Australia’s defender Lucas Neill has been looking forward to getting into the national team for one final major tournament, as the nation has qualified for the World Cup 2014. The 36-year-old is in the final legs of his career. It was highly anticipated that he will announce retirement after being allowed to leave Omija Ardija earlier in the season. After being five months without a club, Neill has managed to find himself an opportunity to play for Watford till the end of the season. He signed on a free transfer with the championship outfit, but his stay there did not last long.
He played only for 6 minutes for the club before being sent out on loan to Doncaster Rovers, who are currently managed by Neill’s former Blackburn Rovers teammate Paul Dickov. Dickov said that they are extremely delighted to bring in a player like Lucas Neill, who has tremendous experience in the game. Dickov is of the opinion that several clubs in the championship tried to get him after knowing that he was available, but his relationship with the 36-year-old from his time at Blackburn was key in getting him to the club, who are fighting against relegation.
Dickov says that Neill has managed to keep himself extremely fit despite being out of the game for a considerable amount of time.
“I played with him at Blackburn and I know him very well. Lucas is as fit now as I have ever seen him, which is credit to him and his attitude. There were a lot of other Championship clubs interested in signing him, but he wanted to come to Doncaster,” said the Doncaster Rovers manager. Australia’s manager Ange Postecoglou has not ruled out any players still making it into the squad following a string of good performances. Neill still has a chance according to him.
With 2014 World knocking at the door the participating nations are already prepping up their list of players for the esteemed fiesta which is to unveil at Brazil this year. Spain too has come up with its possible player list and, disappointingly for some of the fans, Juan Mata might not be in the World Spanish squad this time.
He has already been dropped from Spain’s upcoming match against Italy this week. The Man U star is currently showing off form which has created ripples both in his Old Trafford squad & mostly I the national team.
The final Spanish team for the Worlds is yet to be officially declared in May, but the head coach has already made it clear that he is not in the mood to offer any lax for under-performing players.
“There are footballers who haven’t been able to show up with good consistency. We are really fond of Juan. We are quite aware of his immense potential- yet we do not have space for everybody in the team”, stated Del Bosque, the head coach of Spanish national soccer team.
Along with Mata, many other Spanish favorites have been dropped out from the national team. These include Fernando Torres (Chelsea) & David Villa (Atletico Madrid). David Silva and Alvaro Negredo from Manchester City, Santi Cazorla from Arsenal and César Azpilicueta from Chelsea, however, have been able to make way.
Villa’s club-mate Costa (Diego) might make debut in Worlds this time, post switching nationality. Previously the originally Brazil native had made a couple of friendly appearances as a Brazilian player. Costa was in Spanish squad to play in the autumn friendly matches against South Africa an Equatorial Guinea but was forced to withdraw given injury issues.
However, the head coach has stressed his present Spanish team might not be the exact replica for the World party.
Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has sent a message of hope to former Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, who looks set to miss the World Cup 2014 due to his injury. Falcao is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world right now and he recently sealed a £ 50 million move to Monaco. Despite moving to the French league only six months ago, he has been linked with a move to the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid.
Any hopes of such a move in the January transfer window have been quashed with the news that he has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament injury, which will rule him out for more than six months. This will also potentially rule him out of the World Cup 2014. Falcao was expected to be one of the names to watch in Brazil 2014 along with stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Ronaldo, who recently won the FIFA Ballon d’Or award beating Messi, said a message of support to the 27-year-old by saying that he feels confident that he will be able to return back much stronger.
Falcao was for the best players in the French league before getting injured. Colombia’s chances of progressing past the group stages have been significantly reduced after this injury.
“The only message I can give him is that I know he has so much strength and courage. I hope that he recovers very fast because football needs Falcao. The World Cup and the Colombia team await him. I hope he recovers soon and can return to action in time. It’s what we all want. Stay strong, Falcao,” said Ronaldo, who himself qualified for the World Cup at the expense of Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden. Ronaldo’s Portugal defeated Sweden 4-2 on aggregate in the World Cup play-offs.
