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Scolari salutes Drogba

Published on Dec 10th, 2008, No Comments

drogbaThe Ivorian climbed off the substitutes’ bench to fire Chelsea into the knockout stage of the Champions League.

Drogba’s 71st-minute winner, which came six minutes after he replaced Salomon Kalou, helped Chelsea beat CFR Cluj 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

But it was still not enough for the Blues to take top spot in Group A after Roma beat Bordeaux in Rome.

Drogba’s season has been hampered by a knee injury and suspension, but there is little doubt a fully-fit Ivorian could provide the inspiration for Chelsea in the knockout stages.

 

Top scorer

“Drogba is one of the best strikers in the world,” said Scolari. “I have more options now he is fit.

“But he didn’t have a pre-season build-up because of injury and when he came back he got injured again. Then he was suspended and now he is back again.”

But the real dilemma facing the Brazilian coach is finding a system that can incorporate both 15-goal top scorer Nicolas Anelka and Drogba.

Anelka has been in fine form this term and Scolari was intent on paying tribute to the Frenchman despite Drogba’s heroics against Cluj.

“Drogba is important but don’t forget we are second in the Champions League group and second in the Barclays Premier League because our top scorer is Nicolas Anelka,” said Scolari.

“Drogba is one of the best in the world but I need to think about Anelka. He is as important as Drogba. After this, it is my job to put the two together.”

 Post written for Soccer Pitch by Jaco van Dyk

 

Big Joe gets warm welcome in French Top 14

Published on Dec 10th, 2008, 1 Comment

Joe van Niekerk, who has only just started playing for Toulon since arriving from the Lions in South Africa, got a ‘warm’ welcome from Samoa’s big number 8 Tuilagi in the French Top 14.

Chelsea desperate for win to avoid embarrassment

Published on Dec 9th, 2008, No Comments

 Cteam

 

Chelsea could be knocked out of the Champions League if they come up short against CFR Cluj tonight at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have already failed to beat Cluj in the competition having drawn 0-0 in their first meeting in Group A in Romania in October.

But Cluj have lost their last three Champions League games while Chelsea recovered from their home defeat by Arsenal last weekend with an outstanding 2-0 win at Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League on Saturday.

If Chelsea beat Cluj as expected they will qualify for the last 16, but if they lose or draw and Girondins Bordeaux beat AS Roma in Rome, the French and Italian sides will advance at Chelsea’s expense.

Chelsea could still lose and go through if Roma beat Bordeaux, but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari says he is not contemplating elimination.

“I don’t think about going out because I believe in these players. But we need to play better than we have so far if we want to go on,” he said.

“Is it unthinkable that Chelsea go out? Well, I don’t think any people in the world are thinking about this, but it is possible because we have given this opportunity to other teams,” Scolari added.

TOO STRONG

Chelsea, who have not lost at home for 14 Champions League matches, start as strong favourites against visitors who shocked Roma with a 2-1 win in their opening match in Rome but have failed to win again and will finish bottom of the group.

The London side will be without Frank Lampard, suspended after being sent off in the 1-1 draw at Bordeaux two weeks ago.

But even without Lampard, Chelsea should be too strong for Cluj, who are attempting to become the first Romanian club to win in England since Universitatea Craiova beat Leeds United 2-0 in the 1979/80 Uefa Cup.

Cluj will be without playmaker Eugen Trica, who is joining Anorthosis Famagusta, while Italian coach Maurizio Trombetta will also be without injured defender Tony, central defender De Sousa, midfielder Alin Minteuan and striker Didi.

Midfielder Gabriel Muresan will play in the centre of defence and Emmanuel Kone will go into Muresan’s midfield berth.

Trombetta could do with his team performing well on Tuesday as just three months after taking over as coach, he is under pressure to keep his job.

Cluj president Iuliu Muresan was far from impressed with the way the team has played recently, saying: “I’m really angry as recent performances have been poor and somebody must be responsible for that.”

