Forward places up for grabs as Spain take on Argentina

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 27 Mar 2018 11:06:37




TWO of the World Cup’s leading contenders will meet in Madrid on Tuesday but neither Spain nor Argentina have yet settled on a forward line for this summer.For Argentina and Jorge Sampaoli the question is who best to stir Lionel Messi, with the two-time winners again boasting an embarrassment of riches up front, while showing little indication they know how to deploy them.The supporting trio of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria could reunite in Russia but they have disappointed together before, when all were younger and arriving in better form. Meanwhile, Paulo Dybala, one of the game’s most exciting young forwards, faces a fight for inclusion after being left off Sampaoli’s latest list, and Mauro Icardi is expected to find his 26 goals for Inter Milan this season insufficient to make the squad.

Argentina may have to continue their search at the Wanda Metropolitano without their key component as Messi has been struggling with pain in his hamstring and adductor.
He trained on Sunday but is unlikely to be risked.“Spain already has its team and knows how it will play at the World Cup,” Sampaoli said. “We have to find that certainty.”But for Spain and Julen Lopetegui, there is also uncertainty in the final third where it is less a question of too many choices but too few as Diego Costa, Rodrigo Moreno, Alvaro Morata and Iago Aspas all jostle for the lead striker role.Costa was the clear favourite after starting five of Spain’s opening six World Cup qualifiers but his fall-out with Chelsea, that led to five months stewing in Brazil, prompted Lopetegui into a rethink.“The coach was always very clear with me,” Costa said on Friday.

“He told me: ‘If you do not play, you cannot come’. But he also told me that when I played again, if I did it right, I had the doors open.”In the last seven games, four of them qualifiers, Costa is yet to start while Morata has been picked twice and Moreno three times.It would seem too late now for Aspas but, unlike Morata, he is in the current squad and has the benefit of form, having hit 16 goals for Celta Vigo in La Liga this season, more than any other Spanish player.Coach Van Marwijk chases first Australia winBERT van Marwijk aims to get Australia’s World Cup preparations back on track in Wednesday’s friendly against Colombia in London.Australia manager Van Marwijk endured a miserable start to his reign as the Socceroos were routed 4-1 by Norway on Friday.

The Dutch coach, who has taken over from Ange Postecoglou, saw Jackson Irvine give his side a 19th minute lead in Oslo.But a hat-trick from LA Galaxy striker Ola Kamara and Tore Reginiussen’s strike sealed an emphatic win for Norway, who are ranked 20 places below Australia and did not qualify for the World Cup.It was the worst possible way for van Marwijk and his players to get acquainted ahead of the World Cup, which starts in Russia in June. There is little time for van Marwijk to make his mark before Australia face France, Denmark and Peru in the finals, having qualified by eliminating Syria and Honduras in play-offs.The 65-year-old has three more friendlies and a 30-day training camp in Turkey to shape his new team.‘Ghost’ of 7-1 Germanymauling still haunts Brazil : TiteBRAZIL coach Tite says the “ghost” of their 7-1 mauling by Germany at the 2014 World Cup still haunts the ‘Selecao’, as the teams prepare to meet on Tuesday.
Brazil suffered their heaviest home defeat when Germany hit four goals in six devastating first-half minutes of the Belo Horizonte semi-final nearly four years ago.

Toni Kroos and Andre Schuerrle both scored twice over the 90 minutes as Germany’s attack ran riot en route to winning the World Cup title.The teams meet in a friendly for the first time since at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and Tite says Brazil still bear the scars.“This has a huge psychological meaning—no one needs to fool themselves about that,” Tite told German magazine Kicker.“The 7-1 from the World Cup is like a ghost.“It’s present, people still talk about it, but the more you talk about it, the less this ‘ghost’ disappears.“It won’t just be a sporting challenge, but a huge emotional challenge too.
“We are preparing to give our best performance, which will be important, but of course I also want a good result.”
England’s Butland relishes battle forgoalkeeping slot
ENGLAND’S Jack Butland is backing manager Gareth Southgate’s policy of keeping his goalkeepers guessing as to who will be the number one for the World Cup in Russia.
The Stoke player is set to start against Italy at Wembley on Tuesday and needs to keep pace with Everton’s rising star Jordan Pickford, who made it two clean sheets from two appearances during Friday’s 1-0 win in the Netherlands.

Long-serving first-choice Joe Hart is also in the frame while uncapped Burnley man Nick Pope has also been training with the squad for the first time.
Southgate’s reluctance to nominate his preferred candidate with just three more friendlies before heading to Russia is controversial but Butland said the internal battle drives up standards.“It’s a good thing isn’t it, having competition? I enjoy it,” he said.“Training between all of us is extremely intense. Obviously it’s one we’re all trying to take for ourselves but ultimately whoever deserves it, whoever the manager feels, will get it and we’re all tryingto do our bit to make sure it’s us.”

Butland said Southgate would make his decision when he is ready but until then the competition would be fierce.
“I think that’s a great way to go into a World Cup, the fact not knowing who it is just yet shows the competition is great and whoever it will be is going to be coming off a battle, which is what we want,” he said.Italy were also the opponents when Butland made his England debut in 2012, a 2-1 win in Bern.At just 19 he became the youngest England goalkeeper but a series of injuries have seen him win just five more caps.

“Of course, six years ago, I was the youngest keeper to play for England and all of that, first cap, an incredible moment and I envisaged playing a lot more between then and now,” he said.“But injuries happen and it was a massive setback for me. So I’ve dealt with bigger things than the odd (bad) performance, I’ve dealt with a hell of a long time out of the game.” Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has been ruled out of the match with a left ankle injury suffered in his brief outing in Amsterdam.