The time is 07:36:10pm
Cavalli and Niger dreaming of historic World Cup participation
In March this year, Jean-Michel Cavalli was en route to Parisâs Charles de Gaulle airport to fly to the Niger capital Niamey to sign a contract to coach the countryâs national team. As fate would have it, the airport closed immediately due to coronavirus fears, and Cavalli was unable to travel. Football officials in Niger, however, were determined to secure his services, and so both parties agreed to wait a few more months before making the appointment official.
For the Frenchman, that vote of confidence was a positive sign. Nigerâs insistence on sticking with him despite the delay, and his own desire to take up the role, boded well for a successful collaboration.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Cavalli discussed his new mission and the challenges ahead.
âI chose this country because I felt comfortable with the officials I dealt with,â he explained. âFor my part, I always gave them priority despite the many offers I got. This mutual respect was a good starting point for me to coach the team.â
As with every other coach in Africa, the first objective when a contract is signed is to reach the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
âUnfortunately, our team lost two crucial AFCON qualifying matches, which has harmed our chances of making the finals. But that doesnât mean we wonât work hard to make amends. For me, itâs a bit like taking over at the halfway point. If this were still the beginning [of qualifying], the story would probably be different. I believe our chances of reaching the finals depend on the two upcoming matches against Ethiopia. But in addition to reaching the Africa Cup finals, our aim is to build a solid team to compete strongly in the World Cup qualifiers.â
The French coach was surprised with the high standard of football in Niger, where he is working for the first time. âIn the months I spent at home before coming here, I had a chance to study the players and line-ups. I was astonished by the abilities I witnessed here, with some players easily capable of playing in Europe.â
Cavalli got off to a good start in the new job, winning his first two friendlies in October. âAlthough we had two players injured, my team was competitive and at the required level. In the space of three days, we won two friendly matches against Chad and Sierra Leone. Although these arenât big names in Africa, I can say from experience that there are no small teams. You can see this in what happened to me when I coached Algeria â where the team were when I arrived and how far they went.â
The draw for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022â¢ qualifying pitted Niger in a difficult group with reigning continental champions Algeria, Burkina Faso and Djibouti. Asked what he thought of this quartet, Cavalli replied: âWeâre in a group containing three teams at about the same level. The fourth are the African champions. Our match against Algeria will be like a final, and theyâll undoubtedly be firm favourites. However, we have to give ourselves chances in these qualifiers. Even if itâs a one-in-a-thousand shot, weâll go all out for it.
âMy teams always present difficulties for opponents. Everyone remembers when I coached Algeria and we played great football in our friendlies against Brazil and Argentina in 2007,â he added.
Cavalli was in charge of Algeria for about two years, which will make the World Cup qualifying clash between the sides very special for him. âI donât place that much importance on the fact that I coached Algeria and know their football very well. Iâll aim to do the impossible with my team because I love to compete. At any rate, we have nothing to lose in this group. Algerian football has developed a great deal in recent times, particularly at senior-team level and in terms of sporting infrastructure, and their players are at some of the worldâs biggest clubs.â
Because his tenure in charge of Algeria only lasted from 2006 to 2007, Cavalli feels he missed a chance to take a side to the World Cup. Understandably, itâs something he would love to do with Niger now.
"Reaching the World Cup finals is the dream of every coach. If we manage to do this with Niger, it would be an historic achievement. I personally lost out on the chance to participate in the 2010 World Cup. I worked with Algeria for 22 months but left before the qualifiers kicked off. But my work there during that time still paid off.
âBefore I left Algeria, I remember telling Hamid Haddadj, the president of the countryâs football federation at the time, that the team were well prepared for the World Cup qualifiers, and that Iâd be their number one supporter. I was almost certain that theyâd qualify given the good work weâd done in the previous months. The proof was that we ended the first half of our friendly against Argentina leading 2-0 and the first half of the Brazil one drawing 0-0. These South American sides were ranked one and two respectively by FIFA at the time. So, I certainly dream of leading a team to the World Cup before I call time on my coaching career.â
But who are the favourites to represent Africa at Qatar 2022 in his opinion? âAlgeria and Senegal are in the best shape to qualify, as well as Morocco, but I believe weâre in for a surprise or two in the upcoming qualifiers."21/10/2020 02:56 PM
FIFA World Cup 2022â¢ First Sustainability Progress Report published
The FIFA World Cup 2022â¢ First Sustainability Progress Report provides an update on the progress made by FIFA, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC in 2019 regarding their five sustainability commitments, including human rights, diversity and environmental protection.
âWe are very glad to provide our stakeholders and the public with an overview of how much we advanced last year with the delivery of the Sustainability Strategy for the next edition of our flagship event. The report reflects our joint commitment to accountability and our drive to contribute to the evolution of best practices in the field of sustainability management in sporting events,â said FIFAâs Head of Sustainability & Environment, Federico Addiechi.