Trombetta told reporters last week: “I know that my job is threatened but I’m thinking now only about the Chelsea match. It’s crucial for me and the players.”

Probable teams:

Chelsea: 1-Petr Cech; 17-Jose Bosingwa, 33-Alex, 26-John Terry, 3-Ashley Cole; 12-Jon Obi Mikel, 21-Salomon Kalou, 13-Michael Ballack, 20-Deco; 11-Didier Drogba, 39-Nicolas Anelka.

CFR Cluj: 1-Nuno Claro; 4-Cristian Panin, 20-Cadu, 6-Gabriel Muresan, 33-Alvaro Pereira; 31-Dani, 28-Emmanuel Kone; 19-Juan Culio, 8-Sixto Peralta, 7-Sebastian Dubarbier; 17-Yssouf Kone. Referee: Peter Frojfeldt (Sweden)

Post written for Soccer Pitch by Jaco van Dyk

Brett Russel gets flattened

Published on Dec 9th, 2008, No Comments

Saracens fullback Brent Russell gets flattened here by Bath’s 6’7″ left wing Matt Banahan.

Ronny collects Ballon d’Or

Published on Dec 8th, 2008, 6 Comments

Ronny collects Ballon d’Or

Cristiano Ronaldo shrugged off the frustration of picking up an injury against Sunderland by collecting the Ballon d’Or on Sunday.

The Portuguese winger romped to the award last week, seeing off his peers to grab the most prestigious individual honor in football.

Upon collecting the trophy, Ronny told French TV station TF1: “I’m very happy. I’ve always dreamed about winning it. I’m very moved and I’d like to take this opportunity to dedicate this trophy to my family, they’ve helped me get here.

“I thank my mother, my father… my close friends. I had a whole list of people I wanted to thank but it’s difficult, I can’t remember as it’s too emotional. The trophy is splendid, marvellous, very beautiful. I’ve waited for this.”

Flanked by Sir Alex Ferguson at a glitzy ceremony in Paris, Ronaldo was keen to pay tribute to those who had helped him win the award.

“I’m very touched,” he said. “But I’d like to thank my fellow professionals especially my team-mates without whom I wouldn’t have been able to win the Ballon d’Or.

“It’s also thanks to them that I have this award. I was 18 when I came to Manchester. I always had great hopes of becoming a great footballer, in Europe and the world and that’s what I’ve always tried to do – to improve year by year. It’s not been easy but I don’t regret anything that I’ve done to get here.”

Post written for Soccer Pitch by Jaco van Dyk

Sevens Boks victorious at George

Published on Dec 7th, 2008, No Comments

The Sevens Springboks of South Africa finally won the IRB Sevens World Series final at Outeniqua Park in George on Saturday, by coming from behind and beating New Zealand 12 – 7.

It was the first time South Africa had won the IRB tournament at home and also the first time that they had put two successive wins together. The Springboks beat England in Dubai last weekend.

It was a victory against all the odds, with South Africa weakened by the Super 14 call-ups of a number of stalwarts like Schalk van der Merwe, Fabian Juries, Jonothan Mokueana and the non-availability of Stefan Basson and the injured Marius Schoeman and captain Neil Powell.

Built on a solid defence and an unbelievable camaraderie and team spirit, the relatively inexperienced Springboks, lighter than their opponents in virtually every match defied all the odds — and are now clear leaders in the eight-tournament series.

Mzwandile Stick, who led the team in the absence of the injured Powell, was again outstanding in the final and scored the try that put the Boks ahead with less than two minutes remaining.

But hats off to every one of the players in this and the Dubai tournaments.

Robert Ebersohn received the Player of the Tournament award on saturday, but it might just as well have gone to any of Frankie Horn, Mpho Mbyozo, Stick or Renfred Dazel.

(more…)

Daniel Carter Vs Zinedine Zidane

Published on Dec 5th, 2008, 2 Comments

All blacks host Zinedine Zidane to a day of kicking practice with Daniel Carter

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