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

Hamilton and Button pay champ Vettel fulsome tribute

ABU DHABI: A smiling Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button hugged new drivers’ world champion Sebastian Vettel and supplied a neat sense of historical continuity on the victors’ podium following a memorable Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 2008 and 2009 champions con­­gratulated their 2010 successor with natural warmth and enjoyed their own success in securing second place for McLaren in the constructors’ world championship behind Vettel’s Red Bull team.
Vettel, 23, also clearly revelled in the moment and the German returned the congratulations of the two Englishmen with respectful tributes to their achievements, particularly Hamilton whose record as the youngest championship winner he had taken from him by winning Sunday’s stirring 55-lap race.
Hamilton was obviously happy to see his record passing on to a worthy racing successor and satisfied that he and Button had done all they could in the final race of a rollercoaster year.
“It has not been the most spectacular season for us, but huge congratulations to Red Bull and Seb... He did a fantastic job this season,” he said.
Having struggled to be competitive in recent races, McLaren had improved their pace for the Abu Dhabi race at the Yas Marina Circuit where Hamilton and Button completed their first season as team-mates together on the podium.
Hamilton added: “For us it was a great end of season result. This year, me and Jenson pushed hard. Next year will be a better year.
“I’m looking forward to next year. I’m hoping our car will be even better and that we can really fight with these (Red Bull) guys.”
Hamilton mounted a strong challenge to Vettel in the opening part of the race, but struggled to pass Pole Robert Kubica of Renault after his pit stop. He could not pass him until Kubica pitted.
Button warned Vettel of the media pressures that lay ahead and jokingly suggested it would be a good idea to “have an early night” as he confessed to doing when he won the title in 2009. “Or maybe not,” he added with a grin. — AFP

Vettel destined for glory from the first day he walked into F1

ABU DHABI: Sebastian Vettel’s career trajectory has always been sensational and had the youngest ever world champion hurtling to glory from the first day he walked into Formula One and began to break the sport’s records.
In the wake of youthful Spaniard Fernando Alonso’s impact as the young title-grabbing successor to the old “red baron” German Michael Schumacher, Vettel created a whole new set of youthful standards.
He was the youngest participant in Formula One, at 19 years and 53 days, with Sauber in Turkey in 2006, the sixth youngest race-starter in 2007 in the United States and, in the same race, the youngest man to score points.
Bull power: Sebastian Vettel wearing a bull mask as he celebrates with his team after being crowned the 2010 Formula One world champion at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. — AP
In 2007, in Japan, he was the youngest race-leader and in 2008, in Italy, at a rain-hit Monza, he became the youngest pole-sitter and then youngest race winner.
That result for Toro Rosso triggered a move to Red Bull for 2009 when he almost landed the drivers’ title, but ultimately had to settle for runner-up behind Briton Jenson Button.
It was his first major setback and disappointment – and he was only 22.
His Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber did not even enter For­­mula One, with the underfunded back-marking Minardi team, until he was 25.
So it was no surprise when, against the odds on Sunday, he became the sport’s youngest champion, usurping 2008 champion Briton Lewis Hamilton by nine months.
Born in Heppenheim on July 3, 1987, Vettel adored what he later described as “the three Michaels” while at school – Schumacher, Jackson and Jordan, the first being the man whose achievements he would love to emulate.
Originally, he said, he wanted to be a singer like Jackson, but discovered he did not have the voice and, after starting in karting in 1995, found another road to success.
Vettel, whose father Norbert was a carpenter who raced in hill-climbs, has one brother and two older sisters and comes from a family with English connections that encouraged him as a boy to learn the language and grow to understand and enjoy British humour and music.
He loves The Beatles and can reel off jokes from Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers as well as Little Britain. His wit, and an ability to crack a funny line, endeared him to much of the media at an early age.
“I am still listening to the same music as always,” he said recently. “But, you know, unfortunately, The Beatles have not released much new stuff.”
If life and languages came easy to him, he made the most of it, just as he did in a racing career that saw him rise rapidly through karts and junior formulae, where he was nurtured by the Red Bull juniors training scheme.
He entered F1 with the BMW Sauber team, after running in the BMW juniors, and swiftly made an impact before switching to join the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso outfit, securing his first full-time seat with them in 2008. His racing in the rain, always impressive, dazzled that year at Monza when a new F1 star was born.
The rest was, swiftly, to become history as he cut a swathe towards the top, his one-liners, cheeky grin and brilliant driving earning him soubriquets like ‘the baby-faced assassin” and the ‘new Schumi’ even if moments of impetuosity punctuated the success story.
Having raced for the Swiss Sauber team, it was no surprise that Vettel chose to take up residence in Switzerland. — AFP

Garrigus wins his first Disney crown

MIAMI: Robert Garrigus won his first PGA Tour event on Sunday with a sizzling eight-under 64 to win the Disney Classic while overnight leader Roland That­cher imploded.
Garrigus, who started the day five shots back of Thatcher, carded eight birdies to secure the win with a 21-under 267 that was three ahead of Thatcher (72).
The win in the final PGA Tour event of the season should help ease the pain of his final-hole meltdown at the St. Jude Classic at Memphis earlier in the season where Garrigus blew the lead with a triple bogey on the 18th.
“It’s great to be able to close this one off and figuratively shut everybody up about Memphis,” Garrigus said. “Every time I got an interview it was about Memphis, but it really helped me just to realise that it’s not that big a deal.”
Thatcher, who started the day four shots clear of the pack, bogeyed 12, 16 and 17 but made par on the final hole to secure second place and his PGA Tour card for next season.
“I couldn’t imagine having a more stressful moment in my life, up to this point,” said Thatcher. “So to be able to come out on the other side of that, on the good side of it is just amazing.” — Reuters

Aussie crushes his inner demons to win Singapore Open

SINGAPORE: Adam Scott’s inner demons did their best to derail his bid for a third Singapore Open title yesterday but the Australian held his nerve to claim victory at the US$6mil weather-hit event.
Scott, a winner here in 2005 and 2006, sealed a three-shot victory over Denmark’s Anders Hansen with a sublime 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a closing three-under 68 at the Sentosa Golf Club.
However, not all of the Serapong course’s tricky greens had been as accommodating.
One more: Adam Scott posing with his trophy after winning the raindelayed final round of the Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club Monday. — Reuters
“I haven’t been putting my best lately and the demons starting creeping in a little bit on the back nine,” said the 30-year-old.
“But fortunately I squashed them and made a good putt on 15. That gave me a little buffer and calmed me down for the last three.”
Scott held a three-shot lead when the fourth round was suspended due to darkness on Sunday. Play had been suspended for five-and-a-half hours due to thunderstorms and lightning.
Coming back to finish 10 holes on yesterday was not ideal, Scott said, and when his touch with the putter started to desert him he began to worry. A three-putt bogey on the 14th rattled him.
“It was my second three-putt on the back-nine and at that point, I had no idea of what the scores were on the leaderboard,” he said.
“The 15th was a huge hole. I hit the ball beautifully and I hit every shot where I needed it to be.
“I let myself down on the 10th and 14th with my putts, but I came back and made one on 15th, which was huge as it gave myself a little breathing space.”
Scott reached a career-high third in the world rankings in 2007 but his form dipped last year. He believes he is now returning to his best.
“It’s definitely on the right track but we are always working on something. That’s the funny thing about golfers, we are never completely satisfied,” he added.
“There are always things that I want to keep working on but I feel like my game is in a good place.” — Reuters
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