China have selected their first naturalised player with no Chinese heritage after including Brazilian-born attacker Elkeson in their latest 35-man squad ahead of World Cup qualifying next month. The 30-year-old, who has been playing club football in China since 2013, accepted his call-up having never represented his native Brazil. Elkeson did come close to playing for his nation of birth in September 2011 after being called up by then Selecao coach Mano Menezes but didn’t end up playing any minutes. Article continues below Editors’ Picks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Having starred in the Chinese Super League for both Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG in recent years, Elkeson believes playing for the national team represents a natural next step in his career. “Today, I want to tell the world: I officially started a new journey, I am Chinese, I want to return all the love and care you have had for me over the years,” Elkeson said via a Weibo post. “This is a country that is vigorously developing their football and a country that many people in the world still don’t understand. It has only participated in the World Cup once. For me personally, this is a gamble in my career. But the blueprint of Guangzhou Evergrande convinced me that I can write down my history here. “But I want a new challenge, I want to see where my limits are. In 2016, I joined Shanghai SIPG. I spent three and a half years in Shanghai, 116 games, and two championship trophies, all creating the history of the club. “Another successful experience but I am still not satisfied because I want to repay the love of the Chinese people in these seven years. “I am very happy and comfortable in China. Here is my home. At the right time, I learned of a very challenging possibility, but I accepted this challenge without thinking. I know that this is the next step I should take.” Elkeson, who returned to Guangzhou in July, has won the CSL four times since arriving in 2013 and also has two Asian Champions League titles to his name. Prior to moving to China, Elkeson began his career in Brazil with Vitoria in 2009 before moving to Botafogo two years later. The Chinese national team, currently coached by Marcello Lippi, have recorded wins in their last two games and will play Maldives in a World Cup qualifier on September 10 with Elkeson in line to make his debut.
Here we go again. Less than a year after Argentina’s Superclasico rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors brought the world of football to a standstill with their thrilling, scandalous first Copa Libertadores final, the pair meet again in the South American competition.They may be clashing this time round in the semi-final stage rather than the decider, but that will make no dent in the famously fervent passion on display from both sets of fans over two legs in October. Indeed, the shocking events of 2018 mean the upcoming tie could be the keenest-fought yet.In one sense, the 2018 Copa Libertadores still remains open. On November 25, the day after their team coach was ambushed by bottle and stone-wielding River fans just a few blocks from the Monumental Stadium ahead of the second leg, Boca made an official complaint first to CONMEBOL and later the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! 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But it is nevertheless still pending, with Boca holding out, perhaps unlikely, hope that their rivals’ trophy could yet be stripped from them by the end of the year.“We will take this until the end,” Boca president Daniel Angelici vowed upon filing the writ and so far he has proved true to his word, doggedly pursuing the legal battle for the best part of 12 months.All of which means, of course, that there is no love lost between the two Buenos Aires giants. But then there has never been much to spare over the course of a century-old rivalry that began in the grimy docks of La Boca and accompanied each side as they grew to national and continental predominance. That mutual enmity has never been better shown than on the occasions they have locked horns in the Libertadores.Back in 2004, the last semi-final match between Boca and River, a young Carlos Tevez was in the eye of the storm. The 20-year-old striker swooped in the second leg with an 88th minute goal and was promptly sent off for mocking the seething Monumental with his ‘chicken dance’ that almost sparked a riot. River immediately responded against the 10-man Xeneize to send the game to penalties, where Maxi Lopez missed the decisive kick to send the visitors through.Not until 2015 would the two sides meet again in the Copa, in another tie that made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Leading 1-0 from the first leg, as River’s players entered for the second half, they were attacked from the Bombonera stands by a fan wielding home-made pepper spray, an act that caused the game to be abandoned and the Millonario declared winners.Unsurprisingly, this time round absolutely no stone will be left unturned to avoid further trouble, particularly a repeat of the bus attack that left Boca’s Pablo Perez needing medical attention after glass from the vehicle’s shattered window scratched his retina. The last Superclasico on September 1 saw over 1000 police officers stationed in and around the Monumental, while the Boca coach’s entrance was done with the street totally sealed off to home supporters.The hope is that all eyes will remain on events on the pitch in two matches that bring together arguably South America’s strongest teams. With international stars like goalkeepers Franco Armani and Esteban Andrada on show, wily veterans such as Tevez, Lucas Pratto and, of course, ex-Roma idol Daniele de Rossi and the usual smattering of exciting young talents – River’s Exequiel Palacios and Lucas Martinez Quarta, and Boca pair Alexis McCallister, on loan from Brighton, and Emanuel Reynoso demand special attention – the stage is set for a fascinating cup tie that will show off the best of the continent’s football.It is clear though, as Ariel Ortega, the mercurial ex-River and Argentina playmaker and veteran of scores of Superclasicos, points out, that this will not just be another game. “If Boca come up 10 times, give them to me 10 times, even more after all that’s happened,” the retired star fired to La Pagina Millonaria .“If River go through again you’ll kill Boca’s fans, they’ll die. I speak to kids who are huge fanatics and they don’t want to play, you’ll bury them. These are beautiful games to play, no other game in the world can match this.”A win for the Millonarios over two legs would certainly be a mortal blow to their rivals, still reeling from 2018’s immensely painful reverse having led three times over 180 minutes. Victory for Boca, on the other hand, could well spell the end for River coach Marcelo Gallardo who, after delivering two Libertadores wins and establishing himself as one of Argentina’s finest trainers, may decide it is time to move on.Off the pitch, too, all eyes will be peeled on fans’ behaviour and possible violence hotspots, not least due to the sensitive period Argentine society is facing as a whole in the midst of economic crisis and fiercely-fought presidential elections.Whatever happens, then, the Superclasico will be headline news across South America throughout October and beyond, overshadowing even a game of the calibre of Flamengo’s meeting with Gremio in the ‘other’ semi. Just like 2018’s chaotic double-header, the latest edition of this most fierce of rivalries will make compelling viewing from start to finish.
