Chelsea target Falcao

Atletico Madrid ace Falcao has fuelled speculation linking him with a Chelsea move by voicing his admiration for the European champions.

Rumours that the 26-year-old Colombia international could move to Stamford Bridge in January have intensified in recent weeks, while Blues striker Fernando Torres has been linked with a return to his former club Atletico as part of the deal.

 Manchester City and Real Madrid are also thought to be interested in Falcao, who has scored 10 Primera Liga goals in as many games this season, but the striker has suggested he would be keen on a Blues move.

He told the Daily Mail: "Chelsea are champions of Europe and there is not much more to say than that.

"Even after winning the Champions League they still go and sign players of the highest quality. Their ambition is clear.

 "I was also a big fan of (former Chelsea forward) Gianfranco Zola when I was growing up."

Falcao does not believe he would have trouble adjusting to the physical demands of the Premier League should he make the move to England.

"I would not be worried about the physical aspect of the Premier League," he said. "I have scored goals in Argentina, Portugal and now Spain."

Falcao added: "I am confident I can adapt my game to any league. I would welcome the challenge of the Premier League.

 "I have watched the Premier League for a long time. There is so much quality and it is such an exciting league. Of course it is nice to think I might play in it."

World class' Ibrahimovic earns warm tribute after upstaging Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard paid tribute to "world class" Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the Sweden striker destroyed England in Stockholm.

 Gerrard was well and truly upstaged on his 100th international appearance, Ibrahimovic netting all four home goals in a 4-2 win which was Roy Hodgson's first in 90 minutes as England boss.

 The Swede's final goal was a stunning 25-yard scissors-kick, fired into an empty net from Joe Hart's poor clearance and called "a master work" by Hodgson. Gerrard said: "He just scored one of the best goals I've seen live.

 "I still stick by Zinedine Zidane, he was the best player in the world and the best player of his generation, but Ibrahimovic's performance was world class.

 "I congratulated him after that. He said some nice things about me before the game which was really nice. If I could return the compliment I would say that was one of the best individual performances I have seen. He is not everyone's cup of tea but he is certainly mine."

Gerrard saw plenty of positives on a night when six players made their debuts, and England were in charge at 2-1 before Hodgson made a spate of planned second-half substitutions.

The captain said: "When you make more than three substitutions it does spoil the game. The manager is under pressure from other managers and he is respecting those mangers.

"We were comfortable until we made changes. There were a lot of positives from our point of view, a lot of young players playing their first games and we can take a lot from this.

"All eyes were on me and there was extra pressure and excitement. Now I am glad it is out of the way and I focus on getting us to the next World Cup. That is the big challenge."

Falcao stars as Brazil rally to eliminate Argentina

Brazil staged a courageous comeback to see off Argentina and reach the FIFA Futsal World Cup semi-finals. The defending champions were at a two-goal deficit with little over seven minutes of normal time remaining, but they rallied to take the game to extra time before Falcao’s second of the game snatched them a 3-2 victory that ensured they avoided suffering one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history.

Brazil are always expected to beat Argentina, but the fact that Marcos Sorato’s side thrashed Panama 16-0 in the Round of 16 as Fernando Larranaga’s charges only edged past Serbia 2-1 simply enhanced the consensus that a one-sided game was in prospect.

And the opening exchanges did nothing to dampen that feeling. Brazil, indeed, exploded out of the blocks, utilising their nimble footwork and defence-unravelling one-twos to create chances. They had a great one with just four minutes gone. Fernandinho went clean through but saw his effort superbly saved by Santiago Elias, who reacted instinctively to block Gabriel’s header from the rebound.

The Brazilians fell to a two-minute numerical advantage when Je received his second yellow card midway through the half, but it didn’t prevent them taking the game to their opponents. Elias nevertheless continued to frustrate them, and when he didn’t, the woodwork came to his rescue from a 13th-mniute Neto free-kick.

Yet, against the run of play, Argentina stunned Brazil by scoring twice within a minute. Following fine work from Santiago Basile, a Maximiliano Rescia strike proved too powerful for Brazil goalkeeper Tiago to handle and broke the deadlock, before Cristian Borruto’s fierce drive doubled the lead.

Predictably, Brazil laid siege to Argentina’s goal following the restart. Elias had already made two smart saves by the time Vinicius rattled the post three minutes into the half, and the upright then denied a Simi effort before Falcao’s piledriver came back off the crossbar.

Finally, with just seven minutes remaining, Brazil’s pressure paid off when Neto’s vicious strike from distance beat Elias. And one minute later Falcao’s early shot caught Argentina off guard and made it 2-2.

Thereafter, both teams went in search of a winner, and the underdogs came closest to getting it. With four minutes remaining, a brilliant Leandro Cuzzolino strike from distance forced Tiago into a fine acrobatic save, and the same player produced another decisive stop from the Brazil keeper shortly afterwards.

Ultimately, though, the game went to extra time, where Falcao smashed home a quickly-taken corner to book Brazil a last-four date with the Colombia-Ukraine winners.

Shootout shatter U-19 team's dream

Uzbekistan booked their place in the semi-finals of the AFC U-19 Championship 2012 when they defeated the U-19 Syrian national team 3-0 on penalties after their quarter-final on Sunday finished 2-2 after extra-time.

Syria twice took the lead in regulation time but where twice pegged back With Igor Sergeev's 44th minute strike cancelling out Hamid Mido's 39th minute opener only for Syria to regain the advantage on the stroke of half-time through an Mahmoud Al Mawas penalty.

