The transfer of striker Andy Carroll, 24, from Liverpool to West Ham United has finally been completed, with the player moving to Upton Park for an undisclosed fee, reportedly around £15 million. Carroll spent last season on-loan with the hammers scoring seven goals in twenty three league appearances and earned many plaudits for his accomplished performances leading the line at the east London club. Negotiations to make his move permanent have been ongoing since the end of last season and today Carroll finally put pen to paper on a six year contract. The transfer fee is a new club record for West Ham, but represents a £20 million loss for Liverpool on the £35 million that Kenny Dalglish paid Newcastle United for Carroll’s services in January 2011.
Now that the Anfield club can bank the income from Andy Carroll’s transfer they can move forward on some of their own summer targets and they look likely to start by signing FC Porto winger Christian Atsu for around £3 million. The twenty one year old Ghanaian has sixteen caps for his country with three goals and was part of the Ghana squad that got to the semi finals of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations. This was his first season as a regular in the FC Porto first team squad, having signed for the club as a seventeen year old. He made his mark on loan at Rio Ave the previous season, scoring six goals in the Portuguese top flight, before returning to his parent club and making seventeen appearances in this campaign, contributing one goal as Porto won the championship. Transfer negotiations are said to be at an advanced stage.
Liverpool’s recruitment plans seem to be focusing on the Iberian peninsula this summer as reports in Spain say that the club has made a substantial offer for Sevilla youngster Luis Alberto Romero, although the clubs have yet to agree on a price. The twenty year old attacking midfielder spent the season on loan at Barcelona B, scoring eleven goals in thirty eight games but is now back in Andalucia at his parent club, for whom he has only made a handful of first team appearances. He has represented Spain at under 18, 19 and 21 level. Staying in Spain, there have been no further developments in Liverpool’s attempts to sign Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas. A transfer fee has been agreed between the two clubs but the player has yet to commit to a move.
Other Liverpool targets are Shakhtar Donetsk’s Armenian international midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The future of striker Luis Suarez, who is away with Uruguay at the Confederations Cup, has still to be clarified, with the player being linked to a potential move to Real Madrid, where he could yet link up with his international strike partner Edinson Cavani, who is also coveted by the Spanish club. One confirmed Liverpool signing is defender Kolo Toure, who arrives on a free transfer from Manchester City at the end of his contract.
The fixtures for the 2013-14 Premier League season have been announced. The season will kick off on the weekend of the seventeenth of August 2013 and will conclude on the weekend of the eleventh of May 2014, with the FA Cup final being played the following weekend. New Manchester United manager David Moyes faces a tough start to the season with an away trip to League Cup holders Swansea followed by games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in his first five league matches in charge. If he’s still in contention for the title at the end of the season then he can look forward to a relatively easy run in with the final three fixtures being against Norwich, Sunderland and Southampton. He won’t return to Goodison Park to face Everton until the weekend of the nineteenth of April unless they meet there in a cup competition before that date.
Last season’s runners up Manchester City and their new manager Manuel Pellegrini host Newcastle United on the opening day followed by a trip to last season’s Championship winners Cardiff City, who start their own campaign away at West Ham. Fellow promoted sides Hull City and Crystal Palace face tricky starts with Hull the visitors at Chelsea for Jose Mourinho’s first game in charge and Crystal Palace hosting Tottenham in a London derby. New Everton boss Roberto Martinez will be taking his team to Norwich City on the opening day and another new manager, Mark Hughes at Stoke, has to negotiate a trip to Merseyside to face Liverpool. The other fixtures from the first round of matches are Arsenal versus Aston Villa, Sunderland against Fulham and West Brom against Southampton.
The exact dates and kick off times have yet to be confirmed as the television rights holders – Sky and BT – now have to select which matches will be screened live on TV. Along with the Premier League fixtures, the Championship, League One, League Two, Scottish Premier League and Scottish lower division fixtures have also been announced today. The French Ligue 1 fixtures were released last Thursday as the calendar for the new season starts to take shape around Europe.
Nigeria 6 (Echiejile 5, 80, Oduamadi 10, 26, 76, Tehau J. o.g. 68)
Tahiti 1 (Tehau J. 54)
Mineirao, Belo Horizonte. Temp. 25°C, wind 12 mph, partly sunny. Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
Nigeria: Enyeama, Echiejile, Ambrose, Omeruo (Egwuekwe 74), Oboabona, Obi Mikel, Ogude, Oduamadi, Mba (Ogu 55), Ujah (Ideye 52), Musa.
