21 Sep

Gunners appeal Giroud dismissal

first_imgArsenal have appealed against the red card shown to Olivier Giroud during Saturday’s 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Fulham. Press Association If the appeal is unsuccessful, Giroud will receive a three-match ban for the straight red card. Replays showed the £13million summer signing from Montpellier, who has scored 17 goals for Arsenal, made contact with the ball during the tackle. Arsene Wenger hinted after a win that lifted the Gunners to third in the table that an appeal would be made. “Giroud told me he did slip and went a bit over the ball,” the Arsenal boss said “Knowing that Steve Sidwell had been sent off, when the referee went to see him, we knew it would be a red card. “We will have to deal with that now because he will miss three games and that is not easy for us to cope with. “Nobody would say Giroud is a dirty player, it is purely accidental, but sometimes accidental can be dangerous.” center_img French striker Giroud was dismissed by referee Andre Marriner in the 90th minute of the London derby at Craven Cottage for jumping into a challenge with Stanislav Manolev. “We have lodged an appeal to the Football Association for the wrongful dismissal of Olivier Giroud against Fulham,” read a statement on the club’s official website. “An FA regulatory commission will hear the claim and make a verdict on Tuesday afternoon.” last_img read more

27 Aug

Joy Sports’ Africa focus: Morocco’s style, key men and weaknesses

first_imgMorocco were drowning in underachievement until African football’s own scuba diver, Herve Renard, readily splashed in to rescue them from perishing. And oh! What a rescue mission it has proven to be. After a twenty year absence from the world stage of football, Renard has successfully put to bed so many years of misery.  COACH AND STYLE OF PLAY Appointed as coach of the Moroccan national team in 2016, Herve Renard has been emphatic in discharging his duties. Herve is famed for being the first coach to win the AFCON with different nations, thus Zambia and Ivory Coast. Renard’s tenets of footballing success are built on the foundations of tactical solidity and defensive stability. Among all the national teams that competed for qualification to the global football fiesta, Morocco emerged as the team with the best defense. They completed the entire qualifiers without giving away a single goal. This feat is highly astonishing when you consider the credibility of the opponents they faced during the qualifiers. En route to qualifying, Morocco were in group with Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali.  Morocco scored 11 times but no opponent could break through their solid defense. This kind of defensive steel is what sets Renard’s team apart.  Morocco are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Benatia, Saiss, Dirar and Hakimi completing a disciplined back four, Boussoufa and El Ahmadi the holding midfielders; Amrabat, Belhanda and Ziyech will complete the attacking trio whiles Boutaib becomes the lone reference point upfront. Renard must be given the plaudits for converting then defensive midfielder Sais into a central defender. That has added height to the Moroccan backline and hence they are able to efficiently deal with aerial threats while offering a push of their own during set pieces. FORM Morocco were very impressive during the last international window, defeating Serbia 2-1 in Turin. And then they topped it up with a 2-0 victory over the less Uzbekistan in Casablanca. On May 31, Morocco were held to a goalless draw by Ukraine. With their strength being in defense, Morocco still came up tops in the possession percentage where they accrued 56%. Their defense also kept Ukrainian danger men Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka at bay giving the idea that they have an efficient machinery to thwart the efforts of the attacking players. Morocco came from behind to claim a dogged 2-1 victory over Slovakia in their next friendly game. Their final pre-tournament prep game saw the North Africans thump Estonia 3-1. Ranked at number 41 in the latest FIFA rankings, Morocco will definitely be in high spirits heading into the tournament. KEY PLAYERS Due to Morocco’s impregnable defence, Mehdi Benatia will have a very vital role to play in commanding the defence. Galatasaray’s Younes Belhanda who will slot into the number 10 role will be heavily relied upon as the primary creator of Morocco’s goals. He also has an eye for goal and will need to be at his best if Morocco is to progress to the next stage of the competition. Winger Hakim Ziyech will serve as one of the creative outlets of the team. He is the most talented player in the squad and he will be heavily relied on to give the team some flair and creativity in the opponent’s defensive third. His stellar performances propelled Ajax to reach the Europa League final in 2017. A notable mention is Real Madrid defender, Achraf Hakimi. He will be relied upon to give the team some width as he combines very well with playmaker Ziyech. Above all is the team’s conductor, Mbark Bossoufa.  OPPONENTS AND PREDICTIONS Morocco kick start their campaign with a relatively favorable tie against Iran. Morocco’s likelihood of progress from Group B probably depends on how they fare in this one. Playing against a similar defensive opposition, the onus falls on Morocco’s creative players to find the little gaps in Iran’s defence. Mehdi Benatia and his defenders must also pay close attention to Iranian striker Reza Ghoochannejhad who scored 19 times during the 2016-17 Eredivisie season, as well as Rubin Kazan’s striker Sardar Azmoun. Though this game will be very tight, I expect Morocco to win by a lone goal. Next up for Morocco is the tie against reigning European champions, Portugal. With Portugal also being a primarily conservative side, I expect Morocco to surrender possession to the Portuguese whiles they look for opportunities to hit them on the break. Benatia will also have to lead his defence by example in order to thwart the efforts of goal scoring machine, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Moroccans can definitely surprise the Portuguese if they stick to their game plan, are not wasteful in attack and maintain a resolute defence. On paper, Portugal are favorites to win this game. The final game comes against the masters of tiki-taka, Spain. Again, Morocco will need to be more disciplined defensively and stay. But perhaps most key is maintaining concentration all game, if they are to come out with a positive result. Spain are overwhelming favorites, however and are expected to win. Well, this group is quite tough but you write off Morocco at your own risk. The Moroccans really have what it takes to cause a major footballing upset. On paper, I expect Morocco to finish third, behind Spain and Portugal. Follow Gideon on Twitter @kwabaid. Email: [email protected]last_img read more