Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 25th 2014 Contents RIBEIRAO PRETO---If France beats
Ecuador in today s Group E match, it will
be the first time it has won all three group
games in a major competition since 1998---
the year it went on to win the World Cup.
This kind of talk worries France coach
Didier Deschamps, who captained the side
in 98 and who has been trying to play
down the growing hype after his team s 5-
2 thumping of Switzerland last Friday.
French Football Federation president Noel
Le Graet has joined Deschamps in trying
to quell rising expectations back home, say-
ing Sunday that "things are going quicker
than I d imagined. I think a bit too quickly
and there s a little bit of excess."
Anything but a win against Ecuador will
be seen as disappointing, however, consid-
ering how France has started the tournament
with such attacking intent---scoring eight
goals in two games after opening with a 3-
0 win over Honduras.
But Deschamps is wary of dismissing
Ecuador, given how the World Cup is
becoming such a wide-open tournament.
"Who would think that Costa Rica would
have six points, in the group they re in? No
one," he said, pointing to Costa Rica s sur-
prise wins against 2010 World Cup semi-
finalist Uruguay and 2006 winner Italy. "I
saw the match between Netherlands and
the Australia and there really wasn t much
in it. Other teams have been doing well
here, not just us."
A draw is enough to guarantee top spot
for France, and would also send Ecuador
through to the next round if Switzerland
fails to beat Honduras in the other match.
Ecuador and Switzerland have three points
each, but Ecuador has a better goal differ-
ence---although it is likely to face a far more
severe test against a French attack featuring
Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, who
both scored and created goals against the
"The way to read it is that we re going
to have a lot of work," Ecuador center half
Frickson Erazo said.
France has scored 39 goals in 11 games,
including 16 in the past three having
thumped Jamaica 8-0 before boarding the
plane to Brazil.
"They scored eight goals in one match,"
midfielder Christian Noboa said. "Scoring
a goal in a World Cup is difficult, scoring
eight gives you a guide to what France are
However, France s defense looked shaky
late on against the Swiss after center half
Mamadou Sakho limped off and Les Bleus
conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes.
"We lost our concentration and you pay
the price at this level," right back Mathieu
Debuchy said. "Of course it s annoying to
concede goals, but you work on it and we ll
try and fix it quickly."
The powerful, direct running of Enner
Valencia could cause France problems. The
24-year-old forward has scored three goals
so far---like Benzema---and has five in four
games after netting in pre-tournament
friendly games against Mexico and Eng-
Deschamps is sweating on the fitness of
Sakho and Raphael Varane, who both sat
out Sunday s team training session. Sakho
has a thigh problem and Varane missed
training because of gastroenteritis. Laurent
Koscielny and Eliaquim Mangala are the
back-up center halves.
Deschamps has intensified competition
for places in his side, surprisingly dropping
Giroud for the opening game, with Antoine
Griezmann replacing him, and then restoring
a fired-up Giroud to the lineup against
Switzerland. He also left out coveted mid-
fielder Paul Pogba against the Swiss, with
Moussa Sissoko taking his place and scoring
his first international goal. (AP)
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Japan fans wave blue garbage bags
Forget banners. Many Japanese fans were waving
bright blue garbage bags at the group stage finale
The Japanese have touched spectators around the
world by cleaning up their trash after every match at the
Japan fan Mikio Tomita was brandishing a trash bag
signed by his work colleagues back home and bearing
the message: "Go for it!"
For the first time at this year's tournament, the fans of
Japan's Blue Samurai were outnumbered by the opposi-
tion---with Cuiaba's Pantanel Stadium a sea of the yellow
and red of Brazil's neighbour, Columbia. But they were as
spirited as eve---dressed as enormous eggs, Daruma
good luck-charm dolls and shaggy-bearded shamans.
The French Football Federation has apologised to the
players' wives and families for a hotel mix-up when they
arrived in Rio for today's Group E match against Ecuador.
The FFF said in a statement yesterday that it "fully
assumes" responsibility for "the inconvenience caused"
when they had to change hotels after getting into town
The FFF denied an earlier report from Canal Plus tele-
vision channel saying the wives had demanded better
accommodations when they arrived, because they were
reportedly unhappy with the four-star hotel allocated to
them before being switched to a five-star hotel on the
famed Copacabana beach.
The FFF blamed the problem on "a malfunction be-
tween the FFF and the agency in charge of accommoda-
Holyfield weighs in
It was inevitable: Evander Holyfield has weighed in on
Luis Suarez's bite.
Television replays appeared to show the Uruguay
striker digging his teeth into the shoulder of Italy's Gior-
gio Chiellini late in their group stage finale. About a
minute later, Uruguay scored the go-ahead goal in the
81st minute and went on to win 1-0 to advance at the
World Cup, eliminating the Italians.
