Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 4th 2014 Contents A60
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, September 4, 2014
PARIS---Filling the midfield
void left by the international
retirements of Xavi Hernandez
and Xabi Alonso is one of the
big challenges facing Spain as
it seeks to rebuild following a
shambolic World Cup per-
With nearly 250 interna-
tional appearances between
them, the duo played a crucial
role in a sustained period of
success which saw Spain win
two European Championships
and a World Cup from 2008-
Both stepped aside after the
World Cup this summer, where
Spain was beaten by the
Netherlands and Chile in its
first two group games to make
an early exit from the tourna-
Spain coach Vicente del
Bosque kept his job, thanks to
the weight of his past achieve-
ments. But he has a tough task
to retain the European Cham-
pionship in two years time.
Qualifying should not be too
hard. Spain, which is drawn in
Group C and opens its cam-
paign against Macedonia at
home on Monday, also faces
Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus and
First up, though, is a friendly
away to World Cup quarterfi-
nalist France today.
France s coach Didier
Deschamps, the fulcrum in
midfield when Les Bleus won
the 1998 World Cup and Euro
2000, understands how big a
loss Alonso and Barcelona great
Xavi will be.
"Of course some players have
stopped, notably in the heart
of their game," Deschamps said
yesterday. "The whole of their
game depended on them.
They re quality players who
were used to playing with each
The pressure on new players
breaking into a team once so
dominant promises to be
intense. Atletico Madrid mid-
fielder Raul Garcia---at the ripe
age of 28---and Athletic Bil-
bao s holding midfielder Ander
Iturraspe, who is 25, have a
chance to impress after waiting
"I don t know what Vicente
del Bosque plans to do,"
Deschamps said. "The worry
the new generation might have
is that those who were there
before them played in all of
the games, so they have few
very caps between them.
They re going to have more of
an important role to play now."
Del Bosque is also likely to
lean more heavily on Chelsea
midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who
has made a bright start to the
season, while Arsenal s Santi
Cazorla---who found it hard to
hold down a place during
Spain s glory era---can also stake
Whoever plays, Deschamps
expects the style of play to
"They keep the ball well and
force you to drop back. It s
about what you do with the ball
when you have it," he said.
"They base their game on pos-
session, they play on the floor.
It s more or less the same sys-
Deschamps faces a different
problem to Del Bosque. He
must keep the players focused
and motivated, because as, Euro
2016 host, France has only
France friendly first
step as Spain rebuilds
BARI---Antonio Conte and Guus Hiddink will each
be making coaching debuts when Italy hosts the
Netherlands in a friendly today with both sides missing
several key players.
Conte replaced Cesare Prandelli after the Azzurri s
first-round elimination from the World Cup while the
well-travelled Hiddink is beginning his second stint in
charge of the Dutch, building on the work of Louis van
Gaal, who steered the Netherlands to third place in
Conte caused a stir when he left out star striker Mario
Balotelli from his squad, while the Dutch have a lengthy
injury list, with Arjen Robben, Klaas Jan Huntelaar,
Rafael van der Vaart, Jordy Clasie and Ron Vlaar out.
Conte led Juventus to the last three Serie A titles and
is known as a hard-line motivator. Asked for three adjec-
tives to describe his squad, he selected "humble, proud
"We need to bring Italy back to where it belongs,
because after Brazil we re the most important national
team in the world," Conte said.
Without Balotelli and the injured Pablo Osvaldo in
attack, Conte is expected to rely on Ciro Immobile---
last season s Serie A scoring leader with 22 goals for
Torino who is now with Borussia Dortmund---and perhaps
AC Milan s Stephan El Shaarawy or national team new-
comer Simone Zaza of Sassuolo.
Conte will also almost certainly use a three-man
defence, although Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and
Gabriel Paletta are each out injured, opening up space
for Andrea Ranocchia, Davide Astori and Leonardo
The Azzurri are also missing midfield maestro Andrea
Pirlo, who is out for a month with a bruised right hip.
