Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Carra - It's All My Fault

Jamie Carragher has offered one reason for England's World Cup woe - his own return from international exile.

The Liverpool veteran had last played for England in June 2007 but was lured out of international retirement by Fabio Capello amid injury concerns in defence.

Carragher replaced Ledley King at half-time in the Group C opener against the USA, when the Three Lions had to settle for a 1-1 draw before turning in a dismal display against Algeria.

A 0-0 draw on Friday means England, among the pre-tournament favourites, must now beat Slovenia to be sure of just reaching the second round.

Carragher is suspended for the game having picked up a second booking against Algeria, but the 32-year-old joked that could be a blessing following England's stuttering start.

"It's very difficult to put your finger on," he said.

"We did really well in qualifying so I think maybe I'm the problem coming back!

"They seemed to be fine when I was watching the qualifying. It's just not happening at the moment.

"Obviously we have a chance to put it right after two disappointing results and two disappointing performances. There's still all to play for."

England face Slovenia in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday and a point would be enough for the surprise group leaders to book their place in the last 16 having beaten Algeria 1-0 before drawing 2-2 with the USA.

Blues Back In For Babel

Skysports.com understands Birmingham are ready to rekindle their interest in Liverpool's Ryan Babel.

Birmingham tried to sign Babel during the January transfer window, but failed to agree a deal with Liverpool.

Blues boss Alex McLeish is thought to be a big admirer of the Dutchman and is ready to revive his attempts to lure him to St Andrews.

McLeish has been frustrated in his attempts to sign Wigan winger Charles N'Zogbia and could now turn his attentions to Babel to fill the left-sided midfield role.

Babel's future at Liverpool looks uncertain with the 23-year-old failing to live up to expectations at Anfield.

Liverpool could be tempted to cash in on Babel to help raise funds for potential new signings for whoever becomes the club's new manager.

Pepe: We Can't Live Off Past

Pepe Reina insists Spain have to work hard in order to kick-start their World Cup and not live off past glories.

Fernando Torres and co take on Honduras with their only thought on winning the game after last Wednesday's shock opening defeat to Switzerland.

"This side has been playing for five years together, I think we've been doing things well and doing a good job but we can't live off our past," said Reina.

"We have to prove again more than ever that we can be in that group of teams who can win the World Cup and we have to recover from that incident (the Switzerland defeat) the other day.

"After that game against Switzerland we just wanted to get straight out there again to show that we can do a good job and play some good football."

Daniel Agger Struggles To Find Positives After Denmark's Win Over Cameroon

Denmark may have got the three points that put their World Cup campaign back on track, but defender Daniel Agger felt that was one of the few positives his side could take from their 2-1 victory over Cameroon.

With both sides having lost their opening Group E games, Denmark and Cameroon each knew they needed to get something out of Saturday night’s clash in Pretoria.

It was Cameroon who made the first breakthrough, captain Samuel Eto’o putting his side ahead in the 10th minute following a mistake by Christian Poulsen, but Denmark bounced back to take the victory thanks to goals in either half by Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl.

However, Denmark rode their luck on occasion as Cameroon pushed forward at every opportunity in a bid to avoid becoming the first team to be knocked out of the tournament, while at the other end Morten Olsen’s side missed a couple of great chances to wrap the game up in the second half.

Agger, who was named man of the match, admitted it was far from the perfect display from Denmark but pointed out that getting the win was the main thing.

In a frank and honest assessment of his side’s showing, Agger said: “Particularly in the first half, it was one of the worst performances we’ve given in a long time, our transitions were poor, we didn’t cover well.

“If they’d been a bit more clinical they would have scored more goals and we would have been out of it in the first half, but to our credit we do fight.

“We tried to stand together and we scored two goals. We had other opportunities as well, but sometimes it became a bit of a kick-and-rush game, going up and down and up and down, and that’s not really the way we want to play.

“But we’ve got three points, that’s the most positive thing I can say.”

Echoing the thoughts of his coach, who was not overly impressed by his team’s display either, the Liverpool centre-back added: “We know it was a really bad game, especially in the first half, we didn’t play like a team.

“We didn’t play like we have to if we want to progress. Clearly it wasn’t good enough but if you can still win playing like that it’s a positive.

“We are a team, we stand together as a team, and to our credit we did come back in the match.

“It didn’t look too good at one point, but the positive thing is that we did fight back.”

Liverpool FC's Fernando Torres Fired Up For Spain's Crunch World Cup Clash

Fernando Torres insisted he is ready to make his mark on the World Cup finals after putting his injury nightmare behind him.

The Liverpool striker, who missed the final crucial weeks of the last Premier League season after undergoing knee surgery, believes he is over his fitness troubles at last.

Nine weeks have passed since he underwent an operation to rectify meniscus damage and now Torres believes he is fully attuned to start a competitive game again.

He is eagerly waiting to see if Vicente del Bosque will unleash him from the start as Spain bid to bounce back from their shock opening defeat against Switzerland when they tackle Honduras in Johannesburg.

But Torres is desperate to get up and running again and has made it clear that he wants to immerse himself in a tournament which he has spent months preparing for.

“I have been training at the same pace as my team mates for two weeks now, putting the injury behind me so that I can be available for the coach,” said Torres.

“We are all ready to take to the pitch and give our all and if I am in the starting 11 then great but if not I will wait for my chance.

“It’s important for us to remain faithful to our playing style, not go mad and change things around too much and trust in what has made us one of the favourites.

“Spain always want possession of the ball and we have to exploit the talents that our players have, beyond any particular system.”

