Daily Archives: November 15, 2017

Sweden withstands Italian offensive to book place at Russia World Cup

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Sweden held out for a goalless draw against four-time world champions Italy in the playoffs to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2006.

Jakob Johansson’s deflected strike in the first leg ultimately decided the tie in the Swedes’ favour, with his side’s only ambition was to repel at any cost the waves of attacks rolling towards them at San Siro.

They were able to endure despite Italy dominating proceedings at home in both possession and attempts, with Azzurri striker Ciro Immobile missing a number of chances and his low effort in the first half was cleared off the line by Swedish skipper and centre-back Andreas Granqvist.

Both sides could also have been awarded penalties: first with Ludwig Augustinsson bringing down Marco Parolo with a clumsy challenge while Matteo Darmian and Juventus veteran Andrea Barzagli were fortunate to escape with handballs for Italy.

Shortly after the game where Granqvist saw his team explode in celebrations, he was seen sporting a new haircut because of a promise made earlier in the qualifying campaign.

“I said to the lads in the dressing room that if we got to the World Cup they could shave it off,” he told reporters, smiling. “I thought they had forgotten it, but John Guidetti and Victor Lindelof shaved it off straight away,”

While Sweden celebrated at the sound of the final whistle, it was the end of an era for a number of Italian players as they retire from international duty.

Most prominent among them was team captain Gianluigi Buffon, who earned his 175th cap for Italy with the game and the 39-year-old goalkeeper confirmed it was his last international appearance, having announced his decision to retire from football at the end of the season.

“It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” Buffon said. “I’m sorry. Not for me but for Italy. We blew something that could have meant so much. The only regret is that it ended like this.”

“The blame is divided equally among all of us. There must be no scapegoats. We win together and we lose together.”

“There’s definitely a future, because we have pride and strength,” he finally added. “We’re stubborn and hard-headed. After ugly falls we find a way to rise back up. A lot of these kids are talented, including Gianluigi Donnarumma and Mattia Perin. I wish them a lot of luck.”

Buffon was in goal for Italy when they won the World Cup for the fourth time in 2006.

Sergio Aguero cleared after fainting in Argentina dressing room

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Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero had been cleared to fly home after he was taken to a hospital for checks following a fainting incident during half-time of Argentina’s 4-2 friendly defeat to Nigeria.

The Argentine Football Association said on its Twitter account that the Aguero “had a blackout and was taken [to hospital] so routine examinations were made only as a precaution” after the player passed out in the dressing room.

While AFA gave no further details on the incident, which occurred after the 29-year-old had scored in the first half, the media later published pictures of Aguero walking out of the stadium.

His club Manchester City later said that Aguero had been cleared by doctors to return to England as planned after he suffered what they called “a dizzy spell”.

“Sergio never lost consciousness, and was taken to hospital for precautionary medical checks,” City released a statement on their official website that contradicts that of AFA’s. “He will be assessed by the club’s medical team ahead of this weekend’s Premier League trip to Leicester City.”

Meanwhile, the Argentine side without Lionel Messi squandered the two-goal lead Aguero helped secured in the first-half and slipped to a shock defeat.

Ever Banega and Aguero had gave Argentina the lead, with Kelechi Iheanacho pulling a goal back for Nigeria just before half-time with a free-kick.

However, Alex Iwobi then scored twice and Brian Idowu also found the net for Nigeria in the second half.

The Argentina defender Javier Mascherano said: “Playing against a team of such physical strength you pay the price. They walked all over us … and when we tried to get back on the match we couldn’t.”

Los Albiceleste had only secured their spot at the World Cup in the last round of CONMEBOL qualifiers thanks to Messi and have never delivered convincing performances without the Barcelona star.

Russia and Spain fights out thrilling draw at St Petersburg

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Russia rallied from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Spain in an international friendly encounter at St Petersburg, with Sergio Ramos converting two penalties.

The hosts found themselves trailing just after 30 minutes, with Jordi Alba turning in a cross from Marco Asensio to put the visitors ahead after nine minutes before Ramos doubled the lead from the spot after Daler Kuzyaev’s handball.

An exciting first half with plenty of offensive maneuvers from both sides then saw Russia halving Spain’s lead. At the 41st minute, Fedor Smolov emphatically finished as he shaped to shoot and fooled a defender before smashing a left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner from 18 yards.

The World Cup hosts then equalised five minutes into the second half thanks to Aleksey Miranchuk, who puts the ball past David de Gea from close range after good work on the left by Yuri Zhirkov.

However, his team were not level for long — it was just three minutes after their equalizer that poor defending quickly saw Ramos winning another penalty and subsequently converting it with aplomb.

Russia chose to bring more men forward and it rewarded them as they found their second equalizer 20 minutes from time, as Smolov sent a fierce long-range effort into the top-left corner to set up a tantalising finish that ultimately saw the teams end on level terms.

Smolov could have had a hat-trick for the impressive hosts but both him and Aleksandr Kokorin were denied near the end by David de Gea.

A nasty collision between Rodrigo and Andrey Lunev resulted in the Russian goalkeeper being withdrawn late on, forcing Denis Glushakov to go in goal for the final moments due to all of their substitutions being made, but Spain failed to capitalise and the hosts held out for a draw.

Still, the result extended Spain’s unbeaten run this year to 10 games — although this was the first time they conceded more than two goals since they lost 5-1 to the Netherlands in the opening game of the 2014 World Cup.