Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League

Bruno Guimaraes (L), Alexander Isak (R, top) and Allan Saint-Maximin are all available for selection. (AFP)
Bruno Guimaraes (L), Alexander Isak (R, top) and Allan Saint-Maximin are all available for selection. (AFP)
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Updated 30 September 2022

Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League

Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League
  • Four players rated as doubts likely to return to the field

 

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed Newcastle United have received a quadruple injury boost ahead of their return to Premier League action against Fulham this weekend.

The Magpies travel to Craven Cottage on Saturday looking to record only their second top-flight win of the campaign — and will likely do so with four players who were rated as doubts within their ranks.

It is fair to say the international break has been one of worries and concerns on the injury front for head coach Howe, with strikers Alexander Isak and Chris Wood as well as Bruno Guimaraes all sent home early from national duty due to knocks.

However, where the situation once seemed grim, according to Howe, the outlook is now brightening with Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson and Guimaraes all fit to start against the Cottagers. In a further boost, Allan Saint-Maximin, missing since August, is also understood to be close to a return to the squad, while Isak’s injury, picked up while with Sweden, is not thought to be serious.

“When the doctor was calling me, I didn’t want to take his calls anymore,” joked Howe from United’s Benton training base on Friday.

“It was a stressful period for three or four days, but thankfully it’s maybe not as bad as it first appeared.”

On Wilson, Howe said: “He’s trained for around 10 days with us now. He’s in a good place. Every time he comes back from an injury I’d say he does the work and doesn’t cut corners. He’s had a really long body of work with the sports science team and then trained with us. He looked good.

“It’ll be a huge boost for the players to have Callum in the group with his positive energy and laughter that he brings. He’s a big player for us. And with Alex picking up his injury as well, it was perfect timing for us.”

Guimaraes, too, who has missed two Brazil friendlies in France in the past seven days as a result of a thigh problem, is understood to be fit to play from the off in southwest London.

“Bruno has trained with us. I had a couple of difficult calls during the international break to say players had various things happen to various players,” Howe said.

“We were concerned for Bruno but he’s come back and the scan was good. He’s trained, and trained well. Obviously slightly disrupted for him because these two weeks were really important in terms of his training and getting his match sharpness back, but he’s physically fine. He’s in the squad.”

Fellow United talisman Saint-Maximin has been unavailable for selection due to a hamstring injury since the 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in August.

And while he is yet to return to full training with the squad, Howe says that Saint-Maximin has a chance.

“Yeah, he’s doing well,” he said when asked about the player.

“He’s had a period away and come back. He’s close, very close. It’s how we view things.

“There are a lot of moving parts with us at the moment. I’m being vague because there are a lot of player situations that are slightly unclear as we go into the game. Allan will be one of them.”

While Anderson has also managed to shake off a slight knock and will likely make the bench, two players who are unlikely to do so are Isak and Wood. But their problems are not likely to keep them out for too long, according to Howe.

On record signing Isak, Howe said: “He picked up an injury training for Sweden, so he’s come back. The scan doesn’t look too bad so we’re not overly concerned it’s a long injury, but with any muscle injury there’s always a slight period where you have to be careful.

“He’s out running on grass so he’s looking good at the moment.

“Chris Wood came off with a rib problem. He took a knock in the game. Again, that’s another player we’ll make a very late decision on.”

Meanwhile, the Magpies have completed their first signing of the January window, with highly rated Australian forward Garang Kuol putting pen to paper.

And Howe admits he is delighted to win the race for the player who was courted by the likes of Barcelona.

United are understood to have paid Central Coast Mariners about $400,000 for the Southern hemisphere star.

“I’m very excited,” said Howe about the deal.

“He’s a young player with huge potential. It’s a show from myself and the club on where we want to go in terms of signing young players and trying to develop them in our system for them to be Premier League players in the future. He’s had a dramatic rise and he’s in a position that excites everybody. There needs to be some patience shown.

“Touch wood we’ll look after him, go out on loan and develop behind the scenes. Hopefully when he comes here, he can play a part in our future.”

The Egyptian-born teenager made his senior debut at 17 in 2021 and rose to worldwide prominence when he played a starring role as the 2022 A-League All Stars team that took on Barcelona in front of more than 70,000 spectators in Sydney earlier this year.

Kuol made his Australia debut against New Zealand during the most recent international break.

