Moscow :Nigeria have no sympathy for the struggles of Argentina striker Lionel Messi at the World Cup and will do everything they can to bring his tournament to a premature end when the teams meet in St Petersburg .
Argentina, bottom of Group D, need victory to progress to the knockout stages and must also hope Iceland do not beat Croatia, because that could send them out anyway, depending on goal difference.
Nigeria, second in the group, will advance if they beat Argentina, while a draw may also prove to be enough even if third-placed Iceland beat Croatia.
The match may be Messi’s last at a World Cup if his team do not escape their group. The 31-year-old has so far struggled to make an impact, missing a penalty in the 1-1 draw with Iceland and being marked out of the game in the emphatic 3-0 defeat by Croatia.
“We love this great player Messi, everybody loves him. But the question for us is not if it’s the last World Cup for him,” Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr told reporters on Monday.
“We are not here to watch him play. We’re here to get a result. We are professionals and we have to defend the colours of Nigeria. In football there is no mercy, no pity. Everybody wants to win.”
Defender Brian Idowu, who joined his coach at the news conference, said Nigeria’s only choice was to try and bring Messi’s World Cup to an end.
“I never thought about it, but that’ll be our main goal – to make it Messi’s last World Cup game,” he said. “As much as we love watching Messi play, there’s only one option and it has to be that he plays his last game here in St Petersburg.”
Idowu added Nigeria would have to be very wary of giving away fouls close to their penalty area given Messi’s ability from dead ball situations.
“The main important thing… is just don’t make stupid fouls near the box. We’re going to be aggressive but avoid the unnecessary fouls near the box,” he said.
Skipper John Obi Mikel has a small fracture in his left hand but should be able to play with a protective cast, while Rohr is also concerned that his team have had a day less to prepare than Argentina.
“We know that this will be a hard battle,” the German said. “They have to win. Perhaps a draw can be enough for us but it’s not sure. We also want to win, so it could be a very spectacular football game tomorrow.”
UEFA probe Ronaldo for ‘improper conduct’ over goal celebration
London : UEFA opened an investigation into Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebration after scoring a hat-trick in Juventus’ Champions League comeback win against Atletico Madrid last week.
European football’s governing body said Ronaldo was facing charges of “improper conduct” after he mimicked Diego Simeone’s crotch-grabbing gesture in last Tuesday’s 3-0 win that sent Juventus through 3-2 on aggregate.
After scoring the decisive penalty four minutes from time, Ronaldo turned towards the Atletico fans and replicated Simeone’s gesture after the Spaniards’ 2-0 first leg win by grasping his genitals and thrusting out his groin.
A decision will be taken by UEFA on March 21.
Juventus take on Dutch club Ajax in the Champions League quarter-finals over two legs, on April 10 in Amsterdam and April 16 in Turin.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri has said he is confident Ronaldo will not be fined or suspended.
“I think everyone celebrated their own way on the field and in the stands.
I saw nothing strange, just a celebration. There won’t be a ban,” said Allegri.
Simeone was fined 20,000 euros ($22,000) by UEFA for his gesture.
“He will have seen how I did it at the Wanda Metropolitano and, like me, was trying to show his character,” said the Argentinian coach.
Five-time Champions League winner Ronaldo is the record goal scorer in the European competition with 124 goals in 160 matches.
Sachin echoes Virat Kohli’s workload views
New Delhi: There cannot be a uniform structure for workload management during the Indian Premier League as each and every player will have different set of requirements, the legendary Sachin Tendulkar said .
There have been a lot of discussions about how the World Cup-bound players need to effectively manage their workload during a demanding tournament like the IPL, and the maestro has his own take on it.
“Preparation before the World Cup is different for each player and so their workload management will also be different,” Tendulkar said.
Tendulkar agreed with skipper Virat Kohli who recently said that it is up to the players to realise the kind of load they are taking as well as the form they are in. “To me, momentum is important. Every individual should be smart enough to assess if he needs to take a break or he needs to play games to stay in the thick of things. So the responsibility is on the individual to take a call,” said the world’s highest run-getter in Tests and One-day Internationals.
He then gave an example of how workload management will be different for different players. “As a pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah’s workload will be very different from a pure batsman like Virat Kohli and a wicket-keeper batsman like Mahendra Singh Dhoni. All these players have a lot of experience and they will certainly make the right call,” said Tendulkar, who is a mentor with IPL’s most popular franchise Mumbai Indians.
Tendulkar echoed what Kohli had said a couple of days earlier during a media interaction in Bengaluru. “If I’m able to play 10, 12 or 15 games, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other guy can only play that many. My body might demand I play a certain number of games and I need to be smart about that and rest,” the Indian skipper had said.
“Someone else’s body might be more capable than mine or less, that is a very individual thing. And everyone wants to play the World Cup, so people will be smart about it because you don’t want to miss out on such a big event.”
Kohli had said that it is up to individual players to deal with the issue to keep their body fit and be in contention for a place in the World Cup-bound squad. “From a responsibility point of view, all the Indian players will have the responsibility during the IPL to keep a watch on their fitness and their workloads,” he said.
“And to continue the frame of mind we have created in the Indian team – strive towards excellence and improve every day. Each player will take this tournament as an opportunity to go to the World Cup in a good frame of mind,” he said.
Kerala Blasters sign Rahul KP
Mumbai : Kerala Blasters have wrapped up a deal to bring Indian Arrows forward Rahul Kannoly Praveen on board for the 2019-20 season, Goal has learnt.
The 19-year-old forward has become the fifth former India U-17 player to be roped in by Blasters after Dheeraj Singh, Mohammad Rakip, Nongdamba Naorem and Jeakson Singh.
Thrissur-born Rahul featured for Luis Norton de Matos’ Indian team in the U-17 World Cup held in India. He continued his development with AIFF’s Indian Arrows in the I-League and impressed in patches last season, scoring two goals in 17 appearances.
He has stepped up his game at Arrows this season under Floyd Pinto and contributed greatly to the team’s eighth-placed finish under the Indian head coach. He has three goals to his name this season.
Blessed with pace and dazzling feet, Rahul is good at taking on his opponent from wide areas and also has an eye for a pass. He was impressive against Gokulam Kerala and scored a terrific volley in the I-League match at Kozhikode earlier this season. He also featured in the Super Cup qualifier against Kerala Blasters as Indian Arrows won 2-0.
In what seems like a much-needed move after a disapponting season in the ISL, Kerala Blasters, under the new leadership of CEO Viren D’Silva, are off to a good start off the field and have added a promising local talent to the squad.