He’s back

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been cleared by UEFA to play for Paris Saint-Germain against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

The Swede had originally been banned for two matches after he was sent off for a challenge on Valencia midfielder Andres Guardado in stoppage time of their last-16 meeting in February, but UEFA’s Appeals Panel has cut that to just one match.

The Swedish forward can now face his former club next Tuesday.

The decision seems reasonable, considering a similar dismissal – that of Manchester United’s Nani against Real Madrid – was punished with a one-match ban.

“Zlatan is very happy with this decision,” Ibrahimovic’s agent Mino Raiola told Le Parisien. “It means a lot to him to play in a Champions League quarter-final. Not because it’s a match against Barca, but because it’s a unique moment in PSG’s season.”

Goal of the day

Great delivery from Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie somehow manages to take the pace off the cross and guide it into the far corner off the net. A difficult skill to achieve with the foot, but even more so with the head.

Save of the day

Japan, who lead Asia’s Group B on 13 points from six matches, had a wonderful opportunity to seal their place in next year’s World Cup finals. Avoid defeat in Jordan and a spot in Brazil was guaranteed. However, trailing 2-1, they squandered a golden opportunity to secure at least a point when Yasuhito Endo’s 70th-minute penalty was brilliantly saved by Jordan keeper Amer Sabbah.

Leopard not changing his spots

Uruguay’s Luis suarez could find himself facing a suspension after he was caught on camera delivering a jab to the chin of Chile defender Gonzalo Jara.

Quote of the day

“Denmark has a very strong handball team and I didn’t know that we had to come with our handball national team. It’s obvious that he (Cornelius) takes the ball with his hand … and it happened right in front of the referee. We’ve been robbed by referees again. It was a refereeing circus.” 

Bulgaria coach Luboslav Penev was left fuming with the referee’s performance after his side drew 1-1 with Denmark in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Decisions decisions

Mexico were also nursing a strong sense of grievance in the wake of their goalless draw with the United States on Tuesday. It was only the second time that the USA had managed to come away from the Azteca stadium with a point, but the home side were convinced that they should have been awarded at least two penalties on the night.

Firstly  a shove on Manchester United striker Javier Hernéndez by Michael Bradley  was flagged by the assistant, but referee Walter López waved play on.

“I don’t know if it was a foul on Chicharito. I didn’t see that because I was watching the cross there,” United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “I’ll see that on TV.”

In the second half there was a second Mexican shout for penalty when Javier Aquino was appeared to be brought down from behind by US midfielder Maurice Edu inside the area.

The challenge, which came from behind, got more of the man than the ball, certainly looked like a stonewall penalty, but again, Klinsmann was having none of it.

“There was no other situation when a kind of complaint came in the second half where there was any penalty discussion,” Klinsmann claimed. “Not even because the one they had was a simple block.”

The enraged Mexican players who surrounded the referee at the final whistle, were less than impressed by the Guatemalan’s performance.

“The team feels bad and a little hot-headed because we know we can’t do anything,” said Hernández in the mixed zone after the game. “It’s now two games where (decisions) have influenced a little and it hurts.”

You can see the second penalty appeal here.

Nothing succeeds like failure

More refereeing controversy today comes courtesy of Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi who, you may recall, was suspended by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) last month after an incompetent display at the African Nations Cup.

Jdidi has been retained on FIFA’s shortlist for next year’s World Cup.

The referee is among seven prospective World Cup referees from Africa named by FIFA to attend a seminar in Casablanca from April 27-30, for those on the Brazil shortlist.

Jdidi, 42, was suspended indefinitely after the Nations Cup semi-final where he sent off Burkina Faso’s Jonathan Pitroipa and denied a legitimate looking penalty claim but handed a dubious spot kick to opponents Ghana at Nelspruit, South Africa, on February 6.

His suspension was announced the next day by CAF, who took the unusual decision to rescind Pitroipa’s red card and allow him to play in the final after Jdidi wrote a letter admitting he had made a mistake.

Jdidi has refereed matches in Tunisia’s Ligue 1 but has been conspicuous by his absence since the suspension.

The decision to place him on the provisional World Cup group does make one wonder about the quality of officials who haven’t made the shortlist.

Kung fu football

There’s dangerous and there’s potentially lethal. Ukraine’s Taras Stepanenko challenge on Moldova’s Vitalie Bordian fell into the latter category.

What was he thinking?

Another fine mess

Lionel Messi admitted it was “terrible” to play at altitude after Argentina’s 1-1 draw away to Bolivia on Tuesday in their latest World Cup 2014 qualifier.

Messi was sick and his team-mate, Angel Di Mari, required oxygen to cope with the conditions nearly 4,000 metres above sea level in La Paz.

“It is terrible to play here at altitude, so a draw is a good result for us,” Messi told reporters.

“Every time you make an effort or play at high pace, you need time to recover.

“Some of the players had a headache and others felt a bit dizzy, but there was nothing wrong with me.”

Still, things could have been worse: the last time Argentina played in Bolivia, under coach Diego Maradona, they went home, tails between their legs, after suffering a humiliating 6-1 defeat.


Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye has spoken about his battle with depression, which was brought on by a hectic club and country schedule last year.

The French international joined Newcastle in 2011 and ended his first season by joining up with his national squad for Euro 2012, but the schedule took its toll on his health.

Cabaye said: “Depression? I am not afraid to say that. It was that.

“But I was reassured by reading the books of Jonny Wilkinson and Rafael Nadal, who both talked about the same thing. They talked about post-competition depression and the need to have a break.

“I started with Newcastle in June 2011 and for the very first time, I didn’t have any winter break so then to resume in July 2012, it was very difficult.

“Maybe it is difficult to start again after a big competition such as the Euros, but my body didn’t allow me to do what I wanted to do.”

Cabaye went on to explain how his groin injury and resulting surgery have him the opportunity to return to Lille and spend time with friends. And in so doing, he gradually returned to full health.

Cabaye added: “Physically, I feel perfectly fine now and I am keen to fight for the club.

“I want to give twice as much to save the club from the drop. I want to prove to the fans that they can trust me and I can defend the Newcastle colours.

“Now that episode is over, I have much more fun going to daily training sessions. I realise how lucky I am.”