SCORE with theSun June 20, 2018

Portugal not taking Atlas Lions for granted

Nothugs, justbugs England fans were warned about the possibil- ity of state surveillance before they travelled to the RussianWorldCup, but inVolgograd yesterday the threat they faced were bugs of a different kind. Swarms of mosquitoes andmidges descended on the city on the banks of the Volga as England prepared to face Tunisia in their first fixture of the tournament, despiteauthorities takingsteps tokeep the bugs at bay. “It’s been awful in town, especially in themorn- ing,” said David Tomlinson, a train driver from Britain. “The locals have been giving fans advice about what to buy to keep the bugs off – sprays and va- nillapowder iswhat they’re saying,” the47-year-old told AFP. Insects are regular summer visitors toVolgograd, especially by the banks of the Volga river where the city’s fanzone with big screens showing the match is located, but residents said the infestation this year was worse than usual. Authorities have sprayed insecticide on fields around the city and used repellent on areas near the stadium, media reported, but visitors were still having to swat off thebugs every fewseconds come match day. A presenter for the British Sky Sports channel saidonTwitter hehad to abort a segmentmoments beforegoingonairbecauseof fliesnear theEngland team’s hotel. The concentration of the bugs is less intense near the stadium and players are reportedly pre- pared for the threat of the tiny guests on the pitch. David Tomlinson remained stoic in the face of the problem. “If the bugs are the worst thing that happen to us we are going to fine,” he said. Daniel Arzani was born in Iran and would not look out of place among the “Lions of Persia” side that stunned Morocco in their World Cup opener. Arzani’s heart was “pumping” with Aussie pride when he came off the bench to make his World Cup debut in a 2-1 defeat to France in Kazan, the tournament’s youngest player at- tributes his “cocky” reputation to hours of playing street football in his native Khorrama- bad. “A lot of it,” Arzani said yesterday when asked how street football helped forge a natural con- fidence that has givenAustralians another reason to believe ahead of a crucial match against Denmark tomorrow. “Growing up playing in the streets you have to have that, or else you get eaten alive by the other boys. I think that’s where I get a lot of it from.” Born in January 1999, Arzani was six years old when his family moved to Australia. The rest – dreaming of becoming a profes- sional, coming through an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) programme and signing for A- League side Melbourne City in 2016 – is histo- ry. Although “really happy” for his native Iran, Arzani wants to make his own mark, for Aus- tralia. “Obviously when we left Iran it was because my parents wanted a better life for me and my brother,” said Arzani, whose maiden interna- tional goal came in a recent 2-1 friendly over Hungary. “To be able to represent the country that helped us is special.” An his first major media appearance on Monday, Arzani – when confronted by rows of journalists – remarked: “This is pretty cool.” But it promptedmore laughter than ire, as he went on to explain: “I think I’mconfident in what I do, it’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. “Some people take that as being cocky. For me it doesn’t matter.” Australia’sArzani onWorldCupmission

Ronaldo seeks encore against ‘battle-hardened’ Morocco C ristiano Ronaldo will attempt to follow up hisWorld Cup opening game heroics for Portugal against aMorocco side licking their wounds after a crushing last-gasp defeat. A hattrick from the five-time world player of the year snatched a thrilling 3-3 draw for the European champions against SpaininaheavyweightGroupBshowdown in Sochi. It was Ronaldo’s 51st career hattrick, and the 51st in the tournament’s history, as the Real Madrid star became just the fourth player to score in four World Cups. “I am very happy, it’s a nice personal record to have, one more in my career,” said Ronaldo. “For me the most important thing is to emphasise what the team did against one of the favourites towin thisWorld Cup.” Despite lifting the trophy at Euro 2016, Portugal are not widely viewed as among the favourites in Russia but can take a big step towards the last 16 with victory over Morocco inMoscowonWednesday. “I think we are stronger thanMorocco if we compare the two teams, but I’m not saying thegamewill be easy for us,” striker Andre Silva told reporters at Portugal’s training base. “We cannot underestimate them and must have respect for any opponent. Any game at theWorld Cup is difficult.” It will be just the second meeting between the two countries, afterMorocco

beat Portugal 3-1 in the group stage at the 1986 finals. Morocco did not concede a single goal in the final qualifying round as they sealed a return to theWorldCup for the first time in 20 years, but their knockout hopes hang by a thread after a 95th-minute own goal by Aziz Bouhaddouz against Iran. Herve Renard’s men

examples, like theArgentinadraw(1-1with Iceland). Where there’s a will there’s a way. (The Portuguese) have two feet, two legs and they are humans like us.” “We lost a battle butwe haven’t lost the war. We’re not dead,” he added.” Renard lamented that Morocco were “crucified by our own errors” in the loss to Iran, but the Frenchman is used to defying the odds, having led outsiders Zambia to a surprise triumph at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. He then became the first coach to win the continental title with two different teams three years later, guiding the Ivory Coast to glory. Morocco will need Renard to conjure up more magic to prevent an early exit, although Fajr says the mood in the camp remains positive.

face a monumental challenge but midfielder Faycal Fajr is adamant all is not lost for the Atlas Lions. “If I said thatwedon’t believe we can qualify it would be a lie,” said Fajr, one of 17 players born abroad inMorocco’s 23- man squad. “ I c o u l d throwout s o m e

“Even after the d e f e a t , t h e atmosphere was terrific,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for 20

y e a r s , a l l Moroccans have been waiting for

this for 20 y e a r s . W e ’ r e one big family.” – AFP

Former cleaner vs ex-electrician

Aformer cleaner andaex-hotel electrician will occupy the two technical areas when Morocco facePortugal inaWorldCupGroup B match on Wednesday. Morocco coach Herve Renard and his Portugal counterpart Fernando Santos have taken something of a back route into coach- ing before enjoying huge success, albeit away from the bright lights of the big Euro- pean leagues. Renard, whose side lost their opening match 1-0 to Iran, experienced the bitter side of football before landing his first senior role as coach of Zambia 10 years ago. At the age of 15, he had a trial at Cannes, giving him hope of becoming a top-level professional before reality set in. “As soon as I was confronted by top players, I realised that I was not that good,” he said. After ending up as what he described as an “average third tier player”, Renard set up a cleaning business which involved col- lecting rubbish in the middle of the night. “I often remember those years when I got up at three in the morning to go and clean buildings,” he said. “It helps keep all this in perspective.” Refusing to give up entirely on football, he began coaching amateur sides and got a breakthrough when globe-trotting com- patriot Claude Le Roy spotted Renard and invited him to become his assistant. He has not looked back since. Santos, meanwhile, told Reuters in an interview last year that he owed his career to a chance acquaintance at a seaside ho- tel. In the latter years of his solid but unre- markable playing career, Santos, a qualified electrical engineer, began working in a hotel as chief technician and eventually took



on the role fulltime. He had no intention of continuing in football until his employer, who was also president of second-tier Estoril, invited Santos to coach the team on an interim basis. “Instead of six months, I stayed for six years and we went up to the first division,” he said. By the time he was sacked, he had his foot in the door and went on to coach all three of Portugal’s major clubs – Benfica, Sporting and Porto – before taking Greece to the last World Cup. The highlight, however, came when he

led Portugal to their first-ever major title at Euro 2016. Like Renard, he said that his humble beginnings has enabled him to keep things in perspective. That mindset is unlikely to change as Portugal seek their first win in Russia after they were held to a 3-3 draw by Spain in their opening match, hailed as one of the best in the competition’s 88-year history. “I never felt this pressure of someone whose only source of income is football,” Santos said. “Pressure is for cookers. I’m too old to worry about that.” – Reuters

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