Guardiola defends his plea for ‘more fans’ at Man City game

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola interviewed before their Champions League Group A against RB Leipzig at Etihad Stadium in Manchester. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 September 2021

Guardiola defends his plea for ‘more fans’ at Man City game

  • A clash has broken out between City’s esteemed manager and a section of the team’s followers after Guardiola’s plea for “more people” to attend City’s Premier League home match against Southampton
  • The attendance against Leipzig was 38,062 and the Etihad’s capacity is about 55,000

MANCHESTER: For Pep Guardiola, it was a rallying cry ahead of what he expects to be a tough game.
For some Manchester City supporters, it was an ill-timed comment that questioned the loyalty of the club’s fan base.
A clash has broken out between City’s esteemed manager and a section of the team’s followers after Guardiola’s plea for “more people” to attend City’s Premier League home match against Southampton on Saturday — three days after a hard-fought 6-3 win over Leipzig in the Champions League at Etihad Stadium.
The attendance against Leipzig was 38,062. The Etihad’s capacity is about 55,000.
One of the people unhappy with Guardiola’s remarks was Kevin Parker, general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, who accused the Spaniard of failing to understand the difficulties of attending games on a midweek evening and playing into the hands of opposition teams’ fans who often taunt City for not having capacity crowds at some matches.
“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that,” said Parker, who described Guardiola’s comments were “disappointing and uncalled for.”
Guardiola responded to Parker on Friday in a news conference ahead of the Southampton game, saying he would “definitely not” be apologizing for his comments and that there had been a “misunderstanding.”
“Don’t misunderstand or put words in my mouth that I didn’t say,” Guardiola said. “That’s what I don’t like. I never will be a problem for my fans. If I am a problem for my fans, I will step aside. Not a problem for me.”
Guardiola said he had seen his players look “exhausted” in the locker room after the end-to-end game against Leipzig and quickly realized they would need fans to get behind them against Southampton, given the quick turnaround of the games and Southampton’s pressing game and energetic style.
“When you play in the Champion League, it’s so demanding on your physicality, and mentally, when they (Southampton) have a long week to prepare the game,” Guardiola said. “So that’s why we need to be all together — the players, the supporters, everyone, to help us to do our best. I know exactly our fans will be there tomorrow to support, and hopefully Mr. Parker can come to watch us.
“Mr. Parker,” Guardiola added, should “review his comments.”
City has struggled to fill the Etihad for some home games in the Champions League, especially in the first one of each season’s group stage. It has led to some rivals fans using the nickname “the Emptyhad.”
There are some reasons given for the lower European attendances — some fans’ disaffection with the tournament organizer, UEFA, for what they perceive as unfair sanctions handed to, or affecting, City in the Champions League; City being involved in games in so many competitions that fans pick and choose matches; the pandemic affecting fans’ finances; a digital ticketing system that doesn’t allow fans to transfer tickets to others if they can’t attend a midweek game.
The fan bases of City’s main rivals in English soccer, including Manchester United and Liverpool, are far bigger globally.
“We are who we are. We are proud of who we are,” Guardiola said. “I know the history, I learned about the history of this club when it was in the lower division, and what it means to travel and follow the team. I respect it a lot.”
City has had near-capacity crowds for its first two home matches of the Premier League season — 5-0 wins over Norwich and Arsenal.


Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign

Updated 34 sec ago

Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign

AL WAKRAH, Qatar: Australia only needed to avoid defeat to stay in the World Cup. The Socceroos did more than that in a 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday.
Mitchell Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header and Australia went on to register their first win at soccer’s biggest event since a victory over Serbia back in 2010.
The result means Australia still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing 4-1 to defending champion France in their opening match.
France and Australia lead Group D with three points each, while Denmark and Tunisia have one point each.
France play Denmark later tonight.
In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia play France and Australia meet Denmark.
After a scrappy start from both sides, Australia went ahead with a play out of the back from their goalkeeper. Duke collected the goalkeeper’s pass near mid-field and made a quick touch to set Craig Goodwin down the left flank and Duke then sprinted forward to nod Goodwin’s deflected cross into the far corner.
Duke celebrated by making a ‘J’ with his fingers in a tribute to his son, Jaxson, who was in the stands.
The goal quieted the large contingent of red-clad Tunisia fans among the crowd of 41,823 inside Al Janoub Stadium, and sent the small pockets of Australian supporters dressed in yellow into delirium.
Tunisia impressed when they held European Championship semifinalist Denmark to a 0-0 draw in their opener but only occasionally threatened against Australia until the Aussies sat back and defended toward the end.
Australia had also gotten off to an early 1-0 lead over France in their opener but then was outplayed in a loss which they blamed on a series of defensive errors.
There were fewer errors this time, and some timely interventions, too – none bigger than a last-gasp sliding clearance from center back Harry Souttar to block Mohamed Dräger’s dangerous shot shortly before halftime.
Tunisia are still seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time in its sixth World Cup appearance but now needs to beat France.
During the second half, Tunisia fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag with the words, “Free Palestine” printed on it.

