Adnan Januzaj’s father angry with Belgium manager Marc Wilmots

4 Comments

The struggle to land Adnan Januzaj continues on the international level and it appears Belgium’s chances of doing so may have taken a hit.

The Brussels-born talent, who, under FIFA sanctions is currently eligible to play for Belgium, Albania, Serbia and Turkey, continues to weigh his options under the heavy influence of his father, Abedin.

Belgium have long been trying to convince Januzaj to play for them but, over the weekend, Diables Rouges manager Marc Wilmots brought the United sensation back to earth with his comments. “It is impossible to negotiate with me,” Wilmots said. “The kid is available? He wants to play? Then perfect, okay, show me.

“If you’re at the top level in Manchester, show me your skills and if I need you I will call. I make no promises!”

The soundbite didn’t go over well with Januzaj Sr. Furious, Abedin said, “This is shameless. We never reacted on selections, phone calls or letters from the Belgian FA. They are requesting his selection, not us. Wilmots’ remarks won’t make it easier now. We are angry about these comments.”

Not a good sign for Belgium. So was Wilmots out of line with his comments?

At first blush, yes. Clearly, adding more talent to an already star-studded side can only lead to good things. Plus, Januzaj’s two goal performance against Sunderland was a strong indication of his “skills”.

Then again, it was only one game. Yes, the talent is there but whether consistency accompanies it remains to be seen. Factor in that David Moyes has never been partial to consistently playing young players (one need not look further back than his time at Everton with Ross Barkley) and there’s at least a chance that Januzaj doesn’t capitalize – or have the opportunity to capitalize – on all the recent press he’s received.

From a PR standpoint, however, Wilmots could have been a bit more careful with his quotes. Given Belgium’s sensational talent pool the manager is merely being honest in noting that competition for spots is thick. But saying things like “if I need you” and “I make no promises” is just inflammatory, especially to a hot-blooded and overly influential papa like Abedin.

The spat will come as a delight to England, who the Daily Mail claims have already been given a strong indication that Januzaj would prefer to play for the Three Lions, assuming he earns FIFA sanctioning to do so under the residency requirement.

There may be a World Cup on the horizon but don’t bank on this situation clearing itself up anytime soon.

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
Leave a comment

A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
1 Comment

Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.