Germany call up Liverpool’s Can for key qualifers

Liverpool’s uncapped defender Emre Can was on Friday called up to the Germany squad for the world champions’ forthcoming key Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland and Scotland.

Germany host Group D leaders Poland in Frankfurt next Friday, with the Germans just one point behind in the table, then face third-placed Scotland in Glasgow on September 7.

Although a centre-back at Liverpool, Can has been called up to compete for the right-back berth in Germany coach Joachim Loew’s search to fill the position after ex-captain Philipp Lahm retired after last year’s World Cup.

Can is the only uncapped player in the squad, which will be captained by Bastian Schweinsteiger for the first time since his transfer to Manchester United from Bayern Munich last month.

“Emre has developed well in Liverpool, he is flexible and has impressed us with his dynamic play. Now we want to get to know him better in the next few days,” explained Loew.

Bayern’s Manuel Neuer remains Loew’s first-choice, but Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been called up at the expense of Dortmund veteran Roman Weidenfeller.

The top two teams in each group qualify directly for Euro 2016 in France and Loew says the Germans must take the chance to go top by avenging their 2-0 defeat to Poland in Warsaw last October.

After winning the 2014 World Cup, Germany suffered a post-Brazil hangover as they struggled to a 2-1 win over Scotland in Dortmund, lost away to Poland, then leaked a late equaliser in their 1-1 home draw with Ireland.

“We still have things in our own hands, we want to meet our high expectations and take over the lead at the top of the table,” said Loew.

“Our goal is simply to win the next two games and I assume we’ll succeed.

“We gave away a few points at the start of the qualifying process, but there were reasons for that.

“We know what’s at stake and we want to shift up a gear. We’re ready.”

Germany squad

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona/ESP), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hanover 96)

Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Emre Can (Liverpool/ENG), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia/ESP), Sebastian Rudy (Hoffenheim)

Midfield: Karim Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen), İlkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund), Christoph Kramer (Bayer Leverkusen), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid/ESP), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal/ENG), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray/TUR), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Schurrle (VfL Wolfsburg), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United/ENG)

Strikers: Mario Goetze (Bayern Munich), Max Kruse (VfL Wolfsburg), Kevin Volland (Hoffenheim)

Photo Credits : AFP

Monaco sign Rony Lopes from Manchester City

Monaco have signed teenage Portuguese midfielder Rony Lopes from Manchester City on a five-year deal, the Principality club said on Friday.

The 19-year-old, who was already on loan in Ligue 1 at Lille last season, cost Monaco around 10 million euros ($11.25 million) according to various French media.

“AS Monaco are an excellent team at which to progress, it’s a good challenge for me,” said Lopes, who was born in Brazil, on the club’s website.

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said his compatriot would not be ready for first team action immediately and may go out on loan.

“He needs to know how we work and our methodology here at Monaco — that will take five or six months.

“After that, we’ll see in January if we send him on loan.”

Lopes scored three goals in 23 Ligue 1 matches for Lille last season.

Photo Credits : AFP

Libya shipwreck toll hits 76 as UN fears 200 dead

At least 76 people have died after a ship carrying hundreds of migrants and refugees sank off the coast of Libya, the Libyan Red Crescent said Friday.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said as many as 200 people on two boats were feared dead near the western port of Zuwara.

“Until now 76 bodies have been retrieved from the sea and 198 people have been rescued,” Libyan Red Crescent spokesman Mohammad al-Misrati told AFP.

“There are still people missing but we don’t know how many,” Misrati said, adding that the figures of dead and rescued came from the local Red Crescent branch, medical facilities in Zuwara and the Libyan coastguard.

In Geneva, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters that two boats carrying a total of 500 refugees and migrants had sunk.

“The Libyan coastguard carried out two rescue operations on Thursday morning … off the port town of Zuwara,” she said.

“We are hearing media reports that there are about 100 survivors. Our office in Libya is checking with the coastguard … We believe 200 are still missing, feared dead.”

Red Crescent teams wearing protective white clothing and masks on Friday collected bodies that had washed ashore on a Zuwara beach, placing them in orange plastic bags and carrying them to ambulances.

Seddik Said, head of a joint crisis team, told AFP at the scene that according to survivors around 400 people were on board the main vessel and another 60 on a smaller boat which sank on Wednesday.

“It’s hard to get the right numbers. Even the number of dead people, we can only give the number of those we found dead,” he said.

Said added that such grisly missions were now being carried out on a regular basis.

“Every week dozens of people die in front of this beach,” he said.

One of the rescued migrants told AFP that he and two friends had each paid 2,200 Libyan dinars ($1,600) to board the boat.

Libya, with a coastline of 1,770 kilometres (more than 1,000 miles), has for years been a stepping stone for Africans seeking a better life in Europe, with most heading for Italy.