After making the move, Kuol said: “It’s unreal. As a young boy in Australia, the Premier League is the main thing that everyone watches but nobody actually thinks they’ll reach those heights. To be one of those people, to be in the position I am, it’s amazing.

“Now that I’ve signed for Newcastle, I want to train hard, play hard, hopefully go to the World Cup and come back here.”

The United executive who was instrumental in securing the transfer, sporting director Dan Ashworth, explained the signing and the club’s new philosophy.

Ashworth said: “Garang is a very promising young talent and we are excited that he’ll be continuing his development as a Newcastle United player.

“Our philosophy is to invest in our academy and in exciting young players for the future, as well as in players required to make an immediate impact in the first team.

“We wish Garang the best of luck in his remaining games with Central Coast Mariners and we hope to see him on the international stage again very soon.”


Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 to reach World Cup quarter-finals
Updated 6 sec ago

Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 to reach World Cup quarter-finals
DOHA: Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 to reach World Cup quarter-finals.

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals
Updated 05 December 2022

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals
  • Mario Pasalic struck the winning penalty after Dominik Livakovic had saved three of four Japanese penalties as Croatia won the shoot-out 3-1
  • Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break

DOHA: Croatia reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Monday with a dramatic 3-1 penalty shoot-out win over Japan after a tense last-16 clash ended 1-1.

Mario Pasalic struck the winning penalty to send Croatia through after Dominik Livakovic had saved three of four Japanese penalties.

Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break.
Croatia now face either Brazil or South Korea in the last eight and continued midfield icon Luka Modric’s stay at his fourth and likely final World Cup.
Japan’s bid to reach the last eight for the first time in their history came to a crushing end after another display of the sort which saw off Spain and Germany on their way to topping Group E.
However they could not claim one more big European scalp in the shape of the 2018 finalists and go home in the second round, as they did four years ago, after having three of their penalties saved.
Japan could easily have been ahead within three minutes when Shogo Taniguchi glanced a header wide from point-blank range, and 10 minutes later Daizen Maeda came close to turning in Junya Ito’s brilliantly placed low ball from the right flank.
In the meantime Perisic had let off a shot from a tight angle which led to a goalmouth scramble, but had Croatia scored they risked the goal being ruled out for what looked like a clear push on Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Bruno Petkovic then wasted a great opportunity in the 25th minute, strolling through almost unopposed onto a long through ball only to dawdle and fail to get a pass off to Andrej Kramaric who was charging into the box.
Kramaric was then too slow to latch on to Perisic’s dangerous flick-on and from there Japan took control, and the lead.
Daichi Kamada had already blasted over after a superb passing move when in the 43rd minute Maeda fired in the opener after Ritsu Doan’s cross was knocked down by Maya Yoshida.
Japan looked the better team and ready to inflict more damage but out of the blue Croatia’s most dangerous player Perisic levelled the scores with a bullet header from Dejan Lovren’s deep cross.
Almost immediately afterwards Wataru Endo responded by having a good strike tipped over the bar by Dominik Livakovic, before Shuichi Gonda pulled off the save of the match to keep out Modric’s beautifully-struck, dripping shot.
Modric was replaced nine minutes into the first half of extra-time in which Japan had the best chance, Kaoru Mitoma’s effort well tipped away by Livakovic.
With penalties drawing close, one final chance fell to Modric’s replacement Lovro Majer, who dragged his shot wide, but his team prevailed in the shoot-out to end the Blue Samurai’s entertaining adventure.


Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup

Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup
Spain's coach Luis Enrique attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 05 December 2022

Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup

Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup
  • “Over a year ago, in one of the Spain camps, I told them they had to get here with at least 1,000 penalties taken,” Enrique said on Monday

