Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes

Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes
Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti attends a training session during a Media Opening day in Madrid Monday. Borussia Dortmund will play against Real Madrid in Saturday's Champions League final in London. (AP)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes

Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes
  • Ancelotti: First there is the joy of being here, then the concerns will come and the fear will come
  • Madrid, who also won the Spanish league and the Spanish Super Cup, are trying to win their sixth European Cup in 10 seasons, matching a feat the club also achieved from 1955-65

MADRID: Carlo Ancelotti is going into his eighth Champions League final, having won all but one of them.

He is the most successful coach in the competition thanks to four titles. He also lifted two European trophies as a player.

There is no lack of experience for the veteran Italian manager. But there is still plenty of anxiety and fear for Ancelotti ahead of yet another big game.

“It’s the same as it was the first time,” the 64-year-old Ancelotti said as Real Madrid entered the final week of preparations ahead of Saturday’s final against Borussia Dortmund in London.

“First there is the joy of being here, then the concerns will come and the fear will come,” he said. “But before they come we have to enjoy this week and I’m going to enjoy it. The cold sweat will arrive Saturday afternoon, it’s normal, I’m already prepared for it. And this team gives me a lot of confidence, I see them focused on the match, they are in Champions (League) mode.”

Ancelotti won the Champions League with Madrid in 2022 and 2014, and with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007. He lost the 2005 edition with AC Milan in a final in a penalty shootout against Liverpool after squandering a 3-0 lead.

His European triumphs as a player came with Milan in 1989 and 1990. He was also in the squad with Roma when it reached the 1984 final but he sat out injured.

Ancelotti said he will stick to his routine before the final at Wembley Stadium.

“I’m a bit superstitious but it’s very normal. I was told that it’s bad luck not to be superstitious,” he said. “I like to eat broccoli, salmon and pasta, and that’s what I’ll eat. Then I’ll have an hour’s nap, if I’m able to. And then I’ll start thinking about the match. Before the talk with the players, my heart will start to rise to 110 or 120 beats. It’ll stay up there until the start of the game, and when it starts it will go back to its normal rhythm.”

Ancelotti said some of his most memorable Champions League highlights are linked to his time with Madrid, including the incredible run in 2022, when it had to rally several times to make it to the final. He also mentioned the late comeback in the semifinal against Bayern Munich a few weeks ago, when Joselu scored in the 88th minute and in stoppage time.

Ancelotti said this season was especially difficult because of the long list of injuries to some of the team’s key players, including serious knee problems to Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militão and David Alaba. Also missing time because of injuries were Vinicius Junior, Jude Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.

“Attitude and commitment have been the key to overcoming all the problems we’ve had,” Ancelotti said. “That’s what allowed us to have a fantastic season.”

Madrid, who also won the Spanish league and the Spanish Super Cup, are trying to win their sixth European Cup in 10 seasons, matching a feat the club also achieved from 1955-65.

Ancelotti said he prides himself more about the way he has managed his locker rooms than his teams’ tactics over the years.

“Personal relationships are more important than professional relationships,” he said. “I’m not a psychologist but I’m experienced as I’ve worked for many years in locker rooms. I try to treat people with respect not only in tactical aspects but also in personal aspects. I’m in an environment with 50 people and I spend more time with them than with my wife and children. So if there are not good relationships and there is not a good atmosphere, then I’m not doing my job.”


Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’

Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’
Updated 13 June 2024
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Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’

Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’
  • “I think it’s normal that you feel a little bit of pressure before a tournament and before important games like these,” the 36-year-old told reporters
  • “We will work out the pressure and we will work out Scotland“

