Women’s Olympic football semifinals
Two quotes grabbed my attention ahead of Monday’s match between Canada and the United States at Old Trafford.
First, Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt: “It may sound a bit odd, but we knew we were going to beat Great Britain and reach the semifinals. It’s exactly this belief in ourselves which marks us out right now.”
Now, United States goalkeeper Hope Solo: “We haven’t really been tested. I’m waiting to still get tested, but that’s what happens when you’re ranked number-one.”
Confidence from both players, but expressed very differently. Schmidt, who was a big part of Canada’s 2-0 win over Team GB on Friday, revealed the extent to which self-assurance among her teammates has ballooned at this tournament and she went on to credit manager John Herdman for much of it.
Solo, who is never far from either the spotlight or the microphones, took a rather different tact, essentially discounting the level of competition her side have faced thus far. Not quite pin-it-on-the-bulletin-board type stuff, but not far off, either. Surely Canada, at the very least, will want to be the side to finally provide that “test.”
You can read my full match preview on The Score’s 2012 Olympic site Going For Gold.
Lucas Moura transfer saga
This looked a story to keep track of two weeks ago when it looked like a move was imminent, but after a fortnight of on-again, off-again talks, contrasting messages, erroneous “reports” and, finally, dead silence, it seems we are back where we started: at the “imminent” part.
By way of background, Manchester United admitted their interest in the Sao Paulo attacker late last month and made a trio of bids that were rejected, one after another, by the Brazilian club. Then there were rumours of a boardroom rift at the Morumbi and, rather out of the blue, Inter Milan came forward with an offer for the 19-year-old late last week that was significantly lower than the £30 million it was believed United were willing to pay.
Anyway, Bob Cass breathed some much-needed life into the story with his piece in the Mail on Sunday that suggested Lucas Moura was due for a medical at Old Trafford sometime Sunday evening. The medical obviously didn’t happen, but it’s worth mentioning that United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was not in Oslo for his side’s friendly against Valerenga.
That I highly rate Lucas Moura is no secret; I’ve written as much previously on this site. But what I don’t understand is why United, if they actually have upwards of £30 million to throw at a very raw, very undeveloped attacker, wouldn’t have gone harder after Eden Hazard. Lord knows it would have been a quicker process than trying to acquire a player who owns 30 per cent of his playing rights and employs an agent who is, let’s just say, rather unpopular in many circles.
Late Sunday Rubin Kazan, on their official website, announced the signing of Venezuelan forward Salomon Rondon from troubled La Liga side Malaga. Rondon will be followed out the door by Santi Cazorla, who is expected to sign for Arsenal any day. Midfielders Apono and Xavi Torres have already left the club, and it’s expected manager Manuel Pellegrini will soon make his exit if the club’s financial situation isn’t settled shortly.
It won’t be. Several players have already gone public with their complaints over unpaid wages (including the recently-retired Ruud Van Nistelrooy) and now it looks as though much of the investment made last summer by owner by Abdullah Al Thani is about to be undone.
In a statement released by the club, Al Thani has claimed that any perception of financial difficulty is merely a reflection of the club’s “restructuring” to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, which come into full effect a year from now.
It’s a nice attempt at an excuse (and, indeed, more clubs should actually make attempts to meet the FFP criteria ahead of the 2013-14 season), but it falls well short of the reality on the ground. Al Thani purchased Malaga for a paltry €36 million in 2010 and probably didn’t expect the annual expense of running a top-flight football club to far exceed that, especially when the wages of last summer’s big signings were factored into the equation.
In any event, Malaga look to have a tumultuous few months ahead of them. At the rate things are going whichever manager is brave enough to take over the side will barely have enough players to fill out a squad sheet when the league campaign begins later this month. Foreign takeovers do not always signal a boon for a club, especially when the figureheads have neither money nor a clue about football. Portsmouth fans could attest to this.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer