Aimar: There’s plenty more I’d like to have achieved

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  • Pablo Aimar has officially hung up his boots following emotional final game
  • The 38-year-old recently spoke with FIFA.com about his career
  • ‘I just see getting older as nature taking its course’

On Tuesday 23 January 2018, Pablar Aimar bid farewell to the world of football. He did so on his own terms, playing for the very first time in an official match alongside his brother Andres, for the team where his professional career had started, Estudiantes de Rio Cuarto, and under the watchful eye of one of the coaches who most influenced his career, Marcelo Bielsa.

The records will show that Estudiantes were knocked out of the Copa Argentina following their 0-0 draw against Sportivo Belgrano. However, just this once, the result was not everything for the former River Plate, Valencia, Real Zaragoza and Benfica star.

Aimar departed to a standing ovation after 50 minutes of play. It was a fitting finale, with the 38 year-old playing one last competitive match at the club where he had made his debut aged just 16. Having called time on his playing days, he is now focusing on his new role as the head coach of the Argentina Under-17 national team.

(Yesterday was unforgettable. I had the privilege of saying goodbye in my city, at the club where my football career was born, alongside my brother Andres, in a competitive match, and in front of a full house. Thank you to my family for always being there, to my team-mates, to the coaching staff and to the management.)

A former veteran of two FIFA World Cups™, and now a member of the FIFA Legends Team, FIFA.com spoke with the Argentinian playmaker prior to his farewell appearance.

FIFA.com: So much time has passed since you made your debut in the senior game. How do you feel looking back?
Pablo Aimar: I feel good. Obviously all of us would like to be younger than we are. Particularly in the case of ex-footballers: the FIFA Legends, for example. Ask any of us when we would like to be transported back to, and that’s the answer: playing football again, being able to run around and have fun like we did when we were 25 years-old. But I just see it as nature taking its course.

What’s the best thing about being a professional footballer?

Playing with a ball! The everyday things, spending time with your team-mates, having fun and laughing for a whole training session. That’s what I miss about being a professional footballer. You maybe take it for granted at the time. As a professional you don’t have to rent a pitch, like I do now with my friends. Instead you get given the best kit, the best boots. I arrived back at my house with four pairs of boots once and a friend said: “Before you wore the same pair for two years. Why have you got four now?” It all comes with doing something you love, something you’re passionate about. And you’re treated like royalty: the hotels you stay in, the kit you train and play in…

And the worst thing?

The injuries. When you can’t play because of your body. Seeing your team-mates head out for training and not being able to join them. Or when they’re running out to play and you can only watch on from the sidelines. That’s the worst.

Any footballing ambitions you didn’t get to fulfill?
Thousands! Loads and loads. I play with the FIFA Legends and I see guys who’ve won the Champions League, whereas I lost in the final. There are World Cup winners! I won one, but only at youth level. They’re all ambitions I never realised.

When we start playing, we all dream of getting to the very top: winning a World Cup for your country. Playing and scoring the winning goal, like Iniesta or Goetze. Doubtless they’ve got unfinished business too. But once you’ve done that, the others, you can let them slide… (laughs)

Let’s talk about the game. According to Pablo Aimar, what does it mean to ‘know football’?
I don’t know if anyone can say this, that they ‘know football’. Football has so many variations, and can be so random. I don’t know if anyone can say to you: “This is the way, if we play like this we’ll win.” You can talk about statistics, but I’m not sure that knowing football necessarily means saying that ‘in the 1970 World Cup, X amount of goals were scored’. That’s knowing about the history of football, not knowing football.

You are often mentioned as having been Lionel Messi’s childhood idol. Who were yours?

When I was little, I played for Estudiantes de Rio Cuarto and a guy called Jorge Rodriguez wore the No10 shirt for the senior team. I really liked him. In Buenos Aires I admired [Nestor] Gorosito, but then I trained with [Enzo] Francescoli, and well… Being on the same pitch as someone as good as him, who does everything so simply and with so much elegance, you can only enjoy it and it becomes your model. I also played with [Ariel] Ortega. Maradona! Practically every Argentinian who has ever played football shares a common bond when it comes to Diego. His name always comes up.

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Has Jack Wilshere booked his place at the World Cup?