Not since Dino Zoff in 1998 has an Italy coach won
his debut, with the likes of Marcello Lippi, Roberto Don-
adoni and Prandelli each struggling in friendlies.
"I want to always win," Conte said.
On Tuesday, Italy opens European Championship
qualifying at Norway and the Netherlands visits the
Netherlands center forward Robin van Persie was
looking forward to working with the 67-year-old Hiddink,
who first coached the Netherlands from 1994-98.
"When I was 20, I nearly went to PSV mainly for
Hiddink," Van Persie told Dutch broadcaster NOS. "At
the last minute, it didn t happen and I went to Arsenal.
It is fantastic to work with him."
Midfielder Wesley Sneijder wasn t surprised at the
lengthy Dutch injury list after the World Cup and start
of the new season.
"Maybe because they had a shorter vacation and a
tough preparation (for the new season)," Sneijder said.
"Not everybody is top fit."
BERLIN---Germany has struck a deal
with England that will give the country
a good chance to host the 2024 European
The agreement would see the Germans
drop their interest in hosting the Euro 2020
semifinals and final ahead of the vote by
UEFA s executive committee on September
19. Wembley Stadium in London and
Allianz Arena in Munich had been the con-
tenders to host the final matches at Euro
2020, which is being spread across the
"We ve spoken with (England) about it,
that they could hold off (applying for) Euro
2024 and support our application," German
football federation general secretary Helmut
Sandrock told Sport Bild magazine. "In
turn, we d forego the final Euro 2020 games
and support England s bid for Euro 2028."
Germany is also bidding for one of the
12 Euro 2020 hosting packages of three
group matches in the 24-team tournament,
plus a single knockout match from the last
16 or quarterfinals.
"Withdrawing of our application for the
three final games of Euro 2020 would only
come into question for if we could be cer-
tain of getting the 2024 European Cham-
pionship," Sandrock said.
Sandrock said he and federation president
Wolfgang Niersbach had held "many talks
with UEFA and other national associations
to gauge how much our application for
Euro 2024 would be supported."
The tournament has previously been
staged in a single country. Germany hosted
the European Championship in 1988 and
the World Cup in 1974 and 2006. England,
which staged the 1966 World Cup, hosted
the Euros in 1996.
The English Football Association couldn t
be reached for comment yesterday, but
general secretary Alex Horne said last week
that he didn t envisage bidding for pres-
tigious Euro 2020 games being a barrier
to its Euro 2028 hopes.
Also, Hamburg and Berlin are bidding
to be German candidates for the Olympics
in 2024 or 2028. International Olympic
Committee president Thomas Bach said
Tuesday he didn t see a problem with
Germany hosting two major events in
Germany optimistic of hosting Euro 2024
became Russia s record scorer yesterday
as his team thrashed Azerbaijan 4-0 in a
The Zenit St Petersburg striker scored
twice in the first half to set a new mark
of 28 international goals in Russia s first
game since its World Cup group stage exit
In a match that was a warm-up for Euro-
pean Championship qualifying, the victory
follows a troubled week for Russia after
reports that manager Fabio Capello has
gone unpaid for three months amid a finan-
cial dispute at the Russian Football Union.
On the world stage, Russia is set for
crisis talks with Fifa and UEFA represen-
tatives over its decision to absorb clubs
from the annexed region of Crimea, while
European Union countries have discussed
possible sporting sanctions against the
2018 World Cup host.
On a chilly night at Arena Khimki near
Moscow, Kerzhakov broke Vladimir
Beschastnykh s Russian scoring record six
minutes in, heading in a cross from Dmitry
Kerzhakov added his second just five
minutes later from a pass from Villareal
winger Denis Cheryshev.
Russia beats Azerbaijan 4--0 in friendly
made bright start
to the season.
Antonio Conte ....replaced Cesare Prandelli after the
Azzurri's elimination from World Cup.
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