With England bound for home following their final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, striker Rickie Lambert has described his first taste of the tournament as “ruthless” after a pair of opening defeats, while insisting a change of coach would be a big mistake.
Roy Hodgson’s side succumbed to back-to-back 2-1 losses at the hands of Italy and Uruguay to see their third game in Group D hold little more than pride for the Three Lions, as they bid to leave South America with some points to accompany their luggage. But the forward, who is at his first major competition, admits to FIFA that he will be leaving with a sense of what could have been.
“Games are mostly won on fine margins,” he said. “Both games I thought we were better, I thought we were the better team, and we haven’t managed to take our chances, and the opposition have taken their chances,” he said ahead of their meeting with Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte. “It’s the one or two per cent that makes all the difference, and both games went to the other team, which is devastating.”
England had looked to have given themselves a realistic shot at qualification after equalising against the South Americans, only for Luis Suarez to get his second of the game with five minutes to go to virtually seal elimination. With the 32-year-old, who only made his international debut in August 2013, now knowing that this will be their final game at the tournament, he reflected on the experience of his first World Cup.
“It’s ruthless, it’s absolutely ruthless,” he conceded. “It’s something that I’ve never experienced before in my life, I’ve played in a lot of games but I’ve never played in a tournament. It’s hard to forget about getting knocked out and start looking to the future, it’s going to take time to get over what’s happened. When it does die down, when it does clear a little bit, then I think we can take positives.”
One thing, in his mind, that does not need any time to mull over is whether Roy Hodgson should continue to lead the team, having forged a young and developing squad for the tournament. “It’s very important that we keep the group together, especially the young kids, and that the right man brings them on again. I think Roy is the right man,” Lambert declared. “He has brought in young lads who’ve progressed so much and so quickly under him. It definitely wouldn’t be the right thing now to change things. Under his guidance I think they’re only going to get better.”
The last thing on their to-do list in Brazil is their meeting with Costa Rica and while Lambert feels England‘s performances in their first two games has meant they have not been “embarrassed” in exiting the competition, he acknowledges that they need a result against the Group D leaders. “We don’t want to finish on zero points,” he said. “It’s definitely not what we want to do. We want to finish on a high.
“We understand it’s a different kind of pressure that’s going to be on the next game now, and we’ve got to handle that. It’s a game that we’re desperate to win.”
Analysis and a post-match inquest were vital items on the agenda at Switzerland‘s team hotel in Porto Seguro over the last few days. The purpose was to ruthlessly identify the mistakes made in the heavy 5-2 defeat to France so they can be corrected immediately. “The video analysis was absolutely vital. All the bad things were clear to see,” acknowledged midfielder Granit Xhaka when he said.
The disappointment in the second group match at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil was a setback for the Swiss as they seek to hit their target of a place in the last sixteen. However, Xhaka and company refuse to be knocked out of their stride. “There were actually a few positives as well,” the 21-year-old contended.
Neither of Switzerland’s first two matches have gone entirely according to the pre-tournament plan, but the man who scored one of the consolation goals against the French is keeping his eyes firmly on the original target. The positives from the previous match mainly relate to the team’s much improved discipline and resolve in the second half.
Xhaka has put the defeat behind him and is now totally focused on the forthcoming meeting with Honduras. Victory in Manaus, combined with Ecuador failing to win the parallel Group E fixture, would see Ottmar Hitzfeld‘s men through to the next stage. The Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder is up for the fight: “It’s like a World Cup Final. We have to fight and run for each other. We have to beat Honduras, and that’s all there is to say.”
Xhaka, who fills a more attacking role for his country than his club, is certain the “brilliant coach” and the wealth of experience in the team will enable the Swiss to hit form and turn in a significantly improved display against the Central Americans compared with the below-par showing against Les Bleus. He will dig deep and give it his best shot, because the playmaker yearns to remain in South America a while longer. “The opportunity to play here in Brazil is wonderful,” he declared, although he admitted nerves have proved a problem, particularly in advance of the opening match.
But any remaining anxiety has now evaporated and Xhaka is oozing confidence. He predicts victory against Honduras on Wednesday: “We have a better team and more quality than Honduras. And I think we deserve to go through to the Round of 16. We’re utterly determined to make it, and we’ll show it against Honduras!”
Maria Ester Escobar was in Los Angeles on that fateful day, 2 July 1994, and will never forget the moment she found out the news. It was in the small hours of the morning, the sort of time when the telephone ringing is often synonymous with an emergency.
She took a while to pick up and had a lump in her throat by the time she did so. On the other end of the line was Colombia‘s veteran midfielder Gabriel Barrabás Gomez and, his voice trembling, he confirmed her worst fears: “Maria, something terrible has happened. Andres… Andres has been killed.”
For the football world, Andres was a talented defender who had impressed for Medellin side Atletico Nacional and the Colombian national team. But for Maria Ester and the rest of the Escobar family, the 27-year-old was much more than that: “He was our little brother, our pride and joy,” she saidin Rio de Janeiro, an unmistakable twinge of nostalgia in her tone.