âItâs fantastic to be able to share the progress that Qatar and FIFA have made across the many critical sustainability projects connected to the delivery of the FIFA World Cup. Sustainability remains at the core of our infrastructure and tournament operational planning, and by delivering a fully carbon neutral FIFA World Cup through these various initiatives, we hope to set new standards for sustainable mega event hosting and cement one of Qatar 2022âs most profound legacies,â added the engineer Bodour Al-Meer, SC Sustainability & Environment Senior Manager.
Mahmoud Qutub, the SCâs Workersâ Welfare Executive Director, said: âWe are driven by a commitment to ensure the people building our stadiums and venues are treated with the utmost dignity and respect. The health, safety and protection of our workforce have always been at the forefront of our efforts. These workers play an important role in preparing Qatar to welcome the world in 2022 and their welfare is at the heart of the legacy this tournament will leave behind. Tangible changes in worker standards on our projects now serve as benchmarks across Qatar and the region.â
Earlier this year, FIFA, Q22 and the SC also published the development process for the FIFA World Cup 2022 Sustainability Strategy. More recently, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) also released the FIFA World Cup 2022 Sustainable Stadiums report.
The organisers will continue reporting on their progress and publish a full Sustainability Report of the tournament in 2023.21/10/2020 09:00 AM
Mabil and Sisto: Out of adversity comes opportunity
'Out of adversity comes opportunity.'
This famous saying certainly applies to Pione Sisto and Awer Mabil. Hailing from South Sudan, the pair suffered the horrors of a civil war that forced their parents to live in refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda. But after years of adversity, a humanitarian programme helped Mabil and his family to relocate to Australia, and Sisto to settle in Denmark.
Asked about his experience in the refugee camps where it all began, Mabil, who currently plays for Midtjyllands, told the BBCâs World Football show: "We built a hut out of mud, probably the size of one bedroom in a normal house in the Western world, as you would call it. But you know it's not your home. There were four of us living in it â me, my mum, my brother and sister. We would get food from the UN once a month.
"Each person would get 1kg of rice, so we had 4kg in our family, and 3kg of beans. It was very difficult. We would have one meal a day, which was dinner. There was no such thing as breakfast or lunch. You just had to survive with the little dinner you had and you really had to appreciate it."
Mabil started to play football with other children at the refugee camp when he was five. âPlaying football was the only thing I could do,â said the Manchester United fanatic, who had difficulties watching games. "Ever since I was a kid, Iâve loved playing football. I followed Manchester United, but there was only one TV that was two hours away by car, and you had to pay $1 to go there. If you couldn't go, you just had to make sure that one of your friends who went told you the result."
Mabil has never forgotten his roots and now has his own foundation, Barefoot to Boots, and regularly visits Kakuma: "I take boots, football equipment and hospital equipment and donate them to the refugees there. If I have two weeks' holiday, I'll spend one week there and a week with my family."
Sisto, difficult childhood and survival
Due to the prolonged civil war (1985-2005), Pione Sistoâs parents fled with their two children to Uganda in 1994. A few months later, Pione was born and then the whole family embarked on a long journey to northern Europe, seeking a better future for their children.
Asked about their experience, Pioneâs brother Angelo said: âBack in South Sudan, our parents lived on a small farm, but when they fled to Denmark the change was immense. In South Sudan and Uganda, you feel youâre alone. Thatâs why our parents always protect us and guide us to do better.â
In 2002, Sisto started out in youth football as a seven-year-old with Tjorring before switching to Midtjylland, where he eventually broke into the senior team and went on to play in the UEFA Europa League. He then signed for Spanish side Celta Vigo, where he had a four-year stint before returning to Midtjylland.
Eyes on Qatar 2022
Having acquired Danish citizenship and represented Denmark regularly since 2015, including at Russia 2018, Sisto is now looking forward to participating in the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022â¢.
Mabil has similar goals. After accruing professional experience with several Australian teams and subsequently Midtjylland, he received a call-up to the Australian national team months after Russia 2018. He is now looking forward to playing in the Qatar 2022 qualifiers and dreaming of his first World Cup appearance.
Asked about playing for Australia, Mabil said: "I represent Australia because it's given me and my family a second chance in life. It's part of me because I've lived half of my life there. I call it home, so I'm proud to represent it."16/10/2020 10:30 AM
The African keepers leading the way
From Badou Zaki to Thomas Nkono, and Bruce Grobbelaar to Essam El Hadary and Joseph-Antoine Bell, Africa has consistently produced great goalkeepers. Their heroics in the last line of defence have not only secured their place in the history of African football but have also inspired a whole generation of players.
