Luis Enrique: Spain’s football can evolve

Luis Enrique’s method

Evolution not revolution
“Let there be no doubt: we’re going to continue with the same style.” The coach stated categorically that there would be no radical changes to the team’s playing style, insisting that the style founded and defined by [former Spain coach] Luis Aragones was what they should continue with.

That said, the new coach was clear that there would be changes. “The team can evolve. A player must be given weapons. The team has been a standard bearer, with everyone studying what we do… We’ll continue to play a possession game but with subtle variations to improve things.”

Tactical modifications
“Tactically, there are a lot of things we can improve.” One of the objectives, as the coach himself explained, is to improve effectiveness in front of goal – a shortcoming the team has had in recent years, as was evident in Russia.

“Converting chances is the most difficult aspect. We have a lot of work to do with the players in this respect. We’ll come up against opponents who respect us and who will defend en masse. That’s where our work will come in – enabling our players to recognise those instances and overcome them.”

Psychology – fundamental to performance
Just as he did when coaching at club level, Luis Enrique will have a psychologist, Joaquin Valdes, as part of his staff. “The psychologist is an option we give to the players. We privately seek to help them as much as possible to improve their performance,” he revealed.

Brazil goalkeeper Alisson makes Liverpool switch

  • Alisson completes move from Roma to Liverpool
  • 25-year-old goalkeeper signs multi-year deal
  • He played in all five of Brazil’s matches at Russia 2018

Liverpool have completed the transfer of Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker from Italian Serie A side Roma on a multi-year deal.

The 25-year-old joins the English Premier League giants after undergoing a medical and completing the formalities of his move to the Reds on Thursday.

“I’m really happy, it’s a dream come true to wear such a prestigious shirt for a club of this size that is used to always winning,” he told the club’s official website. “In terms of my life and my career, it’s a huge step for me being part of this club and this family.

“You can be certain that I’ll give my all.”

Alisson played in all five of Brazil’s matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, where A Seleção were eliminated in the quarter-finals after a 2-1 defeat to Belgium.

Russia 2018 most engaging FIFA World Cup ever

The FIFA official app for the tournament became the number one sports app in over 128 countries, while FIFA.com was ranked as the number one football website in the world.

FIFA’s 32 team reporters – delivering content in 16 languages – were able to give fans exclusive content in their team’s native language on multiple platforms as they followed their nation’s journey all the way through, allowing fans to follow their teams throughout the tournament like never before.

FIFA’s interactive games also generated huge fan engagement, with over 25 million fans visitors taking part in apps such as McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy, Hyundai’s FIFA World Cup Match Predictor, and the Panini Digital Sticker Album presented by Coca-Cola.

FIFA also expanded its coverage to newer audiences, through its official Russian VKontakte account – passing more than one million followers during the tournament – as well as to China on Weibo and WeChat.

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Cherchesov: Football fever in Russia really took off

The 2018 FIFA World Cup™ was an unforgettable celebration of football, and a major factor in this was the superb performance of hosts Russia. FIFA.com sat down with Sbornaya head coach Stanislav Cherchesov to ask how his team managed to surprise everyone by reaching the quarter-finals, where they narrowly lost to Croatia on penalties after a keenly fought contest.

“Firstly, much credit goes to the organisers,” Cherchesov began. “After being awarded the World Cup, we had to convince everyone who voted for Russia that it was the right decision. All the organisational aspects were carried out to an extremely high standard. This isn’t just coming from us; our foreign guests have said the same thing. This is key because, without that, neither we nor any other national team would have been able to perform well.

“For two years we were preparing for this objective and there was a competitive selection process in the squad. We were dogged by injuries, which happens to a lot of teams. We tried to address all the issues, and then focus on the players we had and the opponents we were due to face. Before the World Cup, we had a brilliant training camp in Tirol, which is also where we tuned up for the Confederations Cup a year ago. That tournament was our dress rehearsal; it helped us to see where our shortcomings were and correct them before the real thing.

“We realised that we needed to not just win the Opening Match but do it convincingly, so the fans would start believing in the team. The football fever in Russia really took off after that game. The whole of the country was patiently and nervously waiting for the World Cup, but the team and the fans were united right from the first match.”