Syria held their 2-1 lead until the 76th minute when Ihtiyor Tashpulatov scored the goal that ultimately forced extra-time.

 Neither side could add to the shoreline in the two periods of additional time forcing the penalty shootout, in which Syria missed all three attempts while the Uzbeks were successful on each occasion to advance to the final four and book their place at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The first chance of Sunday's quarter-final came the way of the Uzbeks when Abdul Aziz Yusupov headed Igor Sergeev's cross from the left against the post before Uzbek keeper Asilbek Amanov kept out Adnan Al Taki's shot from an Al Mawas free-kick as Syria hit back two minutes later.

Amanov was called into action again five minutes later to deny Al Mawas after the Syrian striker had latched onto a long ball while at the other end Yusupov's saw his attempt go over the bar on the quarter-of-the-hour mark.

A minute later Amanov pushed away Nassouh Nakkdahli's shot from the left before Yusupov squandered a 21st minute opportunity with only keeper Shaher Al Shakir, who kept out a Vladimir Kozak free-kick nine minutes from the interval.

 

The deadlock was finally broken in the 39th minute when Hamid Mido fired home the rebound after Amanov had saved Nakkdahli's initial shot.

But in a dramatic end to the first-half Sergeev headed home from a corner minute from the interval only for Al Mawas to equal Sergeev's tournament-leading sixth goal of the campaign when he converted from the penalty spot after Sardar Rakhmanov had brought Al Taki down inside the area.

Al Taki saved well from Timur Khakimov 11 minutes after the restart as Uzbekistan pushed for the equaliser which came with just under 15 minutes remaining when substitute Ihtiyor Tashpulatov rose highest in a crowded penalty area to head in Iskanderov's free-kick from the right.

Uzbekistan finished regulation time the stronger of the two but it was the Syrians that came close to snatching a winner in the 84th minute but Amanov denied Nakkdahli's shot from outside the area.

Both sides had their chances in extra-time with Amanov saving from substitute Samer Salem in the 95th minute before the move was mirrored at the other end of the pitch when Al Shakir denied Uzbek replacement Azizbek Murotov two minutes later.

Omar Kharbin tested his luck in the 103rd minute but his shot went wide of the post before the striker had an effort blocked a minute after a Salem header hit the bar as the Uzbeks survived some sustained Syria pressure in the last two minutes of extra-time.

And the Syrians were left to rue these late misses in the penalty shootout with Vladimir Kozak, Sardor Sabirkhodjaev and Timur Khakimov all on target for the Uzbeks while Ahmad Al Kaddour and Al Mawas were denied by Aminov and Khaled Al Mbayed struck the bar with his spot-kick.

Fans can spur us to success says Syria boss

 

The U-19 Syrian national head coach Mohammed Jouma is hoping that the sizeable contingent of Syrians based in the UAE will come out and back his team as they take on Uzbekistan in Sunday's AFC U-19 Championship quarter-final.

The young Syrians were taken by surprise by the number of their compatriots in the crowd at in the Fujairah Stadium stands on Thursday and Jouma believes that it may have had an unsettling effect on his side as they crashed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of their Qatari counterpart as they finished runners-up to Australia in Group D.

But with the Syrian players knowing what to expect on Sunday, Jouma anticipates a different reaction from his young charges, with the fans potentially inspiring his team to victory over the Uzbeks and with it, a place at next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup.

"The presence of the large numbers of Syrian supporters working in the UAE in our last match distracted the players," he said.

"But we are not expecting the same reaction on Sunday and this time they will spur on our players as they will now be used to playing in front of a huge number of fans.

"We are not scared of losing and I would like to assure Syrians fans that you will be watching good, attractive and attacking football from our side.

"Uzbekistan came here to win just as we did and with a place in the World Cup at stake Sunday's match will be like a final."

Syria have been one of the revelations of the tournament but performing consistently is the big problem for the West Asians. They kicked off the campaign with a bang hitting five past Saudi Arabia and held 2010 AFC U-19 Championship runners-up Australia to a draw in the second match before falling a little bit flat as they rounded off their group stage campaign against Qatar.

One positive note from the match was the consolation goal from Mahmoud Al Mawas, whose 68th minute penalty took his individual tally to five in three games following his strike against the Young Socceroos and his hat-trick in his virtuoso display in the 5-1 win over Saudi Arabia.

Al Mawas' five goals is equal to Uzbekistan star Igor Sergeev and with the tournament's top two marksmen going head-to-head at the Fujairah Stadium Sunday's showdown could be a high-scoring affair.

After eliminating the defending champions DPR Korea from the tournament, Uzbekistan have been earmarked as one of the favourites for the AFC U-19 Championship as the Central Asians look to complete a continental youth double after their triumph at the AFC U-16 Championship.

Uzbekistan coach Akhmadjan Musaev, however, is taking nothing for granted ahead of the clash with the unpredictable Syrians.

Uzbekistan started the tournament with a 4-0 win over Vietnam but were held to a 2-2 draw by a spirited Jordan side in the second match. Their performance of the tournament came on Thursday when they produced a master-class performance to beat DPR Korea 2-0, with goals from tournament's joint leading scorer Sergeev and Timur Khakimov.

"There is no difference between the eight teams in the quarter-finals and we all have aspirations to win the title," Musaev said.

"After winning the AFC U-16 Championship title and performing excellently in this competition so far people are seeing that work that we are doing in grassroots football back home.

"We have seen Uzbek football coming up over the years and we have high hopes on this crop of players as we have a very talented team, many of who can go on and play at the highest level.

"But having said that, I am not expecting an easy match against Syria. They have produced some stunning results in this competition."