Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 6th 2013 Contents A63
Friday, September 6, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
ROME---For all its success at the
World Cup, four-time winner Italy
has never qualified with two
matches to spare.
Yet that s just what the Azzurri
can do if they win their next two
qualifiers---both at home---against
Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
Italy holds a four-point lead over
Bulgaria atop Group B of European
qualifying, with the Czechs five
points back in third. Armenia and
Denmark are next with six points
each and Malta is last with three.
Italy hosts Bulgaria in Palermo
today, while the Czechs face Armenia
in Prague and Denmark visits Malta.
Speculation is swirling that as
soon as Italy qualifies, coach Cesare
Prandelli will announce that he plans
to leave the national team following
the World Cup.
But nothing is certain yet.
"I m focused on these matches,"
Prandelli said. "Bulgaria is in good
physical conditional and historically
we have some problems in Septem-
ber. We ve got to focus on winning
these two matches before thinking
about the World Cup."
Making matters more complicated
is that three key players---Mario
Balotelli, Pablo Osvaldo and Riccardo
Montolivo---are suspended for the
Bulgaria match and two others---
Claudio Marchisio and Andrea
Barzagli---are injured and will miss
And heat could be a factor in
Palermo, the Sicilian capital.
The situation evokes that of Italy s
match against Spain in the semifinals
of the Confederations Cup in June.
Balotelli was also unavailable for that
match, which was played in
extremely hot and humid condi-
While Spain beat Italy on penalties
after a 0--0 draw, Prandelli won
praise as a master tactician as Italy
ran right by the world and European
champion for long stretches.
"We re going to have to do a good
job of controlling the match with
our quality in midfield and a lot of
running on the flanks," Prandelli said,
recalling how Bulgaria gave his squad
trouble in a 2--2 draw in Sofia a year
Like in the Spain match, Alberto
Gilardino will likely replace Balotelli
at the center of Italy s attack and
Emanuele Giaccherini should be fea-
tured prominently in an attacking
role on the wing.
Boosted by his strong performance
at the Confederations Cup after a
season where he often didn t start
at Juventus, Giaccherini recently
transferred to Sunderland in the Eng-
lish Premier League.
"The Confederations gained me
more respect and a lot of confi-
dence," Giaccherini said. "I feel like
I m an important part of this squad."
If Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
plays in both games, he ll match
Fabio Cannavaro for Italy s appear-
ance record and pick up his 136th
cap on Tuesday in Turin, where he
plays his club football with Juven-
"I m moderately worried, just like
I am before all of these matches that
are decisive for qualifying," Buffon
said. "We deserve it at this point for
all that we ve done but it s not done
When Italy won the 2006 World
Cup, it qualified with one match to
spare. But four years ago, Italy need-
ed a 90th minute goal against Ireland
to book a trip to South Africa.
Italy aiming to qualify
with two matches to spare
Oezil: Wenger was key
to signing for Arsenal
LONDON---Mesut Oezil says he
chose to move to Arsenal because of
manager Arsene Wenger's track
record of improving players and his
team's brand of attacking football.
The Germany playmaker left Real
Madrid in the final hours of deadline
day to join Arsenal for a club-record
50 million euros ($66 million), making
him the third most expensive signing
in English football history.
Oezil says Wenger is a "world-class
manager" who has "developed (play-
ers) under his guidance in the past,"
and says "I think I will fit perfectly
into" Arsenal's attacking and technical
The 24-year-old Oezil says he didn't
get a chance to ask for advice from
Germany team-mates, and current
Arsenal players, Per Mertesacker and
Lukas Podolski about moving to Eng-
land because "it all happened so fast."
African teams keep
World Cup hopes alive
Seven teams will keep alive their
hopes of playing at the World Cup in
African qualifying's final round of
group games, with continental cham-
pion Nigeria and Ghana not yet as-
sured of progression.
Also facing nervous last-round
matchups are Cameroon, Senegal and
Tunisia, while minnows Ethiopia and
Republic of Congo are in position to
qualify for the final playoffs at the ex-
pense of 2010 World Cup host South
Africa and African Cup runner-up
Burkina Faso respectively.
Top-ranked African team Ivory
Coast, Egypt and Algeria have already
reached the ten-team playoffs in Oc-
tober and November that will com-
plete the two-year process to decide
which five teams from Africa go to
Brazil next year.
Malawi, Zambia, Libya, Uganda and
Cape Verde Islands hope to overtake
some of the other top teams late on.
Osasuna hires Javi
Gracia as coach
PAMPLONA---Osasuna has hired
Javi Gracia as coach to replace the
fired Jose Mendilibar.
The 43-year-old Gracia helped
Almeria earn promotion to Spain's
first division last season. He has also
previously coached Spanish clubs
Cadiz, Pontevedra and Villarreal's sec-
ond squad, as well as Greek teams
Kerkyra and Olympiakos Volou.
Osasuna fired Mendilibar on
Wednesday after the team started
the Spanish league season with three
Osasuna visits Getafe on Septem-
ber 15 in its first match after the
break for international games.
Kaka looking to find
'joy' in football again
MILAN---Kaka is hoping to "find the
joy" in football again after rejoining
AC Milan from Real Madrid.
The Brazil playmaker had a difficult
time in Spain after signing from Milan
in 2009 for 65 million euros ($92 mil-
lion) and was never able to establish
himself as a first-choice player after
injuring his left knee.
Kaka was presented to the media
yesterday and says "it didn't go as I
wanted at Madrid and how everyone
was expecting," adding that Milan "is
the ideal place to again find the joy of
The 31-year-old Kaka has report-
edly taken a cut in salary to rejoin
Milan, where he is still a fan favorite.
Kaka adds "these are special days
for me ... it's as if I never left."
Nani signs new
at Man United
Nani has signed a new five-year deal
with Manchester United, tying him to
the club until 2018.
Nani hasn't been a regular for
United in recent years but manager
David Moyes says "he has great abil-
ity and experience beyond his 26
Nani joined United in 2007, winning
the Premier League four times and
also a Champions League title in
The winger says "when I came to
the club, I never imagined the success
we have enjoyed," adding that he is
"very happy that the new manager
has shown this faith in me."
NYON---Germany goalkeeper Na-
dine Angerer won the inaugural Best
Women Player in Europe award yes-
Angerer, who will start her club ca-
reer in the United States next year,
defeated Germany teammate Lena
Goessling and tournament Sweden
forward Lotta Schelin.
Angerer saved two penalties in the
2013 European Championship final in
July, helping Germany beat Norway
The 34-year-old goalkeeper will
play in Australia for Brisbane Roar be-
fore joining a National Women's Soc-
cer League club.
Angerer says "it's not official yet
which team I will play for, but I will
start 2014 in the US."
She won the UEFA award in a vote
of journalists from a ten-player short-
list created by coaches from Euro
2013 and women's Champions
Italian players Emanuele Giaccherini, left, and Giorgio Chiellini warm up
during a training session at the Coverciano sports centre, near Florence,
Italy, yesterday ahead of 2014 World Cup Group B qualifying soccer match
between Italy and Bulgaria scheduled for today in Palermo. AP PHOTO
Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, left, fights for the ball against Manchester
United's Nani during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield
Stadium, Liverpool, England. AP PHOTO
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