Monday, 18 April 2011

Football : European Championship2012,Latest News

Houllier: Darren Bent into shape

Gerard Houllier believes Darren Bent is ready to become a key figure in England's Euro 2012 campaign.

Bent propelled Aston Villa towards safety with the first goal in a 2-1 victory over West Ham.

Bent took his tally to six in 11 games since completing an £18million January move from Sunderland when he cut in front of Wayne Bridge to head Villa level at Upton Park.

Gabriel Agbonlahor then struck in added time to seal a victory that saw Villa shoot up the table to ninth place on 40 points but left West Ham deeper in the mire.

Bent started England's European Championships qualifying victory over Wales and he has scored three goals in nine games for his country.

"I think he will step up now. He is gradually now providing international performances," said Houllier, the Aston Villa manager.

"I always think there are three levels. There is Premier League level, international level and world class.

"The first aim is to be a regular international. He's improved and Fabio Capello probably saw that."

While the likes of Fernando Torres, Edin Dzeko and Luis Suarez were traded during the January transfer window, Villa shelled out a record transfer fee to sign Bent from Sunderland.

Houllier understood the value of buying British and he viewed Bent as an under-rated talent who could spearhead Villa's bid for survival.

"He came to the club and gave us all a lift. It was important to take someone who knew the English game. We knew exactly what we were expecting from him," Houllier said.

"His work-rate is phenomenal. His movement is fantastic. He's not only a good player but a good lad as well.

"I probably (rate him higher) than many people because he's not spectacular but he's so clinical in his finish.

"The one I liken him to, who was a lethal finisher as well, is Robbie Fowler. He was clinical like that. Instinctive. Every single training, he scores."

After two wins and a draw from their last three games, Villa now have 40 points and are virtually safe, although Houllier will not rest until they have at least one more win.

"I must give credit to their character because that is what we need when we are in a fight against relegation, you need character and you need composure," said Houllier.

"The turning point is probably the short meeting we had together before the Everton game.

"We just said we were starting a new league, of just three games. In those we have picked up seven points.

"More importantly, we have come back twice in those games from going behind. So it could be a turning point.

"Before this game we said two more wins and a draw, which would be 44 points. But we've got to keep the momentum. That's the most important thing.

"The fighting spirit is for me the base. Whatever the talent you need to work and fight. This league is extremely competitive.

"It's never finished right until the end. Some teams would have been happy to have a point here and just tried to keep it. But we went for the three points."

West Ham have five matches to secure their top-flight status, the next two of which are away at Chelsea and FA Cup finalists Manchester City.

After that, the Hammers tackle relegation rivals Blackburn, Wigan and Sunderland. The scrap for survival is set to come down to the final weekend.

"I think we need nine points to save ourselves. It will be difficult but it is possible. The next two games are going to be very hard but we are not going to give up," said Grant.

"We need to take points from one of the next two games. We have beaten big teams already this season. The good thing is it is still very tight."

Gazza: Wilshere must not buy into hype

Troubled former England star Paul Gascoigne has urged Jack Wilshere to ignore the hype surrounding his rise to fame this season.

The 19-year-old has shot into the limelight this campaign for Arsenal and following his recent performances for England in the last international break he has been touted as a future England legend.

Gascoigne, who struggled to deal with the weight of expectations placed on him during his own career, has warned Wilshere that he needs to keep a good head on his shoulders to fully realise his huge potential.

"I think my advice for him is try not to believe a lot of the stuff that you read," he told talkSPORT.

"I know when I played if I had a bad game and scored one I'd get the headlines for two weeks and then start believing what I read. If I played brilliant and the press said I played bad then you read that and start thinking you played bad."

Gascoigne watched Wilshere line-up for England against Ghana in Wednesday night's 1-1 friendly draw and admits to being impressed by the midfielder's footballing brain.

"I've seen bits of him, he's fantastic," he said.

"Some of the stuff he comes out with on a football field is just incredible. He's a great talent and it's good for England.

"Watching that game against Ghana the other night it looks if we've got a great prospect coming through. He played the ball around well, he was quick, his movement off the ball was fantastic. He must continue to do exactly what he's doing and I don't think he can wrong."