If Torres and Spain have work to do to get into the knockout stages, the same cannot be said for Javier Mascherano and Argentina.

The Argentines have breezed through their group without a problem but if Mascherano thinks a possible move to Inter Milan will go through just as smoothly, he is mistaken.

Contrary to some reports, Liverpool have not stepped aside and allowed Mascherano to head to the San Siro without a fight.

He, after all, has two years left on his contract and – given that he is often billed as the best holding midfielder in the world – Liverpool will want suitably reimbursing.

Meanwhile, Martin Skrtel – whose hopes of progressing in the World Cup were dealt a major blow when Slovakia were beaten by Paraguay – does not believe Rafa Benitez’s departure will have an enormous impact on the dressing room.

As the players have nothing to do with appointing a replacement, Skrtel says it is a case of waiting and seeing who takes over from Benitez; Roy Hodgson remains a long odds-on favourite.

“The management needed to make some changes after they sacked Rafa,” Skrtel said.

“What can we do? Nothing.

“We are only players and we have to wait for the new management.”

New Barca Chief To Revive Bid For Mascherano

Barcelona are after Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano.

Marca reports the Catalans want the Argentina international to replace Manchester City bound Yaya Toure.

Mascherano is in talks with Internazionale as Liverpool seeks to raise around €30 million from his sale.

The new Barca president Sandro Rosell is also planning to land Mascherano, who came close to joining the Blaugrana last summer.

Olympique De Marseille Set To Sign Former Liverpool Defender Fabio Aurelio

Brazilian defender Fabio Aurelio is set to join French side Olympique de Marseille after being released by Liverpool, according to the News of the World.

The left-back left the Reds after rejecting a reported pay-as-you-play deal to stay on at Anfield.

The 30-year-old was expected to return to Brazil but Marseille believe they have done enough to persuade Aurelio to stay in Europe.

Aurelio joined Liverpool in 2006 from Valencia and made 71 appearances for the club after joining up with former boss Rafa Beneitez.

Fulham were said to be interested in the full back but Marseille claim to be in talks with the former Sao Paulo man.

'England Must Play Steven Gerrard In The Middle,' Insists Tottenham Hotspur Boss Harry Redknapp

Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp believes England's hopes of reaching the last 16 of World Cup 2010 hinge on whether Steven Gerrard reverts back to his favoured central midfield role.

The Three Lions slumped to a 0-0 draw against Algeria on Friday night, and their hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the competition are now hanging in the balance.

Fabio Capello’s side were heavily criticised for their lacklustre display and Redknapp has joined in the support of deploying captain Steven Gerrard in a more central role.

"Suddenly Joe Cole has become this big thing, everyone’s saying he has to be in the side,” Redknapp told Eurosport-Yahoo!.

“But he couldn’t get in Chelsea’s team for most of the year, with injuries and not simply getting picked, and they let him go when they could have kept him.

“It’s like Gareth Barry - suddenly he’s vital. He’s a decent player but you’re putting Steven Gerrard on the left and he’s a world-class central midfielder.

“Stevie [Steven Gerrard] needs to play centrally, and he needs to play in there ahead of Frank Lampard - but with a sitting midfielder.

"That means you need to play 4-3-3 with two wide of Wayne Rooney up there on his own, with maybe Joe Cole as one of them.

“That way you get the best out of Lampard - who plays in that formation every week at Chelsea and scores so many goals - and Gerrard, who can come up to support Wayne [Rooney].”

Redknapp also feels that Aston Villa's Emile Heskey should be dropped from the starting line-up, unsurprisingly to make way for either of his Spurs duo, Peter Crouch or Jermain Defoe.

“If you are going to keep two up front, you need to change Wayne’s partner because [Emile] Heskey, for all his honest work, had a poor game against Algeria and cannot score goals,” he added.

“You would either use Peter Crouch or Jermain Defoe, with Crouch holding the ball up but able to score too, and Defoe a natural finisher.”

Redknapp is hopeful of seeing a strong Spurs’ presence in the England starting line-up, as Jamie Carragher is suspended for the crunch Group C Slovenia game, although he believes Matthew Upson will get the nod ahead of Michael Dawson.

"Listen - if [Fabio Capello] starts with [Michael] Dawson and not [Matthew] Upson then why was Dawson dropped from the 23 in the first place?," he added.

"He obviously thinks Upson is better than him. If he picks Dawson everyone will be confused - it’s a bit like when Trevor Sinclair was sent home in 2002 but came back after an injury and ended up playing all the games."

England face Slovenia on Wednesday in a crunch showdown, with only a win ensuring their passage to the knockout stages.

Reds Ace Strengthens Position

Liverpool FC's race ace James Walker strengthened his position in the Superleague Formula racing Championship by moving up two places to eighth after round four in Jarama, Spain, on Sunday.

In the opening race there was frustration for Walker after a tyre puncture disrupted his chances. He finished two laps down after a slow puncture lost him time early in the race.

However, he showed his class in the second race with a great performance of sheer courage and determination. Girondins de Bordeaux won race two but Walker gave Championship leader a run for his money and finished fourth just behind the Spurs man.

Chinese outfit Beijing Guoan, under the command of John Martin started the opening race in pole position and didn't look back as they stormed to victory.

However, AC Milan's Yelmer Buurman ran him close in the second part of an epic race.

Greek side Olympiacos won the Super Final as New Zealand driver Chris van der Drift won the coveted £100,000 prize fund.

After a determined display in Jarama, Walker will be hoping to build on that next week when Superleague Formula heads to Nurburgring, Germany.