Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Luigi Di Biagio takes over as Italy coach on caretaker basis

Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio was promoted Monday to take over Italy’s senior national team on a caretaker basis for friendlies against Argentina and England next month.

[ MORE: Ronaldo at 33 ]

The Azzurri have been without a coach since Gian Piero Ventura was fired following a playoff loss to Sweden in November that ruled Italy out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Italy plays Argentina in Manchester, England, on March 23 then faces England in London four days later. The Azzurri’s next competitive fixture isn’t until Sept. 7 against Poland in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

The 46-year-old Di Biagio played for Italy as a midfielder at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti and former Italy coach Antonio Conte are among those being considered for the full-time job.

Roberto Fabbricini, the Italian football federation’s emergency commissioner, mentioned Mancini as a candidate last week.

[ MORE: Kane on 100 PL goals ]

On Monday, he also mentioned current Nantes manager Claudio Ranieri as a possibility.

“Ranieri is no less appealing than Mancini. He’s got the credentials,” Fabbricini said. “But we need to be attentive from a procedural point of view. Many of these coaches are currently under contract. Either they free themselves up or it will be difficult to ask them to consider the job.”

Ranieri coached Leicester to an improbable English Premier League title in 2016.

Fabbricini also suggested that many current Serie A coaches could be considered – perhaps referring to Massimiliano Allegri at six-time defending champion Juventus.

“It’s Alessandro Costacurta’s job to get in contact with the candidates,” Fabbricini said, referring to his vice commissioner and the former AC Milan and Italy defender.

Ref suspended for kick at player: “Clumsy gesture was inappropriate”

AP Photo / David Vincent
1 Comment

Ligue 1 referee Tony Chapron has been suspended from work and has apologized after kicking out at a player who knocked him over on Sunday.

Chapron was knocked to the turf by Diego Carlos in Nantes’ match against Paris Saint-Germain. The referee then sent Carlos off via a second yellow card.

He’s been suspended “until further notice” as a Nantes player has called for a 10-match ban.

[ PL PLAYBACK: Man City blueprint, Alexis, VAR, relegation ]

Chapron, for his part, admits he made a pretty significant mistake.

The incident baffled Nantes boss Claudio Ranieri, who said he’d “never seen anything like it. I am sure you haven’t either. I do not know what happened. … What I do know is that I could not have one of my players in the closing minutes and, more seriously, that he will be suspended for the next match. But why? Why?”

The red card, to no one’s surprise, will not come with a suspension.

Italian president’s burning remarks provide path for USMNT

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

There’s no question whether the Italian national team job is a different class than the United States men’s national team.

Aside from the fact that both sides failed to qualify for the World Cup, have a vacant manager’s chair, and decent recent results at youth level, the disparity is striking (and not all in negative ways for American fans).

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

Italy has won four World Cups and a EURO, and played in four additional title games. Their domestic league is Top Five, and only six pool players who’ve been called up in the last 12 months come from outside Serie A. Three play in the Premier League, two in La Liga, and one in Ligue 1. It’s qualifying slate meant top Spain or face a home-and-home playoff with another top European team.

On the other hand, the U.S. faces the most forgiving qualifying run this side of Oceania. It’s room for improvement on the international stage is much higher, and its current group is so much further from its potential than the Italian side that it’s hard to find an apt comparison (Consider that, playoff loss aside, Italy has beat the following sides in the last 18 months: Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, and Uruguay).

Differences/similarities aside — and yes, it’s a tad ridiculous to get this deep into what separates Italy from the U.S. in terms of soccer — the USSF could do worse than monitoring how the Italians are handling their World Cup disaster.

1) Accepting responsibility without caveats about their previous successes — Here’s federation president Carlo Tavecchio (who it must be noted has said some reprehensible racist things. We would never gloss over something like that, but we’re talking about the soccer side here). After blasting player selection, he then said, ‘Yeah, but I hired the dude”:

“How can you not play [Lorenzo] Insigne? I told the staff, not him. I can’t intervene [with the coach], there are rules. I have to acknowledge it; I chose the coach. It’s been four days that I haven’t slept. I wake up continuously. We have always played crosses against tall defenders, some almost two meters tall. We had to play around them with the little players, who were on the bench.”

2) Waiting a while to make the correct move — By most accounts, this is very much the plan for the United States (especially with a presidential election looming in February). While most new presidents wouldn’t begrudge the hiring of an highly-qualified name, plenty of prospective bosses would want to wait until the new (or current) man in charge cements his place.

Tavecchio dropped plenty of names, and is especially interested in Chelsea’s Antonio Conte. And he said it’ll be worth the wait.