Conflicts across the Middle East, especially in Syria, have also made Libya a transit country for those fleeing violence in the region.

The Mediterranean crossing is treacherous, and about 2,500 people have died at sea trying to reach Europe this year alone.

Photo Credits : AFP

Liverpool face tricky Europa League group

Five-time European champions Liverpool face a stern test of their continental experience after drawing former domestic champions Bordeaux of France and Rubin Kazan of Russia when the Europa League group phase draw was made on Friday.

Brendan Rodgers’ Premier League giants will also take on Sion of Switzerland after 12 groups of four teams were pulled out of the hat at the UEFA-hosted draw in Monaco.

Liverpool, who won the UEFA Cup, the former version of the Europa League, three times in 1973, 1976 and 2001 will face Bordeaux for only the second time after defeating the Girodins home and away during the group phase of the 2006-07 Champions League.

Bordeaux came closest to European glory in 1996 when they lost the UEFA Cup final 5-1 on aggregate against a star-studded Bayern Munich side coached by Franz Beckenbauer while Rubin Kazan reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League in 2013 when they were beaten by eventual champions Chelsea.

In other groups, north Londoners Tottenham, who won the 1984 edition of the competition were drawn with last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists Monaco, experienced Belgian side Anderlecht and Karabakh of Azerbaijan.

Holders Sevilla qualified for the Champions League after lifting the trophy for a record fourth time last season and were absent from the draw.

Scotland’s Celtic, who fell at the final Champions League qualifying hurdle, find themselves in a balanced Group A that includes Dutch side Ajax, Istanbul’s Fenerbahce and Norwegian outsiders Molde.

Borussia Dortmund, who set an attendance record for a Europa League play-off match on Thursday when 64,200 fans turned up to see them thrash Norway’s Odds BK 7-2, for an 11-5 aggregate victory, will take on PAOK of Greece, Russia’s Krasnodar and Qabala of Azerbaijan.

Photo Credits : AFP

Africa uneasy as China turmoil threatens investment boom

When Chinese company Shanghai Zendai bought 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of land outside Johannesburg in 2013, it promised to build the “New York of Africa.”

The sleepy district of Modderfontein would be transformed into a $7.8 billion metropolis with a forest of skyscrapers, 35,000 houses and a sanctuary of green space to rival Central Park.

The planned city became a symbol of China’s seemingly limitless ambition across the African continent.

But as global alarm bells ring over China’s slowing economic growth, future projects on the vast scale of Modderfontein could be under threat.

“It’s like we had a big party and the hangover is going to continue a bit longer than we anticipated,” Dennis Dykes, head economist at South Africa’s Nedbank, told AFP.

“It was unrealistic to believe that China would continue operating at the level it was.”

For the past decade, China gobbled up much of the commodities that Africa produces, overtaking the United States in 2009 to became the continent’s single largest trading parter.

Surging commodity prices helped the sub-Saharan Africa region grow at over four percent annually for two decades.

From power plants in Botswana to diamond mines in Zimbabwe — and a spate of shiny sports stadiums — Africa counted on China for investment, infrastructure and jobs.

Beijing even built the $200 million African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in 2012 as a gift expressing “friendship to the African people.”

Chinese companies are involved in hydropower projects in Zambia, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

China built a huge shopping mall in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, laid a ring road around Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, and invested billions in Nigeria’s newly refurbished Lagos-Kano rail line.

China has also funded coal power stations, roads and schools in Botswana, mines in Namibia, and in Malawi it provided funds for a new parliament, a university, hotels and conference centres.

However, the rapid pace of investment could be at risk as China grapples with weak demand for its goods and a schizophrenic stock market.

- ‘Drunk on China’s growth’ -

Many experts now question the sturdiness of China’s growth and warn of the inevitable damage to those countries who rely on it.

“The first impact is on commodity prices, which directly influences Africa. The second is investment, which will obviously slow down,” said Celeste Fauconnier, Africa analyst at Rand Merchant Bank. “We should be concerned.”

Already, countries are reeling from the Chinese turmoil, with commodity prices falling to a 16-year low, according to the Bloomberg Commodity Index tracking 22 raw materials.

Bureaucrats have had their pay delayed in Nigeria after the price of oil collapsed to less than $50 a barrel and depleted state coffers.

In South Africa, iron ore sales tumbled 36.9 percent since last year and mining companies have announced major layoffs.

“We are worried because China is one of the major consumers,” said Fredson Yamba, a treasury official in Zambia, which derives almost 70 percent of its export earnings from copper.

The China slowdown has exacerbated problems in African countries that depended on high commodity prices to balance their books, with South Africa particularly hard hit.

“It has impacts on our current account balance, it has implications on our trade balance,” said Hugo Pienaar, economist at the University of Stellenbosch Bureau for Economic Research.

