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Rafa the gaffer needs cash to splash

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YOU’VE BEEN FRAMED: Liverpool fans show their support for Rafa Benitez during a protest outside Anfield 14 years ago. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

On November 28, 2007, Liverpool FC supporters organised a protest march in support of Rafa Benitez, their manager at the time, amid growing concerns and mistrust of the then club’s owners.

The demonstration was ahead of the Champions League match against Porto at Anfield.

One strong memory I have of that protest is an image of a fan carrying a huge picture of Benitez in an elaborate gold frame, akin to what you would see on the streets of Iran in support of their Ayatollah.

I’m guessing that the photo was probably taken from the wall of his living room, where I reckon the image of Rafa dwarfed his wedding photograph.

That particular fan took the framed image from above the mantelpiece and brought it to the game to show his support for the Spaniard. That’s just how much Rafa was loved at Liverpool.

Fans were terrified Benitez would get fed up with the club’s hierarchy and walk away, which ultimately he did.

Rafa had led Liverpool to two Champions League finals, winning one, and had taken Liverpool back to being genuine title contenders.

He had worked wonders with a relatively small budget compared to the likes of Chelsea at the time. Rafa the gaffer was, quite simply, idolised.

Now he plies his trade at Everton, the other club in the city, and in the early hours of Thursday morning, he faced his former employers and the fans who once adored him, for the first time as Everton manager.

Liverpool destroyed Everton by four goals to one, and at the end of the game, as the boos rang out from those Everton supporters who were still left in Goodison Park, Rafa looked a broken man.

After a promising start to the season, Rafa’s honeymoon period is well and truly over. That’s now eight games in a row without a win.

The general consensus among Everton fans is that their anger is directed at Everton’s board and their director of football rather than Benitez himself.

That said, Everton fans would have been seething to hear their rival supporters chanting the name of their former boss as Liverpool cruised to victory.

Everton have some serious, serious problems.

At one point in the game, just after Mohammed Salah had put the visitors two goals up, some home supporters began to leave the ground. There were only 20 minutes gone.

In the last summer transfer window, apart from a few frees, Everton only spent around US$2,000,000 bringing in Demarai Gray. In the previous transfer window, they spent around US$100 million. Go back to the one before that and it was US$150 million.

Almost US$50 million of that was spent on Alex Iwobi, an unused substitute in their derby defeat.

Money clearly not well spent.

But other than the cash for Grey, Benitez hasn’t been given a penny to spend. The Everton board financially backed, and then sacked numerous managers before Rafa.

Now it’s the Spaniard who is paying the price.

If Everton are serious, they must find many more millions and give them to Rafa in January. He has to put his own stamp on the team before he can be judged.

But if they don’t, then I think he too will walk, and there will be no elaborately framed photographs of Rafa adorning the walls of the homes of Everton fans.

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/sports/1091406/rafa-the-gaffer-needs-cash-to-splash.html

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Việt Nam face player shortage in run-up to Australia clash

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With seven players out, including striker Nguyễn Tiến Linh, Coach Park Hang–seo has a puzzle to solve before the match against Australia. Photo vff.org.vn

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam’s World Cup qualifying campaign will resume against Australia in just six days but a shortage of available players is causing a headache for coach Park Hang–seo.

COVID-19, injuries, suspensions and visa issues are the four main problems at the moment.

A week after testing positive with COVID-19, Nguyễn Tiến Linh is now fully recovered. However, Linh hasn’t yet completed the quarantine period, so the 24–year–old striker can’t meet the visa deadline to enter Australia.

This is also the case for Hoàng Anh Gia Lai striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn.

Linh’s absence is a big loss for Việt Nam. Despite only scoring twice in the AFF Cup, he is still Việt Nam’s best attacking asset.

In 2021, Linh scored seven goals. He also scored in the final three matches of the World Cup second qualifying round in June, helping Việt Nam enter the third-round for the first time.

In this round of qualifiers, Linh found the net against China and Oman, two strong opponents.

After Linh and Toàn tested positive, South Korean oach Park called up Trần Phi Sơn and Ngân Văn Đại, but the duo have since faced visa issues as they were not on the original invitation list of the host Australia.

Việt Nam’s remaining striker Hà Đức Chinh and midfielder Nguyễn Tuấn Anh are also out due to injuries.

The bad luck continues as former captain Quế Ngọc Hải is suspended, having received two yellow cards in previous matches.

The absence of these seven important players, coupled with a strong Australian side looking to qualify for their sixth World Cup, has created a difficult puzzle for coach Park to try and solve. 

Việt Nam will face Australia in Melbourne on January 27 before hosting China at home on February 1 in their remaining world cup final qualifiers campaign.

The national team have yet to win any points and are rooted to the bottom of Group B. —

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/sports/1117711/viet-nam-face-player-shortage-in-run-up-to-australia-clash.html

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Problems keep on mounting for Everton

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BIG DUNC: Everton legend Duncan Ferguson has been made caretaker manager following the sacking of Rafa Benitez. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

One step forward, a million back. That just about sums up the general goings on at Everton Football Club these days.

