Pressure is on Argentina to beat Brazil in Jeddah, says Sergio Romero

Argentina easily saw off the challenges of Iraq 4-0 last Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 15 October 2018
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Pressure is on Argentina to beat Brazil in Jeddah, says Sergio Romero

  • It may only be a friendly but Argentina goalkeeper says defeat against arch-rivals is not an option.
  • Clash in Jeddah will be the 105th time the South Americans have faced each other.

JEDDAH: Argentina may be without superstar Lionel Messi but the two-time world champions simply must beat Brazil in a friendly in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero says.
This will be the 105th time the South American arch-rivals have faced each other in an official match, with Brazil marginally ahead on 40 wins to 38, with 26 draws.
And while Brazil, record five-time winners of the World Cup, have picked most of their star names, Argentina are without the likes of Manchester City’s in-form forward Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain of AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria, as well as Messi.
“I would love Messi to be here because that would give us a boost in quality,” said Romero, back in the Argentina squad following a knee injury that prevented him from featuring in two friendlies in September.
“Adding the best in the world would be best for the future of the national team.”
Messi also sat out Argentina’s last three matches, all friendlies, since the country’s disappointing last 16 elimination from the World Cup in Russia.
He is believed to have asked for some time off from international duty ahead of next year’s Copa America in Brazil.He may have won the Ballon d’Or five times and helped Barcelona lift the Champions League four times and La Liga on nine occasions, but Messi’s only international honor was an Olympic gold medal in 2008.
He’s been on the losing side four times in major finals: the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and three Copa America title-deciders.
At 31, he’s starting to run out of opportunities to lead his country to international glory.
“I haven’t spoken to him since the World Cup, but I hope his absence is only short-term. Hopefully he’s just taking a rest,” added Romero.
Even without a host of star names, and despite the prestigious opposition, anything other than victory would be met with consternation back home.
“Every time Argentina play, we have to win. And when playing against Brazil, even in a friendly, we still have to win and play our way, which is what the coach is asking of us,” added Romero.
“Here we have a new group of players and we’ll try to do our best for the team.”

MESSI BARELY MISSED

Argentina have not missed Messi too much so far, beating Iraq 4-0 in Riyadh on Thursday, having beaten Guatemala 3-0 in September, when they also drew 0-0 with Colombia.
Interim coach Lionel Scaloni picked an inexperienced line-up to face Iraq with Romero, defender Ramiro Funes Mori and striker Paulo Dybala the only established names on the team-sheet.
It will likely be a different-looking XI in Jeddah to take on a Brazil team that labored to a 2-0 win over hosts Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Friday.
Despite featuring the likes of PSG star Neymar and Manchester City’s returning forward Gabriel Jesus, Tite’s side struggled on a muggy night in the Arabian desert.
But with Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool likely to play too, Brazil won’t need any help in getting fired up to face the Albiceleste.
“Any game against Argentina is different, it takes on a huge dimension and we all know what this encounter means,” said Inter Milan defender Miranda.
“Our team has prepared well and we hope to play a great match and win.”
But just like Scaloni, Tite wants to give some younger players a chance to prove their worth.
He said it’s a match “between two teams undergoing a renovation. Here, we’re giving opportunities to youngsters.”
The two sides last met in June 2017 in a friendly in Australia, won 1-0 by Argentina, but Brazil romped to a 3-0 success in their last competitive fixture, a World Cup qualifier in November 2016.


Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

Updated 15 November 2018
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Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

  • 2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari
  • If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events

LONDON: Francesco Molinari is looking to end a fairytale season by becoming the European No. 1 at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which starts today, and the first Italian to achieve the feat.
2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari, with a maiden Major victory in the Open Championship in July, which followed a first Rolex event victory at the BMW PGA Championship in May. He has also not missed a single cut this season, a run that extends over four years in regular European Tour events.
And in a glorious Ryder Cup for the Europeans, he became the first player from the continent to win five points out of five, while securing the winning point in his singles match against USA’s Phil Mickelson.
Speaking to journalists ahead of today’s tee-off, the Italian said: “It feels incredible, a new position for me, I’ve never been here in the past.
“I think it’s just a consequence and a sign of an incredible season. I would have never guessed that I would be here in this position if you told me in April or May this year but it’s been an incredible summer, topped by an unbelievable Ryder Cup.
“Really, it’s a dream season for me and it’s nice to be here in this position. Hopefully I’ll be able to close it out. I know it’s not going to be easy and I’m not making any assumptions but I’ll do my best on the course to do the job.
And when asked about his prospects of winning the Harry Vardon trophy this weekend, he said: “You can have the best week of your life and win one tournament but to win a competition that lasts throughout the season, with the amount of talent there is right now on the European Tour, is something really hard to do but it’s also still hard to figure out for me how I’m here in this position.”
Molinari needs to finish tied-fifth or better at the Jumeirah Golf Estates to seal the Race to Dubai crown, but Ryder Cup partner Tommy Fleetwood — the man he formed such a strong bond with in Paris — is the only man who can prevent him the perfect ending.
Victory for the Englishman on the Earth Course is the only way he can deny Molinari the title, but the Italian was full of praise for his “best friend” and would not begrudge Fleetwood if he successfully defended his Race to Dubai crown.
“I know we said this and we’re going to sound really cheesy but if I don’t win, I’d rather see him win than anyone else,” he said.
“We really are good friends and he’s had an amazing season. To think that he won last year and to come here, still with a chance to win two in a row, it’s incredible, really.
“So fair play to him. What I can say for me is that it’s been a great season and however it goes this week, I’m still going to have lots of great memories from all of what I’ve done this year, and probably the best memory is what we’ve done together with him in France.
“I can’t really be mad at him, even if he wins.”
If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events and he praised the introduction of the European Tour’s prestige level of tournaments.
“There’s a few events that we target every year,” he said. “It’s great for us to have the opportunity to play in such special tournaments.
“Especially for guys like me, playing a home event in Italy that is part of the Rolex Series, just gives a completely new meaning to the Italian Open.”