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FC Baník Ostrava V FK Mladá Boleslav, May 8
Ordaye (Liverpool) 6 years ago
It is one of football’s most perplexing puzzles: how can a team brimming with top-class talents fail to click and sometimes even implode? Why did the Brazil line-up led by Zico and Socrates fizzle out without winning a single title? And why did a France side featuring Zinedine Zidane and the Argentina of Juan Sebastian Veron both crash out at the group stage of the 2002 FIFA World Cup™?

The most recent international side to suffer this curious curse has to be Côte d'Ivoire. The country currently boasts its finest ever generation of players, with the likes of Didier Drogba, Kolo and Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou all adding to the quality on display, but they have so far failed to lift a trophy or meet the major expectations placed on their shoulders.

Among the players who have thus far flattered to deceive is Romaric, but the powerful Elephants midfielder believes he has uncovered the solution to the problem. Having just completed a season blighted by injury and disappointment, the Sevilla man has more reason than most to want to enjoy success on South African soil, and in this exclusive interview with, he sounds the alarm in the hope that the present crop of players finally succeeds in converting skill into silverware. Sven-Goran Eriksson has announced a list of 30 players, which will be cut down to 23. How are you finding this waiting period, especially given that he is a new coach?
Romaric: With a new coach, everyone starts out equal again, so you have to seize your chance. For me, this World Cup is a superb opportunity. There may well be surprises in the final list. Once we get down to business, the important thing will be to think about the squad as a whole and to work hard during the preparation period so that we arrive in South Africa with as much confidence as possible.

Will some of that confidence come from doing things differently?
In the past, we’ve had a good squad but tactically we weren’t up to the task. We lacked understanding and the kind of positioning on the pitch a team of our quality should have. I hope that Eriksson will correct that. That’s what we expect from him above all. The mentality has to change too – we have to want to win together and finally demonstrate our potential.
We need to have everyone on the same footing.competition allows a squad to progress; nobody should have a safe place in the side.

In an interview with, Gervinho recently explained that the team needs to learn to defend together. Is that another of the changes you hope to see?
Obviously. Defensive work starts with the forwards; it’s the job of the whole squad. We need to defend together, but with everyone playing their role. We have huge problems with our collective positioning, though. We can’t afford to fall short of the minimum standard required in that area. We just can’t have a gap of 70 metres between the defenders and the forwards as we had in the last Africa Cup of Nations. Our lines aren’t close enough together and we’re not compact. If we correct those things, we’ll be able to aim for something big.

Do you think you can manage that in just three weeks, with a coach who is meeting the squad for the first time?
If we all join together and pull in the same direction, then yes. Three weeks is enough to develop another style of play and another approach. We can’t have another match like the one we had against Algeria in the Cup of Nations. That defeat exposed our weaknesses. The coach’s first words will be important and he’s experienced enough to know that. Beyond that, we need to have the desire, because we know what we need to do in terms of technique – we see that every day with our clubs. So it’s just a question of will, but I’ll say it again: we need to have everyone on the same footing.competition allows a squad to progress; nobody should have a safe place in the side.

Didier Zokora, Boubacar Barry and Gervinho have described some of the same problems with the Elephants. Why haven’t they been rectified yet?
We know our faults, but it’s another thing altogether to want to fight for each other. Our passing game isn’t developed enough, we lack mobility and the player on the ball doesn’t have enough passing options. We need to stop giving the opposition gifts; we’re not at the training centre anymore. We can’t have central defenders trying to nutmeg players. We’re not here to show off or draw attention to ourselves but to help the national team win.

Do you think the Africa Cup of Nations disappointment can help the team advance?
The reaction of the public back in Côte d'Ivoire after the Cup of Nations showed us that if we fail again in South Africa, we shouldn’t hold out much hope of going home! I felt the anger and disappointment after the loss to Algeria. You have to understand that the Elephants are the only thing that brings the country together. When we play, there are no more divisions in terms of language, ethnicity or skin colour. We need to warm people’s hearts, even if it’s a love-hate relationship. Moreover, to not win anything with this generation of players would be more than sad: it would be a waste.

In personal terms, you have had a difficult season. How do you explain that?
I started the season injured and after that I had trouble coming back. I was back before the Africa Cup of Nations, but Vahid Halilhodzic didn’t call me up. Mentally, that was a blow. Soon afterwards, I got injured again. It’s the first time I’ve had so many problems in one season. I’ve never experienced that before, so I learnt a lot and at least drew something positive out of it.

