World Cup News - Issue 211

Eto’o Out For Croatia Clash
Cameroon could be without captain Samuel Eto'o for their crucial World Cup clash against Croatia. The Chelsea striker has missed the last two days of training as he struggles with a knee problem and may have to be replaced for the Indomitable Lions' next Group A match. "He has a problem with the right knee that he already had at the end of the season with his club Chelsea," Finke told a press conference. Pierre Webo will be hoping to take Eto'o's place in the starting eleven should he be ruled out. Cameroon's last group game is against Brazil on June 23, meaning the Croatia clash is a must-win if they want to progress from the group after losing to Mexico.

Dejan Lovren says Fifa has a scandal on its hands due to the performance of referee Yuichi Nishimura in the World Cup opener, which saw Brazil beat Croatia 3-1. In a lively contest, the Samba Boys prevailed through a brace from Neymar and stoppage time strike from Oscar, after Marcello gave Croatia an early lead via an own goal. However, Nishimura caused controversy by awarding a dubious penalty to the hosts - given against Lovren for an alleged foul on Fred - which was slotted by Neymar. The Japanese official also disallowed a goal from Croatia's Ivan Perisic, after harshly ruling Ivica Olic had infringed Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar in an aerial challenge. Lovren did not mix his words when asked about Nishimura's handling of the high-profile fixture. The defender told L’Equipe: “I’m so sad I want to cry. Everyone has seen it, it’s a scandal for Fifa. We talk about respect – the Fifa people spoke to us about it – and what happens? It is better the cup is given immediately to Brazil." The Southampton man added: “I think we played a good game and had the quality to compete with Brazil but not against 12 men. We looked at the pictures in the dressing room and everyone is still asking questions.” 

Italy are waiting to discover if goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Mattia De Sciglio will return from injury for Friday’s World Cup Group D match against Costa Rica. Both players missed Italy’s 2-1 win over England in Manaus on Saturday, with Salvatore Sirigu replacing Buffon in goal. The Juventus man twisted his left ankle in the build-up to the game, while De Sciglio was ruled out with a calf strain. "Gigi has had a specific trauma, which is not your usual sprained ankle," Italy's team doctor Enrico Castellacci said. "It has affected the knee but, fortunately, the knee ligament is fine. His condition will be evaluated. He is having specific therapy and we will decide whether or not to do some X-rays. We will try to have him available as soon as possible. We are optimistic that he will have a speedy recovery but his health comes first. Castellacci wants Fifa to allow time-outs for players to drink water in Italy’s next two games, which both kick off at 1pm local time. Neither side were allowed any drinks breaks in Saturday’s game against England, with the heat and humidity affecting the players. "It would have been good to have had a three-minute time-out during that game," Castellacci said. "Fortunately, we prepared well and none of our players had cramps. I hope that in Recife and Natal (the cities where Italy will play their next two games), where the conditions will be no better than in Manaus because of the times the games are scheduled for, Fifa will reconsider. The criteria is that if the temperature is 32 degrees Celsius or above then the time-out is almost automatic. However, what they don't consider is that with humidity above 70 to 80 per cent, it feels three or four degrees warmer. With those conditions and in these type of games, one can lose two litres of sweat."

Spain goalkeeper Iker Cassilas has accepted blame for the embarrassing 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands in Salvador on Friday evening. Casillas, who was left in no man’s land by a stunning Robin van Persie header in the 44th minute, made his 155th appearance for La Roja in their disastrous start to defending their title and admitted that he wasn’t at the required level. "I wasn't at the level I needed to be. I have to accept all criticism," Casillas said. "I didn't do things like I should have, especially to start a World Cup. It wasn't one of my best games," added the Real Madrid shot-stopper. Vincente Del Bosque, however, refused to place the blame on any individuals, especially not on the 33-year-old Casillas. “We can't blame anyone, least of all Iker Casillas."

Ivory Coast’s Serge Aurier showed why there is talk of him signing for Arsenal. The name Serge Aurier has been mandatory in the constant stream of players-to-watch lists that have been readily available in the run up to the World Cup. And in Ivory Coast’s significant 2-1 win over Japan, though not at his optimum best, he showed why he came into the tournament with such box-office billing. In his premiere to a worldwide audience, the Toulouse right back understandably took time to settle due to first-time nerves and the caginess of the game in the opening spell. A supreme physical specimen, with the kind of firm shoulders that would seemingly just about fit through a doorway, the 21-year-old, reminiscent of Dani Alves in style but not as technically blessed, has the strength, pace and lung capacity to manhandle a right flank all on his own. During the past season he raided down right flanks with businesslike bustle in the French Ligue One. And all that freewheeling forward hasn’t just been perspiration with no productivity – he has signed, sealed and delivered a formidable six goals and six assists. With key attacking players not at their best, the Ivory Coast were wasteful and inefficient in attack for much of the game despite being presented opportunities by a suspect Japan defence. Two of Aurier’s delicious deliveries were put away by Bony then Gervinho against Japan to earn a 2-1 comeback victory for the Ivorians. A die-hard Arsenal fan, Aurier has made no secret of his desire to move to the Emirates. With Bacary Sagna officially joining Manchester City, the path is clear and the move seems logical. If he does end up in North London, Aurier’s unfailing excellence means his performances at the World Cup are bound to increase his value further and Arsenal may regret not sewing up the deal sooner.

Football fans may have a reputation for trashing stadiums after losing big matches. But Japan supporters at the World Cup took defeat to the Ivory Coast in good spirits and consoled themselves by cleaning up their end of the stadium. It’s a rare sight in the modern game – although not in Japan where fans regularly clear up after themselves both home and away. And their side may have given up an early lead to suffer a 2-1 defeat in their opening Group C match at this summer’s World Cup, but Japan fans still found time to pick up their litter at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.

Uefa president Michel Platini says he does not support Sepp Blatter's bid for re-election as Fifa president. Blatter has ruled football's mother body since 1998, and initially promised to step down when his term ends in 2015. However, the 78-year-old later announced he wants to remain in the job - a move which drew sharp criticism from English FA chairman Greg Dyke and his Netherlands counterpart Michael van Praag at a Uefa summit on Tuesday. Platini is likewise against Blatter retaining control of Fifa, according to L'Equipe. He is quoted as saying: "I am supporting Sepp Blatter no longer. It's finished. I have known him for a long time, I like him, but I'm not favourable to him having another term. I supported him in 1998, but I do not support him in 2014. I have told him that. I think Fifa needs a breath of fresh air." The Frenchman did not rule out running against Blatter. “It is an option. But it is not because Blatter is running that Michel Platini will not run. And it is not because Blatter is not running that Michel Platini will run. My only concern is knowing what I want to do. I am 60 soon and I need to know what I want. I will take my time."

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi was critical of his side's "nervous" display as they started their World Cup campaign with a goalless draw against Iran. The African champions dominated the play on Monday night but were unable to extract maximum reward from the Group F fixture. Keshi's men next face Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday. "The boys were too nervous and unsettled," he said. "You don't do that at this stage. It happens in football. We really didn't perform as expected but we have to move on. I wanted a win but must take a draw. We must do better to get a win against Bosnia."