Chelsea working to understand injury woes, says Pochettino

Chelsea’s Axel Disasi celebrates scoring their third goal with Cesare Casadei before being disallowed after a VAR review during their Premier League match against Aston Villa at Villa Park, Birmingham on Apr. 27, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 May 2024
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Chelsea working to understand injury woes, says Pochettino

  • Defenders Thiago Silva and Axel Disasi are the latest additions to the list since Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa
  • “Too many circumstances have happened,” Pochettino said on the eve of Chelsea’s match against his former club, who are in fifth spot in the table

LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino says Chelsea’s medical and coaching staff are trying to work out why the club have been so badly plagued by injuries, with as many as 14 players likely to be missing for Thursday’s visit of Tottenham.
Defenders Thiago Silva and Axel Disasi are the latest additions to the list since Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, in which the Chelsea boss was forced to name five academy graduates aged 20 and under on the bench.
The Blues’ campaign has been badly disrupted by the unavailability of players, including several acquired at huge expense as part of a £1 billion ($1.25 billion) transfer spree over the past two years.
Notable absentees include Wesley Fofana, who has not played all season after undergoing surgery on an ACL injury, and forward Christopher Nkunku, who has been limited to seven Premier League appearances.
Romeo Lavia has played only once for the club while Reece James and Ben Chilwell have also had lengthy spells out of the side, who are in mid-table.
Last week it was confirmed that Enzo Fernandez, signed for a then-British record £105 million in January 2023, will not play again this season following a hernia operation.
“Too many circumstances have happened,” Pochettino said on the eve of Chelsea’s match against his former club, who are in fifth spot in the table.
“It’s difficult to explain with one word or in one sentence. Of course we are working on trying to improve. We have an amazing staff — medical staff, coaching staff. They have experience in managing clubs and being in this business.
“When some circumstances arrive, sometimes it can happen. We need to now, until the end of the season, put all the information on the table and try to be better next season.
“We need to improve in communication, dynamics, strategy. Everything to do with our knowledge to improve and coordinate better.”
Pochettino paid tribute to veteran Brazilian defender Silva, 39, who is leaving the club at the end of the season after a four-year stay.
“He’s an amazing guy and amazing professional,” said Pochettino. “Playing until nearly 40 years old is an amazing career.
“Of course, the players, the fans and club are going to miss him. But he’s happy, he’s so proud of his career here at Chelsea. We wish him the best because he deserves the best.”


Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’

Updated 13 June 2024
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Nagelsmann urges Germany to harness the ‘privilege of pressure’

  • “I think it’s normal that you feel a little bit of pressure before a tournament and before important games like these,” the 36-year-old told reporters
  • “We will work out the pressure and we will work out Scotland“

MUNICH: Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said his side needed to use the pressure of hosting Euro 2024 to their advantage ahead of Friday’s tournament opener against Scotland in Munich.
This summer’s hosts are three-time winners of the European Championship but have endured a poor time since reaching the semifinals at Euro 2016.
Since that tournament, the Germans were eliminated twice at the group stage of the World Cup, and lost to England in the last 16 at the Euros in 2021.
Admitting to being a “little nervous” ahead of his first game coaching Germany at a major tournament, Nagelsmann said he told his players to embrace the pressure in front of their home fans.
“I think it’s normal that you feel a little bit of pressure before a tournament and before important games like these,” the 36-year-old told reporters on Thursday.
“Ultimately for me it’s the most important theme, when I speak with my players, that pressure is a form of privilege.
“We need to simply enjoy being on the pitch. That’s very important. Our players started playing when they were young. They love it (football).
“If you do it that way, you’re doing it right.”
“We will work out the pressure and we will work out Scotland,” he added.
Nagelsmann shed light on the process of bringing veteran midfielder Toni Kroos, who retired from international duty in 2021, back into the squad. Nagelsmann revealed it took a while to convince the 2014 World Cup winner to return.
“It took a period of time to convince him because he wanted to know what we’ll change in the future,” explained Nagelsmann.
“He said he’ll only be part of the team when he feels we can win, so he wanted to know how we’ll change the team.
“Then he said he’ll be part of it and ‘let’s rock’.”
Nagelsmann was wary of Scotland, saying Steve Clarke’s side were not the “kick and rush” team of the past.
“They have flair and good physicality. They may not be full of superstars, but that can make them dangerous.”


Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home

Updated 13 June 2024
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Ukraine arrive at Euro 2024 to a patriotic welcome and vivid reminder of the war at home

  • “We need to talk about this,” coach Serhiy Rebrov said
  • This tournament is “100 percent” different and special, Zinchenko said

WIESBADEN, Germany: With patriotic songs broadcast and thousands of exiled Ukrainians in the stadium, the men’s national team was made to feel at home at their first training in Germany for the European Championship.
After the national anthem played, and before the warmups began, there was a vivid reminder of the war at home that is a constant and uniting force for this Ukraine squad.
Each player had a ball to give to a fan and Oleksandr Zinchenko presented his to a military veteran who had prosthetic legs below each knee.
Near the downtown stadium of Wehen Wiesbaden is the United States military headquarters in Germany which is coordinating the delivery of weapons and other aid from Ukraine’s allies to fight against the Russian invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Wiesbaden six months ago.
It is a subject the Ukraine team want to address, and hope Euro 2024 watched worldwide will help put on center stage.
“We need to talk about this,” coach Serhiy Rebrov said. “I know that some people are tired about the news of the war, but we are continuing to fight, and we need your support.”
“It’s very important that Ukraine is represented in the Euro because we, all Ukrainians, we want to be in (the) European family,” said the former national team star who also played in England and Russia, and coached in Hungary. “On the war we are fighting for all Europe.”
Zinchenko was in the Ukraine team that reached the quarterfinals of Euro 2021, the pandemic-delayed tournament. That was the last European summer before the Russians attacked.
This tournament is “100 percent” different and special, Zinchenko said.
“There are still people dying for no reason and we have to stick together,” said the Arsenal player, stressing that what the players have lived through does not compare to fighters on the front lines and their families.
“For them it is super difficult, for us it’s obviously extra motivation. We all know who is behind us. We need to show our best performance,” Zinchenko said.
Ukraine first play on Monday against Romania in Munich. Four days later, Ukraine play Slovakia in Duesseldorf then finish in Group F against favored Belgium on June 26 in Stuttgart.
Preparation for those games started in earnest on Thursday morning after a formal welcome on the field by politicians from the region where Wiesbaden is the state capital.
The 4,000 fans in the stadium gave standing ovations to greet different groups of players as they passed by doing light warmup runs in laps of the field.
“In Germany, the Ukrainian community is everywhere. We were very happy with everything here,” said Rebrov, one day after the squad arrived.
At home, the country is under constant threat of Russian bombs targeting the people and essential infrastructure for daily life like the power grid.
“I hope when we play the games,” midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi said, “people in Ukraine have lights to watch the games on TV.”
For the past 10 years, Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk has been unable to play games in its home city because of the conflict in the country’s east involving Russian-backed separatists.
Ukraine midfielder Taras Stepanenko has stayed with Shakhtar through the whole decade, including playing Champions League ‘home’ games this season in Germany. He said on Thursday, “We deserve to be here for our people.
“Every day people die, cities destroyed. Every day when we wake up, we read the news about what the situation is in Ukraine,” said the 34-year-old player appearing at his third straight Euros.
“Every day, I see on my phone screen, messages about air (raids). So, every morning I phone my parents to ask if everything is OK,” Stepanenko added. “We live in this condition almost three years. It’s so difficult.”


Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024

Updated 13 June 2024
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Dutch players cut short postseason vacations to answer emergency call at Euro 2024

  • “And I just had to pack my stuff as quickly as possible and come,” said Maatsen
  • Bologna forward Zirkzee posted a photo of himself smiling broadly on Instagram with the text: “When you get the call to leave Disney for the Euros”

DORTMUND: One of the players was on a boat on a Greek island. The other was in Disney World in Florida.
Yet neither Ian Maatsen nor Joshua Zirkzee had any hesitation answering the emergency call from the Netherlands at the European Championship.
“It’s a childhood dream to be here — it’s definitely worth the return trip,” said Maatsen, the left back who was on vacation in Mykonos with his girlfriend when he was summoned by Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman to replace Frenkie de Jong.
“I suddenly received a call,” he added on Thursday. “And I just had to pack my stuff as quickly as possible and come.”
Maatsen was on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Chelsea in the recently completed season and helped the German club reach the Champions League final, where they lost to Real Madrid on June 1.
He was named in UEFA’s Champions League team of the season and will give Koeman an extra option on the left flank, where he is set to challenge Daley Blind for a starting spot.
“I did enjoy my holiday and processed everything well, including the disappointment of the Champions League final,” he said.
As for Zirkzee, he cut short his postseason vacation in Florida to head to the Netherlands’ base in Wolfsburg after another striker in the squad, Brian Brobbey, hurt a hamstring in training.
After hearing of his call-up, Bologna forward Zirkzee posted a photo of himself smiling broadly on Instagram with the text: “When you get the call to leave Disney for the Euros.”
Zirkzee has never played an international for the Netherlands’ senior team. He joined the Bayern Munich youth academy and played a handful of games for the German powerhouse before moving on loan to Parma then Anderlecht before signing for Bologna in 2022.
The Netherlands open their Euro 2024 campaign on Sunday against Poland in Hamburg.


Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

Updated 13 June 2024
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Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

  • “Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said
  • Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament

BERLIN: Germany welcomed police officers from across Europe on Thursday to bolster its defenses against potential threats at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament, with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser promising vigilance on the eve of the opening match.
“Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said at a ceremony for around 350 foreign police officers dispatched for the event.
Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament, which begins with the host country’s Group A opener against Scotland on Friday.
“Our security authorities therefore have the Islamist scene firmly in their sights,” Faeser said, while adding that authorities were not currently aware of any specific plots.
Germany expects 2.7 million people to attend matches in stadiums across the country and some 12 million in its fan zones for outdoor viewing, including on a long stretch of turf laid out in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
The fan zones were popular during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but it remains to be seen whether the public mood at this event can rise above simmering tensions at a time of conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East, and as the far right sees its support surge in Europe.
“Some people are trying to bring these conflicts into our country,” the minister warned, adding that propaganda and hate speech on German streets would not be tolerated.
Some 22,000 police officers will be working each day at the tournament.
German security authorities are also working with international partners to identify potential threats and the country has ramped up its border controls.


Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

Updated 13 June 2024
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Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

  • Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26

MIAMI: Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has confirmed in an interview with US broadcaster ESPN that he will not attempt to win a second gold medal with Argentina at the Paris Olympics this summer.
“I spoke with (Argentinian Olympic coach Javier) Mascherano, and we immediately agreed on the situation,” Inter Miami forward Messi said in the interview broadcast on Wednesday.
“It’s a difficult moment, because there’s the Copa America, and that would mean two or three consecutive months away from my club.
“At my age, I don’t want to play everything and I need to make the right choices,” added the former Barcelona star who was a member of Argentina’s 2008 Olympic gold medal winning team.
Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26.
Messi, however, has not closed the door on taking part in a record-breaking sixth World Cup, to be held in 2026 between the US, Canada and Mexico.
“It’s great to have records and continue to achieve things but I won’t take part in a World Cup just to say I’ve done six,” said Messi.
“If I feel good and everything is in place for me to be there, fine, but I won’t go just to go.”
“It’s very difficult to imagine what can happen because it’s still two years away. I don’t need to commit right now to whether or not I’ll be there.”