DOHA: Spain coach Luis Enrique set each of his players the “homework” of practicing 1,000 penalties ahead of the World Cup, saying he is convinced they are not a lottery.
The 2010 world champions face Morocco in the last 16 on Tuesday, with the threat of extra-time and penalties looming in the knockout phase of the tournament in Qatar.
Spain beat Switzerland on penalties at last year’s Euro 2020 but were eliminated on spot-kicks by Italy in the semifinals.
“Over a year ago, in one of the Spain camps, I told them they had to get here with at least 1,000 penalties taken,” Enrique said on Monday.
“I imagine that they have done their homework. If you wait until getting here to practice penalties... (it won’t be enough).
The Spaniard insisted spot kicks were “not a lottery.”
“It’s a moment of maximum tension, a time to show your nerve, and that you can shoot the penalty in the way you have decided, if you have trained it a thousand times,” he said.
“It says a lot about each player. It’s trainable, manageable, how you manage the tension. It’s increasingly less luck — the goalkeepers have more influence.
“We have a very good goalkeeper, any of the three can do very well in this situation. Every time we finish training I see a lot of players taking penalties.”
The Spain coach also responded to criticism over the team’s style of play — their commitment to playing out from defense sometimes puts them under pressure in dangerous areas.
Japan earned a shock 2-1 win over Spain, with their first goal coming after the European team lost the ball on the edge of their box and Ritsu Doan slammed home.
“Every team has their weapons,” said Enrique. “We want to get the ball in the best way possible to the forward,“ 
“If we have to hit a long ball, we’ll hit it. The interpretation has to be done on the pitch.”
He said he did not agree with Spain’s critics.
“It doesn’t make sense to say that against Japan if we hoofed it away to clear our lines we wouldn’t have let in the first goal,” he said.
“We also wouldn’t have scored any goals if we kept kicking it long. We will keep playing the ball out from the back, it’s what we want.”
Enrique confirmed that Cesar Azpilicueta had recovered from his knock against Japan and all 26 players would be fit to train on Monday evening ahead of the game.


Morocco out to make history in crunch World Cup game with Spain

Morocco out to make history in crunch World Cup game with Spain
Updated 05 December 2022

Morocco out to make history in crunch World Cup game with Spain

Morocco out to make history in crunch World Cup game with Spain
  • The Atlas Lions reached last-16 stage in 1986, but progress to the quarter-finals this year will lift them, and Arab football, to new levels

DOHA: Morocco face Spain on Tuesday with a place in the World Cup quarterfinals at stake.

It is surely the biggest game in the country’s history and perhaps the biggest game ever played by an Arab nation. A knockout game against a football superpower on the global stage — this is what dreams are made of. 

There is also no reason to have nightmares. After all, Morocco topped their group with seven points, more than any other Arab nation has ever collected.

This is also a team that has conceded just one goal in seven games under coach Walid Regragui. Even that was an unfortunate own goal in Thursday’s 2-1 victory over Canada.

This is a team that started with a solid draw against Croatia and then deservedly beat Belgium 2-0. Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 but then were held to a draw by Germany and were defeated 2-1 by Japan to finish second.

The Europeans remain favorites but they created little for all their possession against Japan. There is no reason for Morocco to fear Spain. They have already shown they can live with, and beat, some of the best that Europe has to offer.

Morocco are now a force to be reckoned with. They have been here before, winning the group back in 1986 and then losing 1-0 to West Germany, when Lothar Mattheus grabbed the only goal of a hard-fought encounter in Mexico with just two minutes remaining. 

Going one round further this time around would give the present crop of players immortal status.

If they were to make it, a quarterfinal against either Portugal or Switzerland would really get the excitement flowing in North Africa.

They already have the quality. Captain Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd have been excellent in the center of the backline. Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou is as solid as they come. The likes of Hakim Ziyech of Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi, and Nasser Mazraoui of Bayern Munich, play at the highest club level week in, week out and have started to show their class in this World Cup. 

It is such stars who will need to be at their best against the 2010 champions. A World Cup knockout game will not faze them and they are able to help Morocco get forward quickly and to devastating effect.

Soon, some of their national team mates will be joining them in the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool are reportedly interested in midfielder Sofyan Amrabat who has been one of the standout players of the tournament so far. His current club Fiorentina are big but a move to the elite is on the cards.

Youssef En-Nesyri has also impressed. The Sevilla striker will know the Spanish national team very well. He may also be in line for a move elsewhere in 2023, and there have already been reports of interest from West Ham United.

“We are determined to continue the dream in Qatar with the same will, determination, and perseverance,” the 25-year-old said. “Our focus will be on ourselves, our abilities, and the possibility of presenting a level worthy of the Moroccan national team in order to continue the adventure with success.” 

There is also coach Regragui. The 47-year-old has been in charge for just over three months, succeeding Vahid Halilhodzic. As well as bringing tactical discipline, he has been praised for his motivational skills and bringing together a squad that had looked disunited at times under the former boss. 

