Thierry Henry on Kylian Mbappe: Ooh la la!

27 March 2017 17:08

Thierry Henry has hailed Monaco wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, the player tipped to emulate his own achievements, as a brilliant talent.

Numerous football figures, including France head coach Didier Deschamps, have drawn similarities between teenage sensation Mbappe and Henry, who also started his career at Monaco.

The 18-year-old has scored 19 goals for Monaco in what has been his breakthrough season and made his France debut against Luxembourg last week, becoming Les Bleus’ youngest player for over 60 years.

Henry was reluctant to compare Mbappe with himself but did not hold back in his praise of the forward, whose club team-mate Fabinho has tipped him for a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

“I don’t like comparing players – Mbappe has to become Mbappe and that is all,” Henry said to Canal Plus.

“But my word, he is good. Ooh la la. l really like watching him play.”

Asked what he would teach Mbappe as a coach, Henry added: “When you have kid with that much talent, what are you going to teach him apart from a few tactical things?

“So it is more [about saying] develop your brain and become a killer. Develop your brain, your intelligence and your movement. What can you see? When you watch a match, don’t just watch the ball, watch the movement off the ball.

“Understand quickly who is weak in the match, who you should attack and who you shouldn’t attack, how to attack this player and understand all of that.”

Henry thinks the fact Mbappe is already displaying signs of impressive footballing intelligence is evidence he will reach the very top.

“I met him and he gave me the impression that he has a good head on his shoulders,” added the former Arsenal and Barcelona star. 

“There is a thing that annoys me sometimes. We talk about players, ‘He is quick, he is strong, he can jump high’. We never talk about players’ brains and that annoys me.

“When I watch him dribble, he is thinking. He thinks when he plays and that for me is the most important thing in a player. He thinks. He uses his brain.

“Yes, he is quick, but he is thinking and that is the sign of a kid who can go a long way in the game.”

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Koeman ´undoubtedly capable´ of managing Netherlands

27 March 2017 11:27

Ronald Koeman is clearly capable of becoming the next Netherlands boss, according to the KNVB’s professional football director Jean Paul Decossaux.

The Everton boss has been one name mentioned as a potential successor to Danny Blind, who was sacked after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria in World Cup qualifying.

That left Netherlands fourth in Group A, six points adrift of leaders France, with Decossaux acknowledging Koeman could be tough to recruit.

Along with Koeman, Frank de Boer and Phillip Cocu are other Dutch managers linked with the job, but Decossaux will also look at foreign coaches.

He told De Telegraaf: “When the probability of us making this important qualification to the World Cup is reduced to a very small percentage, then you need to intervene at some point. In football, you do it this way.

“We hope to come to an agreement with a new coach, but it will not be done in a week. Ahead of the games in June seems to be reasonable. 

“A foreign coach is an option and our list should include all kinds of names. Dutch football can move forward from here.

“Ronald Koeman is undoubtedly capable, but I know he is under contract with a club.”

Prior to Blind’s sacking, ex-Netherlands international Ruud Gullit claimed Koeman would be a “perfect coach” for the Oranje.

Decossaux named the country’s former manager Louis van Gaal as one of the men he would like to speak to about taking on an advisory role.

“For the profile we are looking for we have a technical director, but we will also look for many other experts,” he said.

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Ozil expects decision on Arsenal future ´soon´

27 March 2017 04:24

Arsenal attacker Mesut Ozil expects to have contract talks “soon”, but insists he is happy at the Premier League club.

Ozil, 28, is out of contract in mid-2018, leading to speculation he may leave Arsenal in the off-season.

But the Germany international dismissed reports manager Arsene Wenger was already planning to be without his services.

“You think Wenger tells the journalists [about my future] before he tells me? I know him differently,” Ozil told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Arsenal have fallen to sixth in the Premier League after losing four of their past five matches in a huge blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Ozil said he dreamed of winning the competition and believes that can happen at Arsenal, who are still waiting to lift the trophy for the first time.

“Why not [with Arsenal]?” he said.

“We’re having a difficult time and are not satisfied with sixth place. I am convinced, however, that we will catch up again soon.

“Let’s see what the future holds.”

Arsenal face a crucial outing in their first game after the international break, hosting third-placed Manchester City on Sunday.

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Long talked Coleman through broken leg with pregnancy breathing techniques

26 March 2017 23:28

Shane Long’s wife has revealed he employed breathing techniques used during her pregnancy to help aid stricken Republic of Ireland team-mate Seamus Coleman.

Long – a father of three – was seen embracing Coleman after the star full-back suffered a fractured right tibia and fibula in a horror challenge from Neil Taylor during Friday’s goalless World Cup qualifying draw at home to Wales.

