Italy reversed an early one-goal deficit against the Czech Republic on Tuesday to book its ticket to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile, Robin van Persie scored twice for the Netherlands in an easy win over Andorra that did the same.
Libor Kozák scored in the 19th minute for the Czechs in Turin, but Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Balotelli scored in quick succession early in the second half for Italy. In Andorra, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie also scored twice early in the second half.
Italy won Group B with 20 points, seven more than Bulgaria has in second place, with two matches remaining. The Netherlands got a little help from Turkey, which defeated Romania, ensuring that the Dutch can no longer be caught at the top of Group D.
Italy and the Netherlands are the first two European nations to book their safe passage to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Seven more teams will qualify automatically by winning their groups, while four more will advance via playoffs.
Chelsea hosts Newcastle United this weekend, its first game since the season-ending injury to young defender Kurt Zouma.
The 21-year-old Frenchman has arguably been Chelsea’s best center back when it comes to marking and defending this season, and manager Guus Hiddink has to find an alternative for the big man.
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While Gary Cahill and John Terry have the familiar names of the bunch, Hiddink won’t limit himself to veteran replacements. Certainly he could slide Cesar Azpilicueta inside, though that would sacrifice about a half-foot, and Newcastle likes to use big striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
He also has 20-year-old USMNT back Matt Miazga — who’s been given squad No. 20 — and said the following in Friday’s pre-match press conference:
“We have no fear of bringing youngsters in.”
Could we see Miazga in the fold on Saturday? Hiddink’s comments sure sound like he’d rather not, but all it takes is an injury or an inkling.
Miazga gave an interview to Chelsea’s web site last weekend where he described his play.
“I really like it, it is a higher level, the ball moves much faster but yeah, it is good. All the guys are very welcoming and I am really enjoying it.
“My game is definitely built on winning aerial challenges and tackles. As a centre-back you have to have an aerial presence and win a lot of headers, and my job is to win duels and not let opponents score, so every time I try to get a good tackle in and make my opponent know that I am there and it is not going to be an easy time trying to go by me.”
The ball moves much faster, and we’re hoping to see Miazga move with it sooner rather than later. Will it be this weekend.
Fans protested their ticket prices, and Liverpool’s owners listened.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp isn’t surprised by this, and the German backed his bosses and gave an injury update as part of his prematch press conference on Friday.
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Liverpool heads to Aston Villa on Sunday, and Klopp is cautiously optimistic about his stars after Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Philippe Coutinho played big roles in the Reds’ midweek FA Cup loss to West Ham.
Klopp says Origi and Coutinho need their minutes managed, but said Sturridge feels good after normal recovery from his 70-minute return against the Irons. The English striker was Liverpool’s star in the match, and looked a cut above the Reds’ recent strike options.
As for the ticket price issue, Klopp beamed with pride over the Liverpool decision.
From the BBC:
“I think the world of football it is not easy when you are the owner of a club to prove you are interested in the club,” said Klopp.
“I have been here four-and-a-half months and I know the owners as people. They really care about the club and the interests of supporters. Hopefully it is understood for what it is: proof of their real interest in this club and all the things around this club.”
No surprise that Klopp backed the men who pay his deal, but it’d be easy enough for him to ignore the issue (though that’s hardly in his DNA).
As for Sturridge, Liverpool’s in for some goals if Tuesday is any indication.
Play until you hear the referee’s whistle. In theory, so simple. In practice, it only takes a single second of concentration lapse to become an internet sensation for all the wrong reasons.
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Such is life for Karyn Forbes, member of the Trinidad and Tobago women’s national soccer team. In the above video, you’ll observe Forbes, a 24-year-old midfielder, giving away perhaps the most bizarre penalty kick you’ll ever see. You’ll have to watch for yourself to believe it.
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Unfortunately for Forbes, though the whole of the ball might have crossed the whole of the end line, the referee did not blow her whistle… not until Forbes picked the ball up with her hands and carried it to her goalkeeper.
BERLIN (AP) The German Football League (DFL) has given the go-ahead for the possible testing of video replays in the Bundesliga over a two-year pilot phase.
[ FOLLOW: PST’s Bundesliga coverage ]
The DFL says it will be lodging an application with FIFA to take part if the pilot phase is approved by the International Football Association Board at its next annual general meeting on March 5.
The DFL says video replays could be used by a “team of impartial match officials for the purpose of avoiding any evidently incorrect decisions” and that the pilot phase would be preceded by “intensive preparations.”
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These would include the settlement of costs among FIFA, the IFAB, the DFL and German football federation, as well as training for the candidates.