Wilshere currently has four caps for England.

Anelka: I don't miss playing for France

Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka does not miss international football and has no plans to come out of retirement for Euro 2012.

The forward is currently serving an 18-match ban.

Anelka was given the hefty sentence last August for his role in the controversial mutiny against France head coach Raymond Domenech at the World Cup.

Patrice Evra and Franck Ribery have both served bans for their part in the protest against Domenech's reign and are now playing for Les Bleus again.

Former Arsenal and Manchester City striker Anelka admitted last summer that he wanted to quit international football despite the departure of Domenech, who has been replaced by Laurent Blanc.

Anelka's ban is due to come to an end just before Euro 2012 and France are on course to qualify for the tournament in Poland and the Ukraine after picking up 12 points to top Group D after five games.

Should Les Bleus qualify, Anelka would not be willing to add to the 69 caps he already holds as he thinks he is better off outside the international arena.

"I don't miss it, I am glad to be out of it (international football)," Anelka told Chelsea's website.

"Of course it can help to not play, you play less games so it is perfect to be off and to think about something else for one or two weeks then come back fresh to the club.

"You get some family life, go to Paris, wherever you want with your family, it is perfect, but I used to be like this when I played for City and in the beginning at Bolton, so I know this situation and I like it. I really don't think about the national team or playing games."

Chelsea travel to Stoke on Saturday looking to keep up their title challenge in the first match after the international break.

No regrets for Nigel Worthington

Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington has no regrets on his team selections for this week's Euro 2012 qualifying double header.

A 0-0 draw against Slovenia at Windsor Park followed a 2-1 defeat in Serbia, with a return of one point from six falling some way below Worthington's aspirations.

Results elsewhere mean the battle for second place behind Group C leaders Italy is still open, though, and Worthington insists he made the right calls for both games.

There were several big decisions - moving Gareth McAuley to centre-back in Belgrade at the expense of Stephen Craigan, handing successive starts to the young Corry Evans and sticking with a sole striker against Slovenia.

McAuley, in particular, proved an astute switch and was arguably his team's best player in both games.

"I have no regrets at all about the teams," he said.

"It's my decision and I will bring players on and off when I think the time is right.

"We have had to be solid for these two games and the right personnel was out there these two matches, both starting and coming on at various times.

"I'm happy with those decisions."

There was some dissatisfaction among fans that Celtic's Paddy McCourt was reduced to a bit-part role from the bench in each match, but Worthington was unwavering.

"Pat knows where he is at and he is getting better. We know his ability but we're playing international football where you don't get to dribble too far up the pitch before people are on you.

"If you lose the ball they are at you and Pat is working hard on that side of things.

"I said it was going to be a boxing match on Tuesday and it was exactly that. It went the distance.

"I thought our lads were immense and we kept our shape well."

Worthington reserved special praise for McAuley, who scored the goal in Belgrade, almost repeated the feat against Slovenia and made a handful of vital interventions at the back.

He took over as captain for the home fixture with Aaron Hughes out injured - a measure of the faith his manager now has in him.

"I've watched him on several occasions for Ipswich this season and I think he has grown as a player this year," he said.

"His performances on Friday night was first class, excellent and I thought his performance here was just huge.

"Great credit to the lad, he has taken the armband here and he's done well.

"He is a great pro and deserves all the credit that he gets."

McAuley revelled in inheriting the armband from defensive partner Hughes, adding: "It was a very proud moment for me to lead the team out, with the family in the stand looking on.

"It was a nice night and I got a great buzz out of it, helped by the clean sheet but from a team perspective we were looking for the victory.

"Anything can happen from here on in and this is certainly not the end of the world for us."

UEFA: Poland have "huge image problem"

UEFA have admitted Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland face a "huge image problem" over their hooliganism.

Martin Kallen, UEFA's director of Euro 2012, said there are hooligan outbreaks at just about every league match in Poland, who are hosting the tournament with neighbours Ukraine, and 60 Polish fans were detained after throwing bottles, flares and benches at police during the friendly in Lithuania last week.

The Polish government have recently announced new laws to tackle football violence similar to legislation brought in by Germany for the 2006 World Cup.