But there was more to Long’s presence than met the eye as Coleman was carried off the field on a stretcher.

“I had a hypnotherapy birth and they taught Shane to help me to breathe through it,” Kayleah Long told the Sunday Independent.

“He told me: ‘It all came back to me. I was just talking to Seamus, teaching him how to breathe through it.’ He remembered it all.

“I asked if Seamus was listening to him and he said, ‘Yes, to be fair, he was. He was really breathing well’.”

Ireland – who are almost certainly set to be without Coleman for the remainder of qualifying – are four points clear of Wales in Group D and only behind leaders Serbia on goal difference.

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Mancini eyeing return to management

26 March 2017 18:22

Roberto Mancini is eyeing a return to club management in one of Europe’s major leagues, though added that he still harbours hopes of taking charge of the Italian national side.

Former Manchester City boss Mancini has been without a club since he left his post at Inter in August 2016, having guided the Nerazzurri to a fourth-placed finish in 2015-16.

And now Mancini has revealed he turned down offers from China in order to stay in Europe, refusing to rule out a return to the Premier League – which he won with City in 2012.

“In the future I would love to coach the Azzurri. To lead your country is the crowning ambition for any coach,” Mancini told the Sunday Post newspaper.

“For the moment, though, I want to continue working with club teams.

“A year and a half of work was thrown away when I left [Inter] which was very disappointing. I believe if I had stayed we would have been very close to Juventus now.

“I do not think I will go to China. They called me, but I said no because, for me, the real place for football is in Europe.

“I do feel an experience abroad would suit me, though. Perhaps in Spain or in France.

“I have already been to England and won there. But if the right offer came along, you never know.”

Mancini was heavily linked with the vacant managerial role at Leicester City following Claudio Ranieri’s sacking in February, but the former Foxes midfielder insisted that there was no contact from the Premier League champions.

“When I heard what had happened to [Ranieri] I was sorry,” Mancini said.

“What he did was more than a sporting miracle, it was something truly unique. So personally, even if they had been relegated, I think it would have been right to keep him on.

“But as a coach I know that when things go wrong we are the ones who lose our jobs so it was not the biggest shock in the world.

“There were some reports stating I was approached by Leicester about the position after his departure. But that is not the case.”

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Coutinho loves playing with Barcelona star Neymar

26 March 2017 11:46

Philippe Coutinho has hailed Neymar’s quality and spoken of his joy at playing alongside the Barcelona superstar for Brazil.

The Liverpool playmaker is a reported transfer target for Barca, with reports in Spain suggesting the Catalans have launched ‘Operation Coutinho’ as they plot a move to sign him at the end of the season.

Neymar said this week he wanted Coutinho to join him at Camp Nou and believes his international team-mate would “totally fit in Barcelona”.

And Coutinho returned the compliment ahead of their World Cup qualifier with Paraguay, praising Neymar’s ability and influence on the national team.

“Look, Neymar is a great player as we can all see,” Coutinho told reporters.

“He is the guy that decides a lot of games, a guy that is fundamental on our national team. 

“We have been together over a period of time since the youth teams, and playing beside him, he can change the game easily. 

“We give the ball to him and he sorts it out!”

Brazil have won eight matches in a row under new boss Tite, the most recent of those victories coming in the stunning 4-1 victory over Uruguay in Montevideo last time out.

“Of course, it is really cool to see that everyone is with us,” added Coutinho.

“Obviously everyone is following Tite’s work – he is doing a great job. So this just makes us more confident. 

“As you saw in the stadium, there was a lot of positive energy. So it’ is really good for us.”

Brazil are back in action against Paraguay in Sao Paulo on Tuesday as they look to extend their lead at the top of South American World Cup qualifying.


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MLS Review: Crew edge Timbers, Minnesota crushed again

26 March 2017 04:22

Columbus Crew claimed an entertaining MLS win over the Portland Timbers, while Minnesota United’s struggles continued.

An 84th-minute goal from debutant Niko Hansen saw Crew past the Timbers 3-2, ending Portland’s perfect start to the season and sending Columbus top of the Eastern Conference.

Dairon Asprilla’s brilliant finish had put Portland ahead in the fourth minute away from home in Ohio on Saturday.

But the hosts struck twice in quick succession, Justin Meram scrambling in from a corner before Ola Kamara looped a finish over Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, who had come to collect a Federico Higuain pass.

Just as the Timbers appeared set to go into the break behind, Fanendo Adi’s strike made it 2-2 in first-half additional time.

However, substitute Hansen had the last say, coming off the bench to score the match-winner for Gregg Berhalter’s side.

Portland remain top of the Western Conference despite their loss, while Columbus lead the East.

