Spain great Casillas confronting twilight at Porto

first_img0Shares0000Iker Casillas won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2000, 2002 and 2014 © AFP / FRANCISCO LEONGLISBON, Portugal, Feb 13 – From a king of Europe in Madrid to the substitutes’ bench with Porto, it’s been a rocky transition for three-time Champions League winner Iker Casillas following his departure from boyhood club Real in 2015.“San Iker”, the captain of Spain’s World Cup-winning side in 2010 and of back-to-back European Championship triumphs, now finds himself Porto’s back-up ahead of Wednesday’s last-16 clash against Liverpool. Casillas, who made his Champions League debut as a tender 18-year-old in 1999, holds the competition record with 170 appearances spread over a remarkable 19 seasons. But an apparent lack of application in training prompted his coach to replace Casillas, who is now 36, as Porto’s first-choice goalkeeper.While away to RB Leipzig during the group stage in mid-October, Porto boss Sergio Conceicao dropped the veteran Spaniard — a European champion with Real in 2000, 2002 and 2014 — in favour of 25-year-old Portuguese deputy Jose Sa.While the baptism of fire did Sa few favours as Porto slid to a 3-2 defeat in Germany, it symbolised the passing of the torch as Sa went on to establish himself in the club’s number one jersey.The change to the hierarchy led former Portugal international Conceicao to clarify the situation during a press conference, where he pointed the finger at Casillas for a lack of drive and energy during the team’s daily training sessions.“With Iker, it’s not a disciplinary problem. I demand all of my players to always be at 100 percent at training and I can’t close my eyes to the fortnight of training that didn’t meet my demands. Iker understood it,” Conceicao explained.– Casillas stays positive –Far from engaging in a stand-off with his coach, as he did during Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Real, Casillas doubled down and ruled out any move away from the club in January.“Everyone drops to the bench one day, there are not only 11 players. I like to train, push myself and fight for a starting place,” the Madrid-born Casillas said in December.While there is no guarantee the Spaniard will regain the first-choice role at Porto, he can at least draw some comfort from a series of promising run-outs in the two domestic cup competitions.Casillas was unable to prevent Porto’s penalty-shootout defeat to Sporting in the League Cup last month, but he gave an assured display to help secure a 1-0 advantage over the Lisbon outfit in the semi-finals of the Portuguese Cup a week ago.That match marked the 100th in Porto colours for Casillas, and demonstrated the 36-year-old still has the ability required to shine at the top level.Back in Conceicao’s good graces, the Porto coach even hinted recently that Casillas could be in line for a return to the leading role between the posts.“I have four fantastic goalkeepers and Iker has worked really well these past weeks so I won’t reveal who I’m going to start, it’s the position where I have the most uncertainty,” Conceicao said.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

Forget Messi, China’s ‘Nine-Goal Diva’ is world’s hottest striker

first_imgThe forward has found the net a total of 11 times, netting in the 7-0 opening victory over Hong Kong and adding a soaring header as China’s women beat formidable North Korea 2-0 on Wednesday to top their group and make the quarter-finals in style.China’s free-scoring women, yet to concede a goal, are being feted back home and 28-year-old Wang in particular is making headlines for her astonishing prowess in front of goal.There have been tongue-in-cheek suggestions that she could be the answer to the goal-scoring problems of the Chinese men.Wang’s sizzling form is all the more surprising because prior to the past week she was hardly prolific, although she did catch eyes by scoring a backheel volley against South Korea last year — the kind of exquisite strike that Messi and Ronaldo would be proud of.She currently plies her trade in China’s little-noticed domestic women’s league.“For the past three group matches, Wang Shanshan scored 11 goals and became Chinese women’s football’s talisman,” China’s Tencent Sports said in an online article.“In more crucial tournaments, Wang Shanshan will become the key player in helping the women’s team win gold.”Against the North Koreans, midfielder Wang Shuang, who recently signed for Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team, opened the scoring in the eighth minute, finishing off a fluid passing move.“China’s women really have the chance to win the gold medal. The team is blessed to have Wang Shuang and Wang Shanshan in this era,” said one fan on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.China’s evening ended on a sour note, however, after substitute Zhao Rong was sent off at the end and coach Jia Xiuquan followed her for complaining to officials.China’s men play Saudi Arabia in the last 16 on Friday at the Asian Games, although they have struggled for goals in international football in recent times.0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Wang earned the ‘Nine-Goal Diva’ nickname from Chinese fans when she plundered a scarcely believable nine goals in a dizzying 29 minutes against Tajikistan at the Asian Games © AFP / WANG ZHAOSHANGHAI, China, Aug 23 – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo step aside — the hottest striker in world football at the moment is China’s “Nine-Goal Diva” Wang Shanshan.Wang earned that nickname from Chinese fans and media when she plundered a scarcely believable nine goals in a dizzying 29 minutes after coming off the bench in a 16-0 demolition of Tajikistan on Monday at the Asian Games in Indonesia.last_img read more