Has that made you even more motivated to succeed at the FIFA World Cup?
Definitely. I’ve become stronger and physically I’m fresher than some of the other players. This World Cup will be a chance for me to make up for a difficult season. It’s the only thing on my mind
Ordaye (Liverpool) 6 years ago
While the majority of domestic competitions have come to a conclusion, and the global football community is turning its attention towards the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ next month, certain clubs have started to look even further ahead than that. provides a quick overview of the transfer moves already completed for next season.

Newly-crowned champions of Spain for the second consecutive year, Barcelona have already laid down the gauntlet in terms of securing a third. Dissatisfied with their total of 98 league goals this season, the Catalans have just acquired the services of David Villa, who himself found the net 21 times for Valencia. This leaves Pep Guardiola with a dilemma that most other coaches in Europe can only dream of: who to select among Villa, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bojan Krkic. While they ponder a possible replacement for their star striker, Valencia have also been doing some business in the transfer market, picking up Franco-Algerian forward Sofiane Feghouli from Grenoble and Turkish defensive midfielder Mehmet Topal from Galatasaray. And it is not just in defence that Los Che are bolstering their squad, as proved by the signing of Portuguese international defender Ricardo Costa, part of Wolfsburg’s Bundeslinga-winning side of 2008/09 and fresh from a six-month spell at Lille in France.

Over at Real Madrid, all is quiet on the arrivals front, but there has been one departure: that of German defender Christoph Metzelder, who has returned to his homeland to defend the colours of Schalke. Three years after leaving Borussia Dortmund for Spain, the centre-back now has a tempestuous Ruhr derby to look forward to, especially as his former fan club recently disbanded itself in protest at such ‘treachery’! Perhaps its ex-members can console themselves with the fact that they too have a new potential favourite to cheer on, namely Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international, top scorer in the J. League 2 in season 2008/09, notched up six goals in ten matches in Japan’s top tier this year. Signed from Cerezo Osaka, the young midfield marvel now has his sights set on a successful UEFA Europa League campaign with his new employers.

One player Kagawa will not be coming up against in the near future is German attacker Kevin Kuranyi, who has moved to Russia to join Dinamo Moscow. “I always said that my new club had to be able to compete at every level, and Dinamo certainly fits that description, ” explained the Brazil-born 28-year-old.

I always said that my new club had to be able to compete at every level, and Dinamo certainly fits that description. Kevin Kuranyi after joining Dinamo Moscow

Kuranyi can look back on his final season at Schalke with some pride, his 18 goals having played a large part in propelling the club into next year’s UEFA Champions League. Staying with Germany, Greek striker Theofanis Gekas only netted six times during his loan period at Hertha Berlin this year, but it was enough for Eintracht Frankfurt to come in for him, clearly hopeful that he can regain the form that saw him become the Bundesliga’s leading goalscorer with Bochum in 2007.

Ben Foster, on the other hand, is usually more concerned with preventing goals than scoring them. The English keeper has had a difficult time of it recently, with his inability to oust Edwin van der Sar from the Manchester United line-up being compounded by his non-selection for Fabio Capello’s South Africa 2010 squad. In an attempt to relaunch his career, he has signed for Alex McLeish’s Birmingham City, replacing the impressive Joe Hart, who will return to Manchester City, his loan deal having expired. Both of these keepers should have yet another dangerous target man to deal with at set pieces next season, as it appears that Bordeaux’s Moroccan star Marouane Chamakh is ready to put pen to paper at Arsenal.

And he will not be the only French forward to change clubs this summer. Tahiti-born Marama Vahirua, who holds a Ligue 1 winner’s medal from his time at Nantes, has left Lorient, crossing the length of France to become a Nancy player. His former team-mate Sylvain Marchal has also decided to bid farewell to Brittany, travelling south to bring some stability to Saint-Etienne’s shaky defence. He will hope to enjoy better fortune than Greek centre-half Efstathios Tavlaridis, who, unable to break back into Les Verts’ first team for several months now, has returned home to represent the colours of Larissa next season.

Another player meeting the description of ‘prodigal son’ is Croatian legend Dario Simic, who was never quite able to rescale the heights at Monaco that he had previously reached with AC Milan, and has re-signed for his hometown club, Dinamo Zagreb, 12 years after his first spell there. His ex-employers at Milan have not been idle as far as new signings are concerned either, snapping up the Colombian defender Mario Yepes, following his two fine seasons at Chievo.

The transfer market is just beginning to stir, and outstanding performances at the forthcoming FIFA World Cup will no doubt precipitate even more frantic movement. To stay abreast of this global game of musical chairs, make sure to keep paying regular visits

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