Friday, December 29, 2006

World Cup winning former coach Jacquet steps down from French soccer's top job

Aime Jacquet, the former soccer coach who led France's national selection to victory in the 1998 World Cup, stepped down Friday from his post as French soccer's technical director.

Jacquet was appointed to the top job in 1998, following his wildly successful four-year stint at the head of the national team. As coach, he led "Les Bleus," who failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, to a 30-game winning streak and a surprise win over Brazil in the World Cup final in 1998.

Jacquet is credited with having discovered three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Zinedine Zidane.

The 65-year-old former soldier in the French-Algerian war began as a midfielder for French clubs Saint-Etienne and Lyon before coaching for Lyon and Bordeaux.

Assistant technical director Jean-Pierre Morlans is to take over for Jacquet until a permanent replacement is found.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jones begins Samoa's World Cup preparations

Samoa rugby coach Michael Jones will use a five-match tour of South Africa and Australia next month to blood some young players ahead of the World Cup.

The Samoans will play against Super 14 opposition in three games in South Africa, before heading to Australia for another two games.

They open with a match against a Lions/Pumas combination in White River on January 6, followed by games against the Bulls in Polekwane on January 10 and Cheetahs in Kimberley on January 13.

They then head to Australia for matches against the Reds in Brisbane on January 20 and the Western Force in Perth on January 25.

On the South African leg, the legendary former All Black, Jones, is expected to blood several young players in preparation for Samoa's tilt at the World Cup in France.

The squad of 28 players are mostly Samoa-based and include International Rugby Board (IRB) sevens player of the year, fullback Uale Mai.

Also in the team is Auckland Blues halfback Junior Poluleuligaga while some of the touring squad have also played in the New Zealand domestic championships this year.

Their South African representative, Willem Strauss, told the planetrugby website Samoa would use the tour to expand their brand of running rugby in the hope of delivering a few surprises at the World Cup, as they have done in their previous appearances.

Samoa will return to South Africa in June for a test against the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld.

Samoa are in the same group as South Africa and England at the World Cup.

Samoa squad:

Props: Donald Kerslake, Muliufi Salanoa, Iakopo Eti Vaimoso, Pena Falefa.

Hookers: Silao Vaisola Gagaifo, Loleni Tafunai Vaiala.

Locks: Luti Pese Alafua, Mike Sala Leauvaa, Chad Slade Vaivase.

Loose forwards: Ray Stark, Justin Purdie, Wil Brame, Manaia Salavea, Ulia Ulia (captain), Marlon Sione Tafitoala, Mussolini Faalupega.

Halfbacks: Junior Poluleuligaga, Notise Tauafao.

First five-eighth: Douglas Sanft Sinamoga,

Midfield: Jerry Meafou, Willy Lafaele, Pati Fetuiai, Mika Senio.

Wings: Keli Arteria, Asalemo Malo, Timoteo Iosua,

Fullbacks: Uale Mai, Esera Lauina.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

South Africa: Mbeki - SA is Leagues Ahead in World Cup Preparations

PRESIDENT Thabo Mbeki has defended SA's ability to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup, saying the country is further along in its preparations than any other host nation at a similar time.

"We have beaten all previous records with regard to preparations for the successful hosting of the World Cup, including the benchmarks set by the highly successful 2006 German World Cup. This includes the financial sponsorships without which it would be impossible to hold the tournament," he said in his weekly online newsletter.

Since Germany's successful hosting of the tournament this year, criticism has been levelled at SA from many quarters. There have even been reports that Australia has been put on standby as host should SA fail to meet the 2008 deadline for building stadiums.

Although Fifa, soccer's governing body, has continuously insisted SA is perfectly capable of hosting the cup, construction delays and internal squabbles prompted Fifa president Sepp Blatter to offer shovels and picks to ensure the 10 stadiums are built on time.

However, Mbeki said it was imperative that the processes were conducted properly and transparently, and that construction contracts were awarded following structured tenders.

Other problems have included perceptions that the CEO of the local organising committee, Danny Jordaan, and its chairman, Irvin Khoza, cannot stand each other, a rumour the two have been at pains to quash.

Organisers have had to deal with opposition from residents to the building of a new stadium in Green Point, Cape Town, as well as the squabble between Cape Town mayor Helen Zille and Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool.

Khoza has warned the city that the organising committee may have to look for an alternative venue to Cape Town.

Mbeki, as part of a list of what SA had achieved this year, wrote that despite the country's accomplishments, people in the country and elsewhere had done their best to convince South Africans that they would fail to host a successful World Cup.

He said that through the joint efforts of Fifa, the local organising committee and government, solid foundations had been established for an exceptional event.

Mbeki said that the work done to prepare for 2010 represented one of the most prominent items of good news, of which South Africans should be proud.

He also expressed the hope that the fortunes of the national soccer team would improve.

"History suggests that an uplifting performance by the host country is often an integral element in a successful Fifa World Cup, and we are confident that the hope of the nation, Bafana Bafana, will rise to the occasion in 2010."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ahly ready for Club World Cup

Ahly have moved to first place in the league table with a 5-1 win over Olympic as they prepare for the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan.

The win has moved Ahly two points above Ismailia and the African Champions League holders have a game in hand. Flavio Amado and Emad Moteab were both on the scoresheet.

Ahly travel to Japan to face Auckland City of New Zealand on December 10th and the pressure is on the Egyptian side to improve on their performances over recent years in the Club cup.