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  • Jack Wilshere enhanced his claims for a World Cup place on Wednesday night
  • He delivered a composed performance in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semi-final win
  • Wilshere hasn’t played for England since the terrible loss to Iceland at Euro 2016
  • Gareth Southgate is set to name Wilshere in his squad for next month’s friendlies

Max Winters For Mailonline

Jack Wilshere enhanced his claims for a place in England’s World Cup squad on Wednesday, as he delivered another composed performance in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semi-final win over Chelsea.

Having not played for England since the humiliating loss to Iceland at Euro 2016, Wilshere is now back in the Arsenal team as a regular starter.

England boss Gareth Southgate is expected to name the 26-year-old in his squad for next month’s friendlies against Holland and Italy.

Jack Wilshere enhanced his claims for a place in England's World Cup squad on Wednesday

Jack Wilshere enhanced his claims for a place in England's World Cup squad on Wednesday

Jack Wilshere enhanced his claims for a place in England’s World Cup squad on Wednesday

An Antonio Rudiger own goal and a second-half strike from Granit Xhaka were enough to see Arsene Wenger’s side progress to Wembley despite Eden Hazard putting Chelsea in front.  

Wilshere was another standout performer and his outrageous statistics in the 2-1 win over Antonio Conte’s team highlighted his return to form.

He completed 100 per cent of his six dribbles, boasted an emphatic 93 per cent pass accuracy, took 64 touches in the game and won three tackles.

He completed 100 per cent of his six dribbles and had an emphatic 93 per cent pass accuracy

He completed 100 per cent of his six dribbles and had an emphatic 93 per cent pass accuracy

He completed 100 per cent of his six dribbles and had an emphatic 93 per cent pass accuracy

Southgate, speaking at Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League draw, provided a clear indication that the Arsenal midfielder is on course to make Russia 2018.  

‘It’s a real plus to see Jack playing at the level he is and looking as fit as he is,’ said Southgate.

‘He’s really playing well now and influencing big games.’


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Video Vault: Asia’s first World Cup team

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Australia, IR Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic will have the honour of representing the Asian Football Confederation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. But the continent’s first foray on the global stage did not begin with one of these present day continental powerhouses.

The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, holds the accolade of being Asia’s first World Cup team, fielding a side that consisted of both Dutch and native Indonesian players. Travelling to France 1938, a journey that took weeks to complete, they met eventual finalists Hungary in the first round in Reims. This is their story.

The above footage is part of FIFA’s archive of videos highlighting significant stories in FIFA World Cup history

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Australia well placed ahead of latest Dutch odyssey

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With Ange Postecoglou at the helm, Australia commenced 2017 at 44 on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and facing a significant challenge to qualify for a fourth successive FIFA World Cup™.

Fast forward 12 months and the Socceroos find themselves amid a very different landscape. A new coach has been appointed in the shape of experienced Dutchman Bert van Marwijk after Postecoglou’s surprise resignation.

Following a gruelling but ultimately successful World Cup campaign, the Socceroos rose to 36 on the global ranking, behind only the Islamic Republic of Iran among Asia’s five nations that will feature at Russia 2018.

Australia’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking history

Opening position: 49 (1993)

Highest position: 21 (2009)

Worst position: 100 (2014)

Average position: 48 (since Ranking commenced)

Australia’s current position is their highest since 2013. That year marked the end of the road for the vast majority of the country’s ‘golden generation’, and the new high on the global ranking provides evidence that the current crop of Socceroos are asserting themselves at international level.

Midfielder Aaron Mooy and goalkeeper Mat Ryan have enjoyed breakthrough seasons in the English Premier League at Huddersfield and Brighton & Hove Albion respectively. The likes of Matthew Leckie (Hertha Berlin) and Tom Rogic (Celtic) have also shown glimpses of their attacking prowess at both club and international level over the past year.

Significant too is less of a reliance on talismanic forward Tim Cahill. After Cahill contributed an extraordinary 16 goals for the national team across 2014 and 2015, the Socceroos had seven different goalscorers among their 14-goal tally during World Cup qualifiers in 2017.

Crowned Asian champions in 2015, Australia have also benefitted from an early experience of Russia last June for the FIFA Confederations Cup. They collected a 1-1 draw against Cameroon, before reprising that result with a dynamic showing against Chile, with the Socceroos in the hunt for a semi-final berth until the final moments of tthat final group match.

It all makes for a strong platform for Van Marwijk to build upon. The 65-year-old, who led his native Netherlands to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final™, is more than familiar with Australia’s current personnel. He earned Saudi Arabia drought-breaking qualification to the 2018 World Cup, playing Australia twice en route, and nudging Postecoglou’s side out of an automatic qualification berth on goal difference.

