they did so in quite stunningly effective fashion.

And, with the words of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola about “The Harry Kane Team” a source of irritation to Pochettino, this was a team victory. Spurs are a team that think and move quickly.

Dele Alli, with two goals and a powerhouse performance, will take much of the credit but high quality in all areas characterised a win that will announce Spurs as moving even closer to being the real deal.

Kieran Trippier’s right-flank raiding created problems all night and led to Alli’s first. Jan Vertonghen was a dominant defensive presence. Harry Winks looks perfectly comfortable as a Champions League performer, while the elegant, incisive Christian Eriksen was at the heart of so many good things and got Spurs’ third goal for good measure.

And the manner in which Spurs coped with the early loss to injury of defender Toby Alderweireld made the whole package even more impressive.

Pat Nevin, an analyst at Wembley for BBC Radio 5 live, said: “It really could have been a battering from Tottenham. I’m slightly disappointed that they conceded because it could have been 4-0.

FIFA U-17 World Cup: What matters is performance not who is officiating, says Esther Stabuli

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For Esther Stabuli, who became the first woman referee in 16 years to officiate in a FIFA male competition, what counts at the end of the day is performance on the pitch. Esther broke a 16-year-old jinx when she officiated in the Japan-New Caledonia FIFA U-17 World Cup match here.

A Swiss school teacher and a rising star in refereeing circles, Esther made a little bit of history alongside New Caledonia, who won their first-ever point at a FIFA event by eking out the 1-1 draw against Japan on October 14.

“There is not a big difference in whether it was a male or female referee, it is just the performance that counts,” Esther was quoted saying in the FIFA website.

“It was a match like any other one. Later on maybe there will be more emotions, or I will realise it was something special, but before I really tried to prepare like it was a normal match and do my best.”

Sixteen years ago, Im Eunju from Korea Republic became the the first woman to officiate in a men’s match at a FIFA tournament when she took charge of the U-17 World Cup match between France and USA at Trinidad and Tobago 2001.

Esther was showered with praise from both Japanese coach Yoshiro Moriyama and New Caledonia’s Dominique Wacalie.

“It was really nice that they liked me as a referee, and that they just looked at me like a normal referee,” Esther said.

It was part of a journey both for the veteran of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 and for FIFA’s Refereeing Department, which has been working to train men’s and women’s referees in the same structure for quite sometime.

This joint preparation project began in 2016 as part of the quest by the FIFA Referee Committee.

The appointment of Esther and the inclusion of six other women’s referees at India, who worked as fourth officials, is a fresh and exciting highlight in that quest.

The referees came from every confederation: Ri Hyang Ok (PRK), Gladys Lengwe (ZAM), Carol Anne Chenard (CAN), Claudia Umpierrez (URU), Anna-Marie Keighley (NZL), Kateryna Monzul (UKR).

Real Madrid hold no fear for Tottenham Hotspur, says Christian Eriksen

Real Madrid vs Tottenham Hotspur, Champions League, Christian Eriksen, Santiago Bernabeu

Tottenham Hotspur have plenty of quality and no need to be afraid of Real Madrid in their Champions League clash in Spain on Wednesday, midfielder Christian Eriksen has said.

The Danish international scored the winner as Spurs beat Bournemouth 1-0 in the Premier League on Saturday and Eriksen has set his sights on another good showing against the European champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“You need quality and belief. I think we have both so I don’t think we should be scared of anything,” Eriksen told British media. “I haven’t won there yet so I need to change something. Of course it’s a special stadium, a special place.

“Playing against Real will always be special for any footballer with the history they have and the players there so it will be a good test, to see how far we’ve really come.”

Tottenham, level on six points with Real in Group H, will be look to avenge a 4-0 defeat they suffered the last time the two teams met in Madrid in the 2010-11 season.

Two members of the Tottenham team that lost to Real — Gareth Bale and Luka Modric — have since moved to the Spanish giants while Tottenham have a new hero in Harry Kane.

The England striker has struck five times in two Champions League games and six times in the Premier League but Eriksen was keen to stress that Spurs, despite Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s assertion, were not a one-man team.

“Of course nobody wants to be called a one-man team,” he said. “I think over the last few seasons it’s been almost the same team every season. We know each other very well.

“There are strong links between all the players and a good feeling going into training and going into the games. We’ve got something special and I hope that’s what people on the outside see, and it’s what the squad feels.”

Ben Davies is a doubt for the match after the Welsh defender missed the Bournemouth match with illness and manager Mauricio Pochettino said the club was working towards getting the rest of the squad ready for a huge challenge in the Spanish capital.

“We need to recover well after two weeks with the players away, and now after the massive effort against Bournemouth,” Pochettino said.
“Until Tuesday we need to work hard, all the staff, to try and help the players recover.”