Challenges aplenty await Guadalajara

With seven final appearances and five titles in less than three years, there is no denying that it has been an impressive few seasons for C.D. Guadalajara. That said, the first half of 2018 ended on a rather sour note for this giant of Mexican football.

After winning the CONCACAF Champions League in April to secure their place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, Chivas then finished second-bottom in the domestic league with a paltry 15 points from a possible 51.

The recent summer break ushered in a few important changes at the club as they look to fine tune performances ahead of their league, Copa MX and Club World Cup challenges over the next six months.

FIFA.com takes a closer look at Chivas’ present situation.

Cardozo takes the reins
After overseeing the success of recent seasons, Argentinian coach Matias Almeyda parted company with the club on 14 June. The man tasked with emulating him is Paraguayan Jose Saturnino Cardozo, himself no stranger to Mexican football.

His principle objective is to improve the team’s finishing – undoubtedly their Achilles’ heel of late. Despite carving out plenty of scoring chances, the players have been struggling to convert them, as evidenced in their last four games, when they failed to find the target even once.

As fortune would have it, Cardozo knows a thing or two about scoring, having set the record for most goals (29) in a short-format league campaign in Mexico. Unsurprisingly, there has been considerable emphasis on passing on his skills and knowledge of the striker’s art to his front men during pre-season.

Jaguars’ Fowler receives one-game suspension

Jacksonville Jaguars pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. will miss Week 1 of the regular season to serve a one-game suspension handed down by the NFL on Friday, the team announced.

Fowler was suspended for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy, presumably for his role in a parking lot altercation in July of 2017.

In March, Fowler pleaded no contest to a battery charge related to the incident, and was sentenced to a year of probation, 75 hours of community service and a $925 fine.

“We were informed today of Dante’s one-game suspension and we will abide by the league’s ruling,” Jaguars VP of football operations Tom Coughlin said in a statement. “We’ll work to get Dante ready to play when he’s eligible to return.”

Earlier this offseason, the Jaguars declined Fowler’s fifth-year option, which would have cost $14.2 million in 2019 if picked up.

However, the team still believes Fowler is “an ascending player” and hopes to reach a long-term deal before he hits free agency next March, according to NFL Network.

Fowler, who turns 24 on Aug. 3, went third overall in the 2015 draft and missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury, but he has tallied 12.0 sacks over the last two seasons as a situational pass rusher, including 8.0 sacks on just 464 defensive snaps in 2018. He will make $3.6 million in 2018 while likely remaining a rotational player behind starters Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue.

—Field Level Media

Golf: Spaniard Rahm goes off course en route to missed cut

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) – Jon Rahm found a fairway with his drive at the seventh hole at the British Open on Friday.

Unfortunately for the Spaniard, it was a fairway at the adjacent Buddon Links, on the other side of the out-of-bounds fence that separates Carnoustie from the neighboring course.

“That’s out,” Rahm cried while his drive was still in the air. The ball started left and stayed left, never a chance to stay on the property.

It landed about 10 yards out-of-bounds according to a marshal who watched the ball sail over his head and over the large gallery, before being snaffled by a lucky fan.

“I hadn’t missed a driver left all week, and with the wind left-to-right I never expected the ball to go that straight,” Rahm told reporters. “Just a bad shot.”

That one bad swing all but signaled the end of Rahm’s chances, another major of unfulfilled promise by a player some consider the most talented in the world.

The ensuing triple-bogey sent the 23-year-old storming to the next tee as he battled to keep his famously volatile temper from erupting.

Rahm subsequently buried his tee shot at the par-three ninth in a bunker and with it ended any lingering hope he could right a sinking ship.

A bogey followed and more carnage unfolded with a double-bogey at the next, where his temper finally snapped and he hurled a club in anger after another bad shot.

Another double at the 16th snuffed out any hope of advancing and a round of seven-over-par 78 out him at five-over 147, two shots short of playing on the weekend.

Since turning professional two years ago, Rahm has only one top-25 in eight majors, a tie for fourth at the U.S. Masters in April.

“It’s just sad. What stings more is missing the cut the last two majors knowing how good I played at Augusta,” he said.