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

Updated 26 November 2022

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

  • Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time
  • This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions

DOHA, Qatar: How big was Japan’s 2-1 upset of Germany in the opening round of the World Cup?
Newspapers in Japan used the term “Daikimboshi” from sumo wrestling to describe the magnitude of the surprise: when a low-ranked wrestler overpowers a grand champion.
The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 upset of powerful South Africa in the 2015 rugby World Cup in England.
Japan was the underdog against four-time champion Germany, but it will be a strong favorite in its next Group E match against Costa Rica, where a victory could move Japan into the knockout stage with a game to spare.
A loss by Costa Rica on Sunday would eliminate it from advancing. Costa Rica faces Germany in its final match and Japan goes against Spain.
Costa Rica is reeling from a 7-0 thrashing against Spain in its opener, and it’s anyone’s guess how the Ticos will respond. With a population of just over 5 million, the tiny Central American country is appearing in its sixth World Cup. It reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.
Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time. This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions, including in Russia in 2018. It lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0.
It was eliminated by Paraguay on penalties in 2010, and lost to Turkiye 1-0 in 2002 when the country co-hosted the event with South Korea.
Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu has spoken often about going farther this time and breaking the “final-16 hex.”
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals against Germany — they both play in Germany’s Bundesliga — to lead Japan to the upset. Asano got the winner in the 83rd minute, squeezing the ball behind German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from a very sharp angle.
Costa Rica was overwhelmed by Spain with only 28 percent of the possession. It would also face the same problem against Japan, which is able to hold the ball for long spells, and is also a quick, counterattacking threat.
“We couldn’t complete three or four passes,” Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez said of the Spain loss.
The Ticos will have to do much more against Japan.


Green Falcons all set for Poland clash at the World Cup

Updated 26 November 2022

Green Falcons all set for Poland clash at the World Cup

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia have concluded their preparations to face Poland on Saturday in the second game of the World Cup in Qatar.
The Saudi players conducted a training session at the Celine Resort Stadium, under the supervision of their head coach Herve Renard.
The training comes after the Green Falcons produced the World Cup’s shock win against Argentina 2-1 at Lusail Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.


The exercise started with a warm-up training then squares’ exercise before they split into two groups and played against each other.
Meanwhile, captain Salman Al-Faraj and Riyad Sharahili have continued their treatment programs with medical staff for injuries suffered in the Argentina game.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said that the Green Falcon’s delegation will travel to Doha on Friday night to prepare for Saturday’s match at Education City Stadium.
Argentina’s defeat to Saudi Arabia was their first against an Arab or Asian team in the World Cup finals.
Argentina took the lead after only 10 minutes through a Lionel Messi penalty. Saudi Arabia however fought back in the second half with strikes by Saleh Al-Shehri in the 48th minute and star man Salem Al-Dawsari five minutes later.
Solid defending and a man-of-the-match performance by goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais saw the Green Falcons secure a historic win in their opening Group C fixture.


Hosts Qatar crash out of World Cup after Senegal loss

Updated 26 November 2022

Hosts Qatar crash out of World Cup after Senegal loss

  • Draw between Ecuador, Netherlands left hosts at bottom of Group A with no chance of progressing
  • Qatar’s opening-night nerves were nowhere to be seen as they quickly got to grips with Senegal

DOHA: The World Cup hopes of Qatar were dashed after a 3-1 loss to Senegal and a draw between Ecuador and Netherlands left them bottom of Group A with no chance of progressing, just five days after they opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Ecuador.

The Qataris needed Ecuador to win but they fell behind to an early Cody Gapko goal, and though they equalized it wasn’t enough to prevent Qatar from becoming the first side mathematically eliminated from a final they have spent a reported $200 billion to host.

Qatar showed some flashes of exciting attacking play, but the reigning Asian champions were undone by sloppy defending that was harshly punished by a Senegalese side that was just that little bit better in every department.

The Senegal fans brought color and noise with rhythmic drumming throughout, while the home supporters turned out in maroon shirts, with many of the men opting for the traditional Middle Eastern thobe, a pristine white ankle-length tunic.

Qatar’s opening-night nerves were nowhere to be seen as they quickly got to grips with Senegal and should have had a penalty when Ismaila Sarr bundled over Akram Afif, but Spanish referee Antonio Mateu waved away their pleas and VAR did not intervene.