It may be the most famous sports bite since Mike
Tyson chomped on Holyfield's ear during their 1997 title
Holyfield, who has since made up with Tyson, tweeted
Tuesday: "I guess any part of the body is up for eating."
Tyson hadn't chimed in---yet.
After being unceremoniously booted from World Cup
competition, Spain's national team had a tough ride
home when the plane most players were traveling in
was hit by lightning just before it landed in Madrid.
A spokeswoman for airline Iberia SA said the lightning
strike yesterday caused no damage and that the jet
landed normally without any injuries to those aboard.
She spoke on condition of anonymity because of com-
pany policy preventing her from being identified.
The weather around Madrid was stormy when the
lightning strike happened. Experts say commercial jets
tend to be hit by lightning about once a year.
After losing in Brazil to the Netherlands and Chile,
Spain finished its World Cup appearance with a 3-0 win
against Australia on Monday.
Twenty of the team's 23-member squad came home
on the plane hit by lightning, accompanied by team staff
Spanish media said the players left the airport in vans
without speaking to the media and didn't go close to
about 200 fans who showed up to welcome them.
Some sarcastic England fans had their 15 seconds of
fame during yesterday's Group D finale against Costa
They held up a sign listing the various costs of the trip
to Brazil: £1,200 for the flight, £2,000 for "enjoying the
ambiance," £2,000 for accommodation. The punchline?
"Arriving after elimination---priceless."
Fifa officials probably weren't as amused as all the
folks who retweeted an image of the sign, which plays
off MasterCard's signature ad campaign. The tourna-
ment credit card sponsor is Visa. (AP)
PORTO ALGERE---The last time Argentina
met Nigeria in the World Cup, Vincent
Enyeama kept Lionel Messi off the scorers
list with several fine saves.
Whether he does the same today might
just determine if the Nigerians fly home or
progress to the knockout rounds.
Coming off one of his best seasons for
French side Lille, Enyeama said he wasn t
afraid of Messi, but also noted that the game
would not just be between him and the
"He is one of the best players in the world,
and he has made a lot of progress since the
last time we played each other," he said.
Back in South Africa in 2010, Nigeria lost
the game to Argentina 1-0 thanks to a headed
early goal by Gabriel Heinze. It went on to
lose to Greece then draw with South Korea,
ensuring an early exit.
This time around it needs just a point
from Wednesday s match against the South
Americans to qualify after an opening 0-0
draw against Iran and a 1-0 victory over
Bosnia-Herzegovina, its first at the World
Cup in 16 years. It would top the group if
it pulls off a surprise and beats Argentina.
Even a loss might see it through if Bosnia-
Herzegovina beat Iran.
Enyeama almost broke the French record
for the longest spell without conceding this
season but fell short on 1,062 minutes.
"He is a goalkeeper with a great athletic
capability and reflexes," Argentina coach
Alejandro Sabella said. "He stands out in
his club in the French league; he stands out
in his national team."
Aside from Messi, who has scored in each
of Argentina s scrappy wins against Iran and
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sabella s team has failed
to impress so far in the tournament.
Coach Stephen Keshi said central defender
Godfrey Oboabona, who came off injured
against Iran, was back in training and could
start, but other than that, the 53-year-old
was giving little away. "How to stop Messi
is something we need to discuss. I don t
think it s something we can share with
media," he said.
He said he had studied Argentina s game
against Iran and "might want to take one
or two things out of it, but I m sure tomor-
row s game is going to have a different style
Informed it was Messi s 27th birthday
yesterday, Keshi congratulated the Barcelona
"Happy birthday, that s a great day, I think
my team want to wish him a very happy
birthday, we want to wish him a healthy
long life, want to wish him all his heart s
desires," said Keshi, a former player who
was with the team during its impressive
1994 World Cup show." We will see him
after the game tomorrow, we can celebrate
Keshi took the manager s job in late 2011.
In 2013, he announced his resignation just
hours after winning the African Nations
Cup but then rescinded it.
He is now subject to media speculation
he will take a job coaching the South African
national side after the World Cup.
Asked about this, he said he had attracted
"a lot of interest" including that of South
Africa, but that he couldn t confirm anything
because he was focused on Wednesday s
game, "the most important of his career."
Nigeria out to stop things getting Messi
France looks to repeat
three group wins
France' Patrice Evra, left, Mathieu Valbuena, centre, and Karim Benzema, right, have a talk
during the first training session of the French national soccer team at the Santa Cruz
Stadium, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, yesterday. AP PHOTO
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