Philippe Coutinho is as good as Neymar, claims Brazil's Dani Alves

Sport360 staff 13:03 27/03/2018
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Dani Alves isn’t too worried about star man Neymar‘s absence from the Brazil squad, as he believes Philippe Coutinho is as good as the forward and can carry the team on his shoulders.

The 25-year-old has risen to become one of the world’s most skilled midfielders, ever since his time at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp where attacking football was the norm, to Barcelona where he recently moved for a £142 million deal.

Alves is therefore of the opinion that Coutinho deserves to be rated in the same frame as his PSG team-mate, Neymar, who has a fractured foot and is currently recovering from the injury that will take up to three months to mend.

Speaking ahead of Brazil’s game against Germany, he said: “I think that Coutinho is a player who is on the same level as Ney, he has a massive influence on our game and in his teams.

“When he was in Liverpool and now in Barca, he has improved a lot and learned to read the game better, to make the right decisions.”

“That is great to see, to play with such a good footballer who has that ability. There are others who are similar. We are lucky to play with great players and have them on our side is fantastic. We have to get the best out of them and build a solid team,” Alves added.

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Bale insists Wales will be ready for 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign

Sport360 staff 08:18 27/03/2018
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Ryan Giggs will hope to lead Wales to their second-straight European Championships.

Wales had to settle for the runners-up spot in Nanning after Edinson Cavani’s second-half strike gave Uruguay a 1-0 victory on Monday.

The two China Cup games were new manager Ryan Giggs’ first in charge, and Wales only have a May friendly against Mexico in Pasadena before the serious business of the inaugural League of Nations starts.

Wales are in a group with Denmark and the Republic of Ireland in the autumn, those matches preceding the European Championship qualifiers which start next March.

“Ultimately we’re disappointed, we thought they were there for the taking,” Bale told Welsh football programme Sgorio after the game.

“But when the major games come around in the qualifiers we’ll be ready.

“It’s been important having the new manager in and everybody settling down, getting to know his ways.

“Obviously new players are coming in and there’s a lot of positives to take out of it.

“I think it’ll stand us in good stead for the future and I’m sure we’ll win many more games.”

Giggs had started his reign with a 6-0 thumping of tournament hosts China, with Bale claiming a hat-trick to become Wales’ record goalscorer.

But Uruguay were always going to present a far more formidable test with Cavani and Luis Suarez linking so well at the focal point of their attack.

“They’ve got midfielders who are very good players who can handle the ball,” Giggs said.

“So what we tried to do was not let them play at their own rhythm, try and put pressure on the ball and stop at it source, not get it to Cavani and Suarez because of the quality they possess.

“Sometimes you’re not going to do it, and it’s about being solid and defending. I thought we did it well.

“Of course, against teams like that you’re going to ride your luck but they showed us the utmost respect.”

Giggs took the opportunity to blood several youngsters in the second half, and Connor Roberts and Billy Bodin both made debuts.

“I’m really pleased with the depth of the squad,” Giggs said.

“You look at Uruguay and they have a lot of quality and depth, perhaps we haven’t got that as much as other teams.

“But I’m really happy with a lot of players from this tour, not only in the games but what they’ve shown in training.”

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England World Cup spots up for grabs as Jack Butland gets nod for Italy clash

Sport360 staff 23:29 26/03/2018
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Gareth Southgate confirmed Jack Butland will start in goal when England welcome Italy to Wembley but insisted the decision is not an indicator of his World Cup plans.

The England manager named four goalkeepers in his squad for the friendly double header against the Netherlands and Italy, with Jordan Pickford being given the nod ahead of Butland, Joe Hart and Nick Pope in the 1-0 win against the Dutch on Friday.

Butland will be given a chance to press his claims on Tuesday, with the experienced Hart, who started in all but one of England’s World Cup qualifiers, once again overlooked.

Southgate said at his pre-match press conference: “At the beginning of the week we decided to give (Pickford and Butland) a game for the experience.

“We’ve stuck with the plan right the way through with those decisions and there’s no reason to come away from that.

“In lots of positions on the field we’ve got really good options and players that can go into the team and do well for us. We’ve got tough decisions further down the line. There’s a lot to play for.

“It’s important that we have competition for places everywhere on the pitch, that breeds good performances. You need a clear understanding of how we want to play but then there’s the additional pressure of knowing you’ve got to play well to keep your place.”

Hart has lost his first-team spot at West Ham to Adrian in recent weeks, prompting speculation about how he fits into Southgate’s plans.

“Joe’s professionalism has been brilliant with us. He’s always performed well for us. We had the best defensive record in Europe in qualifying,” Southgate said in defence of Hart.

“This week, even though he knew he wasn’t going to be involved in the games, he’s been a positive influence on the other players.”

The Azzurri did not qualify for this year’s World Cup but Southgate is not writing them off.

“They’re not at the World Cup because they were in Spain’s group.

“They’ll press us with more intensity than we got pressed the other night and it’s a really good challenge for us to be able to play.”

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