It was striking that after the win over Canada sealed top spot, Regragui refused his players’ attempts to throw him in the air before eventually relenting. The message is very much that it is a case of so far, so good but there is still work to do.

While the destination is still unknown, everyone is enjoying the journey. 

“I never dreamed of achieving something for my country,” said Hakimi. “Playing with Morocco is something amazing. To do something big for your country is better than with the club. 

“I am here to help all the Moroccan people. When I was young I saw the last generation that came to the World Cup and I dreamed of being like them.”

It remains to be seen what happens on the pitch but it is clear that Morocco’s fans will win the contest in the stands. They have been one of the loudest, most passionate and numerous groups of supporters at the World Cup. 

Such was the demand for the Spain game that FIFA released an extra 5,000 tickets. There will be ‘home’ advantage and a fantastic atmosphere.

That’s the way it should be. The locals will be supporting them too. At the 2010 World Cup, much of Africa got behind Ghana when the Black Stars were the only team left in the tournament. Now, Morocco are representing the Arab world and history awaits.


Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown

Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown
Brazil's forward Neymar reacts at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G football match between Cameroon and Brazil. AFP
Updated 05 December 2022

Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown

Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown
  • Superstar forward Neymar has been absent for Brazil since spraining his ankle in his team’s opening Group G win against Serbia last month and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since

DOHA: Neymar could make his return to the World Cup stage on Monday as Brazil continue their bid to be crowned kings for a record-extending sixth time against South Korea.
Superstar forward Neymar has been absent for Brazil since spraining his ankle in his team’s opening Group G win against Serbia last month and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since.
Coach Tite said Neymar would be assessed in Brazil’s final pre-game training session on Sunday, but gave a heavy hint that the Paris Saint-Germain attacker would start.
“He’s going to train this afternoon and if he’s OK, he will play tomorrow,” Tite told reporters.
His return would be a big boost as Brazil have scored just once since Neymar fell foul to his ankle injury and on Saturday lost Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the rest of the World Cup.
South Korea famously reached the semifinals 20 years ago when the tournament was shared between their country and Japan, who are also in action on Monday against Croatia.
The Koreans have not reached the knockout stages since 2010 and only got to the last 16 in Qatar thanks to an injury-time winner from Hwang Hee-chan in their final group game against Portugal.
They will need a different performance to the one in June’s friendly between the two teams, when Brazil romped to a 5-1 victory with Neymar scoring two penalties.
“We have good memories of 2002, of making it to the last four and we want to relive that,” said Korea midfielder Kim Jin-su, who was 10 years old at that time.
“We’ve waited so long to come to this knockout stage and we all truly wanted to come this far.”
Japan veteran Yuto Nagatomo said his side will again show the world their samurai spirit in their clash with unbeaten Croatia, after having already stunned Germany and Spain on their way to topping Group E.
“Before battle, the samurai would polish their weapons and refine their technique, but if they were scared in battle, all that would count for nothing,” the former Inter Milan left-back said Sunday.
“The most important thing is to have courage.”

- Mbappe shines, England cruise -

Kylian Mbappe was the star of the show again for France with a superb brace which sunk Poland 3-1 and gave the world champions a mouthwatering last-eight showdown with England, easy 3-0 winners over Senegal.
Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe rifled home two blistering second-half strikes after his veteran striker partner Olivier Giroud became France’s all-time leading scorer with his 52nd goal for his country just before half-time.
Mbappe called the World Cup his “obsession” after his match-winning performance, which took his tally to a tournament-leading five and also included an assist for Giroud’s record-breaking opener.
“The only objective for me is to win the World Cup,” said the 23-year-old.
“That is what I am dreaming of. I didn’t come here to win the Golden Ball (for best player). That is not why I am here. I am here to win and help the French national team.”
France will face England on Saturday at the Al Bayt Stadium, where Gareth Southgate’s team strolled past Senegal in a performance full of positives, not least the form of teen sensation Jude Bellingham.
Bellingham, 19, set up Jordan Henderson’s opener and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was involved again when England captain Kane bagged his first goal in this World Cup and overtook Gary Lineker as England’s all-time top scorer in major tournaments.
Bukayo Saka dinked home England’s third in the 57th minute to secure a comfortable win and set up a huge tie with one of the pre-tournament favorites.
“We’ll enjoy this one but then our focus turns to that, it’s going to be a really tough game,” said captain Kane. “They are reigning champions but it’s a good battle.”