Premier League

Capello brushes off Chelsea link

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Thu, 21 Mar 2013 21:56:00

Mario Balotelli netted a superb equaliser as Italy came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Brazil in their friendly match in Geneva.

Brazil had struck against the run of play with goals from Fred and Oscar in the 33rd and 42nd minute. But Italy responded with two goals in five minutes through Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli, bringing it level before the hour mark.

There were decent early chances for both sides, with Julio Cesar making a fine save to deny Emanuele Giaccherini before Gianluigi Buffon matched him to keep out Neymar's drilled shot.

Italy were enjoying most of the ball and creating the better chances in open play.

It was against the run of play that Brazil took the lead as Filipe Luis crossed from the left and Leonardo Bonucci's defensive header succeeded only in finding Fred completely unmarked at the far post, from where he coolly volleyed home.

Italy stuck to their game plan as they retook control of possession, and Alessandro Pirlo curled a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area after some fine build-up play.

However, Brazil doubled their lead in fine fashion three minutes before the break as they hit Italy on the counter-attack again.

Oscar won the ball in midfield and allowed Neymar to bring it forward. The Santos man then played it back for Oscar to score with a wonderful flick off the outside of his boot finding a narrow gap inside the right-hand post.

Italy again looked strong to start the second half with Balotelli threatening before substitute Stephan El Shaarawy - a half-time replacement for Pablo Osvaldo - won a corner with a shot from a tight angle.

It was from that corner that Italy scored, with Brazil failing to deal with the ball and allowing De Rossi to stick out a boot and divert it through the crowd of players.

Moments later, Balotelli fired in a stunning equaliser, scoring almost out of nothing when he unleashed a powerful curling shot from the edge of the area while surrounded by Brazilian shirts.

Balotelli then wasted what looked a straightforward chance to put them ahead in the 63rd minute, taking time for a touch when all alone at the far post but unable to beat Cesar with the shot.

The Tottenham superstar, who scored a double in the 2-1 Group A win over the Scots in Cardiff in October, missed training all week with a virus and an ankle injury and travelled to Glasgow separately from the Welsh squad.

His "modified" and truncated training session at a freezing Hampden tonight included some free-kick practice on his own.

Coleman claimed Bale had "a very good chance" of playing before saying: "I am not the type of manager to play mind games. I would rather get on with it.

"It is what it is. I don't have an elaborate plan up my sleeve; he is not going to play tomorrow or he definitely is.

"It is pointless bringing him up if I didn't think he had a very good chance.

"The medical team are happy with his response, he is better today than yesterday.

"I think the ankle is okay, that wasn't such a big concern.

"Gareth had a bit of a virus on Tuesday and Wednesday so we couldn't do any sessions with us.

"He needed a bit of a rest but he took a later flight because he wanted to be separated from the lads for obvious reasons but he is up and hopefully he will be ready tomorrow.

"If there are any doubts about him then he won't play because we can't take the risk with Gareth or any players because they don't belong to us, they belong to the clubs.

"You have to be selfish because he can make a difference to any team and then I've got to think long-term and if I did that and anything happened - God forbid- and he went back to Tottenham not fit, if I was Andre Villas-Boas I would be thinking twice about the next time.

"So we have to respect that and think long term.

"So unless he is 100 per cent right we can't take the risk and we won't - but at the moment we are optimistic."

The former Wales defender admits he is looking for a strong performance from French referee Antony Gautier in the wake of Dundee manager John Brown's comments about the way to deal with Bale.

In an interview the former Rangers defender, 51, said the star forward "can't run without legs" and although he later said "what I'm saying is get close to him and don't give him time and space" he was again asked if he was advocating physical tactics and replied: "Aye, well I might have been." "I am happy if they want to do that. I would be happy to pay against 10 or nine men," said the former Fulham boss.

"In the first game there was no nonsense and I can't remember any nasty challenges.

"This is a typical British derby game so there will be challenges.

"It might get a little but heavy but that's one thing, but going out and trying to snap someone's legs, break someone's legs, if someone is insinuating that is the way to go about it, I have no respect for that.

"That's not the way to go about winning a football match or stop another player.

"We used to say in the first 10 minutes, give someone a reducer and put him on his backside, that didn't mean break his legs, that's two different things.

"I'm sure the referee will do his job properly."

Comments from former players from both countries have been flying around this week but Coleman distanced himself from former Wales midfielder Mickey Thomas' assertion that this was the worst Scotland team ever.

Asked if Thomas had done Wales any favours with the comment, he said: "No, he didn't - but that is up to Mickey.

"It is a big statement to make. I know Mickey, he is a good fella and paid to give his opinion, but I would disagree with that.

"Most of the Scotland players play top level football. What are we judging it by, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness?

"There haven't been players like that for a long time but they are still a good team, they have a new manager and a good manager and they will have that bit of momentum."

Coleman laughed when asked about former Wales keeper Neville Southall, who said the knives would be out for him if he lost to Scotland.

"I don't know where Neville has been for 12 months, it has been like that for every game to be honest," he said.

"I don't look at it like that. I do feel the pressure but not because I am going to lose my job, I feel the pressure because I want to win."

The former England manager is among a number of coaches who have been linked with the Stamford Bridge hot-seat in the summer, when interim boss Rafael Benitez will leave the club.

But he is currently employed by the Russian FA and has made a strong start, topping Group F with four consecutive wins on the road to Rio.

His pay packet, a reported ?7million a year, is also a hefty incentive to remain in Moscow.

Capello's side take on Northern Ireland on Friday night before decamping to London for a friendly with Brazil on Monday.

That takes place at Stamford Bridge, of all places, but the Italian did his best to dampen any speculation.

"I know nothing about this (link to Chelsea). I am really happy with Russia and focused to qualify for the World Cup," he said.

Capello was not interested in discussing the Blues job any further, instead turning his attention to the inhospitable conditions in Belfast.

Russia are well used to the chilling temperatures forecast at Windsor Park on Friday, but Capello is mostly concerned about the strong wind he experienced at Thursday's training session.

"I am not concerned about the pitch, more about the wind than the pitch," he said.

"If we play in this wind it will be a difficult game.

"I hope the wind will be lower or it will be a different type of game."

Capello caused a stir when Michael O'Neill's side visited Moscow when he appeared to treat victory as a formality prior to the match.

A 2-0 win duly followed but his tone was more respectful on Thursday.

"They are a strong team and play a really combative game," he said.

"They are dangerous from set-pieces. It is not an easy game but I have confidence in my team.

"We have Portugal and Israel to come but I am focused on this game. Every game is difficult."

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