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Van Basten critical of Neymar’s World Cup theatrics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Neymar’s play-acting at the World Cup made him the butt of plenty of jokes, and also earned the Brazil striker some criticism from FIFA technical director Marco van Basten.

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Van Basten, himself one of greatest forwards in the history of the game, said Thursday diving and faking injury is “not a good attitude” and works against Neymar and his team.

“If you are acting too much I think everybody will understand that it’s not going to help you,” the Netherlands great said. “I think he (Neymar) personally should understand his situation.”

Van Basten was asked about Neymar’s theatrics at a briefing with experts appointed by FIFA to analyze tactics and technical trends at the 64-game tournament. One factor they agreed could help explain Neymar’s frustration in Russia: Playmakers face more well-organized defensive lines which are better than ever at denying them space to work.

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“The amount of square meters to play in is unbelievably difficult,” Van Basten said.

Neymar was calculated to have spent almost 14 minutes on the turf injured or simulating injury during Brazil’s five games at the tournament.

Some dramatic rolling falls before coming to a stop started a trend in online videos of youth soccer teams practicing faking injury when their coach called out Neymar’s name.

Asked if Neymar had become a joke, Van Basten said “he makes people laugh so also I think that’s a positive thing. It’s always nice if we have some humor in the game.”

[ MORE: Deschamps: EURO heartbreak drives France to World Cup final ]

Once the world’s best center forward with AC Milan and the Dutch national team, Van Basten has sympathy for players in his old position at this year’s World Cup.

Tight and compact defenses like Sweden and Iceland made it “very, very difficult for the No. 9 to get the ball, to make goals, to influence the game,” he said.

“Normally we say you can play between the lines,” Van Basten said. “But today it’s nearly impossible to get in between the lines. So coaches will have to find solutions. These things go in waves.”

He singled out Croatia playmaker Luka Modric for “reading the game, guiding the game” and leading his team to Sunday’s final against France.

Run-up shootouts, per-player match limits on FIFA’s agenda

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Restricting players to 60 games a year. Replacing penalty shootouts with eight-second run-ups. Introducing orange cards to send players off for 10 minutes. Scrapping offside.

Former AC Milan and Netherlands forward Marco van Basten is using his role as technical director at FIFA to propose a series of changes to soccer to stir a debate.

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Rather than using his job to meddle, Van Basten highlights the need to preserve soccer as the world’s most popular sport.

“I have spoken to a lot of coaches and players,” Van Basten said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have to promote quality instead of quantity. We are playing too much football now. We have to defend players because they have to play so much and are not fresh or fit anymore.

“That’s bad for the quality of the game. Even in June when the big tournaments are played players cannot perform to their maximum because now if players are really successful they can play up to 75 official games in the year. I think that’s a bit too much and maybe they should stop at 55 or 60.”

Although FIFA will expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams from 2026, that won’t burden players with any additional games. Instead, clubs sides would have to explore reducing the number of fixtures, potentially by reducing the number of lucrative friendly games played on tours.

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“That’s all for money but we have to think about football and not money,” said Van Basten, who was hired by FIFA in September. “For a lot of clubs that’s not easy. But there is enough money in football.

“(Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi are earning so much money. If they are earning a little bit less but performing better that’s good for football.”

Asked about countries like England or France no longer playing two cup competitions alongside their league fixtures, Van Basten said: “In my opinion that should be an interesting discussion.”

Van Basten knows some of radical changes he proposed to the AP could make traditionalists uneasy. But the 1992 FIFA world player of the year wants to ensure the global game has a say on its future.

“We should not just let the game be organized by those with the money,” he said from FIFA HQ in Zurich. “The big clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Real Madrid who have everything.”

“In football you need opponents, competition because if you are alone with two or three clubs controlling everything you don’t have any competition.”

Here are some potential changes to soccer proposed by Van Basten:

PENALTY SHOOTOUTS

Rather than burdening players with an additional 30 minutes of action when cup games are level after 90 minutes, Van Basten is suggesting going straight to penalties.

“I think everybody is pretty tired after 120 minutes,” Van Basten said.

Now penalties are a test of nerves with players having one chance to beat the goalkeeper from the penalty spot.

“Maybe the player should start 25 meters from goal and then you can dribble the goalkeeper or shoot early,” he said. “But you have to make a goal within eight seconds. It’s more skill and less luck. It’s maybe a bit more spectacular. It’s more football but it’s still nervous for the player.”

NO OFFSIDE

Scrapping the offside rule could make soccer more visually appealing, Van Basten advises.

“I think it can be very interesting watching a game without offside,” he said. “Football now is already looking a lot like handball with nine or ten defenders in front of the goal. It’s difficult for the opposition to score a goal as it’s very difficult to create something in the small pieces of space they give you.