While many kids growing up on the continent still dream of becoming the next Roger Milla, Samuel Eto'o, Rabah Madjer, Nwankwo Kanu or Didier Drogba, these days many others aspire to be a hero between the posts. It is no surprise to see more and more African keepers bursting onto the scene in elite football.
With the second round of CAF qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022â¢ just months away, FIFA.com turned the spotlight on five of Africa's top keepers, who are â and hope to remain â at the forefront of their teamsâ ambitions.
Yassine Bounou (Morocco/Sevilla)
At 29, Yassine Bounou, or simply 'Bono', has been around for some time. Canadian born, he cut his teeth with the youth teams of Wydad Casablanca, where he made his first team debut in 2010 and progressed alongside the clubâs legendary keeper Nadir Lamyaghri. He was a starter in the 2011 CAF Champions League final, which the club lost to Esperance de Tunis, before moving the following year to Atletico Madrid. Denied first-team football with Los Colchoneros, he would eventually find success in Spain with Real Zaragoza and Girona, paving the way for his transfer to Sevilla in 2019.
Second-choice behind Tomas Vaclick and used last season only for UEFA Europa League games, the Moroccan still dazzled in helping the Andalusian club lift that continental title. Bono was particularly impressive against Manchester United in the semi-finals and Inter Milan in the final, prompting Julen Lopetegui to hand him a starting place at the beginning of the current season. The situation is reminiscent of his journey with the national team, where, for many years, he was understudy to Munir. Bono would eventually relegate him to the bench in 2019, since when he has been first choice for the Atlas Lions. In the race to Qatar 2022, Moroccans will be hoping he can help their side progress from a group containing Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Sudan.
Mohamed El Shenawy (Egypt/Al Ahly)
Mohamed El Shenawy is another who took centre stage relatively late in his career. It must be said, however, that his predecessor in the national team was a certain Essam El Hadary, a colossus of African football who kept goal for The Pharaohs until turning 45, in the process becoming the oldest player to compete at a FIFA World Cup in 2018. That said, El Shenawy has not being waiting in the wings at club level, having been a mainstay of Al Ahly since 2016. Captain of the Red Devils, he has won the last three editions of the Egyptian Premier League and was instrumental in his sideâs progress to the last four of this yearâs African Champions League before its interruption due to COVID-19.
A starter in Egyptâs initial group games of Russia 2018, he was named Man of the Match for the opening defeat to Uruguay (1-0). Now 31, and at the peak of his powers, he aspires to lead The Pharaohs to a second consecutive World Cup, starting with a group stage battle against Gabon, Libya and Angola.
Edouard Mendy (Senegal/Chelsea)
It's hard to believe now, but 28-year-old Edouard Mendy only signed his first professional contract in 2016. The club in question was Stade de Reims, who finally gave the player a chance after seasons in the lower leagues and a short stint in Marseilleâs reserve team. After three years there with no few clean sheets, reflex saves and commanding forays off his line, the 1.97m custodian moved to Rennes. It was no coincidence that, with the Senegalese in goal last year, the Bretons enjoyed their best ever season, culminating in a maiden UEFA Champions League qualification. As fate would have it, Mendy will get to experience that tournament, but in the colours of Chelsea, who secured his services in the most recent transfer window.
His progress with the national has been no less dramatic. Handed his first cap in November 2018, he was already in the starting XI for the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations a few months later. A finger injury sidelined him for the latter stage of the competition, in which the Lions of Teranga lost to Algeria in the final. With Sadio Mane banging in the goals and Mendy stopping them, Senegal have their sights firmly set on a place at Qatar 2022 and will face Congo, Namibia and Togo in the second round.
Andre Onana (Cameroon/Ajax)
After Nkono, Bell, Jacques Songo'o and Carlos Kameni, Cameroon appear to have found another goalkeeping phenomenon. Having gone through the Samuel Eto'o Academy and La Masia at Barcelona, Andre Onana made his professional debut with Dutch giants Ajax. A regular starter from the age of 22 following the departure of Jasper Cillessen, he was part of the exciting young team that made it to the semi-final of the 2019 Champions League, where they would lose in dramatic fashion to Tottenham. En route to the last-four, Onana thwarted the considerable attacking talents of Real Madrid and Juventus, among others.
Widely regarded as one of the most gifted keepers in Europe, he was a logical choice to be Kameni's successor at national level, despite competition from Fabrice Ondoa. To return to the world stage in 2022, the Indomitable Lions will be counting on Onana's dependability in a group featuring CÃ´te dâIvoire, Mozambique and Malawi.
