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Faces of Football: Australia – a letter to the national team

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Dear Australian national team,

Here we are, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is upon us, and once again, Australian football will take its rightful seat at football’s most exclusive table. 

Against all odds, Australia were able to tap into its Aussie DNA, evoke the Never Say Never attitude and play in a way that would make each of the late Johnny Warren and Les Murray proud, to qualify for this year’s showpiece event. I for one cannot wait until we kick off our campaign against France on 22 November.  

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I have been extremely privileged to witness many of this team’s iconic moments in our recent history. 

I was there when Josh Kennedy rose above Iraq’s defence in the 83rd minute to head the ball into the back of the net, sending Australia to Brazil in 2014. I was there when Massimo Luongo and James Troisi were on the scoresheet against South Korea for Australia to win the AFC Asian Cup on home soil. I was there for the Mile Jedinak masterclass against Honduras in the 2018 FIFA World Cup intercontinental playoff in Sydney. 

And most recently, I was there in Qatar, with you, when we defeated the UAE and Peru to qualify for our fifth consecutive men’s FIFA World Cup. Australian football has a rich and proud history, and your performances throughout June in Qatar undoubtedly added another chapter to our ever-evolving story. You will be remembered as the latest group of footballers to inspire a nation to believe that Australia does deserve to be recognised amongst football’s elite.

Moments after Australia beat Peru on penalties following Andrew Redmayne’s goalkeeping heroics, my mind immediately turned to how I was going to support Australia during the World Cup. And then it dawned on me, I needed to get myself back to Qatar in five months time to attend my first ever men’s World Cup. 

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Fast forward to November 2022, final preparations are underway, and I will be on a plane from Sydney with hundreds of other Socceroos fans to support the team in its quest for World Cup glory very soon. 

Football has the ability to unite the world, and the Socceroos have the ability to unite our nation yet again. Built on the foundations of respect, multiculturalism, equality and fairness, the Socceroos and Matildas embody all of the characteristics that made me fall in love with football. 

Now it is time for the world to see what Australian football stands for. I have absolutely no doubt that regardless of the results, you, the Socceroos, will do Australian football extremely proud in Qatar. So keep an eye out for me, that crazy fan in the stands who went ballistic in Qatar when Ajdin Hrustic volleyed home late in the knockout qualifier against UAE to secure a playoff against Peru, as I will be in the Al Janoub Stadium for each of our group stage matches cheering the boys on every step of the way!

As a proud fan, and proud Australian, I would like to wish the team all the very best in its quest for World Cup Glory at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. 

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Best wishes,

Adrian



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Katie Zelem discusses the ‘catch 22’ Man Utd face ahead of Old Trafford return

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Manchester United captain Katie Zelem has described the two-week break since a momentous WSL win over Arsenal as ‘catch 22’ for the squad because that time out of action before facing Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday has both positive and negative implications.

Having lost to Chelsea in early November, their first league defeat of the season, United responded by mounting a 3-2 comeback win at the Emirates Stadium when club football resumed after the recent international break.

Another two-week pause in the club schedule, during which time United have played a behind closed doors friendly, has offered both the chance for rest for starters and minutes for those less involved so far this season. But there is a risk that positive momentum fades.

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“It’s catch 22 in football. Everyone is dying for a break, but equally when you’ve got a good run of momentum, you want to keep it going,” Zelem said of the paradoxical situation.

“We’ve got to look at it as a positive. People were able to get minutes in a friendly match we played. We obviously had a hard week of training and it means we’ve been able to prep properly for the Villa game. Often, when there are really busy three game weeks, it reduces your prep time.

“As a team, we’re in a really good place going into the weekend and we all can’t wait.”

United manager Marc Skinner welcomed the opportunity for rest, insisting that it is the team that is responsible for nurturing momentum.

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“It was probably a good moment to recharge, get everybody fresh and just make sure we’re competitive within the team because that’s the real driving factor for us,” Skinner explained.

“I’ve said this before, whether it’s a loss going into a break, or a win going into a break, it’s about us taking charge of momentum.”

As far as the game itself, United have won on both previous occasions they have played at Old Trafford – against West Ham in 2021 and Everton earlier in 2022 – and find familiarity that the pitch dimensions are actually the same as at usual home stadium Leigh Sports Village.

Even if the setting will obviously be different because of the much larger stands that surround the grass, it feeds into their preferred style of play and makes the transition smoother.

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“We pride ourselves on keeping the ball and building our attacks. For us, at Old Trafford that will be vitally important,” Zelem went on to say.

“We know that Villa will try and catch us on the break and they’ve got a lot of attacking threats. We need to look at it like we’re playing at Leigh…it’s obviously a lot harder when there are so many more people and huge stands around you. It’s just another game for us and that’s how we’re taking it.”

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter!





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Club Leon appoint Nicolas Larcamon as new head coach

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Club Leon has appointed Nicolas Larcamon as the new head coach, ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura. 

He replaces Renato Paiva, who announced his departure just days ago.

Larcamon now joins after serving as head of Puebla for two years, where he managed a record of 27W-21L-32D in 80 Liga MX games total. During the 2022 Liga MX Apertura, Larcamon inspired Puebla to eighth on the table and the Liguilla quarter-finals before falling to Club America. 

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He announced his resignation from Puebla shortly after being eliminated from the Liguilla, claiming the team needed ‘renewed energy’.

“The truth is that the decision is mine, obviously that the perspectives of what is coming for the team at all levels are taken into account a little, which is going to be very challenging,” he said to TUDN.

”That is why I understood it very fair to give the place to someone with renewed energy, with maximum motivation, the institution deserves it. There were four tournaments of great intensity, demands, where we were always at our best, and the decision had more to do with these issues. There was a lot of speculation, it coincided with Piojo in Tigres, but it has nothing to do with it. it was a decision made days before and we were only in negotiations.”

He will now take on new challenges with Club Leon. 

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The team concluded the 2022 Apertura in 10th place, qualifying to the Liguilla playoff match before losing 1-0 to Cruz Azul. 

Leon kicks off the 2023 Clausura on January 6, against Mazatlan.

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Ben White leaves England World Cup squad due to ‘personal reasons’

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Arsenal star Ben White has left England’s World Cup training camp and isn’t expected to return for the remainder of the tournament.

The defender didn’t make an appearance in any of the Three Lions group stage games, and has now left the squad due to ‘personal reasons’.

In a statement released by England, the Three Lions confirmed the news: “Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons.

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Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.”

White has enjoyed a fantastic domestic season with Arsenal, becoming the club’s first choice right-back – and one of the best right-backs in the Premier League – as the Gunners have gone from top four challengers to table-toppers.

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