Cahill back in Socceroos squad for WCup qualifier
SYDNEY, Australia ● Australia has recalled midfielder Tim Cahill, and several other overseas-based players, to its squad for next month’s football friendly against Lebanon and World Cup qualifying match against Jordan.
Cahill, who plays for the New York Red Bulls, was named on Wednesday in a 22-man squad along with Matt McKay, Jade North, Nikita Rukavytsya, Adam Sarota and Matthew Spiranovic.
They all missed Australia’s most recent international – a 3-1 loss to Scotland on Aug. 15 – but have been recalled for the Lebanon match on Sept. 6 and qualifying match against Jordan on Sept. 11.
Jason Davidson and Ryan McGowan have been retained after making senior debuts against Scotland and Austria-based midfielder James Holland has been recalled for the first time since a March friendly against Germany.
Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has been included in the squad and will become the first Socceroo to play 100 A-internationals if he takes the field against either Lebanon or Jordan.
Australia is currently third in Group B in the final round of the Asian conference World Cup qualifying series after drawing 0-0 with Oman and 1-1 with group leaders Japan.
Lebanon is in fifth place in Group A and Jordan is in fifth place in Group B after a draw with Iraq and 6-0 loss to Japan. Australia, ranked 24 in the world, has never previously played 127th-ranked Lebanon or 83rd-ranked Jordan in a senior men’s international.
● France coach Didier Deschamps recalled injury-prone midfielder Abou Diaby and winger Jeremy Menez on Wednesday for the team’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Finland and Belarus next month.
Diaby’s last competitive match for France was against Belarus in a European Championship qualifier in June last year.
The powerful midfielder missed Euro 2012 after injuries restricted him to four substitute appearances for Arsenal in the Premier League. But he has started both league games for Arsenal this season.
“Diaby has enormous potential. He had a disastrous season last year, but he has done a full preseason and has played 90 minutes,” Deschamps said. “He is a very fragile player but he seems to be on the right track and I hope that nothing will hold him back now.”
Menez, meanwhile, was suspended for one match by the French Football Federation for being disrespectful toward France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and a match referee during Euro 2012. Menez’s suspension saw him miss a 0-0 draw with Uruguay in a friendly earlier this month.
“It’s in the past, the future interests me now. It’s up to him to take stock of what he should and should not do,” Deschamps said. “He has a lot of qualities as a football player.”
France plays in Finland on Sept. 7 and hosts Belarus four days later.
The 26-year-old Diaby has been beset by ankle, calf and thigh problems throughout his Arsenal career and has only once managed to play more than 25 league games over a season since joining six years ago.
“He has a very interesting profile and is cut out to play at the highest level,” Deschamps said. “At his age, he is now coming into full maturity.”
Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau was also recalled, five years after making the last of his 11 international appearances in a home friendly against Morocco. But the 32-year-old Landreau comes in only as a backup to No. 1 Hugo Lloris of Lyon and No. 2 Steve Mandanda of Marseille.
“I know Mika very well, the role of the third goalie is very important,” Deschamps said. “Although he won’t get to play much, his role is important in the dressing room and around the squad because of his qualities as a person.”
Deschamps expects Arsenal center half Laurent Koscielny to be available against Finland after recovering from a calf injury.
He left out Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila because he feels the midfielder has not made a good start to the season and has been sidetracked by issues over an impending transfer in the days leading up to the end of the transfer window.
Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa was also left out, although Deschamps said he expects Ben Arfa to be recalled in the near future.
Deschamps, France’s captain when it won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, replaced Laurent Blanc after Euro 2012 when Blanc turned down a new contract.
He defended his choice to stick with the soft-spoken Lloris as captain, even though many observers consider that the Lyon goalie is not vocal enough on the field.
“You don’t just click your fingers and become a leader overnight,” Deschamps said. “Hugo has that quality, even though some people don’t think he has the profile for it. But he has an exemplary attitude in everything he does.”
● Bolton winger Martin Petrov and Sporting Lisbon forward Valeri Bojinov will miss Bulgaria’s opening 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Armenia next month.
Coach Lyuboslav Penev did not give a reason for their absences from the games on Sept. 7 and four days later in Sofia.
Bulgaria is also without Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov, who is fighting acute leukemia, while Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov, who has been linked with a move to Fiorentina, has refused to return to the team.
The 21-man squad includes four players from current Bulgarian league leader Ludogorets.
The three sides are joined in Group B by the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Malta.
● Italy will train in the small town of Medolla next month as a tribute to the Emilia-Romagna region that was hit by back-to-back earthquakes earlier this year.
The session has been scheduled for Sunday Sept. 9, two days before Italy faces Malta in a World Cup qualifier in nearby Modena, with the match also a tribute to the 24 people killed in the quakes.
The region north of Bologna was struck by a 6.0-magnitude quake May 20 and another of 5.8-magnitude on May 29. The quakes dealt a blow in particular to the region’s famed Parmesan cheese makers.
On the day of the second quake, Italy was scheduled to play Luxembourg in a friendly in Parma, which is also in the quake region. The match was canceled.