Kallen told the Soccerex conference in Manchester: "On the hooligan side we are concerned but I know the Polish government is also concerned.

"They know they have a problem - they have a huge image problem. There are always hooligans around every match day in the league but the government is making the right steps for the future.

"What we saw at last Friday's match was not a very good picture to see that happening in a stadium. We and the Polish government are concerned. They are taking this seriously and will have changes in the next month."

Kallen said he was not overly concerned about the tournament itself as the problem was more linked to club matches.

He added: "For the Euro different people will be coming to matches - there will be more families. The Euro is a party and in many areas there is more a problem on a daily basis for club matches."

Marcin Herra, head of Poland 2012, insisted there would be "zero tolerance" for hooligans.

"The minority cannot spoil the event for the majority," he said. "In Poland the new legislation allows us to work much more precisely against those hooligans.

"There will be zero tolerance to make sure that 500 people cannot spoil the event for one million people."

Herra said the new laws allowed the police to speed up the process of arresting suspected hooligans and dealing with them in court. Fans also have to be part of a central database in order to buy tickets with potential troublemakers prevented from doing so.

Meanwhile, Kallen admitted some promises made by the host countries about infrastructure developments would not be able to be kept - mainly regarding road improvements.

But Kallen added that there was no danger of either Ukraine or Poland not hosting the tournament next year.

He said: "We have no other way. Each have to be ready in 2012."

Capello sanguine about Euro 2012

After a very satisfactory nine days, Fabio Capello sent his England players back to their clubs.

Weekend results in Group G now make it virtually certain the battle for an automatic slot is between England and Montenegro.

Last night's superb friendly with Ghana indicated Capello will have far more options at his disposal at the finals than he had in South Africa last year.

But the Italian is not getting carried away.

England's next commitment is against Switzerland at Wembley on June 4, with the final three qualifiers to follow next term, culminating in that potentially make-or-break trip to Montenegro in October.

And Capello is looking no further than that.

"We still need to play four games," he said.

"That is a lot of points. I don't know what will happen in the future. It is a long way to arrive at Euro 2012.

"But at this moment I am relaxed. I like being here and we are in a good position."

There were some negatives for Capello but they are mainly centred around a testy relationship with the media, which reached a crescendo in the build-up to the weekend win over Wales.

Even now, there has still not been a satisfactory answer given as to why Rio Ferdinand has not had the courtesy of a personal conversation with the Italian about the decision to remove him as skipper.

However, as Ferdinand has clearly moved on judging by his Twitter postings urging England on, it is probably time for everyone else to.

And that allows a very positive assessment of Capello's squad, with Aston Villa's Ashley Young once again showing he is one of the most improved players around.

"All the players played well," observed the England coach.

"But Ashley Young is one of the most interesting players this season."

Rather than be restricted to the wing, where he has spent most of his career, Young has been released into more central positions at Aston Villa this term.

Capello has seen how effective the 25-year-old has been and has followed Gerard Houllier's lead, resulting in Young's best three England displays all coming in 2011.

"In this position he is free," said Capello.

"His movement on the pitch is really good at all times.

"He is a danger when he receives the ball because technically, his vision on the pitch is excellent."

Clearly, Young was not alone in impressing.

Jack Wilshere may not have stood out in last night's 1-1 draw but in a sense, that was further proof of how effectively the 19-year-old has adjusted to the senior scene.

With four caps to his name - and three successive starts - Wilshere looks like an old hand, finding the groove of England's play with ease and benefiting from Capello's decision to install a dedicated defensive midfielder to screen the Three Lions' defence.

That offers Wilshere the freedom to play his normal game in a new system, which looks to the naked eye like a very complex 4-1-2-2-1, but according to Capello is something rather more simple.

"Plan A is 9-1," he said.

"This is the new football. The new system is to go forward with a lot of players and to defend with nine.

"You have to be compact. Barcelona and Arsenal do it. If you want to win back the ball, you have to defend with a lot of players and attack the same.

"The players did not convince me to do it. I decide everything myself."

It is almost tempting to declare the death of 4-4-2, apart from the presence of one notable exception.

"Manchester United still play 4-4-2. They won something didn't they?" said Capello.

"Every style is good if the players are fit and focused on the game."
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