“I’m still pretty young. Hopefully, I’m going to be play a lot of major championships.”

It had all started so promisingly for Rahm, who birdied the first and third holes, with a bogey at the second wedged in between.

The afternoon gallery built to a sizeable number to watch Rahm and American Rickie Fowler, who also started strongly.

“Look at how big Jon Rahm is,” remarked a spectator at the fifth hole.

“Vamos, vamos,” yelled another after the player’s approach shot.

Rahm adopted an aggressive strategy of using driver in his opening two-under 69, and mostly stuck with that game plan on Friday.

It worked well enough until the seventh hole.

Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond

Golf: Last-gasp birdie sneaks Rose into weekend

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) – Talk about cutting it fine. Justin Rose earned a place in the weekend field at the British Open with the last shot of his second round — a birdie on Carnoustie’s 18th green.

The Englishman, who won the 2013 U.S. Open but has never quite clicked at his home major since finishing tied fourth at Birkdale as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998, had toiled grimly all afternoon but finally managed to raise a smile.

Rose had been eclipsed throughout his round by playing partner Jordan Spieth and to a lesser extent the entertaining Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat and he arrived on the 18th tee on four-over-par with the cutline at plus three.

If you were to pick a hole to have to birdie to stay in a tournament it would not be this formidable one — a menacing 499-yard par-four with hazards everywhere.

But Rose, the world number three, fired a perfect tee shot into the late-evening sunshine and struck his second to 15 feet.

The packed grandstand around the 18th fell silent as Rose sized up his putt and sent the ball on its way, straight into the middle of the hole to roars from the crowd.

“It’s coming home!,” shouted one fan.

His two-over-par 73 means Rose is not going home and after making the cut by the skin of his teeth he may still plot his way back into contention.

He is nine shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner but stranger things have happened — after all Paul Lawrie came from 10 shots back in his final round at Carnoustie in 1999 to walk off with the Claret Jug.

“I holed a par putt at 15 and I heard the crowd make a lovely cheering noise, and I’m like, man, that’s what it feels like,” the 37-year-old told reporters.

“Literally, the whole day was oh, ah, oh. And then the crowd are trying to cheer you up, and that kind of almost adds to the frustration because you sense they want it for you as well and nothing’s happening.

“It was a very, very trying day, but I’m kind of pleased I was able to dig deep down on 18.”

Rose has never matched his fourth place in 1998. In his next 15 British Opens he has managed only one top-10 finish, at St Andrews three years ago.

“Right now my thoughts are I’m delighted. Twenty minutes ago, I was not very delighted,” he said.

“Just got to try to turn it around for the weekend, try to get into the red as soon as I can and try to make a run.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

Golf: Fleetwood tames Carnoustie again with 65

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) – The heavens opened at Carnoustie and it rained birdies for Tommy Fleetwood as he flew up the British Open leaderboard with a blemish-free round of six-under 65 on Friday.

The 27-year-old Englishman, whose 63 at last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links championship broke the Carnoustie course record, rattled in a 10-foot birdie at the 18th, his sixth of the day, to reach five-under at the tournament’s halfway stage.

He will start the weekend one stroke behind American leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner.

Fleetwood’s round was remarkable considering no other player in the day’s first seven groups managed a sub-70 score as heavy rain took the pace out of the bone-hard fairways.

“It’s no course record, but it will do for today,” Fleetwood, who scored a sizzling final-round 63 at Shinnecock Hills last month to finish second in the U.S. Open, said.

“Today’s been a round where I’ve put myself back in the tournament, and I’ve just got to move on from there really.

“If I can hit it like I did today, then obviously I’m going to have a lot of chances coming in over the weekend, and we’ll see where that takes me.”

No Englishman has triumphed at the Open since Nick Faldo won at Muirfield in 1992 and Fleetwood knows he is now perfectly-placed to end that drought.

“If I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it’d be the Open,” Fleetwood, who struggled to a 72 on Thursday, said.

“I’ve never been anywhere near it before. It would be something to have in my career that would be amazing by the time I’m done.”

