Ammon News, Sports

Zidane’s dressing room management key to Madrid’s success

[5/23/2018 11:23:17 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Despite his successes as coach of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane doesn’t see himself as a great tactician.Instead, he prides himself on being a manager of egos. Zidane, who will be trying to win his third straight Champions League title as Madrid coach on Saturday against Liverpool, said he does his best work in the dressing room, more a shrink than a coach. “I spent 17 or 18 years as a player and worked with many coaches and some gifted players who had big egos,” the former France great said. “I know the dressing room and I know very well how players think. That is important to me. “I’m not the best coach, I’m not the best tactically,” he said. “But I have something else. I have desire and passion, and that means a lot more.” It’s no small feat by Zidane to successfully manage a squad filled with high-profile players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. Despite many strong characters, there hasn’t been any major bickering or public showing of discontentment even when Zidane had to leave stars such as Benzema or Bale out of the starting lineup. In his first major head-coaching job, Zidane said he knows a united dressing room alone is not going to translate into victories unless there’s also a lot of other work done, but he sees it as a crucial part of a winning team. “Some can say that it’s not a big deal if the dressing room is not working well, but it is, I’m telling you,” the 45-year-old Zidane said. “You may win here and there, but to win consistently, the dressing room has to be (united).” After two-and-a-half years at the helm of Madrid, Zidane said his team’s dressing room is exactly how he wants it to be. “It’s very good, it’s united. That’s crucial,” he said. “Talent alone is not enough. You can say anything you want, but if you don’t work, you are not going to win. And this dressing room has talent and work. With these two things together, you can achieve a lot.” Ramos, Madrid’s captain, was on the same page. “We’ve had different teams in the past, with a lot of stars, and maybe there used to be a divided dressing room,” Ramos said. “But now we have great team spirit. There are no egos, no individual protagonists. When the team wins, we all win individually.” Zidane showed his good management when rotating starters and bringing in youngsters who usually don’t get a lot of playing time. He also succeeded in keeping Ronaldo in top form by convincing the Portugal forward to save himself for the most important matches of the season. Francisco “Isco” Alarcon said it would be foolish not to listen to a man who has accomplished so much on the field. “He is one of the best players in the history of football,” Isco said. “You pay attention to anything he has to say.” *AP

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ESPN: Cristiano Ronaldo retains top spot as world’s most popular athlete

[5/23/2018 11:22:12 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo topped the ESPN World Fame 100 list for a third straight year, pipping American basketball player Lebron James and long-term Argentine rival Lionel Messi. Real Madrid forward Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, was named the most popular athlete in the world on the basis of his social media following, endorsement deals and search score. Three-time NBA champion Lebron James retained his second spot on the list, while Messi came third on the back of his ninth league title with Barcelona. Brazil’s Neymar, who became the world’s most expensive footballer after his 222 million euros ($261.6 million) move from Barcelona to Paris St Germain last August, took the fourth spot. Swiss Roger Federer, one of the most decorated players in tennis history, came fifth ahead of NBA star Kevin Durant and Spanish rival Rafa Nadal. American tennis icon Serena Williams replaces former UFC fighter Ronda Rousey as the most famous female athlete, with twelve women making the 2018 list compared to eight last year. *Reuters

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Yahya Al Shehri not short of creative spark for Saudis

[5/21/2018 6:27:25 PM]

AMMONNEWS - What Yahya Al Shehri lacks in stature he more than makes up for in influence in the Saudi Arabia side that is heading to the World Cup finals in Russia. Standing at just 1.6 meters tall, the versatile attacker plays a major role in the creation and scoring of opportunities for Saudi Arabia and he was a central figure in the country’s qualification for the World Cup for the first time since 2006. Although capable of playing on the wing, Al Shehri is most effective when given license to roam behind lone striker Mohammed Al Sahlawi. He can often be seen dropping deep to collect the ball from defensive midfielder Abdullah Otayf or the centre backs in an attempt to start Saudi Arabia’s attacking moves. The 27-year-old is currently on the books of Riyadh’s Al Nassr, who signed him from Al Ettifaq in 2013 for a Saudi-record 48 million riyals ($12.80 million). In January, though, Al Shehri was farmed out on loan to Leganes in Spain’s La Liga in an attempt to give him more exposure to a higher standard of play in the lead-up to the World Cup. That move, however, has backfired with Al Shehri unable to force his way into the match-day squad for the Spanish club and the resulting lack of match sharpness could have a negative impact on both Al Shehri’s and Saudi Arabia’s hopes. Should he manage to reclaim the form he has shown throughout the qualifying campaign, though, Al Shehri will be key to Saudi Arabia’s ability to unlock opposing defenses with his energy, trickery and eye for a telling pass. *Reuters

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Egypt’s hopes hinge on Salah’s lethal finishing

