Mar 06 2014
Jose Mourinho may be on the hunt for new defenders this summer and the Chelsea manager has made no secret of his admiration for Real Madrid's Raphael Varane, describing him as the "best in the world".
The Portuguese took Varane to Spain in 2011 in an £8 million, six-year deal when he was in charge at the Bernabeu and has tipped the Frenchman to become one of the stars at the World Cup.
"I think he is the best young central defender in the world. Already I think he's the best," Mourinho told The Sun. "A young player must be somebody who plays in the World Cup for the first time."
Mourinho could be looking for a centre-back in the summer with the contract of John Terry, the Chelsea captain, set to expire and David Luiz being linked with a move to Barcelona once again.
Chelsea also signed promising defender Kurt Zouma from Saint-Etienne for £12m in January, loaning the 19-year-old back to the Ligue 1 side until the end of the season.
Mar 06 2014
Mesut Ozil continued to face criticism as he was jeered by a section of Germany fans during his nation's 1-0 friendly win over Chile in Stuttgart.
Ozil provided the assist for Mario Gotze to score the only goal of the game in Germany's victory over Chile. However, the Arsenal midfielder has been rested in recent weeks by Arsene Wenger after suffering a dip in form, but he played 89 minutes before being substituted, where he was whistled at by the home fans.
Germany team manager Olivier Bierhoff hit out at the supporters' reaction to Ozil, saying: "I don't understand the whistling. I find it a shame that a player such as Mesut is picked out. I would hope for different support for a game like that."
Meanwhile, Jerome Boateng added: "They have some nerve. You can't shine all the time."
Before the game, Ozil was presented with the 2013 National Team Player of the Year award by supporters
Per Mertesacker played the full 90 minutes in defence for Germany, while Andre Schurrle - fresh from a hat-trick for Chelsea against Fulham on Saturday - was given 45 minutes in place of Miroslav Klose.
Marouane Fellaini - still without a goal for Manchester United since his £27.5m summer move from Everton - was on target for Belgium, but they suffered a late setback in a 2-2 draw with the Ivory Coast.
Fellaini headed in Dries Mertens' corner on 17 minutes, with Radja Nainggolan adding the second early in the second half. However, after Aston Villa's Christian Benteke contrived to miss an open goal from eight yards, Belgium were made to pay. Didier Drogba pulled a goal back for the Ivory Coast in the 74th minute before Swansea striker Wilfried Bony equalised in injury ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 06 2014
Cristiano Ronaldo has played down his latest record, claiming landmarks come naturally to him.
Ronaldo scored twice in Portugal's 5-1 friendly win over Cameroon on Wednesday to become his country's all-time top international goalscorer with 49 goals in 110 senior appearances.
His tally surpassed the previous mark set by former Paris Saint Germain forward Pauleta, who scored 47 times in his 88 caps.
But Portugal captain Ronaldo claimed he was always confident the record would be his because of the work he puts in and the team he has around him.
"I do not look to beat records," Ronaldo told national broadcaster RTP after the game. "This happens naturally, with a lot of effort, dedication, with the excellent national team we have, a good coach. I knew that sooner or later it was going to happen."
Ronaldo also equalled former Porto and Lazio defender Fernando Couto's mark of 110 international appearances in the game but trails winger Luis Figo's record of 127 senior caps for Portugal.
Portugal's other goals on the night came from Raul Meireles, Fabio Coentrao and Edinho, with Vincent Aboubakar replying for the visitors.
Ronaldo made his senior debut back in 2003 and overtook Pauleta's total with his first goal on Wednesday night.
The Ballon d'Or winner, who was making his 110th appearance, has scored 10 goals in nine games for Portugal in 2013, including a hat-trick against Sweden in the play-offs to book his nations' spot at this year's World Cup.
Meanwhile, France outclassed the Netherlands to win 2-0 in Paris. Karim Benzema grabbed his 19th goal for France with a stunning volley in the 32nd minute, with the goal being the seventh he has scored in his last six matches for club and country.
Blaise ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 06 2014
Daniel Sturridge struck a late header to help England avoid another disappointing result at Wembley against Denmark.
Sturridge leapt high to head home Adam Lallana's cross with eight minutes left of what was otherwise an uninspiring 1-0 win.