The pain has not faded, despite the 20 years that have been and gone since Escobar was shot six times outside a bar in Medellin, where he had been insulted and accosted by his fellow countrymen as a result of his own goal at USA 1994. “Sometimes I think it’d be better if people didn’t remember Andres every day, because it’s really painful. But he left a mark, so it’s normal,” adds Jose, another of the former centre-half’s siblings.
FIFA’s invitation triggered all sorts of conflicting emotions among the members of the family who have come to Brazil to watch this summer’s tournament. “Especially because of the way the World Cup kicked off, with an own goal by Brazil’s Marcelo versus Croatia,” Maria Ester notes.
“That brought back very sad, distressing memories, but it helped hammer home that it’s part and parcel of the game, that these things happen all the time. We’re really happy to be here and to have the chance to share in the joy that football can bring, along with everyone else who is here.”
Life doesn’t stop here The Escobars didn’t turn their backs on football following Andres’s murder. Far from it: they are attending each of Colombia’s matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil sporting a Cafeteros kit with the number two and their surname on the back. That is because, just like Andres poignantly wrote in a piece for the newspaper El Tiempo after the country crashed out of USA 94, just five days before his death: “Life doesn’t stop here”.
Unwittingly, this message would help spur on his family to rebuild their lives after the murder. “Twenty years is a long time and it’s really upsetting to think about, but I prefer to thank God for having given us the chance to have him with us for 27 years, for lending him to us. His life was cut short, but he did important things in that time,” states Maria Ester, visibly moved, going on to express her relief at being outside Colombia for this most emotional of occasions.
“I wanted to escape Medellin, because there Andres’s death will be talked about in all the news programmes and papers and it would be very tough. I’d rather spend it the anniversary of the murder here, with the family, and then hold a memorial service when we go back home.”
As these words make clear, the events of 1994 have not been forgotten in Colombia, although paradoxically there is also a mood of optimism in the air. This is because the current Cafeteros squad, which includes Escobar’s former team-mates Faryd Mondragon and Mario Yepes, has broken new ground by reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
“Andres is with them and the rest of the team in spirit,” stress the siblings, before concluding by expressing their hope that the memory of their brother’s death can be a force for good: “People should enjoy football with passion, but never forgetting it’s a game. What happened to Andres should serve as a cautionary tale: there is no place for violence. Football should unite the country around a message of peace and love.”
The 27-year-old was surprisingly left out of coach Cesare Prandelli’s 23-man Azzurri line up for the upcoming tournament and Di Gennaro thinks the striker would have been favoured if he belonged to a bigger club like AC Milan or Juventus.
Di Gennaro spoke to Lady Radio about Rossi’s exclusion from Italy’s World Cup team and insisted the American-born Italian international had done everything necessary to earn his place in Brazil this summer.
“I think Prandelli had already decided the line up a long time ago Antonio Di Gennaro ”,Cheap Football Shirts; said the 55-year-old. “If Pepito had been dressed in the shirt of Milan or Juventus World Cup then he would be making the trip to Brazil.
“The game against the Republic of Ireland cannot be used as an example. I don’t think [Lorenzo] Insigne can provide the same things Rossi can on both a physical and technical level.
“Rossi has done everything possible to be there Azzurri I don’t understand what more he could have done.”
Italy national team boss Cesare Prandelli admits that his squad did well in their 5-3 friendly win over Fluminense on Sunday Fluminense especially when it came to the attacking aspect of their game.
The Azzurri were able to secure their victory over the Brazilian side with a hat-trick from Ciro Immobile and a brace from Lorenzo InsigneCesare Prandelli which impressed the tactician Ciro Immobile though he feels that there’s still some more work to be done ahead of their World Cup opener against England on June 14.
Prandelli spoke to Rai Sport after the win on Sunday about his squad’s performance, while also expressing his confidence in Italy’s ability to succeed against England and throughout the rest of the tournament.
“Our condition is good,Football Shirts,” said the 56-year-old. “We saw interesting things, especially from the guys in front.
“We need to have more courage in recovering the ball. This was the last day of intense work, from now on we’ll work on other things. We will be brilliant in this tournament.
“The five goals scored? The goal should always be sought, just as the two guys in the front did.”
Paris Saint-Germain winger Jeremy Menez has reportedly agreed to a deal that will see him join AC Milan this summer on a free transfer.
Menez fell out of favour with Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc last season and it appears he is set for a return to the peninsula AC Milan where he previously played for Roma.
According to Le10sport.com Paris Saint-Germain Menez was set to join Fiorentina before Milan made him an improved offer to land his services.
Rossoneri vice-president Adriano Galliani and soon to be coach Filippo Inzaghi were in talks with the winger in Ibiza on Tuesday Laurent Blanc where the two sides agreed on an initial deal of a three year contract with an annual salary of roughly €2 million.
Menez had previously rejected an offer from Roberto Mancini’s Galatasaray.
Cameroon coach Volker Finke has announced his final 23-man squad for the World Cup finals with just Loic Feudjou and Cedric Djeugoue from the countries own Elite One league included in the list.
The rest of the squad is made up from players that scattered across some of Europe’s most competitive leagues and will bring with it plenty of experience Indomitable Lions particularly in former Inter striker Samuel Eto’o who will be competing in his fourth World Cup.