Mourinho believes Balotelli can do better
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes Italy striker Mario Balotelli can improve drastically as soon as he realises his potential.
Mourinho, who coached Balotelli in his days in charge of Inter Milan, feels the gifted forward will always be himself, yet will begin to mature with age.
“Mario will always be Mario,” the Blues boss told Yahoo-Eurosport.
“He’ll do the same things when he’s 30 as he does when he’s 20.
“The essence of Mario won’t change, but I think with the passage of time and the experiences he has with Italy, Inter, Manchester City and Milan he will reach a higher level.”
Mourinho insists the 23-year-old has the qualities to become a footballing great, yet he first needs to acknowledge and make the most of his own talent.
“He has the technical ability and the physicality to do even better, now it’s just up to him to understand it,” he said.
“I always tell my players, especially the young ones, that when God gives you a gift, you have to take advantage of it.”
Balotelli, who scored 18 goals in 41 appearances for club side AC Milan this season, is currently on national duty with the Azzurri, and scored his first World Cup goal in Italy’s 2-1 win over England on Saturday. (kickoffnigeria)
Hazard plays down his coach’s praise
Belgium forward, Eden Hazard has declared he is unworthy of his national coach’s praise, insisting he needs to improve in order to be one of the best.
Belgium national coach Marc Wilmots said in a press conference that Hazard “can be one of the five best players in the world”, yet the player himself believes he does not deserve the tag just yet.
“Seriously? He said that?” Hazard told FIFA.com in response to his coach’s comments. “Well, I never like to talk about myself in that way because, to be honest, I don’t think I deserve it at the moment.
“To be thought of as one of the best five in the world, I would need to score more goals for a start. I would really need to score almost every game because that that is what the best players in the world – like Messi and Ronaldo – do every season.
“These are the guys everyone else has to aim for. It’s nice of the coach to say such things, but I wouldn’t say the same.”
Belgium had to come back from behind to secure all three points in their opening World Cup fixture against Algeria, and their Chelsea star believes there is much that he and his side can do to improve.
“I can definitely play better and we can also play better as a group,” said the 23-year-old. “But this was just a start for us, and we have won our first game, which we always felt would be the most important one.”
With their young and relatively inexperienced squad, Hazard is not taking any guesses as to how far his side will progress in the tournament.
“This is all new for us, so taking one game at a time is all we can do,” he said. “With Belgium, I think it’s tough for anyone to make predictions.
“We have a good team, that’s clear. We are talented and we are young.
“But this is our first experience of the World Cup and who knows how far we can go? We don’t know and neither does anyone else.”
Belgium next face Russia in their second Group H fixture on Sunday. (kickoffnigeria)
Ejide explains match-fixing allegations
Nigeria goalkeeper, Austin Ejide gives us an exclusive interview over alleged match-fixing allegations made against him.
The Super Eagles drew 2-2 with Scotland in an international friendly on May 28 and apparently, irregular betting patterns appeared to have red-flagged the game for investigators in the UK.
With all eyes on the fixture, it seemed incredible that anyone but a raving lunatic would do anything even remotely suspicious.
But videos of Ejide seemingly palming the ball into his own net surfaced hours after the game, leading to questions about his culpability. (kickoffnigeria)
World Cup: Ladipo warns Eagles ahead Bosnia match
Rafiu Ladipo, President General of the Nigeria Football Supporters club, has warned the Super Eagles that they have no option but to win against Bosnia on Saturday.
Ladipo was among thousands of Nigerians who left Curitiba’s Arena Baixada in disappointment following the draw against Iran, and he says the Eagles now have to respond.
“For the first time since I started supporting the Super Eagles, I have to say I was very disappointed at the way they played,” Ladipo told KickOffNigeria.com.
“They were just playing like there was nothing at stake.”Who is Iran that we cannot beat them?
“We are talking about getting to the semi-final, and we cannot beat Iran.
“Let me advise them. In fact, let me warn them, that they have to win the next game against Bosnia.
“Nigerians will not accept anything less.” (kickoffnigeria)
Alonso sees Spain’s World Cup success as over after Chile defeat
Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso says his country’s dominance of world football is over after the defending champions’ shock World Cup exit in Brazil.
Defeat by Chile after a 5-1 thrashing by the Netherlands means the Euro 2012 winners cannot qualify from Group B.
“We didn’t know how to maintain our hunger or that conviction needed to win a tournament,” said the 32-year-old Real Madrid midfielder.
“The joy and success we’ve experienced is over.”
On Tuesday, the former Liverpool man claimed media reports that the current generation were past their best were “a little exaggerated”, but speaking after their latest loss, he said: “Normally cycles come to an end after a defeat.
“Maybe it would be best to think about making changes.”
Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque says there will be consequences of his side’s exit and hinted his six-year reign as national boss may be coming to an end.
“It’s true that when such things happen during a World Cup or a tournament such things have consequences,” he said.
“We have time to analyse that and it is not the right time now. There will be time to think and reflect what we are going to do.
“I think this team is good but we have to take a decision about what is good for Spanish football and that applies to myself as well.”
He said his side were “sluggish and not brave enough” in the 2-0 loss to Chile, while captain Iker Casillas admitted that “the commitment wasn’t there”.
“From the very first moment everything went awry,” said the goalkeeper.
Spain went into the tournament having triumphed at their last three major tournaments – the European Championships of 2008 and 2012, and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
But La Roja’s campaign in Brazil got off to a humiliating start when the Dutch came from behind to rout them in their opening game and when they succumbed to two first-half goals by Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz at the Maracana on Wednesday, their reign as champions came to an abrupt halt.
On Monday, Spain face Australia, also eliminated after a 3-2 defeat by the Netherlands, in a battle to avoid finishing bottom of the group, while conquerors Chile take on the Dutch for top spot in Group B.
The South American side’s coach Jorge Sampaoli had some sympathy for Spain and described his side as the “rebels” of the tournament.
“In football everything changes,” said the Argentine.
“Spain has played very well over the years and had wonderful performances but today that generation of players couldn’t keep that success going, and that’s normal because success is not forever.”
He added: “We have a chance to see if this is the best Chile team ever but that is something we can only say after the tournament is over.
“We were very courageous in the way that we played and you could say that we are the rebels of this tournament.” (BBC Sport)
The brilliance lost, but there is hope
Spanish journalist, Antonio Aragón reflects on Spain’s dismal exit at the 2014 World Cup, but feels there is hope on the horizon.
Spain, as usual, is divided. Last time it was joined, embraced in the same hug, was four years ago, after the South African World Cup, when they sew a golden star on their chest.
But ‘tempus fugit’ and nothing is eternal.
Anyway, it seems that are two bands: the ones that punch the sack of critics, and the ones that show respect to the most glorious generation of players that became soccer in poetry and strung together three big tournaments.
An era has just ended, though nobody can imagine it would happen in this ugly way.
The cascade of opinions are just the fruits of frustration; opinions that emanate after the disaster. The whole world expected more of the champions against Netherlands and Chile, two teams that overcame the poor intensity of the Spanish players and took advantage of the unusual mistakes committed.
Meanwhile, in attack, the tiki-taka style lost the speed and the precision, becoming tasteless.
Maybe the adversaries learnt how to nullify this kind of soccer, or maybe the Spanish players, who have the highest rate of games played this year, arrived at Brazil unfit, exhausted or overage.
It is obvious if we look at the uncommon mistakes of Casillas (it was Jose Mourinho who decided to sit him on the bench), or the balls lost yesterday by Xavi Alonso, Iniesta or Busquets.
It can also be said that Vicente del Bosque failed in choosing the squad and hadn’t initiated the regeneration of the team.
However, the wound is now opened and there is no point in making it bigger. It’s already extremely painful.
These are all a number of issues which, in my opinion, conceal the main one: the current Spanish players, at least the key ones, have lost the brilliance.
I am not referring to their performance. That’s the clear consequence, not the explanation. No, they have lost the gleam in their eyes …the serial killer instinct.
The ambition that was there four years ago has disappeared, as was evident during the Confederations Cup and some friendly games, including the shock defeat to South Africa.
The most difficult part is not reaching the top, it’s staying there.
Spain did it for six stunning years, but the time of this generation is sadly over. But that doesn’t allow us to dismiss the wonderful style that amazed the world and suited perfectly the conditions of the players.
And there is hope: Spain has a new generation of talented players who are making their mark on the world stage: Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Jese, Delofleu … players that, surely, have the appetite for getting Spain back to the top level.
Spain will come back because, after years and years of deceptions, they have finally found their identity; their DNA of success. It’s only a matter of time.
Blatter sad over attack on football enthusiasts in Yobe
Fifa President, Sepp Blatter is sad over the death of World Cup football fans who were killed in an explosion at Damaturu in Nigeria on Tuesday.
Twenty-one people lost their lives while lots more were injured in the attack which occurred at the Tsamiya Lilo area of Damaturu, Yobe State, where they were watching the game between Brazil and Mexico.
Blatter decried the incident, stating that football is supposed to be an instrument of unity, not division.
“Terrible to read of fatalities and injuries in Nigeria, where fans were watching the World Cup. Football should unite people, not divide them,” Blatter tweeted.
Earlier in the week, suspected Al Shabab militants attacked football fans in Kenya, killing about 49 fans, and leaving scores injured. (kickoffnigeria)