Football: Want-away Kiwi told to help win CAF Cup first

Japan’s Yuya Osako, front right, scores a goal in the last half during a friendly soccer match against New Zealand in Toyota, central Japan Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. (Naoya Osato/Kyodo News via AP)
Updated 20 October 2017
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Football: Want-away Kiwi told to help win CAF Cup first

JOHANNESBURG: Want-away New Zealander Jeremy Brockie has been told he could leave SuperSport United if he helps the South African club win the CAF Confederation Cup.
The 29-year-old former international striker from rugby hotbed Christchurch had a mid-year transfer request rejected with another Pretoria club, Mamelodi Sundowns, keen to sign him.
But a top SuperSport official said this week that the Kiwi could be freed to join recently deposed African champions Sundowns during the January transfer window.
“If we have won the CAF Confederation Cup by then, we will be open to offers for Jeremy,” said chief executive Stanley Matthews.
Brockie tops the Confederation Cup goal charts with nine, including a hat-trick against Barrack Young Controllers of Liberia in Pretoria.
But his recent international and domestic form has been poor with coach Eric Tinkler regularly taking him off during the second half of matches.
Brockie insists media speculation about a possible switch to Sundowns is not affecting his form, telling reporters that “when I run on the pitch my sole concern is scoring goals.”
Winning the secondary African competition presents a huge challenge for Brockie and SuperSport, though, after being held 1-1 at home by Club Africain of Tunisia in a semifinal first leg.
It could have been even worse for SuperSport as they equalized with only three minutes left when Thabo Mnyamane tapped in the rebound after his weak penalty was saved.
Mnyamane suffered a groin injury when SuperSport won the first domestic knockout final of the season last weekend and misses the return match in Rades Sunday.
Club Africain, who were 2011 Confederation Cup runners-up to MAS Fes of Morocco, snatched a potentially precious away goal through a Saber Khalifa penalty.
The Tunisians began their quest for a second CAF title after the 1991 African Cup of Champions Clubs (now CAF Champions League) by trouncing RSLAF of Sierra Leone 9-1 in Tunis.
They also won five subsequent home matches in Africa and, given that a goalless draw will suffice for overall victory, are expected to eliminate SuperSport.
Title-holders TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo take a 1-0 lead over 2010 Confederation Cup winners FUS Rabat to Morocco in the other semifinal.
Congolese striker Ben Malango, one of the finds of the competition this season, scored his sixth goal to give the “Ravens” a narrow advantage ahead of the second leg late Saturday.
Mazembe can expect to spend much more time defending in Rabat than they did at home and the absence of injured Mali center-back Salif Coulibaly is a serious blow.
While the Congolese are the only unbeaten team having won seven matches and drawn four, FUS boast a perfect five-victory home record this season.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 20 July 2018
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.