Rani Khedira turns down chance to play for Tunisia at the World Cup

Rani Khedira was approached by the Tunisian FA about a possible place in the country's World Cup squad
Updated 07 February 2018
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Rani Khedira turns down chance to play for Tunisia at the World Cup

LONDON: Rani Khedira, brother of Germany star Sami Khedira, has turned down the chance to play for Tunisia at this summer’s World Cup.
The Khedira brothers were born in Stuttgart to a Tunisian father. Both Rani, who is 24, and Sami, 30, played for German junior teams while Juventus midfielder Sami has gone on to become a World Cup winner with 72 appearances for Germany.
Rani Khedira, a defensive midfielder with Augsburg, said he was flattered to be approached but had turned the offer down.
“It filled me with pride that the Tunisian association thought of me,” he said. “I was born and raised in Germany, I only speak German — that was crucial. My game is about communication, instructions and tactics, time is too short, it’s too difficult. I cannot help the team and give my best performance.”
The younger Khedira said he wanted to be fair to other players who have earned the chance to represent Tunisia at a World Cup.
“I don’t want to take a place away from any of them,” he said.
“It has been a long process with those in my sphere of influence, my dad is a proud Tunisian, I carry both countries in my heart and wish them the best, but, in the end, it was the right decision.”
Tunisia face a tough task to get out of their group in Russia, having been drawn with Belgium, England and Panama in Group G this June.


Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019
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Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.



BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.



UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE



The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.



BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.

 

PREDICTIONS