Category Archives: International Friendly

Buffon hits out at critics as veteran returns to international squad

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Gianluigi Buffon has hit out at his critics as he arrived in England to add to his 175 record cap tally with Italy.

Buffon, 40, had previously announced his retirement from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup last November but later reversed his decision, and was retained as captain by the caretaker coach Luigi Di Biagio who will lead the side out in friendlies against Argentina in Manchester on Friday and England at Wembley next Tuesday.

The Juventus keeper’s decision has attracted some criticism but the Juventus No 1 insists he is still the best man for the job, saying: “I’ve nothing to add to what has been said. Everyone knows the truth. My role in the squad has always been positive and I’ve always brought people together. I’ve always put us before me.”

“I’m not here to showcase, to show myself off. I can still be useful. I might be 40 but I’m the goalkeeper of Juventus. Italy is a funny country where people enjoy controversy but any controversy about me is just sensationalism. After a while all this controversy will just fall away.”

Buffon had also previously hinted that this season could be his last but he does not appear to have any retirement plans yet.

Speaking at a press conference at the Etihad Stadium, Buffon added: “I don’t know if my last match will be with Juventus or an international but it will be low key and sober, normal. I arrived at my first game on a scooter and the only car I have is the one that Juventus make available for me.”

Di Biagio, who has stepped up from duties with the Under-21 side, hopes the four friendlies in the remainder of the season can help Italy move on from their World Cup nightmare. Russia 2018 will be the first finals to take place without four-time world champions Italy for 60 years.

The games also provide a chance for Di Biagio to stake a claim for the job full-time but he insists that is not his focus. “Everything around the team has changed. We need a new start,” he said.

“We have a small world championship in these four matches. It is a chance to test new players. We need patience and consistency, regardless of who is going to be in the driving seat.”

Higuain recalled but Dybala and Icardi snubbed from Argentina squad

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Argentina national coach Jorge Sampaoli has recalled Gonzalo Higuain to the Argentina squad for this month’s friendlies against Italy and Spain but has snubbed Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi.

Higuain, 30, is sidelined with an ankle problem and is a doubt for Juventus’ vital Champions League clash with Tottenham next week. However, his 14 Serie A goals this season is enough to persuade Sampaoli to select the striker for the first time since September.

On the other hand, Higuain’s Juve team-mate Dybala misses out alongside Icardi, the Inter captain who has only scored once since the turn of the year.

Dybala has only made a pair of substitute appearances recently since returning from a hamstring injury.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has been, like Higuain, dropped earlier this season — reflecting the considerable strength Sampaoli enjoys in forward positions, but his prolific recent run for Manchester City made the 29-year-old a safe selection this time around.

As yet uncapped Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero, 36, has been called up alongside Sergio Romero and Nahuel Guzman.

Argentina squad in full: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres), Willy Caballero (Chelsea); Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Federico Fazio (Roma), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla) Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica) Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax); Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Leandro Paredes (Zenit), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain) Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain); Diego Perotti (Roma) Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus)

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.