[5/21/2018 6:23:08 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Egypt forward Mohamed Salah heads to the World Cup with the reputation of being one of the most lethal finishers in the game, and his country’s hopes of making it to the knockout stages rest overwhelmingly on his shoulders. Few would have guessed what was to come when Salah moved from Italy’s AS Roma to Liverpool for a club-record fee at the start of the season, but the 25-year-old’s prolific campaign earned him a sweep of top individual awards. A return of 44 goals and 16 assists has helped to fire Liverpool to the Champions League final and Salah was named African player of the year as well as the top player in England by the PFA and Football Writers’ Association. He is already being compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and will have a shot at breaking that daunting duo’s stranglehold on the Ballon d’Or if he can lead Egypt out of Group A and into the knockout stages in Russia. Salah’s pace and eye for goal make him a formidable opponent and he is adored in his country, with every game he plays for Liverpool watched by thousands of fans in Cairo. Egypt would not be heading to the World Cup without Salah -- his two goals against Congo secured their qualification for the tournament. Salah’s dramatic stoppage-time penalty that sent Egypt through to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years was celebrated wildly in the streets by millions of fans and he is hailed as a hero in the country. Egypt are set up to get the best out of their talisman, defending deep and looking to get the ball to his feet as quickly as possible to allow him to do what he does best. The soccer-mad nation has never won a match at the World Cup but if Salah can capture even a fraction of his best form in Russia the fans could be dancing in the streets of Cairo in a few weeks’ time. *Reuters

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Champions Barca bid Iniesta farewell after beating Sociedad

[5/20/2018 5:25:35 PM]

AMMONNEWS - La Liga champions Barcelona ended their campaign with a 1-0 win at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday thanks to a sensational distance strike from Philippe Coutinho as the Nou Camp paid an emotional farewell to departing captain Andres Iniesta. Coutinho drifted inside from the left and held off two defenders outside the area before rattling the ball in off the far post with a venomous shot, breaking the deadlock in the 57th minute. The league’s top scorer Lionel Messi started the game on the bench but replaced Coutinho in the 67th minute. Iniesta was substituted in the 82nd, hugging most of his team mates as well as some Real Sociedad players and the referee as he left the Nou Camp pitch for the last time as a Barca player. Barca’s fans held up a mosaic before the game reading “Infinite Iniesta”. They later revealed a banner saying “Thanks for so much” in tribute to a player who came through the club’s academy and spent 16 years pulling the strings in midfield, winning nine Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and six domestic Cups. They continued to sing Iniesta’s name long after he had gone off the pitch. The captain returned with his team mates after the final whistle to lift the club’s 25th Liga title and also show off the King’s Cup trophy which they won in April, beating Sevilla 5-0 in the final. Barca end the season on 93 points, 14 more than second-placed Atletico Madrid and 17 above last year’s champions Real Madrid. Ernesto Valverde’s side lost only one Liga match, last week’s 5-4 defeat at Levante. *Reuters

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Nadal wins eighth Rome Masters title after stunning comeback

[5/20/2018 5:26:54 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Rafael Nadal won the Rome Masters for the eighth time on Sunday when he defeated defending champion Alexander Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 after a stunning comeback. German second seed Zverev was 3-1 up in the decider before two rain stoppages halted his momentum. Top seed Nadal recovered from an early break in the third set after a 50-minute rain delay, racing away with the last five games to secure a 32nd Masters title and ensure a return to the world number one spot, reclaiming it from Roger Federer on Monday. Federer is sitting out the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon. Nadal and Zverev had each won two titles on clay this season entering the final, with Nadal lifting trophies in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and Zverev taking Munich and Madrid. Nadal improved to 5-0 in his career against Zverev and gained an extra measure of confidence entering the French Open, which starts next Sunday. Earlier, Elina Svitolina defended the women’s title, facing little resistance from top-ranked Simona Halep in a 6-0, 6-4 win. *AFP

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Griezmann pounces twice as Atletico sink hapless Marseille

[5/17/2018 5:14:33 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann struck twice as the Spanish side outclassed hapless Olympique de Marseille 3-0 on Wednesday to win the Europa League for the third time. Marseille dominated the opening stages but gifted Atletico the lead when Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa failed to control goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s pass out and Gabi intercepted before setting Griezmann free to score in the 21st minute. Marseille had wasted a chance to take a fourth-minute lead when Valere Germain skewed his shot wide with only Jan Oblak to beat and it got worse for them when playmaker Dimitri Payet left the field injured in floods of tears in the 32nd minute. Four minutes after the re-start, Koke ran into a hole in the Marseille midfield and slipped the ball to Griezmann who dinked the ball past Mandanda, and Gabi added a late third to hand the French side their third defeat in as many finals in the competition. The final scoreline mirrored Atletico’s last Europa League final win over Athletic Bilbao in 2012 and cemented their status as one of the most consistent teams on the continent since Simeone transformed their fortunes. The only team able to overcome them in knockout European football since 2013 are arch-rivals Real Madrid, who beat them in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals and knocked them out of the competition in 2015 and 2017. Marseille had been thoroughly beaten and could only salute their fervent supporters, who outnumbered the Spanish fans in the 59,000-capacity Groupama Stadium and let off flares and firecrackers at the start and end of the game. As well as missing out on a first European trophy since winning the Champions League in 1993, Rudi Garcia’s side squandered an automatic route back into Europe’s elite competition. They now must overhaul third-placed Olympique Lyonnais, who they trail by one point in the Ligue 1 standings heading into the final weekend of the season. Propelled by the fervent supporters who had waited 14 years to reach another European final, the French side created two early chances to take a surprise lead but both striker Germain and defender Adil Rami missed the target. Atletico were happy to sit back in the opening stages and had one half chance which Koke skewed wide but they picked an opportune moment to strike and Griezmann’s goal against the run seriously wounded Marseille. The French side looked even more lost when Payet went off and Griezmann’s supremely well-taken second goal effectively finished them off. Marseille substitute Kostas Mitroglou struck the post with a fine header late on but Atletico had a dream end to the final as captain Gabi struck the third goal and beloved forward Fernando Torres came on for the last few minutes to claim his first trophy with the club. *Reuters

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