Manchester misery

A disappointing night for both Manchester clubs in Tuesday’s Champions League matches. United were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Benfica – a result that sends the Portuguese side through to the last 16, but leaves last year’s runners-up requiring a draw in their final group game at Basel to join them.

For City though, who suffered a 2-1 defeat at Napoli, their chances of reaching the knockout stages have dipped dramatically. Boss Roberto Mancini reckons his side have now only a 30 per cent chance of going through, though on last night’s evidence that figure looks a little optimistic.

Nevertheless, the Italian remains refreshingly upbeat about City’s current predicament.

“I’m not upset or angry, these things make us grow and we can still progress,” he said.

“There’s one more game but if we don’t go forward, we’ll be in the Europa League.”

And that’s a line you never thought you’d hear spoken by the manager of the richest football club in the world.

Given the resources at City’s disposal one shouldn’t begrudge Napoli owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis, the opportunity to gloat.

“Our success proves two things. The first is that perhaps money isn’t everything, as even with balanced books you can still go far,” De Laurentiis told reporters.

“Our stadium is decrepit, but the problem is the recession. Here (in Italy), we are broke.

“It’s not easy with the money we (Napoli) get from television, we don’t get enough, they don’t distribute the money fairly.”

He then suggested that Sheikh Mansour, who has poured money into Manchester City, could easily get bored with the club if they don’t start winning trophies.

“I think Mansour just wanted a toy,” said De Laurentiis. “He says that he doesn’t want immediate success but if they don’t win something quickly, he could just go somewhere else and buy another toy.”

To Russia with love

If only Mancini could have called upon the services of an experienced international striker who has scored at every level of the game and even played in a Champions League final. Now, where could they find such a player?

Funnily enough, Carlos Tevez is again in the news. According to Italian agent Enzo Bronzetti, the AWOL forward will not be heading to Serie A in January.

The Argentinian has been linked with with a move to Milan, while Juventus and Inter are also reported to be interested, but Bronzetti believes no club in Italy can afford him.

“In Italy surely it won’t happen if Manchester City do not pay more than 50% of the contract,” he said. “Real Madrid? No, there’s no movement in January: they’ll remain as they are, both incoming and outgoing.

“Tevez can only go to some Russian teams in my opinion. I do not see other solutions in Italy: Tevez earns €8.5 million net, and I do not see a club that can pay that.”

It will be interesting to hear the reaction of a man who wants to move closer to his family in Buenos Aires, when he learns that the only club interested in signing him are Anzhi Makhachkala.

I think that 3-iron might take a battering on the driving range.

History makers

American Samoa have won their first international match after 30 consecutive defeats, by beating Tonga 2-1 in the start of Oceania World Cup qualifying.

Coached by Thomas Rongen, who was fired as coach of the U.S. Under-20 team in May, the islanders were joint last 203rd in the FIFA rankings, and had been outscored 229-12 since they joined the international ranks in 1994.

Here are the goals plus interviews with the delighted coach and Ramin Ott, scorer of the first goal.

FIFA rankings

That win should enable American Samoa to climb off the basement of the FIFA rankings they share with San Marino, Samoa, Montserrat and Andorra.

The current rankings list, unveiled today, shows few changes in the upper echelons. Spain’s recent poor form in friendly matches has not affected their place at the top of the list, although their defeat to England has propelled Fabio Capello’s side up two places to fifth just above Brazil who slide down to sixth.

The Netherlands remain second but third-placed Germany closed the gap after winning 3-0 in a friendly between the sides.

The best side in South America are Uruguay, who closed on the top three after beating Chile in 2014 World Cup qualifying.

Top ten
Pos. Country Points +/-
1 Spain 1564 0
2 Netherlands 1365 0
3 Germany 1345 0
4 Uruguay 1309 0
5 England 1173 +2
6 Brazil 1143 -1
7 Portugal 1100 +1
8 Croatia 1091 +4
9 Italy 1082 -3
10 Argentina 1067 0

Boys from Brazil

Brazilian football legend Mario Zagallo has pilloried the current national team and its preparations for the 2014 World Cup, and singled out playmaker Ronaldinho for criticism.

“I don’t have the authority to analyse the Selecao, but I believe that we are running behind schedule at the moment in relation to our preparation,” the World Cup winner as a player, coach and assistant told ESPN Brasil on Tuesday. “We still don’t know what the team should be, we have to have the base there soon.”