It’s not a good time to be a Blue. One win in 13, defeat last week to the team at the bottom of the league, and languishing perilously close to the relegation zone.

Rafa Benitez got the bullet, and for the time being, club legend Duncan Ferguson has taken charge of the first team.

Next up for Everton is Aston Villa, and with former Liverpool captain Steve Gerrard in charge, more salt could be very well rubbed into Everton’s already gaping wound.

But the problem for the Blues isn’t really about the next game, or the one after that, and after that. Everton’s long-term problems are nothing short of gargantuan right now.

I accept there’s money being spent on a new stadium, and from the artist’s impression I’ve seen of the design, it looks amazing.

But Everton’s problems go beyond a few wins over the next few weeks.

I’ve no doubt Big Dunc will get the crowd buzzing, but the issues at Goodison Park are far more deep routed. Everton, I feel, have completely lost their identity. They have become a nothing, meaningless club.

There was talk this week that one name in the frame for the manager’s position is Roberto Martinez, the current manager of the Belgium national team and, of course, former manager of Everton.

Word on the street is the Belgium football authorities are unlikely to allow their national team manager to do both jobs, but the fact that he was even being considered speaks volumes for the lack of ambition currently displayed by Everton.

Martinez won nothing with Everton, and after an OK points tally in his first season (with a team almost entirely inherited from previous boss David Moyes) the former Wigan manager just went from bad to worse.

As his tenure was coming to an end, supporters had become disillusioned and made their anger known.

What followed after Martinez was basically a revolving door of managers who came and went without so much as threatening to bring back the glory days to Goodison.

Money was spent as well, a lot, and the backing from the board has been decent, especially compared to other mid-table Premier League teams.

But the cash was spent really badly, and now it’s Everton supporters that are paying the price.

Other names have been mentioned, Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho, former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac, and even Wayne Rooney.

Rooney is doing wonders in his current job with Derby County, his first in management, but I feel he still lacks the experience to take over at Everton.

None of what I’ve written here will really bring any hope to the Everton faithful, but I don’t know what I can say to change that.

Everton are lost, a shadow of their former selves, and are light years away from getting anywhere close to challenging for trophies.

Whoever does get the job is going to be in for a real eyeopener when he walks into Goodison Park, so maybe their best bet is to give Duncan Ferguson a chance.

Unlikely they will get relegated this season, there are still three teams or more worse than Everton, but at least with Big Dunc he knows the job at hand.

 

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/sports/1117712/problems-keep-on-mounting-for-everton.html

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New captain Dũng aims for Tết special against China

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Newly-appointed captain Đỗ Hùng Dũng (fourth from left) will look to make a big impact in the remaining World Cup qualifiers, after a serious injury ruled him out for most of last year. — Photo vff.org.vn

HÀ NỘI — Returning after a serious leg-break almost a year ago, Đỗ Hùng Dũng is back in the national squad and, with the captain’s armband, is ready to stamp his authority on Việt Nam’s remaining World Cup qualifiers against Australia, China, Oman and Japan.

The national team will face China at the Mỹ Đình stadium on the first day of Lunar New Year, a game that will mean a lot for Dũng.

“This will be a unique Tết celebration and we hope we can bring a very special performance to match,” Dũng said.

“As we know, the Mỹ Đình stadium will welcome about 20,000 fans to watch the national team face China on the first day of Lunar New Year.

“With that many fans, it will be a huge motivation for us. We hope for a great performance, but remember to comply with the pandemic prevention regulations when cheering for us.

“Of course, I will miss my family when we play during Tết, as this is one of very few family-gathering occasions, but it will still be special for me,” said the 28-year-old midfielder.

Returning to football after an awful tackle in a game against Hồ Chí Minh City FC sidelined him in March last year, Dũng has put his all into getting back into the form that saw him win the Vietnamese Golden Ball in 2019.

Despite being advised not to rush his recovery, Dũng never says “No” when his nation calls.

By the end of 2021, he was ready to play ago, though missed out on a chance to play at the AFF Suzuki Cup in Singapore due to a paperwork issue.

The newly-appointed national-side captain knows he has big shoes to fill in taking over from Quế Ngọc Hải, but isn’t lacking confidence. 

“I’m fully confident in myself,” Dũng said.

“We all trust each other explicitly; players and coaching staff. Myself or anyone else with this responsibility will always motivate the team to do the best.

“Of course, before being called up Coach Park consulted the medical department on how to get us into the best shape and condition to compete at the highest level.

“That’s why I am confident and will put in the best performance possible for the nation.”

Việt Nam will face Australia away on January 27th and China at home on February 1st. The national team have yet to win any points and are rooted to the bottom of Group B. —

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/sports/1117223/new-captain-dung-aims-for-tet-special-against-china.html

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