“You’ll see it in investment numbers and you’ll see it in employment numbers, and that has spillover effects.”

To keep growing, African economies have to wean themselves off commodities, analysts say.

“As China rebalances, commodity driven economies need to rebalance too,” said Martyn Davis, head of Frontier Advisory, an emerging markets research firm.

“Most sub-Saharan African countries have been drunk on China’s growth. The thing they should have been doing 15 years ago is to rapidly diversify their economies and not rely on commodities,” said Davis.

“It’s never too late, but the pressures now are intense.”

Despite the worries, economists say predictions that China will no longer be a major player in Africa are overblown.

“China certainly enjoys a privileged relationship with many African countries and has access to big infrastructure projects,” said Ryan Wibberley, emerging market equity dealer at Investec in Cape Town.

“The general trend of China as infrastructure partner is not going away.”

Instead, China’s activities in Africa are set for a wholesale review to take into account the new global economic outlook.

“We’re in a much lower commodity price regime for the next couple of years,” said Dykes. “I must admit, this has a horrible structural feel to it at the moment.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Diego Costa returns to Spain squad for Euro qualifiers

Chelsea forward Diego Costa has been called up to the Spain squad for the first time in almost a year ahead of September’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against Slovakia and Macedonia.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has picked an experienced squad for the matches on September 5, at home to Slovakia, and the trip to Macedonia three days later.

Spain are currently second behind Slovakia, who beat them 2-1 last October, in Group C.

Costa’s last appearance for Spain was three days after that defeat in a 4-0 win over Luxembourg.

Since then he has struggled with injury problems and a dispute between his English Premier League club and La Roja.

“Diego Costa was picked for sporting reasons, he wasn’t in the best conditions,” said Del Bosque.

“But he’s overcome his physical problems and we have faith in him.”

Brazil-born Costa’s Chelsea teammates Pedro Rodriguez and Cesar Azpilicueta have also been picked, alongside Manchester United’s Juan Mata, called up for the first time since last year’s World Cup in Brazil.

“We can’t experiment much, we want to start with a fixed group,” added Del Bosque.

“These are two vital matches and we need six points to close in on the Euros.”

Another Manchester United player picked is goalkeeper David de Gea, despite not having played this season as his club manager Louis van Gaal considers him unsettled by interest from Real Madrid.

The 23 players called up by Del Bosque for matches against Slovakia and Macedonia:

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Porto/POR), David de Gea (Manchester United/ENG), Sergio Rico (Sevilla)

Defenders: Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea/ENG), Juan Bernat (Bayern Munich/GER)

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal/ENG), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea/ENG), Isco (Real Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City/ENG), Juan Mata (Manchester United/ENG)

Forwards: Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea/ENG), Paco Alcacer (Valencia), Vitolo Machin (Sevilla) et Diego Costa (Chelsea/ENG)

Photo Credits : AFP

Three new caps in Greece squad for Euro 2016 double-header

Interim Greece coach Kostas Tsanas called up three uncapped players on Friday for next month’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against Finland and Romania.

Greece host fellow strugglers Finland on September 4 and then travel to Bucharest to play Group F leaders Romania three days later, with AEK forwards Vangelis Platellas and Christos Aravidis, and PAOK midfielder Stelios Kitsiou in the squad for the first time.

The 2004 European champions are currently bottom of Group F with just two points from six matches — 11 points adrift of the automatic qualifying berths for next year’s finals in France with just four matches to play.

After a poor 2-1 defeat in the Faroe Islands last time out which all but ended their hopes of qualifying from Group F, Tsanas has wielded the axe with defenders Kostas Stafylidis, Stathis Tavlaridis and Christos Tasoulis among those to be chopped.

Olympiakos midfielder Dimitris Kolovos and Asteras Tripoli forward Taxiarchis Fountas have also been dropped, alongside former captain Kostas Katsouranis, who remains without a club.

Former Celtic striker Giorgos Samaras and ex-Verona forward Lazaros Christodoulopoulos — both without club sides at present — are the others to be left out.

Roma midfielder Vasilis Torosidis has been called up to the 24-man squad despite being ineligible for the Finland game due to suspension.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Orestis Karnezis (Udinese/ITA), Stefanos Kapino (Olympiakos), Marcos Vellidis (Giannina)

Defenders: Vasilis Torosidis, Kostas Manolas (both Roma/ITA), Loukas Vyntras (Hapoel Tel Aviv/ISR), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Vangelis Moras (Verona/ITA), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Jose Holebas (Watford/ENG), Kostas Giannoulis (Asteras Tripoli)

Midfielders: Stelios Kitsiou, Alexandros Tziolis (both PAOK), Panayiotis Tachtsidis (Genoa/ITA), Panagiotis Kone (Udinese/ITA), Kostas Fortounis (Olympiakos), Thanasis Petsos (Rapid Wien/AUT), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Andreas Samaris (Benfica/POR)

Forwards: Nikos Karelis (Panathinaikos), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Al-Ahli Jeddah/KSA), Vangelis Platellas (AEK), Kostas Mitroglou (Benfica/POR), Christos Aravidis (AEK)

Photo Credits : AFP

Kurzawa out of clash with former club Monaco

New Paris Saint-Germain signing Layvin Kurzawa will miss an immediate return to former employers Monaco on Sunday due to an ankle injury.

