Tag Archives: qualifier

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.

Champions League: Liverpool wins away qualifier against Hoffenheim

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Liverpool has an away goal advantage going into the second leg of their qualifier against Hoffenheim after a 2-1 win over the Bundesliga team.

However, the Reds suffered a scare early at the 11th minute after Dejan Lovren had upended Serge Gnabry in the box, although Simon Mignolet then prevented European debutants Hoffenheim from taking the lead with a neat save to push away Andrej Kramaric’s poor penalty

18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold then scored on his debut with a free-kick to score Liverpool’s first, while James Milner knocked a significant deflection from the chest of Havard Nordtveit just 10 minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute to put Liverpool firmly in control of the tie.

But once again defensive frailties were exposed as Hoffenheim substitute Mark Uth set up a tense second leg at Anfield next Wednesday with by firing in largely unchallenged after being found by a long ball into the box with three minutes to go.

While Liverpool is yet to seal a return to the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2014, manager Jurgen Klopp hailed his team and singled out Trent Alexander-Arnold’s courage and revealed he told the teenager to take the free-kick.

“I have to say for an 18-year-old to have the balls to kick a free-kick like that is more interesting and exciting for me than a little mistake he made,” said Klopp.

“It was an intensive game for him. He has still some things to learn. He thought it was offside but it was obviously not offside, unfortunately. Trent is a great player and I have to say I would rather have 2-1 than 1-0.”

Alexander-Arnold, who joined the club’s academy aged six, said: “It is a thing of dreams to make your European debut for your boyhood club and to make it with a goal was very special for me. I got egged-on to take the free-kick, to be honest. I never put my hand up first but I had the confidence to take it and it paid off.”

FIFA opens investigation on Neil Taylor leg-breaking tackle

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FIFA has opened formal investigations against Welsh defender Neil Taylor after his brutal leg-breaking tackle on the Republic of Ireland’s Seamus Coleman.

The Football Association of Wales has been informed of FIFA opening proceedings against Taylor, with a hearing likely to be held within the next fortnight and the player’s ban may be increased to three games after FIFA examined the report of the match referee Nicola Rizzoli.

Coleman, 28, had to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher after the tackle, while Taylor was sent off, during Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Dublin.

Coleman was taken to hospital and required surgery on a double bone break.

Taylor, 28, will be suspended for Wales’s next qualifier in Serbia in June, but, depending on FIFA’s inquiry, could have his one-game ban extended to three.

Wales captain Ashley Williams, a teammate of Coleman’s at Everton F.C., said Taylor wanted to visit Coleman in hospital, and sent him a text message from the Aviva Stadium.

“Neil was gutted. He was sitting on the floor virtually in tears,” he told the Everton website. “Even people who don’t know Seamus like I do were gutted.”

“He asked me to check if it would be OK to go to see Seamus in hospital. He got his number off me and sent him a text straight away. When I found out it was a broken leg it made me feel sick inside because it’s someone who I like so much and is one of my mates.”

Trump victory could ‘add layer’ to US-Mexico qualifier

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Donald Trump’s victory in the United States presidential election has given an “added layer” to Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico, says USA captain Michael Bradley.

The match will be played in Ohio, a key ‘swing’ state won by Trump.

In his ultimately successful presidential campaign, Trump has described Mexicans as “criminals” and said he wants to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. He also said Mexico would foot the bill for his planned wall along the southern border of the US – a claim denied by the Mexican government.

On the other hand, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has previously accused Trump of damaging US-Mexico relations, after the president-elect labelled undocumented Mexican migrants to the US “criminals” and “rapists”.

Bradley said fans at the game must be respected, be they “American, Mexican, neutral, men, women, children”.

“Given the way everything has gone the last few months, I think there is an added layer to this game,” said Bradley.

“I would hope that our fans do what they always do, which is support our team in the best, most passionate way possible.”

US goalkeeper Tim Howard said he hoped the game in Ohio’s capital, Columbus, did not become overshadowed.

“That’s politics, and this is football,” said the former Manchester United and Everton player.

“Mexico is going to try to kick our asses and we’re going to try to kick theirs. It’s got nothing to do with politics.”

Friday marks the start of the final stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, with six teams – the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, Honduras and Panama – vying for three automatic spots at Russia 2018.