MUNICH: Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said his side needed to use the pressure of hosting Euro 2024 to their advantage ahead of Friday’s tournament opener against Scotland in Munich.
This summer’s hosts are three-time winners of the European Championship but have endured a poor time since reaching the semifinals at Euro 2016.
Since that tournament, the Germans were eliminated twice at the group stage of the World Cup, and lost to England in the last 16 at the Euros in 2021.
Admitting to being a “little nervous” ahead of his first game coaching Germany at a major tournament, Nagelsmann said he told his players to embrace the pressure in front of their home fans.
“I think it’s normal that you feel a little bit of pressure before a tournament and before important games like these,” the 36-year-old told reporters on Thursday.
“Ultimately for me it’s the most important theme, when I speak with my players, that pressure is a form of privilege.
“We need to simply enjoy being on the pitch. That’s very important. Our players started playing when they were young. They love it (football).
“If you do it that way, you’re doing it right.”
“We will work out the pressure and we will work out Scotland,” he added.
Nagelsmann shed light on the process of bringing veteran midfielder Toni Kroos, who retired from international duty in 2021, back into the squad. Nagelsmann revealed it took a while to convince the 2014 World Cup winner to return.
“It took a period of time to convince him because he wanted to know what we’ll change in the future,” explained Nagelsmann.
“He said he’ll only be part of the team when he feels we can win, so he wanted to know how we’ll change the team.
“Then he said he’ll be part of it and ‘let’s rock’.”
Nagelsmann was wary of Scotland, saying Steve Clarke’s side were not the “kick and rush” team of the past.
“They have flair and good physicality. They may not be full of superstars, but that can make them dangerous.”


Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home

Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home
Updated 13 June 2024
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Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home

Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home
  • “We need to talk about this,” coach Serhiy Rebrov said
  • This tournament is “100 percent” different and special, Zinchenko said

WIESBADEN, Germany: With patriotic songs broadcast and thousands of exiled Ukrainians in the stadium, the men’s national team was made to feel at home at their first training in Germany for the European Championship.
After the national anthem played, and before the warmups began, there was a vivid reminder of the war at home that is a constant and uniting force for this Ukraine squad.
Each player had a ball to give to a fan and Oleksandr Zinchenko presented his to a military veteran who had prosthetic legs below each knee.
Near the downtown stadium of Wehen Wiesbaden is the United States military headquarters in Germany which is coordinating the delivery of weapons and other aid from Ukraine’s allies to fight against the Russian invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Wiesbaden six months ago.
It is a subject the Ukraine team want to address, and hope Euro 2024 watched worldwide will help put on center stage.
“We need to talk about this,” coach Serhiy Rebrov said. “I know that some people are tired about the news of the war, but we are continuing to fight, and we need your support.”
“It’s very important that Ukraine is represented in the Euro because we, all Ukrainians, we want to be in (the) European family,” said the former national team star who also played in England and Russia, and coached in Hungary. “On the war we are fighting for all Europe.”
Zinchenko was in the Ukraine team that reached the quarterfinals of Euro 2021, the pandemic-delayed tournament. That was the last European summer before the Russians attacked.
This tournament is “100 percent” different and special, Zinchenko said.
“There are still people dying for no reason and we have to stick together,” said the Arsenal player, stressing that what the players have lived through does not compare to fighters on the front lines and their families.
“For them it is super difficult, for us it’s obviously extra motivation. We all know who is behind us. We need to show our best performance,” Zinchenko said.
Ukraine first play on Monday against Romania in Munich. Four days later, Ukraine play Slovakia in Duesseldorf then finish in Group F against favored Belgium on June 26 in Stuttgart.
Preparation for those games started in earnest on Thursday morning after a formal welcome on the field by politicians from the region where Wiesbaden is the state capital.
The 4,000 fans in the stadium gave standing ovations to greet different groups of players as they passed by doing light warmup runs in laps of the field.
“In Germany, the Ukrainian community is everywhere. We were very happy with everything here,” said Rebrov, one day after the squad arrived.
At home, the country is under constant threat of Russian bombs targeting the people and essential infrastructure for daily life like the power grid.
“I hope when we play the games,” midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi said, “people in Ukraine have lights to watch the games on TV.”
For the past 10 years, Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk has been unable to play games in its home city because of the conflict in the country’s east involving Russian-backed separatists.
Ukraine midfielder Taras Stepanenko has stayed with Shakhtar through the whole decade, including playing Champions League ‘home’ games this season in Germany. He said on Thursday, “We deserve to be here for our people.
“Every day people die, cities destroyed. Every day when we wake up, we read the news about what the situation is in Ukraine,” said the 34-year-old player appearing at his third straight Euros.
“Every day, I see on my phone screen, messages about air (raids). So, every morning I phone my parents to ask if everything is OK,” Stepanenko added. “We live in this condition almost three years. It’s so difficult.”


Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024

Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024
Updated 13 June 2024
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Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024

Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024
  • “And I just had to pack my stuff as quickly as possible and come,” said Maatsen
  • Bologna forward Zirkzee posted a photo of himself smiling broadly on Instagram with the text: “When you get the call to leave Disney for the Euros”

DORTMUND: One of the players was on a boat on a Greek island. The other was in Disney World in Florida.
Yet neither Ian Maatsen nor Joshua Zirkzee had any hesitation answering the emergency call from the Netherlands at the European Championship.
“It’s a childhood dream to be here — it’s definitely worth the return trip,” said Maatsen, the left back who was on vacation in Mykonos with his girlfriend when he was summoned by Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman to replace Frenkie de Jong.
“I suddenly received a call,” he added on Thursday. “And I just had to pack my stuff as quickly as possible and come.”
Maatsen was on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Chelsea in the recently completed season and helped the German club reach the Champions League final, where they lost to Real Madrid on June 1.
He was named in UEFA’s Champions League team of the season and will give Koeman an extra option on the left flank, where he is set to challenge Daley Blind for a starting spot.
“I did enjoy my holiday and processed everything well, including the disappointment of the Champions League final,” he said.
As for Zirkzee, he cut short his postseason vacation in Florida to head to the Netherlands’ base in Wolfsburg after another striker in the squad, Brian Brobbey, hurt a hamstring in training.
After hearing of his call-up, Bologna forward Zirkzee posted a photo of himself smiling broadly on Instagram with the text: “When you get the call to leave Disney for the Euros.”
Zirkzee has never played an international for the Netherlands’ senior team. He joined the Bayern Munich youth academy and played a handful of games for the German powerhouse before moving on loan to Parma then Anderlecht before signing for Bologna in 2022.
The Netherlands open their Euro 2024 campaign on Sunday against Poland in Hamburg.


Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament
Updated 13 June 2024
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Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament
  • “Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said
  • Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament

BERLIN: Germany welcomed police officers from across Europe on Thursday to bolster its defenses against potential threats at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament, with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser promising vigilance on the eve of the opening match.
“Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said at a ceremony for around 350 foreign police officers dispatched for the event.
Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament, which begins with the host country’s Group A opener against Scotland on Friday.
“Our security authorities therefore have the Islamist scene firmly in their sights,” Faeser said, while adding that authorities were not currently aware of any specific plots.
Germany expects 2.7 million people to attend matches in stadiums across the country and some 12 million in its fan zones for outdoor viewing, including on a long stretch of turf laid out in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
The fan zones were popular during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but it remains to be seen whether the public mood at this event can rise above simmering tensions at a time of conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East, and as the far right sees its support surge in Europe.
“Some people are trying to bring these conflicts into our country,” the minister warned, adding that propaganda and hate speech on German streets would not be tolerated.
Some 22,000 police officers will be working each day at the tournament.
German security authorities are also working with international partners to identify potential threats and the country has ramped up its border controls.


Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup
Updated 13 June 2024
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Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup
  • Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26

MIAMI: Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has confirmed in an interview with US broadcaster ESPN that he will not attempt to win a second gold medal with Argentina at the Paris Olympics this summer.
“I spoke with (Argentinian Olympic coach Javier) Mascherano, and we immediately agreed on the situation,” Inter Miami forward Messi said in the interview broadcast on Wednesday.
“It’s a difficult moment, because there’s the Copa America, and that would mean two or three consecutive months away from my club.
“At my age, I don’t want to play everything and I need to make the right choices,” added the former Barcelona star who was a member of Argentina’s 2008 Olympic gold medal winning team.
Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26.
Messi, however, has not closed the door on taking part in a record-breaking sixth World Cup, to be held in 2026 between the US, Canada and Mexico.
“It’s great to have records and continue to achieve things but I won’t take part in a World Cup just to say I’ve done six,” said Messi.
“If I feel good and everything is in place for me to be there, fine, but I won’t go just to go.”
“It’s very difficult to imagine what can happen because it’s still two years away. I don’t need to commit right now to whether or not I’ll be there.”