Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last friendlies of year offer coaches time to try out new act

LONDON: International soccer coaches often complain they are under too much pressure and do not have the time to experiment but tomorrow’s friendlies offer them the perfect chance to try out new players and tactics.
World Cup year ends with a flurry of almost 30 friendlies and although there are two Euro 2012 qualifiers, that competition does not begin in earnest again until March. In the breathing space a number of coaches are trying out new names.
One match, though, in which they are unlikely to take many risks, is the game of the week between South American rivals Brazil and Argentina in Qatar – a very different venue for Brazil whose last game was in the more earthy setting of Derby County’s Pride Park where they beat Ukraine 2-0.
Kicking again: AC Milan’s Ronaldinho (right) has been recalled by new Brazil coach Mano Menezes to play in the friendly against Argentina Wednesday.
Prestige and victory is always high in the minds of the participants, even for a friendly which offers Argentina the chance to beat Brazil for the first time since a 3-1 home win during the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup.
Brazil’s new coach Mano Menezes, working to restore their free-flowing attacking game, has made one bold decision, however – recalling Ronaldinho who was overlooked by World Cup coach Dunga and last played for his country in April 2009.
He wants Ronaldinho to link his experience with the young promise of Neymar.
Another old rivalry will be renewed at Wembley Stadium where England face France who beat them 2-0 on their last visit to Wembley in 1999.
Both countries had hugely disappointing World Cup campaigns, and while new France coach Laurent Blanc is well into reconstructing a new squad England coach Fabio Capello is slowly introducing fresh faces.
Capello has promised to experiment with some youngsters tomorrow after calling up three 20-year-olds for the first time – Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson and Manchester United defender Chris Smalling.
He has also included Jay Bothroyd of Second Division leaders Cardiff City, while Arsenal youngsters Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshire have the chance to enhance their claims for regular places.
Turkey’s Dutch coach Guus Hiddink is also using tomorrow’s match against Holland as a test following Turkey’s humiliating 1-0 defeat to Azerbaijan in their last Euro 2012 qualifier.
Hiddink has been under huge pressure to include new faces and revive the team and his squad include 10 uncapped players, including German-born Mehmet Ekici who played for the German Under-21 team.
He opted to play for Turkey after huge interest in him from Hiddink. Australian-born Ersan Gulum will also make his debut after having earlier played for the Australia youth team.
In contrast, Holland coach Bert van Marwijk underlined his own conservatism when he included Robin van Persie and Mark van Bommel in his squad.
Instead of giving the youngsters a chance, Van Marwijk tempted antagonising Van Persie’s employers Arsenal and Van Bommel’s club Bayern because the players are not yet match fit.
“My first concern is the players’ interests, but I think that when they train well and play a part of the match they’ll pick up rhythm and that’s also in their club’s interests,” he said.
World champions Spain, and Portugal, who jointly hope to land the 2018 World Cup Finals when FIFA vote on Dec 2, will be rivals in Lisbon tomorrow with Portugal coach Paulo Bento unlikely to experiment too much with his 18-man squad.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has called up 22 of the 23 players who went to South Africa and returned as world champions. — Reuters

Alonso pays the price for Ferrari’s strategic error

ABU DHABI: Fernando Alonso gestured angrily at Russian racer Vitaly Petrov but he might as well have shaken a fist at his own Ferrari bosses after being denied a third Formula One title by a strategic error on Sunday.
The Spaniard was far too much of a team player to do that and Petrov – a rookie with an uncertain future at Renault – was a much easier, if unfair, target for merely doing what he was paid to do.
On an evening that started so promisingly for Alonso, but then turned to dust in the desert, Ferrari let the championship slip through their fingers and be picked up instead by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso had been 15 points clear of 23-year-old Vettel going into the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and ended up seventh, overall runner-up and four points behind Formula One’s youngest champion.
The Spaniard, winner of five races this year, sat hunched and sweating in silence at the back of the Ferrari garage as team-mates commiserated.
“After the race it is always very easy to see the best strategy. If we didn’t stop, Webber would probably overtake us, if we stop, we let Rosberg and Petrov overtake us, very difficult call,” he said.
Alonso had been fourth, which would have been enough to take the title even with Vettel winning, but came in for fresh tyres at the end of lap 15 after his closest championship rival Mark Webber pitted in the other Red Bull.
The pitstops put both men back out on track behind several drivers including Renault’s Petrov, who had pitted when the safety car was deployed.
On a track where overtaking is difficult, Alonso was unable to get past Petrov.
“Afterwards it was really clear it was a mistake,” said Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, without saying who had made the call. — Reuters
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