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedAB de Villiers retires from international cricketMay 23, 2018In “Sports”Graeme Smith: Shelve T20Is, focus on marketing TestsMay 30, 2018In “latest news”Windies unable to stop powerful South AfricansJanuary 29, 2015In “Sports” Hashim Amla has retired from all international cricket. He will continue to play domestic cricket, and is also available for the upcoming Mzansi Super League 2019.Amla’s decision to step from the international game marks the end of a career that lasted nearly 15 years, with his Test debut having come in November 2004, in India. He made his ODI and T20I debuts in 2008 and 2009 respectively, and he made his last appearance for South Africa at the recent World Cup.He bid goodbye to the international stage with an unbeaten 80 in South Africa’s nine-wicket win against Sri Lanka, but he had an underwhelming World Cup otherwise with 203 runs overall in seven innings. Nevertheless, Amla leaves several South African limited-overs records in his wake. His 27 ODI hundreds are the most by a South African, and 24 of those came in victories. He was also the fastest batsman to 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 and 7,000 runs in ODI cricket. He ended his ODI career with 8,113 runs at an average of 49.46, with 39 half-centuries to go with his 27 tons.His Test successes were even more illustrious, with Amla amassing 9,282 runs at 46.64 with 28 centuries. He was the first South African to score a triple hundred in Test cricket, and finished as his country’s second-highest run-scorer in the format, second only to Jacques Kallis.Amla also has the highest Test scores for his country against England, India and the West Indies, and the highest against Australia in the post-unity period. Further highlights include his making 490 runs while being dismissed only once in the two-match Test series in India in 2010, scoring centuries in both innings of the second match to follow his unbeaten double century in the first.Two years later, he earned Man of the Series honours in both the Test and ODI series in England. His innings of 196 against Australia at Perth in December 2012 won him the Man of the Match award and was an important contribution to the Proteas’ series-winning performance, as well as helping Amla to become the No. 1 ranked batsman in the world in Test cricket in 2013.During a brief spell as captain he led the Proteas to a rare Test series win in Sri Lanka, and was named SA Cricketer of the Year in 2010, and again in 2013. While his last Test match saw him score 0 and 32 as South Africa lost 2-0 to Sri Lanka at home in February, and poor form had taken a little of the gloss off his numbers over a difficult final year in Test cricket, Amla leaves the international arena with his reputation for being the classiest, calmest man on the field intact.“Firstly, all Glory and thanks to the Almighty for granting me this Proteas journey which has been nothing but a joy and privilege,” Amla said in a statement announcing his international retirement on Thursday. “I learnt many lessons during this incredible ride, made many friends and most importantly shared in the love of a brotherhood called #proteafire.“I would like to thank my parents for their prayers, love and support, it is their shadow over me that enabled me to play for years under the Protea sun. Also, my family, friends and agent, my team mates and every member of the support staff throughout this incredible journey. A heartfelt thank you to every one of you!“The fans for energizing me when times were tough, and for celebrating with me when we succeeded together. Siyabonga South Africa!“And, of course, a very special thanks to the President and the Board at Cricket South Africa – not forgetting the Chief Executive, Mr Thabang Moroe, and his administrative team. I really appreciate all the opportunities and am truly grateful.“Love and peace.” (ESPNCricinfo)