Tahiti: Samin, Ludivion, Tehau J, Vallar (Faatiarau 54), Simon (Lemaire 78), Bourebare, Tehau A, Caroine, Aitamai, Vahirua (Atani 70), Chong-Hue.
Nigeria were comfortable winners against a plucky Tahiti side with Nnamdi Oduamadi plundering a hat-trick in their opening Group B encounter, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story as the Tahitians played their part in an open and attacking match. The Super Eagles were the beneficiaries of a couple of fortunate deflections in the box, but in truth, they should have scored several more.
If the Tahiti players were nervous ahead of their first competitive match on the world stage, they certainly didn’t show it in the opening few minutes and they received plenty of encouragement from the local supporters in Belo Horizonte with neutral fans vociferously supporting the minnows. However, they were brought down to earth with a bang in the fifth minute when a shot from Echiejile took a cruel double deflection and ended up in the back of their net.
Everybody loves an underdog, but Tahiti showed just why they are such underdogs at this level over the remainder of the half and Nigeria were in no mood to be generous as they raced in to a two goal lead. Striker Nnamdi Oduamadi of Varese notched up the second in only the tenth minute and fears mounted that Tahiti might be on the receiving end of a cricket score. They did weather the storm for the next quarter of an hour but their defence seemed disorganized and Nigeria continued to create good chances with alarming regularity.
In the end, the third goal was gifted to Nigeria when Tahiti goalkeeper Xavier Samin fumbled a bobbling cross from Musa and spilt the ball into the path of the advancing Oduamadi, who clinically dispatched the ball in to the empty net for his second goal of the game. Samin partly redeemed himself with a couple of fine saves before the interval and he earned loud cheers from the crowd each time he thwarted another Nigerian attack. It wasn’t exclusively one way traffic in the first half as Tahiti threw caution to the wind and pushed forward in numbers whenever they got the opportunity. They even won a corner, forced Enyeama into a couple of saves and produced a fine cross from the right that Steevy Chong-Hue couldn’t quite divert goalwards with his head.
The second half started in much the same vein with the Nigerians creating chances and Tahiti occasionally breaking. They forced another corner on one of their forays into the opposition half and then the unthinkable happened, they stunned and delighted the stadium in equal measure by actually scoring a goal! Jonathan Tehau ghosted in at the far post to head Vahirua’s corner into the Nigerian net from an acute angle and we were treated to a collective performance of their Polynesian canoeing goal celebration.
Nigeria seemed visibly rattled by the goal and their opponents grew in confidence as they realised that they were suddenly doing more than simply making up the numbers. Tahiti even had the better of the next ten minutes as the Nigerians recovered from the shock but then normal service resumed with Oduamadi thinking he had scored a hat-trick before his third goal was ruled out for offside and then the team’s fourth finally arriving in the sixty ninth minute thanks to another double deflection. Oduamadi put the ball into the six yard box and it ended up rolling into the net off the leg of Tahiti‘s goalscoring hero Jonathan Tehau.
Oduamadi did finally get his third on the break a few minutes later when he got ahead of the defence and on to the end of a low cross from Ideye on the right flank. The greater match fitness of the professional Nigerian squad was telling in the final stages against their mostly amateur opponents and they notched up their sixth a few minutes later when Echiejile pounced on a loose ball that had been pinging around in the box and buried it for his second of the game.
Nigeria will rue some wasteful finishing, especially if they end up going out of the competition on goal difference after their final group matches against Uruguay and Spain, but the evening will be remembered for Tahiti‘s historic goal and their spirited attacking performance that made this one of the more entertaining games of the 2013 Confederations cup so far.
Spain 2 (Pedro 20, Soldado 32)
Uruguay (Suarez 88)
Arena Pernambuco, Recife. Temp. 26°C, wind 6mph, partly cloudy. Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Japan)
Spain: Casillas, Ramos, Arbeloa, Pique, Alba, Fabregas (Cazorla 65), Iniesta, Xavi (Martinez 77), Busquets, Soldado, Pedro (Mata 81).
Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano, Pereira, Caceres, Godin, Perez (Forlan 69), Rodriguez, Gargano (Lodeiro 63), Ramirez (Gonzalez 46), Suarez, Cavani.
Spain put in a dominant performance that reminded the rest of the world of their class as they overcame a strongy Uruguay team with goals from Pedro and Roberto Soldado. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez got a late consolation goal for Uruguay to set up a tense last couple of minutes and make the outcome a bit closer than the balance of play suggested.
