Gallacher gives McGinley a major selection headache

Gallacher carded a sparkling 65 to finish third in Turin, one place short of securing the ninth and final automatic qualifying spot for this month’s match against the United States.

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But the manner of his performance and the fact he is Scottish and lives near the Gleneagles course which is hosting the Ryder Cup give him a strong chance of earning McGinley’s nod.

McGinley looks certain to select Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter, the inspiration for the team’s astonishing comeback win in the last contest in Medinah, and his fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, a former world number one and a veteran of eight matches against the U.S.

But Luke Donald, another former world number one, has struggled this year and McGinley may be sorely tempted to give Gallacher his chance.

“This was a terrific performance by Stephen. The gun was to his head but he performed very strongly,” McGinley told reporters.

“All credit to him. It’s unfortunate he’s come up one shot short of being an automatic in the team. But his performance this week will be very strongly in his favour when it comes to making the picks.”

Donald is an outstanding foursomes player and has been on the winning team in each of his four Ryder Cups but he has finished in the top 35 only once in his last eight tournaments.

Although Westwood has also been in mediocre form, his record in major tournaments has been respectable with a seventh-place finish in the U.S. Masters and a tie for 15th at last month’s PGA.

Gallacher just failed to climb above Graeme McDowell in the qualifying positions and McGinley will be delighted to have the former U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland in his team.

McDowell holed a memorable putt in the victory at Celtic Manor four years ago and forms a formidable partnership with his compatriot and world number one Rory McIlroy.

With British Open and U.S. PGA champion McIlroy in the form of his life and U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer also in his side, McGinley has an abundance of riches to work with as he plots to take on the Americans led by captain Tom Watson.

Renowned for his meticulous preparation, McGinley knows he has to make a calculated decision which will be announced on Tuesday.

“There is a lot of emotion round here at the moment but let’s put a little bit of cold water on it,” he said.

“There’s a lot of stats to be looked at and in the cold light of day I’ll sit down with the vice-captains and we’ll assess everything and come up with three picks that are going to add to what is already an incredibly strong nine players.”

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Analysis – Falcao swoop fails to answer United’s case for the defence

Following swiftly on the heels of the British record signing of attacking midfielder Angel di Maria, Van Gaal appears to be ignoring the burning issue of a porous and inexperienced back line which has struggled badly in the first three Premier League games of the season.

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Stalwarts Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have left Old Trafford along with long-serving left back Patrice Evra. Although Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw have been signed along with versatile Dutchman Daley Blind, Van Gaal’s defensive resources look thin unless he opts to do more business before the deadline closes at 2300 BST.

Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans have struggled to adapt to Van Gaal’s preferred 5-3-2 formation and Van Gaal has been forced by injuries to play 20-year-old Tyler Blackett.

He tried to recruit Arsenal central defender Thomas Vermaelen, who ended up at Barcelona, and United’s longstanding interest in Germany’s Mats Hummels has come to nothing.

Compounding the problems at the back is a shortage of disciplined defensive midfielders.

Spaniard Ander Herrera missed the last two games due to injury and Van Gaal has been forced to play Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley, a combination short of pace and genuine creative ability.

The signing of Di Maria for 60 million pounds will bring speed and invention to United’s attack led by Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

Mexican Javier Hernandez has been loaned to Real Madrid and Falcao’s arrival could also allow Van Gaal to offload England’s Danny Welbeck.

The 28-year-old Colombian, who is joining United initially on a season-long loan, is a proven marksman.

He netted 41 times in 51 games for Porto, scored 52 goals in 68 matches for Atletico Madrid and 11 in 20 appearances for Monaco before a knee injury ended his season early and ruled him out of this year’s World Cup.

Fast and powerful, Falcao will give United another cutting edge but doubts remain about whether the forwards will get the service they need to show off their undoubted talents.

Van Gaal may move for Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman in January if he proves his recovery from a serious knee injury but by then United could be well adrift of the Premier League leaders and struggling to qualify for the Champions League for the second season in a row.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

Brazil, Colombia clash adds spice to friendlies

Dunga begins his second stint as Brazil coach, while the return of Colombia forward Radamel Falcao and a likely meeting of Neymar and Juan Camilo Zuniga adds further spice to the match at the Sun Life stadium in Miami.

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Elsewhere, Gerardo Martino will take charge of Argentina for the first time since replacing Alejandro Sabella while Italy and Netherlands, who meet each other in Bari, and Japan, who face Uruguay, also start life under new coaches.

Brazil’s disastrous World Cup led to widespread calls for a fresh start and a new approach but they seem to have done the opposite by bringing back Dunga, who was in charge from 2006 to 2010 during a period when many felt that Brazil stagnated.

Far from a clearout, Dunga’s first squad has included 11 players from the World Cup, among them defenders David Luiz and Marcelo who were considered two of the main culprits in the 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany.

There has even been a recall for Robinho, whose career has been on the slide for several years, as a late replacement for the injured Hulk.

But critics were mildly encouraged by the selection of attacking midfielders such as Philippe Coutinho, Ricardo Goulart, Everton Ribeiro and Diego Tardelli and the absence of a lumbering target man such as Jo or Fred.

Although the match on Friday is billed a friendly, Brazil’s 2-1 World Cup quarter-final win in Fortaleza left a bitter taste on both sides.

