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Jun 15, 2014

Drogba could be set for super-sub role

SALVADOR Brazil (Reuters) – Didier Drogba proved a talismanic influence in helping the Ivory Coast to win their opening World Cup encounter but the ageing striker could be confined to a role as an impact player, coming off the bench at the tournament supposed to be his swansong.

The 36-year-old came on as a substitute, just after the hour mark, to spark a come-from-behind 2-1 victory for his country over Japan in a rain-drenched Recife on Saturday. But while Drogba, whose post-World Cup future is unclear, will be itching for a place in the staring line-up for the next game against Colombia in Brasilia on Thursday, his impact at the Pernambuco arena could well have marked his card. Coach Sabri Lamouchi was full of platitudes for Drogba after Saturday’s win but also made clear a lack of confidence in the imposing striker’s conditioning. “Part of leaving him on the bench was to do with strategy, part of it was his fitness,” Lamouchi said. “The last time he played 90 minutes was a few months ago in Turkey and he’s had an injury since then.” Drogba’s once automatic place in the team was filled by Wilfried Bony, who repaid his coach’s faith with the equaliser after Japan had taken a 1-0 half-time lead. Bony has been knocking on the door of starting 11 selection for a while, scoring three goals in five World Cup qualifiers. Even though the Elephants did not score until Drogba came on, they set up several chances before his entry on the back of impressive pace – provided by Gervinho, midfielder Serey Die and flying fullback Serge Aurier for Bony and frontline partner Salomon Kalou. Yaya Toure filled Drogba’s boots as the on-field leader and pointedly did not hand over the captain’s armband when Drogba came on in the 62nd minute. It was Lamouchi who did the unthinkable at the African Nations Cup finals in South Africa last year by dropping the two-time African Footballer of the Year because he was not fit enough. Then, Drogba was just coming off a two-months hiatus at the end of a brief spell in China and the coach stamped his authority on the team by putting the iconic player on the bench. This time Drogba is also playing catch-up with his fitness but having made such an impact after coming on against the Japanese on Saturday, there must now be a major temptation to hand him a new role – that of super sub.

Jun 15, 2014

Soccer-Drogba could be set for super-sub role

SALVADOR, Brazil, June 15 (Reuters) – Didier Drogba proved a talismanic influence in helping the Ivory Coast to win their opening World Cup encounter but the ageing striker could be confined to a role as an impact player, coming off the bench at the tournament supposed to be his swansong.

The 36-year-old came on as a substitute, just after the hour mark, to spark a come-from-behind 2-1 victory for his country over Japan in a rain-drenched Recife on Saturday.

Jun 14, 2014

Tackles fly in as Belgian intensity builds

SALVADOR, Brazil (Reuters) – Belgium are evidently chomping at the bit as they wait to start their World Cup campaign with the intensity ratcheted up a notch since the stunning win for their Dutch neighbors over Spain on Friday.

Two Belgian players were injured in tough challenges in training on Saturday and a full 90-minute warm-up game between the players at their base camp at Mogi das Cruzes on Friday had coach Marc Wilmots fearing for their safety.

Jun 14, 2014

Soccer-Tackles fly in as Belgian intensity builds

SALVADOR, Brazil, June 14 (Reuters) – Belgium are evidently chomping at the bit as they wait to start their World Cup campaign with the intensity ratcheted up a notch since the stunning win for their Dutch neighbours over Spain on Friday.

Two Belgian players were injured in tough challenges in training on Saturday and a full 90-minute warm-up game between the players at their base camp at Mogi das Cruzes on Friday had coach Marc Wilmots fearing for their safety.

Jun 14, 2014

Van Gaal’s softer side helps downfall of Spain

SALVADOR Brazil (Reuters) – Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal’s surprise decision to allow family visits just hours before kickoff is being credited with helping put his players in the mood to demolish world champions Spain in their World Cup opener on Friday.

The decision was to allow the players to see their wives, girlfriends and children on the morning of the match was a significant departure from the usual style of a coach with a reputation as a no-nonsense hard-man.

Jun 14, 2014

Soccer-Van Gaal’s softer side helps downfall of Spain

SALVADOR, Brazil, June 14 (Reuters) – Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal’s surprise decision to allow family visits just hours before kickoff is being credited with helping put his players in the mood to demolish world champions Spain in their World Cup opener on Friday.

The decision was to allow the players to see their wives, girlfriends and children on the morning of the match was a significant departure from the usual style of a coach with a reputation as a no-nonsense hard-man.

Jun 14, 2014

Dutch delight as local media trumpets victory

SALVADOR Brazil (Reuters) – Dutch delight screamed out from the pages of their newspapers on Saturday as the country basked in the afterglow of a thrilling win over holders Spain at the start of their World Cup campaign. “What a hero” wrote the Algemeen Dagblad, which ran an almost full-page picture of Arjen Robben, who scored twice in the 5-1 victory at the Fonte Nova arena at the start of Group B. “A dream start,” trumpeted De Telegraaf, adding that the result was revenge for the defeat by Spain in the 2010 final. De Volkskrant also had the same lead headline, showing a flying Robin Van Persie scoring a remarkable headed first goal.

“Super sensation was written in Salvador according to the master plan of coach Louis van Gaal,” said the paper.

Jun 14, 2014

Soccer-Dutch delight as local media trumpets victory

SALVADOR, Brazil, June 14 (Reuters) – Dutch delight screamed out from the pages of their newspapers on Saturday as the country basked in the afterglow of a thrilling win over holders Spain at the start of their World Cup campaign.

“What a hero” wrote the Algemeen Dagblad, which ran an almost full-page picture of Arjen Robben, who scored twice in the 5-1 victory at the Fonte Nova arena at the start of Group B.

Jun 14, 2014

Van Persie tries to stay calm after ‘brilliant’ goal

SALVADOR, Brazil, June 13 (Reuters) – Captain Robin van Persie sought to temper Dutch excitement with a dose of his own experience but had to admit his opening goal against Spain on Friday was worthy of a brief party.

“I’ve been to five tournaments now and so I know it’s just the start. I don’t want us to be too excited about the first win, it’s only three points,” he told reporters after the Netherlands upset the world champions in a stunning start to World Cup Group B with a 5-1 triumph at the Fonte Nova arena.

Jun 13, 2014

Soccer-Van Persie tries to stay calm after ‘brilliant’ goal

SALVADOR, Brazil, June 13 (Reuters) – Captain Robin van Persie sought to temper Dutch excitement with a dose of his own experience but had to admit his opening goal against Spain on Friday was worthy of a brief party.

“I’ve been to five tournaments now and so I know it’s just the start. I don’t want us to be too excited about the first win, it’s only three points,” he told reporters after the Netherlands upset the world champions in a stunning start to World Cup Group B with a 5-1 triumph at the Fonte Nova arena.