The 22-year-old was presented to the press as a PSG player on Friday, just three days after his last appearance for Monaco against Valencia.

But the left-back said: “I need treatment for eight to 10 days.”

Kurzawa, who initially injured his right ankle in February, is expected to provide competition to Brazilian Maxwell for a starting berth at left-back.

“I’ve come here to play as much as possible,” said the twice-capped France international, who signed a five-year deal with PSG.

“Maxwell is here, there will be competition, the best will play.”

Kurzawa will not make an instant return to the Stade Louis II on Sunday but could make his PSG bow two weeks from now following the international break.

Photo Credits : AFP

Spurs sign South Korea’s Son for reported £22 mn

Tottenham Hotspur have signed South Korea forward Son Heung-min from Germans Bayer Leverkusen, the English Premier League club announced Friday.

Son has signed a five-year deal with the north London side for a reported transfer fee of £22 million ($34 million, 30 million euros), with the 23-year-old’s move to White Hart Lane subject to a work permit and international clearance.

Son scored 29 goals in 87 appearances for Leverkusen after joining from domestic rivals Hamburg in 2013.

His move will give Tottenham an extra forward option, with rising star Harry Kane yet to score this season.

Should Son’s transfer be confirmed, it may mean that Spurs’ pursuit of Saido Berahino is at an end, with the club having already had two offers for the West Bromwich Albion striker rejected by their Premier League rivals.

Son has 11 goals in 44 international appearances.

“I’m looking forward to going there and performing for the Spurs fans as soon as possible,” Son told Tottenham’s Twitter feed. “The support I get from the fans motivates me more and more.

“I’m a player who really loves football. I learned the game under my father who was a football coach in my school.

“I’ve trained with both feet so I can use them freely. Bold and daring — this is how I like to try to play.”

Photo Credits : AFP

CSKA look to extend perfect start in Russia

After winning a place in the Champions League group stage, Premier League leaders CSKA Moscow now need to turn their focus back to domestic action and extending their perfect start to the season.

On Sunday the Red Army side, fresh from their midweek 3-1 win over Sporting Lisbon, face struggling Kuban Krasnodar.

A brace by Ivory Coast sharpshooter Seydou Doumbia and the decisive goal by Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa not only granted CSKA a place in the Champions League group stage but also provided a welcome confidence boost for this weekend.

CSKA have a three-point lead at the top over reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg, who take on promoted Samara on Saturday.

But CSKA head coach Leonid Slutsky said his men were taking nothing for granted against Kuban, who are sitting 15th with just three points after six games.

“We showed strong character and skills to win a place in the Champions League,” he said.

“But we should never forget about the domestic league. Now we need to perform at our best in Krasnodar to get three points there.”

Title holders Zenit, who beat Rubin Kazan 3-1 on Monday, need to win to keep CSKA under pressure.

Manager Andre Villas-Boas, who expressed his great satisfaction with his men’s performance at Kazan, said Samara have been improving.

“It was really important for us to win especially keeping in mind that away matches in Kazan have never been simple,” the former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur coach said.

“But the match against Samara, who are on the rise now after beating Kuban 3-0, is also very important for us.

“From the point of view of their results they weren’t that impressive at the beginning of the season, but we have to be very careful. I expect a difficult match with Samara.”

Two-time former champions Lokomotiv Moscow, who are four points back in third, will have to pass a serious test to their ambitions on Sunday as they take on FC Krasnodar, third last season.

The railway-backed side have won all four away matches this season, while both of their home games ended in draws. But Lokomotiv manager Igor Cherevchenko denied they have problems playing at home.

“It’s just a pure coincidence,” he said.

“We’ve played too few home matches this season. And I believe the upcoming match is a good opportunity to start winning at our home turf.”

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Ural Yekaterinburg v Terek Grozny (1400), Rostov v Amkar Perm (1700)

Saturday

Dynamo Moscow v Ufa (1100), Zenit St Petersburg v Samara (1400), Spartak Moscow v Anzhi Makhachkala (1630)

Sunday

Lokomotiv Moscow v FC Krasnodar (1030), Mordovia Saransk v Rubin Kazan (1400), Kuban Krasnodar v CSKA Moscow (1700)

Photo Credits : AFP