Spain had left their two main strikers from recent tournaments – David Villa and Fernando Torres – on the bench as they preferred to give Pedro and Soldado a chance to shine and they both made good use of the opportunity, showing what strength in depth there is within the Spain squad. Pedro was credited with the first goal in the twentieth minute, although his shot did take a significant deflection off Uruguay defender Diego Lugano, and Soldado was set up by Fabregas to double the lead twelve minutes laater. Fabregas, Pique and Iniesta all also came close to scoring in a first half in which Uruguay rarely threatened as the Spanish controlled the play and dominated possession of the ball.
Uruguay did improve after the interval and managed not to fall further behind as Spain slowed down in the heat of the evening, eventually bringing on Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez to shut up shop and replace Xavi in the 77th minute. It was a set piece that eventually allowed Suarez to get his name on the scoresheet. He beat Casillas with a free kick from thirty yards, but by then it was too little too late. Spain are now strong favorites to go on and win Group B but Uruguay will still be hopeful of progressing alongside them by beating Nigeria and Tahiti in their next two Confederations Cup matches.
Italy 2 (Pirlo 27, Balotelli 78)
Mexico 1 (Hernandez pen 34)
Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 25°C, clear and calm. Referee: Enrique Osses (Chile)
Mexico: Corona, Rodriguez, Moreno, Flores, Aquino (Mier 53), Guardado, Torrado, Salcido, Zavala (Jimenez 86), dos Santos, Hernandez.
Italy: Buffon, Barzagli, Chiellini, Abate, De Sciglio, De Rossi, Pirlo, Montolivo, Marchisio (Cerci 68), Giaccherini (Aquilani 88), Balotelli (Gilardino 86).
Italy got their 2013 Confederations Cup campaign off to a winning start at the Maracana, beating Mexico by two goals to one with Pirlo and Balotelli on the scoresheet and Javier Hernandez replying for the Mexicans. It was an entertaining game with plenty of chances at both ends as Mexico ended their recent hoodoo in front of goal but saw an end to their run of clean sheets.
Italy took the lead courtesy of a majestic free kick from veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo in the twenty seventh minute on the night of his one hundredth cap for his country. The strike was up there with some of the very best from his illustrious career and he left Mexican goalkeeper Corona with no chance as he curled it over the wall and in to the top left hand corner of the goal. Italy‘s lead didn’t last for long, however, as Barzagli clumsily gave away a penalty in the thirty fourth minute when he dallied in possession and allowed dos Santos to steal the ball before tripping the Mexican striker in the box. Barzagli was fortunate not to receive a red card from the Chilean referee. Javier Hernandez sent Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way from the penalty spot to make it 1-1.
Both teams had chances in the second forty five minutes and the officiating continued to be lenient as either side could have been reduced to ten men for some mistimed tackling. Italy always seemed the most likely to make the breakthrough and the golden chance finally fell to Mario Balotelli in the seventy eighth minute from a flick on by Giaccherini. The Milan forward was first to the ball amidst a cluster of defenders and smashed his finish past Corona to make it 2-1 to the Italians and earn three points that make them joint leaders with Brazil after the first round of matches in Group A.
Brazil got their 2013 Confederations Cup defence off to a perfect start in front of 67,423 fans at the Estádio Nacional de Brasília as they put three goals past the Japanese without reply to become the early leaders of Group A. With home advantage, and just one year before the World Cup kicks off, the pressure to deliver had been high but any nerves were calmed early on when Fred chested down a Marcelo cross for Neymar to fire into the top corner in only the third minute. It was the first goal in nine internationals for the symbol of Brazil‘s latest generation of talent and the quality of the strike is a step towards proving that he can cope with the weight of expectations.
To their credit, Japan didn’t crumble and fought back strongly, creating some good chances of their own whilst keeping the score at 1-0 until half time. However, they started the second half as badly as they had started the first and Corinthians midfielder Paulinho made it 2-0 from a Dani Alves cross in the 48th minute. The Brazilians looked comfortable for most of the rest of the encounter and rested all three of their forwards in the last quarter of an hour, bringing on Lucas Moura and Hernanes to strengthen the midfield. It was the third substitute, Atletico Mineiro striker Jo, who completed the scoring in injury time when he was set up nicely by Chelsea’s Oscar.
Brazil will face Mexico in their second group match on Wednesday, with Japan taking on Italy just afterwards. Mexico and Italy face off in their opening match later on today. The top two in the group will go through to the semi finals.
Brazil: Júlio César, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar, Fred (Jo 81), Hulk (Hernanes 75), Neymar (Lucas 74).
