Daily Archives: November 10, 2017

Croatia in control after drubbing win over Greece in qualifier

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Croatia moved one step closer to the 2018 Russian World Cup after a 4-1 drubbing win over Greece in their play-off fixture in front of ecstatic home fans.

Nikola Kalinic won a penalty for Croatia’s opening goal thanks to a clumsy move from the Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis, which was then taken and converted scored by the captain, Luka Modric.

An unmarked Kalinic then netted the second through a tap-in to give the home side a 2-0 lead at Maksimir Stadium, before Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s headed goal seemingly gave the visitors a lifeline by pulling one back for Greece.

However, Ivan Perisic was able to make it 3-1 for Croatia with a thumping close-range header of his own in an action-packed first half, and Andrej Kramaric then merely rounded off the result by scoring Croatia’s fourth shortly after the break, poking the ball in from two metres after Sime Vrsaljko had cut out a poor back pass.

The result meant that Croatia a three-goal advantage, leaving Greece with a huge task on home soil in Sunday’s second leg, with only a 3-0 win capable of sending them through to the World Cup. However, Croatian national coach Zlatko Dalic remains cautious of Greece’s chances to get back in the game.

Dalic, who was appointed a month ago in place of sacked coach Ante Cacic, said: “We must root out any complacency immediately and head to Greece as if the score was 0-0.”

“The basic idea was to raid them on both flanks and the strategy worked. I am not happy with the goal we conceded but in the end it’s a very good result.”

While this was only Dalic’s second game in charge after overseeing a 2-0 win in Ukraine to secure a play-off spot, his side are now close to reaching back-to-back World Cups.

Lionel Messi: forward angry with rumours he runs Argentina team

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Lionel Messi says that it makes him angry when people claim he calls the shots in the Argentina national team.

The Barca star, who scored a hat trick that took Argentina to the World Cup finals last month had been accused of selecting coaches and influencing which players do and do not make the squad in the past. Messi, however, branded those rumours “ridiculous”.

“It makes me angry that people say so many things so easily,” Messi replied when it was suggested that he runs the Argentina team. “People say a lot of things without knowing. So, on one hand, it makes me angry. But on the other hand, I am used to everything that they say.”

Messi added that those making the comments were showing a lack of respect, not just to him, but to his international teammates.

“It’s a lie that I put my friends and the coaches I want in the national team. I’m just one more player in the team, to tell these great players — [Angel] Di Maria, [Sergio] Aguero, [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Javier] Mascherano, who are worldwide figures — that, ‘You play because you’re Messi’s friend,’ shows a lack of respect towards them and also towards me.”

“I never choose players for the team or take them out. That’s not who I am. I am here to add to the squad, nothing else.”

Messi, 30, and a number of other players in Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina squad are approaching the latter stages of their careers, which could make the Russian World Cup their last chance to win a World Cup. However, Messi said he doesn’t think about how many years he has left.

“No, honestly, I hadn’t taken a decision,” he said. “But I think it would have been yes, it would have been the end for this group, because it would have been crazy not to qualify for the World Cup. Honestly, I can’t even imagine what would have happened, because it would have been terrible for everyone.”

On the other hand, PSG’s Di Maria admitted that he felt that failing to qualify for Russia would have meant the finish to a number of international careers.

“It played with our heads that it took us so long to qualify,” Di Maria told ESPN. “To not have made it to the World Cup would have meant the end of international football for a lot of us, myself included. But now that we have, we can work much better with the coaching staff. Psychologically, not being able to score goals was fatal for us.”

Eden Hazard: It would be a dream to play for Zinedine Zidane

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Belgian forward Eden Hazard has admitted that he would welcome the chance to work with Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, claiming that it was his “dream” to play for the World Cup winner.

Hazard has often linked with a switch to the reigning Liga champions, but Chelsea have been able to fend off any interest in their talented playmaker, with the player currently tied to terms through to 2020 at Stamford Bridge.

Still, while admitting he enjoys life with the Blues, the midfielder chose to leave the door open for a possible move to the Spanish capital by admitting that he hopes to work with Zidane on day, a man whom he admits he idolised growing up.

“Everyone knows the respect I have for the man,” Hazard said. “For the player he was and for the coach he is, he was my idol.”

“Of course I don’t know what will happen in my career in the future, but to play under him would be a dream. At this time, though, I’m happy at Chelsea. I still have a lot of things to do at Chelsea, and I’m focused on Chelsea.”

Hazard has also talked up the possibility of working with Jose Mourinho again at some stage in his career after sharing Premier League title glory under the Portuguese in 2014-15, although he was also among those accused of contributing to Mourinho’s departure from Stamford Bridge the following season.

Talks of an apparent feud between the pair was reignited during Manchester United’s recent visit to west London, with Hazard blanking the now Red Devils boss as he emerged from the tunnel — something the player denies.

“It wouldn’t bother me to play under Jose Mourinho again,” he added.

In the meantime, Hazard will attempt to help Chelsea get back on track into the 2017-18 Premier League title race, after captaining Belgium against Mexico and Japan in international friendlies this week.