This match was billed as a grand audition for England's fringe players to prove to Roy Hodgson that they deserved a place on the plane to Brazil.
For the most part it was something of an anti-climax though, as England lacked purpose and a cutting edge in the first half in particular.
When Cesare Prandelli looks at the tape of the first 45 minutes of this encounter at Wembley, the Italy coach will hardly be quaking in his boots.
But Hodgson had always earmarked this game as one to experiment, so a little leeway should be given to the England manager.
The first half experiment of deploying Sturridge out wide did not work, though. The striker, scorer of 32 goals in 39 games while playing as a main frontman, was inexplicably positioned on the left wing.
It was only when Sturridge was moved into the centre after the break that he had the biggest impact, and his goal was a superb poacher's effort.
Other positives should be taken too. Raheem Sterling hit a post and won the man of the match award.
Luke Shaw did not look out of place when he came off the bench to make his debut at left-back, but Ashley Cole also put in a very impressive 45 minutes for the Three Lions.
But the feeling remains that Hodgson still has a lot of work to do with his players by the time England's World Cup opener against Italy takes place on June 14.
The 68,573-strong Wembley ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Mar 06 2014
Stoke City midfielder Charlie Adam has been suspended for three matches for violent conduct by the FA.
Adam, 28, appeared to stamp on Olivier Giroud's leg in Saturday's 1-0 home win over Arsenal.
Referee Mike Jones did not book Adam after he appeared to bring his studs down on the France striker as he lay on the floor during the second half at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke released a statement saying they would appeal, stating they were "surprised and disappointed" by the charge. However, the FA's disciplinary panel ruled on Wednesday that Adam was guilty of violent conduct.
Adam will now miss Stoke's upcoming Premier League trips to Norwich and Aston Villa as well as the home fixture against West Ham.
Mar 06 2014
Arjen Robben has hit back at Arsene Wenger's claim that he dived to win a penalty during Bayern Munich's 2-0 defeat of Arsenal, insisting it was a "pretty scary moment" for him.
The winger went to ground after he being brought down by Wojciech Szczesny during the first half of their last-16 first leg two weeks ago.
Wenger accused Bayern's players of diving after the defeat and singled out Robben for making the most of the Arsenal goalkeeper's challenge.
But Robben branded the attack sour grapes from the Arsenal manager. "Wenger's comments are typical for a losing coach," he told De Telegraaf. "I don't care much about it, because it's not the first time he acts like this.
"It was a pretty scary moment for me. I picked up a serious [knee] injury in December after a similar foul from Augsburg's goalkeeper."
The penalty incident was not the only controversy Robben was involved in during the game; the 30-year-old was also accused of spitting on Bacary Sagna while the Arsenal defender was on the ground.
Robben strenuously denied the claims which were widely circulated on social media and insisted it had been sweat dripping off his head.
The second leg of the ite takes place on March 11 at Bayern's Allianz Arena.
Mar 06 2014
Argentina legend Diego Maradona said he was "delighted" Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or because he believes it will inspire Lionel Messi to success at this summer's World Cup.
Barcelona star Messi, 26, was named the world's best player for four successive years before Real Madrid's Ronaldo ended his run by claiming 2013 award.
However, Maradona feels the disappointment of missing out will ensure Messi - who has returned to top form after three months out with a hamstring injury he sustained in November - has all the motivation he needs to inspire his country in Brazil.
"Thanks to his age and the experience gained in these years, this is the World Cup which is best for [Messi]," Maradona, who coached Argentina at the 2010 finals, told La Nacion.
"Even the time out with injury was good for him. I was also delighted when they gave Cristiano the Ballon d'Or. He who adjusts himself best will win, and Leo has already adjusted."
Maradona's performances as Argentina won the 1986 trophy cemented his status as the best player of his era, but he said Messi does not need to replicate his own World Cup heroics to secure his standing among the greats.
"Messi does not need to win the World Cup to be the best player in the world," he said. "That has nothing to do with it - we should not confuse being fat with a swollen belly.
"To win the World Cup would be monstrous for Argentina, it would be monstrous for the fans, and it would be monstrous for Leo. But winning a World Cup or not winning a World Cup does not take away any of what he has done to be where he is."
Maradona said that both ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Mike Krzyzewski might have poured too much emotion into No. 4 Duke's trip to Wake Forest.
The rest of the Blue Devils didn't seem to have enough.