It’s not all doom and gloom though, with Zagallo suggesting that there is some talent available to coach Mano Menezes.

“I believe that we can form a good team in three years. [Brazil] have Neymar, Kaka, Ganso and Luis Fabiano, who is playing well again in Sao Paulo. We have a lot of positives.”

Zagallo was involved, either as a player or coach, in 4 of Brazil’s 5 World Cup triumphs. Naturally, such success confers a degree of authority, and with it the right to criticise the country’s best-known player.

“Ronaldinho Gaucho does not have the natural skills to play in midfield,” Zagallo stated. “With so many good players around, neither does he have enough to merit any place in the team.”

Goal of the day

The highlight of Real Madrid’s 6-2 victory over Dinamo Zagreb, was Gonzalo Higuain skipping past his marker before producing a delicate chip over the advancing keeper.

Calling the shots?

Under-fire Melbourne Victory boss Mehmet Durakovic’s authority has been further eroded with Harry Kewell appointing his own personal coach. It can only be a matter of time before he’s picking the team and deciding how much he should get paid. Oh, hang on a minute, he does that already.

Former Argentinian World Cup player Abel Balbo is set to work with Kewell on a one-on-one basis. His broader brief is to ensure the 33-year-old is fit to play a part in the 2014 World Cup. Clearly, he’s some kind of miracle worker.

Coincidentally, or not, Balbo is represented by Kewell’s agent Bernie Mandic.

The Balbo link comes just a day after the club confirmed it was parting company with football director, Francis Awaritefe, with Victory languishing in seventh spot in the table.

Melbourne Victory general manager Richard Wilson insisted that the appointment would not undermine Durakovic’s position at the club.

“There have been some discussions about Abel working on personal basis with Harry. That’s been the main focus.

“As for him taking over from Awaritefe a few things are being looked at but nothing decided yet.”

The key word in that sentence is ‘yet’.

Back to the future

One of the Algerian national team’s doctors in the 1980s has backed allegations that the squad may have been secretly doped in the 1980s to enhance performance at two World Cups in a bid to distract attention from mounting domestic tensions.

Dr. Rachid Hanifi, speaking to Algeria’s El Watan newspaper, said that the Algerian squad’s then Soviet trainer Gennadi Rogov had introduced a doctor, a fellow Soviet national, who prepared the team for the 1982 and 1986 World Cups but refused to grant access to anyone to the player’s medical files.

“I think they were doing evaluation tests that they did not want to divulge. I sent a report to the director general of the national centre for sports medicine and the (sport) ministry I was told that Rogov should be allowed to work with his doctor. So I resigned,” Dr. Hanifi said.

Members of the team who played for Algeria in the two World Cups at a time of a series of protests in the country charge that eight of the team’s members have handicapped children that have been born since the tournaments. They are demanding an investigation. Algeria’s soccer federation has yet to comment.

The full story, as told by World Soccer’s Keir Radnedge, can be found here.

Beckham continues to tease

David Beckham has failed to rule out a return to Italian football should he quit the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Englishman, who enjoyed a successful loan with Milan in 2009, followed by an injury-interrupted spell in 2010, told the Gazzetta dello Sport that a move back to the country is possible.

“I’ve received offers from a variety of places, including Serie A,” he noted. “I really enjoyed myself over there and I love Italy as a country and not just for its football.

“Italy is a possibility.”

The former England international has also been linked with moves to Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham.

“I’ve still not spoken to [PSG sporting director] Leonardo,” the former England captain continued. “He sent me a message to wish me luck before Sunday’s MLS Final.

“Tottenham? I don’t think that I’ll go and play in England. I’ve said it before – it will be hard to wear the shirt of another club after Manchester United. I’m still a super United fan.”


Carl Aage Praest, a former Juventus striker who also won an Olympic bronze medal with Denmark at the 1948 London Games, has died. He was 89.

Praest scored 17 times in 24 games for Denmark before moving to Italy where he played for Juventus for 7 years.

Praest left Juventus in 1956 after 232 games during which he scored 51 goals and helped the club to two league titles. He joined Italian rivals Lazio for one season before returning to Denmark, where he worked as a brewery employee.

In 2008, Praest was elected to Danish football’s Hall of Fame.