Author: AFP

Kovac eyes double after ‘intense’ season

Berlin (AFP) – Cup specialist Niko Kovac is hoping to end a turbulent first season in charge of Bayern Munich with a domestic double when his side face RB Leipzig in the German Cup final in Berlin on Saturday.  The Bayern boss has been under pressure lately amid rumours that he may be sacked at the end of the season, but has said that he is focusing on football ahead of Saturday’s final.  “I want to throw myself into the task (of winning the cup), everything else, everything concerning my position, is secondary,” he said on Friday.  Just hours earlier ... Read more

10-man Wydad claw back to hold Esperance in first leg of final

Johannesburg (AFP) – Wydad Casablanca overcame having their captain sent off and two VAR referrals going against them to draw 1-1 with Esperance Tunis Saturday in the CAF Champions League final first leg. Both goals came from Ivorians with midfielder Fousseny Coulibaly giving the Tunisian outfit a 44th-minute lead in Rabat and centre-back Cheikh Comara equalising 11 minutes from time. Wydad and Esperance meet again next Friday in the Tunis suburb of Rades to decide who wins the elite African club competition and becomes $2.5 million (about 2.2 mn euro) richer. Spectators and TV viewers will hope for some free-flowing ... Read more

Former Tottenham manager Gross aims to end Zamalek trophy drought

Johannesburg (AFP) – Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Christian Gross believes the 16-year African trophy drought of famed Egyptian club Zamalek will end Sunday near ancient Mediterranean city Alexandria.  Coached by Gross, Zamalek lost 1-0 away to Moroccan outfit Renaissance Berkane last Sunday in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup final, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League. The 64-year-old Swiss is convinced the ‘White Knights’ can overcame the deficit at the 86,000-seat Borg el Arab Stadium, with the crowd restricted to 60,000 for security reasons. In 2003, Zamalek won a ninth African competition by beating Wydad Casablanca ... Read more

US star Rapinoe takes aim at FIFA over final clash

New York (AFP) – United States star Megan Rapinoe hit out at world football’s governing body FIFA on Friday, criticising “ridiculous” scheduling that will leave the Women’s World Cup final clashing with the climax of two other continental championships. Speaking at a media event in New York ahead of the USA’s final home friendly before next month’s finals in France, Rapinoe said FIFA was still not doing enough to promote women’s football. Rapinoe, a veteran of the USA’s 2015 World Cup triumph , voiced particular dismay at the fixture clash which means the finals of the women’s World Cup, Copa ... Read more

Dijon escape automatic relegation on final day of Ligue 1

Paris (AFP) – Dijon came from behind on the last day of Ligue 1 on Friday to beat Toulouse, 2-1, and grab a lifeline that could keep them in the French top flight. At the start of the final round, Guingamp were sure to finish last, while Dijon occupied the other direct relegation spot, one point behind Caen occupying the pace that brings a playoff against a Ligue 2 team. Both could have caught Monaco and Amiens and escaped altogether. Dijon needed to win but fell behind at home to a 33rd minute goal by Bafode Diakite. Naim Sliti levelled ... Read more

Neymar to arrive early in Brazil for Copa America

Teresópolis (Brazil) (AFP) – Star striker Neymar will join Brazil’s Copa America squad for training Saturday, three days ahead of schedule, an official said Friday. “He will arrive tomorrow between 11:00 am and noon,” (1400 GMT and 1500 GMT) Brazil football federation press officer Vinicius Rodrigues told reporters at the Granja Comary complex in Teresopolis near Rio de Janeiro.  Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, had been expected to arrive on May 28, six days after Brazil began preparations for the tournament. No explanation was provided for the change.  Reporters were tipped off to Neymar’s early arrival after he failed ... Read more

‘Do fans in Baku not deserve it?’ – UEFA chief Ceferin defends Europa League final

Berlin (AFP) – UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has defended the decision to host the Europa League final in Baku in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel set to be published on Saturday. Chelsea and Arsenal are set to play in Baku on May 29, and UEFA has faced heavy criticism, both for the distance of the venue from London and over Azerbaijan’s record on human rights. Ceferin, 51, told Der Spiegel that the final would be played in Baku because “there are people who live there who love football”. “The human rights situation is a problem, but it ... Read more

Messi backs Valverde but admits Barca are still hurting

Madrid (AFP) – Lionel Messi wants Ernesto Valverde to continue as Barcelona coach but admits the team have not recovered from their Champions League loss to Liverpool as they face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.  After winning La Liga by 11 points, Barca can complete a domestic double by beating Valencia in Seville, but even that will not erase the disappointment of throwing away a three-goal lead at Anfield.  Valverde conceded his future was uncertain after the loss but the club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has since said the coach will remain in charge. “I honestly believe ... Read more