Fleetwood’s charge began with birdies at the fourth and fifth and he grabbed another at the ninth when a 30-foot putt dropped. He then birdied the 11th and tapped in a three-footer to gain another stroke on the 14th.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Not even the formidable closing four holes could throw Fleetwood off and he hit a peach of a drive down the 18th fairway to set him up for a closing birdie and the lowest round at this year’s Open.

Fleetwood, however, said he never felt fully comfortable on the course.

“Normally when you play great, you know where the ball’s gone. A lot of the shots, I was just looking up, and I was really happy that they were going straight,” he said.

“I never felt at ease all day. But the ball was doing what I wanted it to do.”

Perfectionist Fleetwood said he would be on the range later making tweaks for what could be a seismic weekend.

“It still didn’t feel right where I’d like it to be. So I’ll try and do a little bit more work on that later, but it was a lot closer,” he said.

Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Ed Osmond

Golf: Zach attack tames cold and wet Carnoustie

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) – Zach Johnson often gets confused with his namesake, world number one Dustin, but there was absolutely no mistaking which of the two was happiest after the British Open second round on Friday.

While Zach (67) surged through the field in cold, wet conditions at Carnoustie to share top spot on six-under with fellow American Kevin Kisner (70), Dustin (72) was packing his bags after missing the cut on 148, six over.

“I’ve been called Dustin many times,” the joint leader told reporters. “I doubt he’s been called Zach that many times.

“Maybe some people do assume, when they see the name up there, that it’s Dustin. The comparison of Johnson and Johnson is probably not fair to me or him.”

Among the title hopefuls tucked in behind the leaders were home favorites Tommy Fleetwood (65) and Rory McIlroy (69).

  • Woods welcomes softer conditions after second straight 71
  • Impressive Johnson plods on as focus stays elsewhere
  • McIlroy promises to ‘go down swinging’ at Carnoustie

Fourteen-times major winner Tiger Woods registered a second level-par 71 but Justin Thomas (77), the world number two, failed to make the weekend on 146.

The umbrellas were up and the waterproofs out as rain greeted the players at the start.

The par-71 seaside links represented a very different challenge to the first round, with the players taking much longer clubs off the tee as the earlier bone-dry fairways suddenly became a thing of the past.

World number 52 Zach Johnson, who won the event at St Andrews three years ago and has posted two other top-10 finishes in golf’s oldest major, recovered from a bogey at the opening hole by birdying the third, fourth, sixth, 14th and 18th.

He produced a grin as wide as the North Sea that skirts the Carnoustie layout and raised his putter to salute the crowd when he rammed in a 35-foot putt at the closing hole.

“The reverence I have for this championship, I’m not suggesting that someone doesn’t have a higher reverence, but I’d argue with them,” said Johnson.

“I greatly appreciate how the game was formed over here, how this championship came into fruition back in 1860. Everything about it I love.”

MIST AND DRIZZLE

Johnson was one of the early starters and by the time Kisner had teed off just before 1pm local time, the gray Scottish mist and drizzle were beginning to give way to the sunshine and blue skies that lit up the first part of the week.

Kisner started on five-under and had picked up three more strokes by the time he stood on the final tee. The infamous Barry Burn, though, gobbled up his approach to the 18th and a double-bogey six meant he also finished on six-under 136.

Fleetwood, who shot a course record 63 here at last year’s Dunhill Links Championship, strung together six birdies in a sizzling round but the Englishman was not entirely satisfied.

“I never felt fully comfortable out there,” said last month’s U.S. Open runner-up after finishing on 137 alongside Americans Pat Perez (68) and Xander Schauffele (66).

Slideshow (9 Images)

“A lot of the shots I was looking up and I was really happy they were going straight. I didn’t feel fully confident in my swing.”

Fellow early starter McIlroy, by contrast, was extremely pleased after he mixed four birdies with two bogeys.

“Geez, under those conditions, I would have taken that score going out,” said the Northern Irishman after posting a 138 total along with South African pair Erik Van Rooyen and Zander Lombard and Americans Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau.

“It was so damp and cold enough, the game plan I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I couldn’t do it.”

Woods thanked the fans for ignoring the inclement weather.

“It’s fantastic to have the support we’ve had, for as many people that came out in the rain to support us,” he said. “They walked all the way around cheering for us — it’s very appreciated.”

Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond