Januzaj-Dallas Cup

Januzaj not promised Belgium slot for World Cup, so what are his odds?

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Adnan Januzaj has made the preliminary squad for Belgium’s World Cup appearance this summer, which is no surprise. After all, head coach Marc Wilmots courted the Manchester United youngster for a very long time and surely assurances were given that he’d have every chance to make the team were the 19-year-old to choose Belgium as his international side (which he did, of course).

That doesn’t mean he’s a lock to make the side, Wilmots said.

From SkySports:

“I’ve put no pressure on them, but after my contract extension, a few weeks ago, they’ve called me to say they’d made up their mind and it is a wonderful thing.

“Adnan chose a country where there’s a lot of competition. The more competition, the better. But he has no guarantees – who knows me, knows I never give them.”

What are the odds Januzaj emerges from the 26- or 27-man squad to find himself repping Rode Duivels in their first World Cup since 2002?

Well, his ability as a winger or advanced middleman give him multiple options, and perhaps Christian Benteke’s injury could prod Wilmots into using him as a striker (Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and PSV’s Zakaria Bakkali are the only true strikers to earn recent call-ups besides Benteke).

If past World Cup rosters are a guide, there will likely be 9-11 midfielders in the mix. Several Belgians have dozens of caps and have been called up in the last year.

It’s either difficult or impossible to imagine Januzaj slotting ahead of Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, Nacer Chadli, Marouane Fellaini, Kevin De Bruyne, Radja Nainggolan, Dries Mertens, Axel Witsel or Mousa Dembele. There are also 21-year-olds Thorgan Hazard (Waregem) and Maxime Lestienne (Brugge), injured Porto star Steven Defour and 93-times capped 37-year-old Timmy Simons (Brugge).

Januzaj has to be hoping his versatility — he can play both right or left and perhaps striker — will get him the nod. And to me that’s the way he slides into the roster. Because if Wilmots only saw him as a midfielder, he’d only have hope as the “bring him for experience” player (which is possible, too).

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.