The Demon Deacons upset Duke 82-72 on Wednesday night after Coach K experienced enough dizziness and light-headedness to force him to kneel during a late timeout and skip his postgame news conference.
"There was a great emotional investment in the game," Wojciechowski said, "and I think maybe the emotion got the better of him."
The rest of the team might not have had that problem.
Duke (23-7, 12-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) was playing for the first time in more than a week -- after going 4-1 in an 11-day span before that -- and Wojciechowski said the Blue Devils simply weren't prepared emotionally.
After taking a late seven-point lead, Duke went without a field goal for five critical minutes while allowing the Demon Deacons (16-14, 6-11) to reel off 17 straight points and go up by double figures.
"I'm not sure that ... we were as prepared from an emotional standpoint," Wojciechowski said. "I don't know if our guys had the needed edge to compete against a Wake Forest team that played their hearts out."
Tyler Cavanaugh scored a career-high 20 points, Travis McKie added 19 in his final scheduled home game and Codi Miller-McIntyre had 13 for the Demon Deacons.
They followed one of their worst performances of the season -- a home loss to sub-.500 Boston College -- with one of their best. Their first win over Duke since 2009 also marked their biggest upset since they knocked off No. 2 Miami in February 2013.
"I couldn't picture a better ending," McKie said. "Everything was just perfect ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
DALLAS -- Louisville leading scorer Russ Smith was still feeling light-headed and dizzy after Wednesday night's game. He had felt that way pretty much all day.
Smith overcame his stomach illness, and a rough first half, by hitting all six of his 3-point attempts after halftime as the 11th-ranked Cardinals rallied from a big early deficit to become the first opponent to win in SMU's renovated home. They beat the 18th-ranked Mustangs 84-71.
"He just came through in a big way," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "That was a Michael Jordan-type performance in terms of being sick and gutting it out."
Smith scored 22 of his 26 points after halftime. He hit three straight 3s right after his alley-oop pass on the go-ahead dunk by Montrezl Harrell midway through the second half for the American Athletic Conference-leading and defending national champion Cardinals (25-5, 14-3 AAC).
After making only one of his five shots before halftime, none from 3-point range, Smith took six 3-point attempts after halftime. He made them all, including those three in a 72-second span after the go-ahead dunk and later on consecutive possessions with defenders in his face.
Just because he was making all those shots didn't mean he was suddenly feeling better physically.
"That was crazy. It was happening right when we were in the huddle. You know you get that nasty little belch, and then after that I just had to excuse myself," Smith said. "I was trying to play through it. But I realized we had a pretty decent lead so I didn't want to force the issue to make things worse."
Pitino won the matchup of Hall of Fame coaches, as SMU and Larry Brown lost for the first time in 10 games since moving back ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
ST. LOUIS -- Jim Crews did not seem to mind Saint Louis backing into a share of its second straight Atlantic 10 title and the top seed in the conference tournament.
"Hey, we play for championships, so I'm delighted," the coach of the 17th-ranked Billikens after a 72-67 loss to Dayton in the home finale Wednesday night. "Our kids gave it great effort.
"It's a long season. For them to win back-to-back championships, that's pretty impressive."
Long faces during a low-key postgame ceremony for the five senior starters, with Crews doing most of the talking, showed the hurt. The Billikens (25-5, 12-3 Atlantic 10) cracked the Top 10 for the first time since 1964-65 a few weeks ago but now have lost three straight for the first time since February 2011.
"Not the way we wanted to get to that point," forward Dwayne Evans said. "We just didn't play well enough to win, but I guess that's good going forward."
Reserve Jalen Robinson scored all 10 of his points in the second half, including two key 3-pointers in the put-away run, to key Dayton's upset.
"We're not worried about the bubble," Flyers coach Archie Miller said. "I think the great thing about this team is we've eliminated all the noise."
The Billikens clinched at least a tie for the title with about two minutes remaining when George Washington wrapped up a 76-71 victory over Saint Joseph's.
Jordan Sibert had 14 points, including three 3-pointers, for the Flyers (21-9, 9-6), while Dyshawn Pierre had 11 points and Devin Oliver had nine points and nine rebounds.
Oliver, a senior, called it a career highlight.
"I would say so," he said. "Just the implications going into the end of the season and whatever ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)