Colombia claimed they were bullied as the hosts committed 31 fouls while Brazil were furious after Zuniga lunged into Neymar’s back, fracturing a vertebrae and ending his participation in the competition.

Both players have been named in their respective squads.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman, who has renewed his contract until the 2018 World Cup, has kept the nucleus of the squad which performed so well in Brazil and is also able to welcome back Falcao who missed the tournament through injury.

GOMEZ RETURN

Lionel Messi looks likely to miss Wednesday’s game in Dusseldorf, Argentina’s first since the World Cup final loss to Germany, after Barcelona said he suffered a hamstring strain in the 1-0 win over Villarreal on Sunday.

The news was greeted with suspicion by Argentine media who pointed out that Messi played the full 90 minutes without showing any obvious signs of injury.

Germany coach Joachim Loew has included 18 members of his World Cup squad while strikers Marco Reus, who missed the tournament due to injury, and Mario Gomez, who was overlooked, return.

Italy’s new coach Antonio Conte, faced with a rebuilding job after their group stage exit in Brazil, has dropped maverick forward Mario Balotelli against the Dutch where Guus Hiddink starts a second spell in charge at the of 67.

Spain, still under Vicente del Bosque, visit France in Paris on Thursday for their first match since their group stage World Cup exit, Belgium host Australia in Brussels the same evening and two of the World Cup success stories, Chile and Mexico, meet in San Francisco on Friday.

South Korea are without a coach for Venezuela’s visit to Bucheon on Friday after they were turned down by Dutchman Bert van Marwijk.

Instead, three local coaches will share the job including former national team midfielder Shin Tae-young. Noel Sanvincente will be in charge of the South Americans for the first time.

Mexican Javier Aguirre will make his debut on the bench for Japan at home to Uruguay in Sapporo on Friday while his counterpart Oscar Tabarez will miss the game after undergoing a back operation.

Uruguay have not called up Luis Suarez, banned for nine competitive internationals for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup, even though he is eligible to play in friendly matches.

England are expecting their lowest Wembley attendance since the rebuilt stadium was re-opened in 2007 for Norway’s visit on Wednesday.

English FA general secretary Alex Horne said only the lower tier of seats will be used for an expected crowd of between 35,000 and 40,000.

Troubled 2018 World Cup hosts Russia go into their friendly at home to Azerbaijan in Khimki on Wednesday amid controversy after sports minister Vitaly Mutko said that coach Fabio Capello and his staff had not been paid for three months.

United States coach Juergen Klinsmann has named five uncapped young players to his squad for Wednesday’s match against the Czech Republic in Prague, plus 10 members of the World Cup squad.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Justin Palmer)

Argentina without Messi and three others for Germany game

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Erik Lamela and Benfica winger Nicolas Gaitan have been drafted in to coach Gerardo Martino’s squad for the match in Duesseldorf, the AFA said in a statement.

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“(Messi) is suffering from muscle fatigue in his right hamstring. He is ruled out as a precaution,” said the statement posted on the AFA website (南宁夜网.afa南宁夜生活,.ar).

The AFA listed forwards Maximiliano Rodriguez and Rodrigo Palacio and central defender Ezequiel Garay as also unavailable through injury.

It added that winger Ezequiel Lavezzi was under observation after missing Paris St Germain’s Ligue 1 match at the weekend with back trouble but he was included in a revised squad.

Lamella and Gaitan, who have a handful of caps between them, join a 20-man squad now captained by Javier Mascherano.

The teams meet again in their first international since Germany beat Argentina 1-0 after extra time in the World Cup final in Brazil on July 13.

Revised squad:

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Mariano Andujar (Napoli)

Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez (Swansea), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Jose Basanta (Fiorentina)

Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Angel Di Maria (Manchester United), Enzo Perez (Benfica), Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur)

Forwards: Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St-Germain)

(Writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Justin Palmer)

Germany’s Ozil doubtful for Argentina friendly

Arsenal midfielder Ozil did not join team mates on Monday in Duesseldorf for the first time since their World Cup victory 50 days ago and will fly in on Tuesday after nursing a minor injury.

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“It looks very tough for Wednesday for Mesut,” Bierhoff told reporters. “Hopefully, he will be fit for Sunday.”

Ozil is one of 18 World Cup winners called up in the 21-man squad for the World Cup final rematch against the South Americans and Sunday’s first Euro qualifier in Dortmund.

Some 40,000 fans turned up for the team’s first open training since the World Cup victory, with players kicking footballs into the stands and giving away presents.

“It was our wish to give fans and especially the young ones the chance to see their stars from close up,” Bierhoff said.

“For us it was a good feeling to kick off our post-World cup season with such a reception.

“This fourth (World Cup) star belongs to the entire country and that shows that we are Germany’s team,” Bierhoff added. “But now we need to take it forward. We want to keep having positive performances.”

Coach Joachim Loew will have to make changes to his starting lineup with striker Miroslav Klose, captain Philipp Lahm and central defender Per Mertesacker having retired from international football.

“We have to hit the ground running,” said keeper Manuel Neuer, among the candidates to replace Lahm as captain. “We have to have a good match against Argentina to prepare for Scotland because the team will be slightly different.

“It is very important for us to start our qualifiers with a win over Scotland on Sunday,” said Neuer.

Germany are in the European qualifying Group D along with Georgia, Poland, Gibraltar, Scotland and Ireland.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)