Pirlo predicts tough task for ‘scared’ Italy

Sweden’s Jacob Johansson celebrates scoring the winner against Italy. (AP)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Pirlo predicts tough task for ‘scared’ Italy

LONDON: Former playmaker Andrea Pirlo joined the criticism after Italy’s 1-0 defeat to Sweden on Friday left the four-time champions on the brink of missing out on the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
Italy, whose last failure to qualify for the finals was in 1958, have to beat Sweden by two goals in the return leg tomorrow in Milan to avoid what the head of the federation Carlo Tavecchio has dubbed the “Apocalypse.”
But their toothless performance on Friday — the latest in a series of lacklustre displays — has done nothing to reassure their supporters that Gian Piero Ventura’s side is up to the task.
“Italy looked like a scared team that was playing for a 0-0 draw. In Europe, that is not enough,” Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia.
The 38-year-old, who confirmed his retirement last week, also had little sympathy for Ventura’s complaints about the referee.
“It’s a red herring,” he said. “Playing in Europe is not like in Italy, where you get a free kick for even the slightest contact.
“In these matches you need to be above all that and give 100 percent; it’s in these matches that you see the real players.
“It will be tough for Ventura to find the right words to say to the group.”
• Anthony Hudson has backed his New Zealand side to get the result they need to make it to Russia after they held Peru to a 0-0 draw in Wellington.
The hosts overcame a lack of possession and territory to get the result against their more fancied opponents, with All Whites’ goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic making a series of impressive saves in the intercontinental playoff first-leg.
Ryan Thomas had arguably the best chance but his 85th-minute shot flashed centimeters wide of the right-hand post and the sides head to Lima all square ahead of the second-leg on Wednesday.
“It is a really strong result for us, big result and we are pleased with where we are at,” All Whites coach Hudson said.
“But our feet are right on the ground. We haven’t achieved anything yet. We still want to get to Russia. All we have to do is score one goal and that puts added pressure on them.
“We are very confident we can go there and score.”
• Australia coach Ange Postecoglou accused the Honduras media of being disrespectful to his team and said his players had used it as motivation before Friday’s 0-0 draw in the first-leg of the playoff.
Australia missed a number of chances in San Pedro Sula but had the better of a scrappy game played on a soggy pitch and will head to the second-leg in Sydney on Wednesday confident of qualifying for the finals in Russia next year.
Postecoglou took exception to a local newspaper that dismissed his team as “11 kangaroos” in a headline and used the post-match press conference to berate the home journalists.
“Maybe you thought we were going to be easy,” Postecoglou said. “I saw in the newspaper you said it was 11 kangaroos out there, but kangaroos can play football, eh?
“We had two players (Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan) who play in the (English) Premier League, we’ve got players in the first divisions in Europe.
“All I heard was we have a simple game plan and no stars — that was our motivation. We do our talking when the game comes.”


FIFA: Iran must allow women into football games

Updated 20 September 2019

FIFA: Iran must allow women into football games

DUBAI: The ban on women attending football matches in Iran is “unacceptable” and must be lifted, the head of the sports’ world governing body said in a statement.

FIFA’s position is “clear and firm” and that women “have to be allowed” into football stadiums in the country, according to president Gianni Infantino.

Iran’s ban on women attending sports stadiums was put in place shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, despite international pressure to let them attend.

Infantino’s call comes shortly after the death of Sahar Khodayari, a female fan who set herself on fire after she was denied access to a football stadium in Tehran.

Khodayari, dubbed the “Blue Girl” because of the colors of the team she supported, Esteghlal FC, was detained and charged with “openly committing a sinful act” by “appearing in public without a hijab” after attempting to enter a stadium “dressed as a man” in March.

She died of her injuries on September 9 in a hospital after setting herself on fire outside a court earlier this month.

“I am hopeful that the Iranian Federation and the Iranian authorities were receptive to our repeated calls to address this unacceptable situation,” Infantino said in a statement.

“I contacted them several times in the recent past and so has the FIFA administration. We have a delegation of FIFA members in Iran at the moment and I am looking forward to hearing good news from them.

“We understand there are steps and processes that need to be taken before this is done in a proper and safe way but now is the moment to change things and FIFA is expecting positive developments starting in the next Iran home match in October.”

Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has asked the judiciary to investigate the circumstances of Khodayari’s death, although the department’s spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, has said that Khodayari “had clearly confessed her mistake during questioning, accepted it and expressed regret.”

FIFA has sent a letter to the to the Iranian Football Federation in June, requesting a timeline that would allow women to be able to buy tickets for World Cup qualifiers. Iran’s men’s national team takes on Cambodia in a World Cup qualifying game on October 10.