With Qatar defending well, it was going to take either a moment of magic or a catastrophic mistake for Senegal to break the deadlock and unfortunately for Qatar defender Boualem Khoukhi it turned out to be the latter.

His attempt to clear a routine low pass into the box by Krepin Diatta went disastrously wrong as he fluffed his clearance, allowing Boulaye Dia to pounce, and he rattled home the opening goal just before the break.

With the Qatari crowd thinned out somewhat at the start of the second half, Famara Diedhou doubled Senegal’s advantage with a brilliant glancing header from an Ismail Jakobs corner in the 48th minute.

QATAR SCORE

The missing home fans were soon back in their seats and rewarded with some superb attacking play as the hosts registered their first efforts on target in the tournament, with Ismail Mohamad forcing a superb reflex save from Edouard Mendy.

Muntari reduced the deficit in the 78th with a bullet header from Mohamad’s cross for Qatar’s first ever goal at a World Cup in their debut tournament but Senegal were unruffled as they continued to out-muscle their opponents in midfield.

Six minutes after Muntari’s strike, Bamba Dieng swept home a pass from fellow substitute Iliman Ndiaye for the African side’s third to consign Qatar to the bottom of Group A with no points, while Netherlands and Ecuador have four points and the Senegalese three.

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez told reporters that he and his team had never expected to set the world on fire, despite being at home.

“Expectations were set to give a good performance and organize a good World Cup, and that is the case,” he told a news conference, praising his players for their efforts.

“We wanted to show what we could do on the pitch — most of our opponents are ahead of us in many ways, but we managed to show what we can do.”

The 46-year-old Spaniard pointed out how being a small country with a small population had hindered the national team, and said that qualifying for the tournament for a second time would prove hugely beneficial.

First, though, they must meet the Netherlands in what will be their final game at this event.

“We have to prepare for the Netherlands, and we know it’s going to be an even tougher game against them — a great opponent, with some great players,” Sanchez said.


Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

Updated 26 November 2022

Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

  • Southgate's men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game
  • Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time

AL KHOR, Qatar: England missed a chance to book their place in the World Cup last 16 as Gareth Southgate’s side produced a limp display in their 0-0 draw against the United States on Friday.
Southgate’s men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game of the tournament, but they rarely troubled a determined US team.
Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time.
They managed just one shot on target and could easily have conceded in the first half when the US were in control for long periods at the Al Bayt Stadium.
For the third time in three World Cup meetings with the US, England failed to live up to their status as favorites.
After a shocking defeat in the 1950 tournament and a 1-1 draw in 2010, this was another defiant American effort against England, cooling some of the hype around the Three Lions following the Iran rout.
Although it was an extremely underwhelming performance from England, they are still in control of their own destiny.
A draw in their final group game against Wales on November 29 would ensure England progress to the knockout stages, while a victory would seal first place.
The US, who have drawn their first two games, play Iran on the same day knowing a win would send them into last 16.
Gregg Berhalter’s group are the second youngest team at the World Cup, but a day after America celebrated Thanksgiving they left sluggish England looking like they were the ones who had indulged in too much turkey.
With Harry Kane and Harry Maguire recovered from an ankle injury and illness respectively, England named an unchanged team for the first time since the 2018 World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia.
But, whereas England dominated possession against timid Iran from the opening moments, they found the US far more willing to press higher up the pitch.
The US desire to engage England briefly left space in behind them and Jude Bellingham’s buccaneering run and pass freed Bukayo Saka down the right side of the US area.
Saka’s cross reached Kane, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Walker Zimmerman.
That near-miss proved a mirage in the desert for England as Hajji Wright, a surprise selection in place of Josh Sargent, had the Americans’ first sight of goal with a well-timed run into the area for a header that whistled wide.
It was a warning that the US could trouble England and moments later Weston McKennie should have put them ahead.
Timothy Weah’s cross from wide on the right eluded the flat-footed England defense and the unmarked McKennie pulled the trigger from 10 yards, only to fire just wide of the relieved Pickford’s goal.
Showing no signs of being intimidated by England, Berhalter’s side were inches away from turning the enterprising display into a stunning lead when Christian Pulisic jinked into space and lashed a rising drive against the crossbar from just inside the area.
Giving the ball away far too easily and labored in their build-up play, England looked rattled and Pulisic tested their fraying nerves with a header that glanced wide.
In a rare moment of menace from England, Saka’s pass found Mason Mount and the Chelsea’s midfielder low drive from 20 yards brought a first save from US keeper Matt Turner.
Epitomising the US spirit that was such a contrast to England’s lethargy, Tyler Adams crunched into a tackle on Saka, winning the ball and roaring in delight afterwards.
England remained stuck in first gear yet Kane nearly snatched an undeserved winner in stoppage time when he headed wide from Luke Shaw’s free-kick.