England manager Roy Hodgson thinks that the African teams have a chance of winning the World Cup 2014 largely because of the climate. Africa has not had a World Cup winner in its history, but the African teams have steadily been growing in stature. Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon come into the World Cup has teams that can win the competition. Even though European teams and Brazil still remain the favourite to win the competition, Hodgson thinks that the African teams cannot not be ruled out.
England are definitely not one of the favourites to win this competition. They have been provisionally booked in Rio de Janeiro. Due to the vast size of the continent, it is expected that location will be an important factor towards doing well. The south of Brazil is cold during June, while the north of Brazil is hot and is more like a tropical climate. If African teams get a group that makes them stay in the north of Brazil, then they could get a huge advantage according to Hodgson.
“I think (African nations) may have a stronger chance than any of the European teams to be perfectly honest because of the climate. There are many African players out there of excellent quality now. They play in the top European leagues and that makes the African nations very strong. Nigeria have traditionally been one of the strongest, with some famous names in their team. Whoever is at the game on Monday night will see two very good teams and it will be an exciting outcome,” said Hodgson after his team qualified automatically.
This is because the climate in North of Brazil is very similar to the climate of most African countries. Nigeria come into the tournament after having only recently lifted African cup of nations title.
Robbie Keane is one of the seasoned internationals for the Republic of Ireland, but he has come out in criticism of the style of play of the Irish ahead of the World Cup qualifying matches. The former Tottenham and Aston Villa striker has said that Ireland do not have a plan B under manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who is widely believed to be in the last few months as the Ireland manager. His contract is coming to an end soon, but there has been no talk of a new deal from the Irish FA.
The likes of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have been linked with the role in the last few weeks, and the latest comments by Keane does not help Trapattoni’s case. Ireland almost certain to be knocked out of the World Cup qualifying after suffering a 2-1 defeat against Sweden. They will be taking on Austria on Tuesday in a match that could see him win his 129th cap for the national team. Even though Ireland managed to take the lead against Sweden, they were unable to adapt to the match as Sweden came back into the encounter.
Trapattoni’s tactics have been highly criticised after the match, while Keane has said that the team does not have a plan B.
“We talk about Plan A and Plan B and crap like that, but Ireland has never had a Plan B before. We have always had Plan A, it’s as simple as that. Since I have been in the squad, we have played the exact same way. We don’t have the personnel to, like Spain, get the ball down and have 80 per cent possession against teams. We are just not that team. But we know our strengths and we stick to them. Unless it changes, maybe from grass-roots – but it’s not going to change for, certainly, a good few years,” said Keane.
There has been a lot of doubt about a Brazil’s ability to deliver World Cup stadiums at the time of the event and the latest comment from the Brazilian sports minister has done nothing to quell the speculation. A number of stadiums have been upgraded in order to meet the norms of FIFA, which is responsible for holding the World Cup. However, Brazil have delayed the construction work so much that the country will find it very difficult to cope with the huge number of tourists arriving for this major tournament. Due to the delay in construction work for the stadium starting itself, the country has been unable to upgrade the transportation infrastructure.
This led to widespread protests against the government during the Confederations cup. There was also the danger of this tournament being cancelled midway because of these protests. Brazil’s sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has said that the construction work should be accelerated if the stadiums are to be completed by the start of the tournament. Brazil was able to host the Confederations cup a little easy because of the stadiums that were already present and closing completion. One of the main stadiums for the World Cup at São Paulo is close to 80% completion.
“This must be seen as a warning. We cannot keep on the same rhythm, or we will not deliver them on time. It is possible to intensify. We are able to meet the deadlines, but it should be noted that it will require us to speed up the construction. There will be no budget increase, because, for example, instead of paying 10 workers during two months, you can pay 20 to work for 30 days,” said Rebelo. The announcement that no extra funding will be coming from the government could be a major blow in itself.