Japan: Kawashima, Konno, Uchida, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Endo (Hosogai 78), Hasebe, Okazaki, Honda (Inui 88), Kiyotake (Maeda ’51), Kagawa.
The 2013 Confederations Cup kicks off in Brasilia on Saturday with a strong line up of teams competing in the World Cup dress rehearsal a year before the real thing takes place next summer. Most of them will expect to return for the 2014 World Cup – only Tahiti have been eliminated so far from the qualification process – so it’s a good chance for them to hone their preparations and get some valuable experience of the Brazilian conditions. Here’s our guide to the teams and how they will fare.
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Qualified as: Hosts
|Last 5 results:||Group A Fixtures:|
|Brazil 1-1 Russia (London, 25-03-2013, FR)
Bolivia 0-4 Brazil (Santa Cruz, 06-04-2013, FR)
Brazil 2-2 Chile (Belo Horizonte, 25-04-2013, FR)
Brazil 2-2 England (Rio de Janeiro, 02-06-2013, FR)
Brazil 3-0 France (Porto Alegre, 09-06-2013, FR)
|Japan (Brasília, 15-06-2013)
Mexico (Fortaleza, 19-06-2013)
Italy (Salvador, 22-06-2013)
Star Player: Neymar. The Santos striker is the most exciting attacking talent in Brazilian football at the moment, but he still has a lot to prove, especially at international level. His goals record of 20 in 34 games for Brazil is impressive but, having made his debut just after the last World Cup, most of his national team experience has come in friendly matches. He did feature in the 2011 Copa America and 2012 Olympics, scoring in both tournaments, but wasn’t able to help his team to success on either occasion. It’s easy to forget that he’s still only 21 as he seems to have been in the headlines for years since he shot to prominence at a young age and led Santos to their Copa Libertadores triumph in 2011 and rarely a week has gone by in the past two years without rumours linking him with a big money move to Europe. New he’s finally heading to Barcelona to test himself in La Liga and he’ll want to leave his homeland on a high by impressing at the Confederations Cup before he starts his new adventure.
One to Watch: Oscar. The Chelsea midfielder has been playing an increasingly prominent role in the Brazil national team of late and now has seventeen caps and six goals to his name. Also only 21, he is coming into the tournament off the back of a successful first season in Europe where he excelled in the English Premier league and won the Europa league. His fleet footwork and incisive passing, not to mention his lethal shooting ability, make him an important supplier and scorer of goals and a successful Confedereations Cup campaign will go al long way towards staking his claim for a first team spot come next summer. Brazil could be building their team around him for years to come.
Prediction: We expect Brazil to rise to the occasion and put recent patchy form behind them by reaching the final of this event on their home soil. They have selected a strong and talented squad and will be treating the competition very seriously as it represents their only chance of competitive action in the build up to the World Cup finals. Home advantage should help them see off Japan and Mexico in their opening games and we expect them to win their group and reach the final, possibly against Spain, which would be a close encounter but they may just edge it. Read the rest of this entry »
A number of factors are still stalling Liverpool’s summer recruitment programme as manager Brendan Rodgers looks to strengthen his side ahead of the upcoming campaign. The Anfield club have been strongly linked with a number of players in recent weeks but nothing concrete has yet to come of most of the rumours.
Most certain is that Manchester City defender Kolo Toure will join on a free transfer on the first of July when his current contract expires. At 32, he’s entering the latter stages of his career and wasn’t getting much playing time at the Etihad Stadium last season, but his experience should make him a suitable replacement for the retired Jamie Carragher. Toure has spent the whole of his senior career in the Premier League, previously playing for City and Arsenal, winning two league championships and three FA Cups along the way, as well as over 100 caps for the Ivory Coast.
Likely to be next in the door is Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas. The twenty five year old scored twelve goals for the struggling side in La Liga last season, having plundered twenty three in the Segunda Division the season before and will cost around £7.7 million although the move is awaiting the completion of a medical. Rodgers will be hoping that he can be next season’s Michu, a relatively cheap signing from La Liga who adapts well to English football to become an instant success.
Liverpool’s front line options are still very much up in the air for next season as Luis Suarez, who is away with the Uruguay national team, has reportedly been talking to local press in his home country about his desire to move on from the club and he’s thought to be angling after a move to Real Madrid. However, there has been no bid from the Spanish club and, with no manager in place, there may not be one for some time. Also unresolved is Andy Carroll’s situation. There has been a substantial bid from West Ham for the forward who spent last season on loan at Upton Park, but Carroll is still mulling over the decision so Liverpool still don’t know whether they will need to replace one, two or no strikers in their squad.