Van Marwijk’s appointment continues a Dutch coaching theme for the Socceroos, which began with Guus Hiddink’s arrival ahead of the 2006 World Cup. It was a trend maintained four years later with Pim Verbeek, while the national federation also appointed two Dutch Technical Directors during that period.

“I think it [Van Marwijk’s appointment] is great news,” said former Australia midfielder Brett Emerton, who played under the Dutchman at Feyenoord for three seasons in a period which included a 2002 UEFA Cup title. “He can be quite demanding, and makes it clear what your role is. But at the same time he is a pleasure to play under.

“He is a great man manager and knows how to get the best out of each and every player. He’s not a typical Dutch coach. He’s quite flexible in the way he plays.”

Van Marwijk will kick-start his Socceroos career with matches against Norway and Colombia in March.

A testing Russia 2018 opener against France in Kazan awaits Australia on 16 June, before further World Cup matches against Denmark in Samara and Peru in Sochi.

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Van Marwijk named new Australia coach

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Bert van Marwijk has been announced as Australia’s new coach with the Dutchman to take the Socceroos to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Van Marwijk was named on Thursday following Ange Postecoglou’s resignation in November.

Australia qualified for Russia 2018 with a two-legged intercontinental victory over Honduras having overcome Syria in the Asian play-off.

Australia were forced into the play-off after finishing behind a Van Marwijk-led Saudi Arabia in Group B of Asian qualifying.

The 65-year-old Van Marwijk parted company with Saudi Arabia days after ending their 12-year World Cup drought.

Australia defeated Saudi Arabia 3-2 at home, and drew 2-2 in Jeddah.

“I know a lot about the players and how the team has been playing after coaching against them for the two World Cup qualifiers, in 2016 and in June last year,” Van Marwijk said.

“We are not going to Russia just to be competitive. I want to win our matches.”

Van Marwijk led Netherlands to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final™ in South Africa where they were defeated by Spain in extra time.

The appointment continues a Dutch theme for Australia over the past decade with Van Marwick following in the footsteps of compatriots Guus Hiddink and Pim Verbeek who coached the Socceroos at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups respectively.

Football Federation Australia said arrangements for the coaching role following Russia 2018 will be announced in the near future.

 

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Australia appoint Bert van Marwijk as head coach

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  • Bert van Marwijk will lead Australia to the World Cup in Russia this summer 
  • The 65-year-old takes over after Ange Postecoglou stepped down as boss 
  • Van Marwijk says he has been impressed with what he has seen of the setup 

Reuters

Bert van Marwijk, who led his native Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, will guide Australia to this year’s finals in Russia after being appointed as head coach.

The 65-year-old, who most recently coached Saudi Arabia, replaces Ange Postecoglou, who stood down after taking the Socceroos through two playoffs to qualify for Russia.

‘This is a great result for Australian football, Bert Van Marwijk is world class,’ FFA chief Stephen Lowy said in a statement.

Bert van Marwijk has been chosen to manage Australia at this summer's World Cup in Russia

Bert van Marwijk has been chosen to manage Australia at this summer's World Cup in Russia

Bert van Marwijk has been chosen to manage Australia at this summer’s World Cup in Russia

‘He took the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010, he led the Saudi Arabian team to qualify directly for this year’s Finals and most importantly, he knows a lot about our team and how they play because he studied them closely as an opposition manager in the same group.

‘These experiences make him a compelling choice.’

Australia will play France, Denmark and Peru in the pool stage at the June 14 to July 15 finals, their fourth successive appearance at the World Cup.

The 65-year-old most recently coached Saudi Arabia but has now committed to Australia

The 65-year-old most recently coached Saudi Arabia but has now committed to Australia

The 65-year-old most recently coached Saudi Arabia but has now committed to Australia

Van Marwijk said: ‘I know a lot about the players and how the team has been playing after coaching against them for the two World Cup qualifiers, in 2016 and in June last year,” he said.

‘I have also been impressed by the national team set-up that the FFA has developed over the past few years.

‘I want to thank Steven Lowy, David Gallop and (FFA’s Head of National Performance) Luke Casserly for the confidence they have shown in me.

‘My response to them has been that we are not going to Russia just to be competitive. I want to win our matches.’ 

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