Newcomers Minnesota United saw their forgettable start to the season continue, losing 5-2 at the New England Revolution. United have allowed five or more goals in three of their first four games. During the entire 2016 season, MLS teams combined to allow five or more goals just seven times. 

Juan Agudelo scored a brace for the Revolution, while Kei Kamara also struck to go with penalties from Lee Nguyen and Chris Tierney.

The win saw New England pick up their first points of the season, with Minnesota bottom of the Western Conference.

The day’s other game saw the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake play out a 0-0 draw.

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Belgium 1 Greece 1: Lukaku rescues below-par Red Devils

25 March 2017 23:00

Romelu Lukaku’s late goal rescued a 1-1 draw for Belgium after they were moments away from suffering their first defeat of their World Cup qualifying campaign against nine-man Greece.

Roberto Martinez’s side went into the game with a 100 per cent record, but were outwitted in Brussels by Greece, who arrived with a smash-and-grab game plan that almost produced a famous victory.

Kostas Mitroglou scored in the opening moments of the second half before Greece, who had Panagiotis Tachtsidis sent off for a second bookable offence after 65 minutes, hung on until the 89th minute, when their hearts were broken.

Lukaku’s superb volley allowed Martinez to breathe a sigh of relief and he came close to a last-gasp winner with a powerful header that was eventually hacked clear, but the game ended level and with tempers frayed as Georgios Tzavellas was also given his marching orders.

The result moves Greece up to second in Group H, while Belgium remain top, but Martinez will face intensified scrutiny after a disappointing performance and the first game of Belgium’s campaign not to end in victory.

Belgium dictated the tempo from the outset and should have taken the lead after 12 minutes when Dries Mertens’ cross from the right found Marouane Fellaini unmarked in the box, but the Manchester United midfielder headed well wide from 10 yards out.

The absence of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard did not prevent Belgium from playing some fluid attacking football, and Yannick Carrasco broke down the left before Lukaku and Radja Nainggolan linked up to feed Mertens, but Tzavellas slid in to prevent the Napoli forward from finishing the move.

Carrasco continued his probing runs down the flank and his low cross allowed Fellaini to try an audacious backheel shot after half an hour that drew a fine save from Stefanos Kapino, who tipped the ball over the crossbar.

While Greece failed to register a shot in the first half, they successfully thwarted their hosts and frustration was growing around the stadium by the time Nainggolan drilled an attempt wide from the edge of the box just before the interval.

Within 20 seconds of the restart, Belgium were behind. Toby Alderweireld’s lofted clearance was headed forward again by Panagiotis Tachtsidis and Mitroglou latched onto the ball before applying a clinical finish with his left foot and sending the ball into the far corner of the net.

The goal instilled some urgency into Belgium’s play and Lukaku teed up Axel Witsel for a well-struck shot that flew wide of the target before the visitors were reduced to 10 men.

Tachtsidis was shown a second yellow card for an innocuous challenge on Alderweireld and Belgium poured forward thereafter, with Mousa Dembele sent on to freshen up their attack.

Mertens was at the heart of Belgium’s best play and he fired straight at Kapino from 10 yards out before Lukaku blazed the rebound over the crossbar, but it seemed certain an equaliser would arrive eventually.

And it did arrive when Mertens’ cross was expertly chested down by Lukaku, who struck a volley on the turn that beat Kapino at his near post, his 28th goal of the season for club and country. 

Kapino, though, did brilliantly to prevent the Everton striker from scoring the winner from point-blank range moments later with a brilliant double save.

Tzavellas was then sent off amid angry confrontations following his challenge on Alderweireld, but in the end Greece will be delighted to leave Brussels one point better off and one place higher in the Group H table.

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The weather, not transfer targets, attracts Mourinho to Croatia v Ukraine

25 March 2017 16:23

Jose Mourinho’s presence in the crowd to watch Croatia versus Ukraine sparked speculation he was keeping tabs on potential transfer targets, but the Manchester United manager insists that was not the case.

The Portuguese was a spectator in Zagreb on Friday as Croatia prevailed 1-0 in their World Cup qualifier.

Mourinho’s visit prompted some to suggest he had used his break from United’s schedule to meet with representatives of Inter attacker Ivan Perisic, who did not feature against Ukraine due to suspension.

But Mourinho insists the reason for his trip was pleasure, rather than business.

“I have no hidden cause, I just came to enjoy my free days and visit some friends like Predrag Mijatovic and Davor Suker,” he told HNTV.

“I know everyone believes I came to watch some players, but in today’s football you don’t have to travel around in order to see some players, I know all of them well.

“I came as a person that wants to relax and enjoy the nice weather, unlike the rain in Manchester…”

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