Category Archives: World Cup 2018

Sampaoli: Argentina coach claims Messi is hurt by World Cup pressure

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Argentina national team coach Jorge Sampaoli feels that Lionel Messi is unable to enjoy outings for his country with expectations so high, with the World Cup become “a revolver put to his head” and placeing unnecessary damaging pressure upon his shoulders.

Messi is yet to claim major silverware at senior international level has only been able to reach finals of the Copa America and World Cup, although he will have another opportunity to get his hands on the most elusive of prizes in Russia this summer.

Sampaoli believes expectation levels placed upon Messi, are already spiralling out of control in his book to be published in April, which “Viva”, Clarin’s Sunday magazine has been running snippets.

“Messi has a revolver put to his head called the World Cup and if he doesn’t win it, he’s shot and killed,” one of the snippets read. “As a result, he can’t enjoy his talent. What I find is that the negativity surrounding international football damages Messi.”

Still, Sampaoli concedes that he is working with a special talent.

“At this moment, I feel that I’m coaching the best player in history,” he added. “This is a guy who has stayed as the best in the world for 10 years. It’s difficult to assume a level of control when your leader knows he’s better than you, he executes things like nobody else.”

The former Sevilla coach has previously suggested that football owes Messi a World Cup win — given all that he has done for the game — but he is also aware that it will take a collective effort in Russia if Argentina are to emerge victorious.

“You have to find the best players and put them in their best position,” he said. “Leo has to play like he does for his club, to put him into another structure is madness.”

“Against Ecuador I was a bit strong in my tone suggesting that football owed Messi a World Cup, however I knew he was going to appear for us at the vital moments.”

Messi, who is suffering from muscle fatigue in a hamstring and adductor muscle at the moment, would miss Argentina’s game against Spain after the injury already ruled him out of the 2-0 win over Italy last Friday night.

Harry Kane injury brings concerns to World Cup availability

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Tottenham striker Harry Kane could face a long period out of action and could miss the World Cup after sustaining in Spurs’ 4-1 victory over Bournemouth yesterday.

Kane, 24, was substituted just 35 minutes into the match after injuring his right ankle in a collision with home keeper Asmir Begovic, with the striker then leaving the field immediately and going straight down the tunnel.

The player had since received treatment but was unable to continue and will undergo a scan today to assess just how bad the damage is.

“I hope it is not a big issue,” said Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. “We are concerned but need to wait.”

“We hope it is not a massive issue. We need to wait until [the scan]. Harry has a great character and is positive. We are, of course, disappointed with his problem but, if you are positive, you start the recovery now.”

“It’s the same ankle he suffered with before. He landed and twisted his ankle. He’s positive, he’s happy with the victory for the team.”

The Argentinian manager also declined to put a time limit on how long Kane will be absent, but it would concern both England and Tottenham given that the player missed 14 matches last season having hurt the same joint on two separate occasions.

But for Tottenham, they have another injury concern after Dele Alli sustained a groin strain, although Pochettino insisted that it was not a “big problem” but also admitted the player would have to be “managed” in the upcoming weeks.

With Tottenham having only 11 games left and England having two upcoming international friendlies, England coach Gareth Southgate would most likely feel concern that Kane would miss out on Russia 2018.

Russia agriculture ministry: World Cup could be affected by locusts

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Swarms of locusts could attack football pitches and cause a “global scandal” at this summer’s World Cup, according to Russian government official Pyotr Chekmarev.

Chekmarev, head of the agriculture ministry’s crop farming department, said that around a million hectares of land in southern Russia was infested with locusts.

Amongst the locations that could be affected includes the World Cup host city of Volgograd, where England play Tunisia on 18 June.

Volgograd has already seen an infestation of locusts last year.

“One way or another, We have learnt how to deal with locusts, but how do we not fall into a global scandal with locusts this year?” Chekmarev added.

“The whole world is coming here. Football fields are green. Locusts love it where there is lots of green. How would they not come to the place where football is being played?”

The 2018 World Cup gets under way on 14 June and matches will take place in 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities.

Italy sack Gian Piero Ventura after World Cup qualification failure

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The Italian Football Federation has sacked national coach Gian Piero Ventura as manager after the Azzurri suffered a 1-0 aggregate defeat by Sweden in the World Cup qualification play-offs that denied the national team a place in the tournament for the first time in 60 years.

In a statement on Wednesday night the Italian federation announced that the Ventura’s 16-month reign was over.

“At the meeting convened by the chairman, Carlo Tavecchio, which was attended by the presidents of the federal members a discussion was had following the failure of the national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup,” the statement read. “As a first point on the agenda, Tavecchio communicated a decision of the technical guidance committee, and to date, Gian Piero Ventura is no longer the national team head coach.”

The decision was taken after a heating meeting in which the Footballers’ Association president, Damiano Tommasi, walked out shortly after asking Tavecchio if he intended to resign, which the latter refused.

Despite his monumental failure, Ventura said his record was “one of the best of the last 40 years”.

“I lost only two games in two years,” he added in an interview with Italian television show Le Iene before the Italian Football Federation fired him on Wednesday.

Ventura replaced Antonio Conte as the head coach for Italy in June 2016, and was described then as a “master of football” by Carlo Tavecchio. However, Italy took one point out of a possible six against Spain in qualifying and also drew at home to Macedonia.

A decision is yet to be taken on who will succeed him, with Tavecchio telling reporters after the meeting that the federation have been “thinking of important names” to replace Ventura.