“We’re looking for the best. They already have commitments until June from a contractual point of view. Then when we get to June, who will be free? The ones are Ancelotti, Conte, Allegri, [Claudio] Ranieri and Mancini. This is the truth of those available.”

Granted the U.S. does not have the wealth of elite experience coaches that Italy does, but the Americans are also not limited to hiring an American.

USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan is a respected soccer name who is not going to light the shop on fire while the right hire is made during this upcoming string of friendlies.

It’s a top-bottom failure. It includes nearly every part of the system, but the man in charge is the most important part considering that the USMNT should qualify for every World Cup and somehow managed to bungle it.

America needs a bungle-free hire.

Lille starts Bielsa era with 3-0 win over Ranieri’s Nantes

Twitter/@SquawkaNews
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) Lille’s attacking potential this season was on display as coach Marcelo Bielsa’s new team started its French league campaign with a 3-0 win over Nantes on Sunday.

[ MORE: Coutinho to Barca? And more transfer rumors ]

After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the Argentine coach – known as “El Loco Bielsa” (Crazy Bielsa) to his fans – with the aim of returning to the Champions League while playing an exciting brand of football.

[ MORE: Arsenal tops Chelsea on PKs in FA Community Shield ]

Lille also recruited more than a dozen of new players and the northern club’s squad appears to have gelled.

Facing an unimaginative side, Lille dominated from the start but had to wait until the 48th to open the scoring through Paraguay defender Junior Alonso. Nicolas De Preville doubled his team’s lead from the spot and Anwar El Ghazi put the win beyond doubt.

The match also featured a duel between Bielsa and another prominent coach, Italian Claudio Ranieri. The managers, who had a quick chat before the game, returned to the French top flight after spending several years away.

With better players at his disposal following Lille’s ambitious recruiting campaign this summer, Bielsa’s team was in control from the start.

“We played a high-energy match, on a fast rhythm, and we made only a few fouls,” Bielsa said. “I believe that we deserved the goals we scored, and that it is a fair result. Let’s see if we can keep that rhythm and speed we want to play with throughout the whole season.”

Lille imposed a fast tempo by pressing high on the pitch – the Argentine’s trademark – and created several chances in the opening stages with fast moves down the flanks that caught out the Nantes back four.

But for all their possession the hosts lacked a cutting edge in the box. Bielsa’s influence was evident in the 14th when Nicolas de Preville tried and missed an acrobatic volley. The French striker did not give up though, tracked the ball down and managed to recover it before setting up newly signed Luiz Araujo, whose shot was blocked.

Nantes could have moved ahead against the run of the play when Abdoulaye Toure recovered the ball 20 meters from the hosts’ box and forced Mike Maignan into a superb dive with a long and powerful shot. The Lille `keeper managed to parry the ball onto the crossbar and Prejuce Nakoulma, alone in front of goal, fluffed his header from close range.

Lille finally broke the deadlock three minutes into the second half after taking advantage of a poor clearance from Nantes captain Leo Dubois. Alonso received the ball outside the box and unleashed a powerful strike into the bottom corner.

Maignan made a decisive save in the next minute to deny Emiliano Sala’s chip attempt at the conclusion of a slick counterattack to keep his team’s lead intact.

Lille was awarded a penalty in the 68th after Kevin Malcuit was fouled by Nicolas Pallois in the box, and De Preville converted from the spot by sending Maxime Dupe the wrong way. El Ghazi made it 3-0 three minutes later with a clean finish. El Ghazi celebrated his goal by taking his shirt off, revealing a tribute to former Ajax teammate Abdelhak Nouri, who collapsed during a pre-season game this summer and suffered brain damage.

Bielsa guided Marseille to a fourth-place finish in 2015 while Ranieri – who famously led English club Leicester to the Premier League title in 2016 – helped Monaco win the second division title in his first season, and then finish runner-up in the top flight in 2013-14.

Claudio Ranieri announced as new coach of Nantes

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Claudio Ranieri has landed.

The Italian manager who famously led Leicester City to the Premier League crown and was fired within a year has been hired by Ligue 1 side Nantes on a two-year deal.

[ MORE: Picking the Confederations Cup ]

There was some speculation that Ranieri would return to the PL, but instead takes the reins of his second Ligue 1 club. Ranieri led Monaco to promotion from Ligue 2 and then a runner-up finish in Ligue 1.

He’s also managed Greece, Chelsea and a host of the biggest clubs in Italy including Inter Milan, Roma, Juventus, Napoli, and Fiorentina. Ranieri has also coached Valencia twice.

Ranieri needed a special dispensation from France to take the job, as he’s over the maximum coach’s age of 65.