Liverpool’s other supposed transfer target is Shakhtar Donetsk’s Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who would cost upwards of £20 million. There hasn’t been any official movement on that front yet and the club may be waiting to see if they are going to be receiving a large fee for one of their strikers before committing that amount of money on a new signing. Mkhitaryan was on international duty with Armenia last night and scored in their surprise 4-0 away win over Denmark.
Manchester City have completed the signing of Sevilla winger Jesus Navas as they continue to strengthen their squad in preparation for their bid to recapture the Premier League title from cross-town rivals Manchester United next season. Navas joins Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho as the second big money arrival at the Etihad this summer.
Jesus Navas has just completed his medical in New York, where he played for Spain as a half time substitute, replacing his new team mate David Silva, in their 2-0 friendly win against the Republic of Ireland last night. He will now fly to Brazil with the rest of the Spain squad for the Confederations Cup, which starts this weekend, before joining up with Manchester City after what will have to be a short summer break for the twenty seven year old. Navas, who has two goals in twenty five appearances for Spain, has spent his whole career with his home town club, Sevilla, playing over 280 matches for them and scoring 23 goals. He is best known for providing goals to his team mates through his pacey wing play, trickery and crossing ability. He has successfully overcome the anxiety problems that hampered the early part of his career whenever he travelled away from Seville on away games or to meet up with the international squad and at one times caused him to quit international football. However, the incoming City manager will need to make sure he settles in and makes the transition to his first permanent posting overseas. Navas’ career honours to date include the 2010 World Cup, the 2012 European Championships, the Europa League (twice) and the Copa del Rey (twice).
His £14.9 million purchase takes Manchester City’s summer spending to around £45 million following last week’s signing of Fernandinho for £30 million. The Brazilian, who isn’t part of his country’s Confederations Cup squad, has five caps for his country and spent eight years at Shakhtar Donetsk where he played 184 times scoring 31 goals. He’s an all-round midfielder with strong defensive and attacking attributes who, at 28, should be at the peak of his powers. Both signings have been made without City having a first team manager in place following the departure of Roberto Mancini at the end of last season, but Chilean Manuel Pellegrini is still expected to arrive at the club in the near future.
There was a full round of World Cup 2014 qualification matches in South America last night, with only Paraguay not in action from the nine team group. Argentina survived the challenging altitude of Ecuador to earn a point that means they have all but sealed their qualification for the tournament in Brazil next summer and Colombia took a big step towards booking their own ticket with a home win that keeps them in second place in the group. There were also important wins for Chile and South American champions Uruguay.
Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina took the lead in only the fourth minute at the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito, before the effects of playing at altitude had a chance to tire them out. Rodrigo Palacio was brought down in the box by Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero dispatched the resulting penalty. However, the home team were back on level terms before too long as Puebla’s Segundo Castillo headed an equaliser in the seventeenth minute. The Argentinians visibly tired as the game wore on but Ecuador were unable to force a winner despite Javier Mascherano’s late sending off. Argentina stay top of the group with twenty three points and one more win from their final three games will guarantee them a place in the finals. Ecuador are five points further back in third and are also looking on course for automatic qualification.
Colombia consolidated their second place in the group with a 2-0 win over Peru at home in the Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez in the Caribbean port of Barranquilla. Both goals came in the first half through a penalty from striker Radamel Falcao followed by a strike from Teofilo Guiterrez on the stroke of half time. Peru‘s Carlos Zambrano was sent off mid way through the second half as they failed to gain a foothold in the game. Jose Pekerman’s Colombia team now have twenty three points and should go on to seal qualification barring disaster in their last four matches but Peru have some work to do as they are now two points behind the play-off spot.
Elsewhere Chile continued their recent good run with a 3-1 win against Bolivia at home in the national stadium in Santiago. Two goals in two first half minutes from Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez set them on their way but Bolivia hit back through Marcelo Moreno Martins before half time to keep the tie alive until an injury time goal from Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal sealed it for Jorge Sampaoli’s team. Chile occupy the fourth and final automatic qualification spot and Bolivia, down in eighth, now look out of the running. Uruguay beat Venezuela 1-0 in the other group game in Cuidad Guayana with a twenty eighth minute goal from Napoli striker Edison Cavani, who has been much linked with a transfer to Chelsea this week. Venezuela, who had Tomas Rincon sent off late in the game, are now level with the Uruguayans in fifth place on sixteen points, but having played a game more and with a slightly inferior goal difference.
The table now looks as follows:
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