15.7.10

IT WAS A TIMEBOMB WAITING TO EXPLODE


Nicolas Anelka says the tension between the France squad and their coach at the World Cup was like a 'timebomb waiting to explode'.

The Chelsea frontman was sent home from the tournament following his bust-up with boss Raymond Domenech, which provoked the rest of the 23-man party to strike in support of the forward.

The disruption saw Les Bleus lose their final group game against South Africa 2-1, a defeat which ended their World Cup campaign.

The French media have suggested that some members of the squad were pressurised to participate in the strike, but 31-year-old Anelkais adamant the players were united in their revolt.

Les Bleus midfielder Jeremy Toulalan admitted on Sunday that the strike was a unanimous decision and that the whole squad should be punished, and Anelka praised the Lyonplayer's stance on the issue.

7.7.10

CAPTAINCY CRISIS


Joachim Low has hosed down the controversy surrounding Philipp Lahm and Germany's captaincy ahead of their World Cup semi-final against Spain.

Lahm told the Bild newspaper he wants to retain the armband even when regular skipper Michael Ballack returns from injury after the tournament, causing an unnecessary distraction in the German camp less than 48 hours ahead of their crucial match in Durban.

Ballack left the camp shortly after the comments were made, creating the impression of a rift, but Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff has insisted Ballack always intended to visit the team during the quarter-finals and simply departed as scheduled.

2.7.10

ESSIEN CONFIDENT WITH GHANA


Michael Essien believes Ghana are more than capable of beating Uruguay in the World Cup quarter-finals.

The 27-year-old has sent a good luck message to his national compatriots whilst continuing his rehabilitation on a knee injury.

The Chelsea star injured his knee at the African Cup of Nations early in 2010, and he failed to recover in time for the finals in South Africa.

Although disappointed to have missed out, he admits he is immensely proud of seeing his side become the only African nation to make it to the knock-out stages.

28.6.10

LAMPARD WANTS GOAL TECHNOLOGY


Frank Lampard has demanded the introduction of goal-line technology after being denied a goal against Germany as England crashed out of the World Cup.

England were trailing 2-1 when Lampard's 20-yard strike hit the underside of the bar and bounced down around a yard over the goal-line.

However, the officials failed to spot the ball had crossed the line and allowed play to continue.

Germany took full advantage of their lucky escape by going on to win 4-1 and Lampard is amazed his goal was not allowed to count.

Lampard believes that if it had gone to 2-2, it would have been a different game. It baffles him that it wasn't given and it was a big deciding factor.

GERMANY 4 - ENGLAND 1


England were hammered 4-1 by Germany in the second round of the World Cup, but the spotlight fell on the officials after they missed an obvious equaliser for Fabio Capello's men just before half-time.

After Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski had put Germany 2-0 up early on, Matthew Upson got one back but then Frank Lampard's goal was ruled out after the ball bounced down off the bar, despite it landing a yard over the line.

When Lampard's effort went in, only for assistant Mauricio Espinosa to miss it, grainy images of England's controversial third at Wembley in 1966 immediately sprang to mind. To his total disbelief, Capello's celebrations of what would have been an equaliser were cut short. Everyone in the ground, except the men who mattered, knew what had happened.

Germany made the most of their good fortune to book a quarter-final place, with what turned out to be their biggest win over a rival they have not lost to in a major tournament since the 1966 final. For England, it was their joint-biggest ever defeat at a World Cup.

Klose and Podolski's first half-goals were doubled by a pair from the excellent Thomas Muller after the break. But no-one will be talking about them on the streets of England. Nor will they discuss a Matthew Upson header that brought the Three Lions back into it.

Eventually they might get round to the clear defensive deficiencies in a team Capello claimed was good enough to reach the final.

26.6.10

IVORY COAST 3 - NORTH KOREA 0


Sven-Goran Eriksson's side struck twice inside 20 minutes as they tore into their limited opponents from the outset, but only frustration followed in their final Group G game. Yaya Toure, Romaric and Salomon Kalou were on target as Ivory Coast's World Cup campaign ended with a hollow victory over North Korea.

The Africans had 14 shots, 10 on target, as they dominated the first half and sensed an unlikely chance to reach the last 16. The threatened goal duly arrived after 13 minutes as Toure took a neat touch from an Arthur Boka cross and coolly placed a shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Romaric then clipped the post from distance before a fierce Drogba shot rattled the underside of the bar and bounced off the line to allow Romaric to head in the second.

Kalou entered the action but spurned a good chance when he scooped over at the end of a neat move. He made up for that when he volleyed in a Boka cross nine minutes from time but by then the players were going through the motions.

24.6.10

SLOVENIA 0 - ENGLAND 1


England produced a vastly improved performance to beat Slovenia 1-0 and progress to the last 16 as Group C runners-up. The Three Lions needed to win after being held to disappointing draws by USA and Algeria in their opening two World Cup games, and responded with a dynamic display full of urgency and slick passing.

Two of the players brought into the side by Fabio Capello combined for the crucial goal on 22 minutes as James Milner delivered a superb cross from the right wing and Jermain Defoe provided the finishing touch.

England continued to dominate possession and carved out a number of good opportunities to double their advantage, with Samir Handanovic repelling Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney with athletic saves, and Defoe also flicking an effort wide.

Slovenia did carry a threat on the counter-attack and anxiety would have been spreading among England supporters as their team failed to take a more comfortable lead.

However, England stayed solid in defence and held on to the final whistle to make it through to the next round, with Slovenia dramatically bowing out as a result of USA's last-gasp winner against Algeria.

23.6.10

ENGLAND IN A DO OR DIE MISSION

 
Fabio Capello says he never considered dropping John Terry after the defender's outburst, and insists confidence is high in the England camp as they prepare to face Slovenia in Wednesday's crunch match in Port Elizabeth.
England have had to deflect stories of rifts in the camp following newspaper speculation at the weekend and John Terry's press conference, when the former skipper claimed there would be frank words spoken at a team meeting.
Capello has since stated that Terry made a "big mistake" in that press conference, but insisted on Tuesday that he never considered dropping the former captain in order to punish him.
Captain Steven Gerrard, who described the game against Slovenia as "do or die'', claimed Terry's outburst is not affecting the players. Gerrard sympathises with the supporters and revealed the team are desperate to put on a better performance. He also denied that he and his team-mates had put pressure on Capello to pick Joe Cole in his team.
Capello also backed Wayne Rooney to up his game following recent criticism of his below-par performances, especially in the goalless draw with Algeria. The manager admitted it was possible he had made mistakes in England's opening two games but has called for his players to knuckle down and start battling.
 

SOUTH AFRICA 2 - FRANCE 1


France exited the World Cup at the first round stage with barely a whimper after this humbling defeat by the host nation at the Free State Stadium.

On a day of drama Raymond Domenech stripped Patrice Evra of the captaincy and handed the armband to Alou Diarra instead. Then the coach, set to be replaced by Laurent Blanc, saw his side reduced to 10 men after 26 minutes of this Group A game when Yoann Gourcuff was sent off.

South Africa took advantage with Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela both finding the target. Although Florent Malouda stepped off the bench to pull a goal back France are heading home early.

Evra was dropped after the squad boycotted a training session after striker Nicolas Anelka was expelled following a row with Domenech. The Manchester United full-back cut a lonely figure on the bench on another dreadful day for France.

It was a bitter sweet win for South Africa as they have become the first host nation to be eliminated at the first round stage of the finals.


21.6.10

PORTUGAL 7 - NORTH KOREA 0


Portugal hit their stride at the World Cup on Monday, thrashing North Korea 7-0 to give themselves an excellent chance of reaching the last 16 while ending the Asian team's hopes.

Portugal took the lead through Raul Meireles in the 29th minute and went on the rampage in the second half with three goals in a seven-minute spree from Simao Sabrosa (53rd), Hugo Almeida (56th) and Tiago (60th).

The score was completed with late strikes from Liedson (81st) and Cristiano Ronaldo in the 87th, his first for Portugal in two years, and Tiago again in the 89th.

Portugal scored five in their remarkable 1966 World Cup quarter-final with North Korea when they came from 3-0 down to win 5-3.

Brazil, already sure of a second round place, lead Group G with six points from Portugal, who have four. Ivory Coast have one and North Korea none with one match each left to play.