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Ronaldo not a distraction, says Portugal coach Santos

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DOHA, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) — Cristiano Ronaldo parted ways with Manchester United just two days before Portugal’s opening game against Ghana at the Qatar World Cup, which head coach Fernando Santos insisted will not distract the team.

“This is something that has not even been discussed,” Santos said at the pre-game press conference on Wednesday. “This conversation has not come up at any moment, not even from him.”

Santos said that the team is in good shape and well-prepared for Ghana who “will cause us a lot of problems.”

“Ghana is a very well-organized team. Their game against Switzerland showed that. African teams have a lot of talent, unpredictability, and are always improving tactically. Today they are much more complete teams,” he added.

Santos also indicated his ambition and desire of winning the World Cup, saying “I believe we have the ability to fight for this goal. We want to give the Portuguese people great joy.”

Portugal will face Ghana in their Group H game on Thursday.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Van Gaal: Netherlands can go all the way in World Cup

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DOHA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal asked for improvement from his side but insisted they can also win the World Cup after beating the USA 3-1 in their last-16 game on Saturday.

The Netherlands became the first side to qualify for the quarterfinals with goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries, who was also voted Player of the Match after giving assists in the first two goals.

However, the ever-demanding coach insisted his players had to improve.

“I was very critical in my halftime analysis,” commented Van Gaal.

“In the first half, they (USA) dispossessed us so much, and that is not acceptable. You can’t accept that if you play top level teams. We did better in the second half, even though there were fewer goals.”

“They were great goals and really good team goals,” he explained, repeating his claim that the Netherlands can go all the way to the final in Qatar.

“Some top teams are out and we have three games ahead of us. We can become world champions. I don’t say we will become world champions, but we can be. It is about team building,” he said.

“This gives you confidence. The players are pleased and excited. We will look at the game again tomorrow and then we will roll up our sleeves and get back to work,” commented Van Gaal, who was pleased that other sides are not adapting to counter the Dutch wing-backs.

“I suppose the stronger the rival is the less likely they are to adjust to our system. I don’t think Spain, France or Argentina will adapt to the Netherlands, so I think we have a big chance here,” he concluded.

Meanwhile Dumfries was happy with the way the Dutch wing-backs had a role in all of their goals.

“In the first goal, you see everything from the system we play. We attack spaces and move the ball well. It was a great goal and that is how you see the core of our system,” Dumfries said.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Messi: We are one step closer to our objective

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DOHA, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) — Lionel Messi said Argentina had taken “one more step” toward their goal of World Cup glory by overcoming Australia in a dramatic round of 16 clash here on Saturday.

Messi sent Argentina on course for victory with a first-half strike, and Julian Alvarez doubled the lead before Craig Goodwin’s shot deflected in off Enzo Fernandez, ensuring a dramatic conclusion at Ahmad bin Ali stadium.

Messi’s goal, which came in his 1000th game for club and country, marked the first time he has scored in a World Cup knockout match.

“One more target has been reached. We are one step closer to our objective,” Messi told a news conference.

“It was a tough game, we knew it was going to be like that. We didn’t have much time to rest and we were worried about that. We knew it was going to be a tough game. They are physically very strong. We were able to get the advantage and then it got complicated. We suffered a bit at the end but it’s the World Cup. All games are difficult.”

Messi paid tribute to the tens of thousands of Argentine fans at the stadium, many of whom sang and chanted throughout the 90 minutes. Argentina’s players made a point of applauding them on the pitch after the final whistle.

“It was beautiful to be with them,” the 35-year-old forward said. “I think all of Argentina would like to be here, but obviously that can’t happen.

“We are always thrilled to play in front of these fans and it’s great to have their support every match, to feel their joy and passion.”

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Cameroon coach Song ‘proud’ after historic win over Brazil

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LUSAIL, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Cameroon manager Rigobert Song said he was proud of his players after a historic 1-0 victory over Brazil in their World Cup Group G match here on Friday.

A stoppage-time header from Vincent Aboubakar gave the Indomitable Lions the first ever win by an African team over Brazil at the World Cup.

But it wasn’t enough to earn Cameroon a place in the knockout stage in Qatar as they finished third in their group, behind Brazil and Switzerland.

“We have a feeling of regret because this match showed that we could have done better in the first two games,” said Song, referring to a 3-3 draw with Serbia and a 1-0 loss to Switzerland.

“But you have to look at the positive side. We’re satisfied with tonight’s performance. I took over the team not that long ago and we’re progressing.

“I’m proud of my players. We’re trying to get across the Lions’ spirt. We’ve shown that we can be a good team and now we have to make sure that we keep improving.”

He admitted he wasn’t initially aware of the magnitude of his team’s achievement.

“I didn’t even realize it was such a historic victory. My players should be congratulated and they’ve shown they could have done better [earlier in the tournament]. It’s a shame we have to go home now but we are going to keep working so that we improve.”

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