Should Manchester City sack Roberto Mancini?

1 Comment

 

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has criticized club officials for not putting an end to rumors that he will be sacked in favor of Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Speculation that Mancini would be fired emerged following his side’s 1-0 loss to Wigan in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday. After the match, the Italian addressed the rumors. “You (media) continue to speak about this for six months and there has been too much in the last two weeks. . . . I don’t know why the club hasn’t stopped this because it is not correct and I don’t think it is true.”

“If it’s true we will see in the next two weeks. If it’s not true, you wrote a lot of stupid things for six months. If it’s true, I’m stupid because I didn’t understand anything about this.

“But I am sure I work with serious people and I’m sure I did a good job, even if we lost this final. Two weeks, maybe one week. Next Sunday. The season will finish. I will know if it’s true or not.”

So should City sack Roberto Mancini?

An argument can certainly be made as Mancini failed to win his side a single piece of silverware this season.

City was knocked out of the Capital One Cup back in September when they were thrashed 4-2 by an underwhelming Aston Villa side. It was a match that Mancini didn’t take seriously, starting Abdul Razak, Denis Suarez and bringing on substitutes Scott Sinclair and Jeremy Helan. While many laugh off the League Cup as only being a hindrance, going out to Villa in that fashion was embarrassing and that’s a piece of silverware that Mancini could now be using to his advantage.

The Citizens run to the FA Cup final was strong but losing to Wigan, who is likely to be relegated from the league, was inexcusable. Credit to the Latics, who played brilliantly on the day, but under no circumstances is a club like City ever to lose that match. Mancini failed to get his team mentally and physically ready for the game. On the pitch, the Citizens were outfought and in the locker-room they were out-witted. It was embarrassing for City and all Mancini could do in return was issue blame.

Slotted in the ‘group of death’ with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, City’s route in the Champions League was never going to be easy. But failing to earn a single victory was a travesty. There isn’t a pundit in the world who will argue that losing 3-2 at Madrid or 1-0 at Dortmund was a huge problem but drawing at home with each of the three opponents and getting manhandled 3-1 away at Ajax was completely unacceptable.

City’s performance in the league, however, can’t be deemed a massive failure. Granted, they failed to repeat as champions and instead found themselves looking up at United but finishing comfortably in second place and qualifying for next season’s Champions League is not a terrible result.

More importantly, it’s important to consider how much the Eithad fans love Mancini. Since taking over from Mark Hughes in December 2009, the Italian has helped cultivate the club into one of Europe’s elite while leading the Citizens to FA Cup victory in 2011 and the Premier League title in 2012. And while dissenters argue that Mancini’s success is by virtue of deep-pocketed owners, there’s something to be said for putting the right pieces in place and getting them to work together.

One season without silverware can’t possibly be enough to warrant the sack, can it?

 

UEFA playoff draw sets up intriguing battles

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The fight for the final four 2018 World Cup spots from UEFA is well and truly on.

On Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland the draw for the two-legged playoffs was made as the eight best runners up from the UEFA qualifying group stages found out their fate.

[ MORE: Latest World Cup rankings released ]

The Republic of Ireland will face Denmark over two games, while Northern Ireland face Switzerland and two monster clashes have been set up as Sweden and Italy will lock horns and Croatia and Greece will do battle.

A spot at the World Cup in Russia next summer is the prize for the four winners of these home and away playoffs.

The Republic of Ireland seem to have got the better draw, especially as they will play at home in the second leg in Dublin. Northern Ireland will also be okay with having Switzerland but are slightly hampered by playing the first leg in Belfast. Italy against Sweden will be a tight game and one neither nation will relish, and the same can be said for Croatia vs. Greece with their intense local rivalry.

First leg matches will take place on November 9-11, while the second leg will take place on November 12-14.

Below is the full schedule for the two playoff games.


UEFA playoff schedule

First leg

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
Croatia vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
Sweden vs. Italy

Second leg

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland
Greece vs. Croatia
Republic of Ireland vs. Denmark
Italy vs. Sweden

Watch Live: England, Mexico, Spain, France in U-17 World Cup action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It is a busy day at the U-17 World Cup in India as four Round of 16 games take place.

[ LIVE: Stream U-17 World Cup ] 

Red-hot England play Japan, while France and Spain collide and Mexico clash with a very impressive Iran side who won all of their group games. Mali and Iraq complete the Round of 16 games on Tuesday.

The winners of the England v. Japan game will face the U.S. on Saturday after they blew away Paraguay 5-0 on Monday.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s four games, while you can click on the link above to watch all four games live.

Tuesday’s U-17 World Cup Round of 16 games

Iran vs. Mexico – 7:30 a.m. ET
France vs. Spain – 7:30 a.m. ET
England vs. Japan – 10:30 a.m. ET
Mali vs. Iraq – 10:30 a.m. ET

Benevento remains alone in Europe without a point

Twitter/@jonurbana1
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Benevento remained the only club in Europe’s top five leagues without a point after losing at basement rival Hellas Verona 1-0 in Serie A on Monday.

[ MORE: USA U-17s top Paraguay in convincing style ]

Romulo scored with a long volley to conclude a counterattack in the 74th minute.

Benevento center back Luca Antei was shown a direct red card for a sliding tackle late in the first half and Verona striker Giampaolo Pazzini nearly took advantage immediately when he hit the post.

With its first win of the season, Verona moved up to 16th place with six points.

Benevento has lost all eight of its matches.

All of the top-division squads in England, France, Germany and Spain have earned at least a point.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

Twitter/@ug_football
1 Comment

CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.