Martin Jol has insisted that Fulham winger Alex Kacaniklic will not be leaving the club – despite reports linking him with a move to Dynamo Kiev.
The Ukrainian giants were reported to have made an enquiry for the Swedish international during January, which Fulham were quick to dismiss, and media reports this week suggested that Dynamo might be ready to revive their interest. Kacaniklic has seen his first team opportunities limited in the second half of the season, with Jol adding additional midfield options during the January window. The 21 year-old earned his seventh cap for Sweden during the midweek friendly against Argentina and Jol dismissed any reports of him leaving Craven Cottage:
I haven’t heard of that rumour, and we won’t let him go anyway.
Aaron Hughes feels as though he’s fast becoming an elder statesman in the Northern Ireland squad as new manager Michael O’Neill brings through a new generation.
The Fulham centre back is quoted by the Belfast News Letter as finding it difficult to fit into the conversations of the younger members’ of the squad because he’s not all that au fait with the latest video games:
I honestly look around and feel as if I am the one who needs to make the effort to fit in, rather than the younger ones coming through to settle in the team. They all know each other from the under 18 and under 21s, I could be sitting at lunch or dinner on a table on my own! They’re all chatting about Fifa ’13 or Call of Duty and I’m… well, not really in the conversation!
More understated than the conventional leadership figure, Hughes is hoping to use his international experience to benefit a new crop of Northern Irish talent having been persuaded to return to the national side by O’Neill.
It’s never really been a case of younger players asking me about much, the experienced ones tend to pass it on during training and encourage them to pick up good habits, as well as show a strong work ethic. It’s a good thing, however, that the squad is so young. A lot of them are scoring at their own clubs regularly, which you could argue is the opposite to Northern Ireland normally, but you hope they’ll bring their confidence to the game which should yield goals.
There’s probably an element of fearlessness among them, possibly verging on being a bit naive about the whole thing, because it’s all new. But it’s still football and they’re no less professional. It’s just a positive, because they get out and play, without thinking about any pressure. They don’t have the same baggage.
Northern Ireland are looking to celebrate the first anniversary of O’Neill taking charge of the national side with a first win under the new boss against Malta in this week’s friendly.
It would be great to get the first win for Michael, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore. We are missing Chris Baird and Kyle Lafferty for the next qualifier so changes do need to be made. We go away for club football and the break in between can be two or three months.
This therefore is a welcome refresher, but we are looking for the performance first and foremost, something which can give us a boost ahead of the qualifiers restarting. I know people will say ‘it’s only a friendly’ and that it’s a grind to be away, but it’s always good to be part of the set-up.
Fulham have confirmed this morning that Craven Cottage will host a February friendly between South Korea and Croatia.
The game will be played on Wednesday 6 February, with a 2pm kick-off so that the match can be broadcast to a primetime Korean audience. Tickets, priced at £15 for adults and £5 for those aged under 16, can be purchased here.
Alex Kacaniklic has been handed his first call-up to the Swedish national squad for next week’s friendly against Brazil as a late replacement for the injured Emir Bajrami.
The Fulham winger has been offered an opportunity to impress Erik Hamren after Bajrami injured his back whilst training with Monaco, who he recently joined on loan from FC Twente. Kacaniklic has been capped at under-19 level and been included in under-21 squads but his promotion to the senior side is deserved recognition after his impressive introduction to the Fulham first team during the second half of last season. The twenty year-old, who enjoyed a successful loan spell with Watford, made four appearances under Martin Jol last season, one of which saw him saw a deflected winner at his old club Liverpool.
Wednesday night’s friendly against Brazil is Sweden’s first fixture since their group stage exit from the summer’s European Championship and their last game at the famous Råsunda Stadium before a new national stadium is opened for November’s friendly with England.
There’s an interesting profile of Mark Schwarzer from SBS as the Fulham goalkeeper edges closer to his hundredth cap for Australia.
Fitness permitting, Schwarzer should reach the international landmark after a friendly against Scotland at Easter Road in August and the Socceroos’ latest World Cup qualifier in Jordan the following month. Should Australia make it all the way to Brazil in 2014, Schwarzer will replace legendary Italian custodian Dino Zoff as the oldest goalkeeper to play in a World Cup finals.
Reflecting on a twenty-year career, which was celebrated when he was named Australia’s best ever goalkeeper at a Sydney ceremony last week, Schwarzer suggested that nutrition and a strict fitness regime have helped him maintain his consistently high performance levels well into his late thirties.
It’s all to do with the way you look after yourself, the way you train and live your life. I’ve also been fortunate with injuries over the years but by the same token I do a lot of work to prevent injuries. I also do a lot of good old hard work because I still have the desire to keep on playing as long as possible at the highest level.
It’s not difficult at all to keep my motivation going. For me if I find it difficult to get motivated to get up and go to football every day then I would definitely consider retiring. I still get very excited about playing games and going to training. I like training because I enjoy working out to keep fit. And I’m doing that then it makes it easy.
The 39 year-old admitted that he could never have envisaged embarking on a professional career with such longevity when he was sitting on the Australian bench waiting for a chance to make his international debut, which came abruptly when former number one Robert Zabica was sent off against Canada in 1993.
Not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I would be playing almost 20 years later and nudging 100 caps for my country. I don’t suppose anyone would imagine playing for that long. I think these things evolve as times goes by. A lot of things have to fall in your favour along the way and you need a lot of hard work and dedication.
You get a lot of ups and downs in your career and there are a lot of factors that dictate if you play that long or get that many caps. So I feel very privileged to have reached this stage of my career and I’m enjoying every moment of it. The last two years have been the most enjoyable in my life in football terms.
Schwarzer’s German heritage also meant that his goalkeeping heroes as a child were largely European ‘like Harald Schumacher to a degree and particularly Jean-Marie Pfaff and later Bodo Illgner’. As a consummate professional, it is no surprise that Schwarzer feels footballers should act as ambassadors for the game and to the children who dream of emulating them.
Behaviour is definitely an aspect of one’s career. But you get that (mix) in all walks of life. There are those who believe that they should act responsibly on and off the pitch while others choose to live their own lifestyle.
But it is true that there are always repercussions to your actions. As far as I’m concerned I’ve always set a standard that I’ve tried to follow on and off the field. And when you become a father it becomes even more important to you because you want to lead by example.
The article concludes with Schwarzer looking ahead towards Brazil – insisting that representing Australia in the World Cup ‘is a very realistic target but beyond that is too far for me’. Whether Martin Jol makes a change in the Fulham goal before then, given the promising performances of David Stockdale in recent seasons, will be another big decision for the Dutch coach.