“So if you play without offside you get more possibilities to score a goal.”

FOUR QUARTERS

Soccer is increasingly intense and grueling, with a single 15-minute break between 45-minute halves.

“We are trying to help the game, to let the game develop in a good way,” Van Basten said. “We want to have a game which is honest, which is dynamic, a nice spectacle so we should try to do everything to help that process.”

Introducing four quarters could be advantageous.

“The coach can have three times with his players during the game,” Van Basten said.

SINBINS

Now there is no middle ground between players being shown a yellow card and receiving a red card and then being removed for the rest of the game.

“Maybe an orange card could be shown that sees a player go out of the game for 10 minutes for incidents that are not heavy enough for a red card,” Van Basten said.

Such an instance could be when a player commits repeat fouls that didn’t warrant yellow cards or obstruct opponents. Five misdemeanors could earn a player a place in a sin bin for 10 minutes, Van Basten said.

NEXT STEPS

Any changes to the laws of the game cannot be forced through by Van Basten, however close he is to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. He said he wants to listen to the views of world before any proposals are taken to the game’s law-making body, The International Football Association Board. FIFA controls half of the eight votes on IFAB, with the other four retained by the British associations.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

FIFA hires Marco van Basten as technical director

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA appointed Netherlands and AC Milan great Marco van Basten as a technical director on Friday to help raise coaching standards.

[ MORE: Court reopens case against Neymar over Barcelona transfer ]

FIFA confirmed Van Basten’s new job after he resigned last month as an assistant coach with the Dutch national team.

Van Basten was at FIFA headquarters for the first time, and will have the title chief officer for technical development, FIFA said in a statement.

He will work with former Milan teammate Zvonimir Boban, who FIFA President Gianni Infantino hired as deputy secretary general overseeing football matters.

“It’s a great honor for me to be appointed for this assignment,” Van Basten said in the statement.

Van Basten steps down from AZ Alkmaar post after heart issues

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USMNT striker Aron Johannsson will have a new manager when he comes back from injury, as former Ajax and AC Milan attacker Marco van Basten’s stint as AZ Alkmaar boss lasted just a few months.

In a very odd twist, he’s going to stay on as assistant manager to Alex Pastoor, a former assistant.

[ RELATED: Johannsson still a month away from return ]

Van Basten, 49, stepped away from his post on Tuesday, weeks after taking leave from the club to deal with stress-related health issues. He was hired over the summer after a season at Ajax and two years at Heerenveen.

He also coached the Netherlands from 2004-2008, and has been dealing with heart palpitations.

From the BBC:

“It (the palpitations) has happened to me several times over the last years. I thought I could overcome it and that things would get better,” added Van Basten.

“I worked hard at recovery and followed the necessary courses of treatment. I wanted to keep going but they kept coming back. There were two solutions: to do something else or to change the way I currently work.

“That is why I asked AZ to change my responsibility to better suit me and so that I can continue.”

The first chair at AZ has belonged to some of the biggest names in Dutch football, from Louis van Gaal to Dick Advocaat and Ronald Koeman.

Marco van Basten to take over at AZ, become Aron Johannsson’s new coach

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AZ Alkmaar have appointed Dutch legend Marco van Basten as their new manager at the end of this season.

Van Basten, 49, will take over AZ on a two-year deal this summer, after revealing he would not be staying on at fellow Dutch Eredivisie side Herenveen.

One U.S. national team player will benefit directly from van Basten’s appointment, as Aron Johannsson will have one of the greatest attackers in European soccer history to learn from every day on the training ground.

Surely that can only be a good thing for the USMNT?

Our friends over at Soccerly take up the story, as van Basten aims to continue building his coaching career back up.

Former Dutch star Marco van Basten will take charge of AZ Alkmaar on a two-year deal from this summer, the Eredivisie side announced on Friday.

“AZ and Marco van Basten verbally agreed on Thursday a contract through to the summer of 2016,” the club said in a statement. “The formalities will be sorted out in the coming days.”

Van Basten, 49, will succeed Dick Advocaat, who returned to the club for a second spell last October and led them to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, but they lie an underwhelming seventh in the Dutch top flight with two games remaining. However Van Basten’s coaching career has never matched the heights of his distinguished years as a player. As a player, Van Basten won the Ballon d’Or three times and famously scored a spectacular goal for the Netherlands in their victory over the Soviet Union in the 1988 European Championship final.

After four years in charge of the Netherlands and a brief spell with Ajax, Van Basten took over at Heerenveen in 2012, but he had already announced that he would leave the northern club at the end of this season.

What do you think about van Basten’s appointment in terms of Johannsson’s development at AZ?