Syria sack Bernd Stange after Jordan defeat

Stange has been given his marching orders before the group stage is even over. (Reuters)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Syria sack Bernd Stange after Jordan defeat

  • Syria lost 2-0 to Jordan on Thursday having drawn with Palestine in their Group B opener.
  • German is the second coach to be axed at the Asian Cup before the end of the group stage.

LONDON: Bernd Stange has paid the price for Syria’s awful start to the Asian Cup with his job as the German was axed before the end of the group stage.
The Syrians went into the tournament strongly fancied to do well. They only narrowly missed out on qualification for last year’s World Cup — losing in the continental playoff to Australia — and had high hopes of success in the UAE.
But a drab and very underwhelming 0-0 against Palestine in their Group B opener and a shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of Jordan convinced the Syrian Football Association they had to take action before the last group clash against the Socceroos.
The Syrian FA issued a statement hours after the loss to their neighbors, stating Stange has been replaced by former coach Ayman Hakeem for the remainder of the tournament. However, in a later update, former head coach Fajr Ibrahim was announced as the replacement.
Hakeem will be tasked with picking up a win that could reignite the country’s AFC Asian Cup campaign.
“Coaches are always responsible for the performance of the team,” said Stange just hours before he was fired.
“We are one team and we win and we lose together.”
“There is not one person or a player who had a bad day. We win and we lose together and we have to lift up our team.
“We are disappointed extremely because we wanted to do something in this tournament, we wanted to go for the first time in history to the next round, Syria never achieved that and we need results and today was a disappointment.
“I will never ever blame one player or a group of players for something like this. Of course, the coach is responsible.”
The German is the second coach to be issued with his marching orders at the Asian Cup following Thailand’s decision to sack Milovan Rajevac following their 4-1 defeat to India.


Messi, Armani rescue Argentina in 1-1 draw with Paraguay

Updated 57 min ago
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Messi, Armani rescue Argentina in 1-1 draw with Paraguay

  • The draw left Argentina with one point from two games and on the bottom of the table with one game remaining

BELO HORIZONTE: A Lionel Messi penalty salvaged a 1-1 draw for Argentina against Paraguay on Wednesday as the two-time world champions once again struggled at the Copa America.

Messi swept in a 57th-minute spot kick at Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao Stadium to cancel out a first-half opener from Paraguay’s Richard Sanchez.

Argentina also had goalkeeper Franco Armani to thank for a second half penalty save that prevented Paraguay from taking a 2-1 lead in the Group B battle.

The draw left Argentina with one point from two games and on the bottom of the table with one game remaining.

However, with the two best third- placed teams advancing to the quarterfinals, Argentina can still reach the last eight with a decisive win over Qatar in their final group game.

“We have to win,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said of his team’s date with Qatar. “We will take stock of what we did well and what we did not do well and we will make decisions. We are lucky that we are still alive in this tournament,” added Scaloni, singling out goalkeeper Armani for special praise.

“We trust Franco,” Scaloni said. “He is our starting goalkeeper. He saved a penalty and kept us alive. I’m glad he had a good performance.”

The South American giants will need to raise their game however to advance any further after another disjointed performance which followed their opening defeat to Colombia on Saturday.

A lackluster opening saw both sides struggle to generate any sort of attacking momentum, with neither side managing to get a shot on goal until Paraguay striker Derlis Gonzalez’s effort was deflected behind for a corner in the 29th minute.

From the ensuing setpiece, center-half Junior Alonso scooped a half-chance wide as Argentina escaped.

That flurry of activity spurred Argentina fleetingly at the other end, with Lautaro Martinez winning a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the area after a foul by Paraguay skipper Gustavo Gomez.

Messi, however, was unable to conjure anything from the free kick, floating his effort up and over the wall but without the pace to trouble goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, who gathered comfortably.

In the 37th minute, however, Paraguay’s more organized performance got its reward.

A swift counterattack saw the ball transferred to Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron near halfway.

The livewire forward turned on the after-burners to roast Roberto Pereya down the left wing before crossing for Sanchez who drove a low finish into the bottom corner of the Argentina net.

A rattled Argentina were given a huge let-off moments later when Armani came racing out of his area to shut down Gonzalez.

A wild kick brought down the Paraguayan player but Armani somehow escaped a red card and was only cautioned.

Scaloni went for broke at halftime, bolstering his attack with the introduction of Sergio Aguero and the move paid instant dividends.

Aguero deftly lost his marker on 51 minutes and pulled back for Martinez, whose shot cannoned off the woodwork. Messi pounced on the rebound but Fernandez blocked with a diving save.

The chance appeared to have gone begging but VAR had spotted that Martinez’s shot had in fact struck Ivan Piris’s arm before hitting the bar and Brazilian referee Wilson Sampaio pointed to the spot. Messi stepped up to sweep in the spot kick and Argentina were level.

Yet there was more drama in the 62nd minute when Paraguay’s Gonzalez burst into the box and was clumsily hacked down by Nicolas Otamendi for a clear penalty. Armani, who was fortunate to be on the pitch, dived the right way and parried Gonzalez’s spot kick wide.