Denis Onyango (Uganda/Mamelodi Sundowns)
At 35, Denis Onyango is one of the most reliable keepers in African football, even if he is not a household name beyond the continent. Yet despite that, the CV of the Mamelodi Sundowns custodian shows he was voted Africa-based Player of the Year in 2016 after winning that yearâs CAF Champions League and participating in the FIFA Club World Cup. On top of that, he has picked up South African Premier League winning medals in each of the last three seasons.
Very assured in one-on-ones, and often brilliant at stopping penalties, the Uganda captain knows the clock is ticking if the rest of the football world is to discover and appreciate his talents. A vital component of the Cranes' qualification for the Cup of Nations in 2017 â their first since 1978 â and 2019, he would dearly love to represent his country at a World Cup. To do so, the first step will be to top a second-round group in which Mali, Kenya and Rwanda await.15/10/2020 08:00 PM
Invitation to tender: Public Food & Beverage Concessionaire for FIFA World Cup 2022â¢
Starting today, 15 October 2020, FIFA invites tenderers to submit proposals for the FIFA Public Food & Beverage Concessions operations in all stadiums for the following events:
FIFAâs objectives in relation to the programme for these two events include, but are not limited to, the following:
The companies or company selected by FIFA will be expected to service all general public stadium spectators in a quality and manner commensurate with the high profile, quality and international characteristic of the events.
The tender process is divided into two separate phases:
Applications shall be in English only and can be submitted starting today, 15 October 2020.15/10/2020 11:00 AM
South Americaâs old hands steal the show
Every FIFA World Cupâ¢ qualifying competition throws up new names, reveals the players who represent the future of their respective national teams, and shows if the young guns starring at club level can also excel on the international stage. In the spotlight as the Qatar 2022 preliminaries got under way were the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Rodrygo, Richarlison, Federico Valverde, Rodrigo Bentancur and Gonzalo Plata.
With the exception of Rodrygo, who did not feature in Brazilâs second match of the week, the members of this exciting new wave all played both their countriesâ games, with Richarlison, Plata and Martinez all finding the back of the net.
Nevertheless, it was South Americaâs old guard who made the headlines on the opening two days of the CONMEBOL qualifiers. With 257 caps between them, Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Thiago Silva all turned it on for Brazil, while Luis Suarez scored three for Uruguay, despite the absence of strike partner Edinson Cavani.
Lionel Messi made light of his 33 years to shine once more for Argentina as he took his tally of caps to 140, and Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez were equally impressive for Chile. Not to be outdone, the experienced Colombian trio of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Luis Muriel helped Los Cafeteros pick up four points out of a possible six.
Radamel Falcaoâs last goal for Colombia came in June 2019, after which he went goalless at the Copa America. Team-mate James Rodriguez fared little better with Real Madrid in a frustrating 2019/20 season in which he made just 14 appearances in all competitions. The Cafetero talismen were back in business in their sideâs double-header against Venezuela and Chile, however. Falcao it was who secured a vital point away to the Chileans with a stoppage-time equaliser, while James, who is enjoying a new lease of life at Everton, set the midfield tempo in both games.
The pride of a champion
In his 115 appearances with La Celeste so far, Luis Suarez has suffered just one defeat by a four-goal margin, against Brazil on 6 June 2009. Ecuador nearly made it two on Tuesday, leading the Uruguayans 4-0 with just six minutes remaining. Suarez salvaged a little pride, however, converting two late penalties to make the scoreline a little more respectable and improve his sideâs goal difference, which could prove vital when the qualifiers come to an end.
Alexis Sanchez struck his 45th goal for Chile against Colombia on Tuesday, cementing his position as La Rojaâs all-time leading scorer, well ahead of team-mate Eduardo Vargas and the legendary duo of Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano. Sanchez showed his poaching instincts in giving his side the lead against Los Cafeteros. Arriving late at the far post, he latched on to a loose ball, flicked it over the advancing goalkeeper and slid it into the back of an empty net.
"This is a big win at altitude, where victories are always harder to come by. Weâve still got a lot to do. The qualifiers have only just started and weâre delighted to come away with these two wins."
Messi was a relieved man after Argentina edged a tight and often fractious match in Bolivia. Having scored his sideâs winner against Ecuador on Matchday 1, the Barcelona man failed to find the back of the net in La Paz. It was the first time in seven World Cup qualifying matches dating back to 16 November that Argentina had managed to win without a goal from their captain.14/10/2020 07:35 PM
Big two remain perfect amid late drama
South American qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022â¢ continued on Tuesday with a full roster of five matches, each of which produced either a late winner or stoppage-time goals. Brazil and Argentina were both forced to come from behind to collect victory and sit top of the standings with six points each.
Peru briefly harboured hopes of a famous home win over Brazil when they took the lead on the hour-mark in the only match between two Russia 2018 participants. But Neymar struck twice more completing a hat-trick as Brazil prevailed 4-2.
Argentina needed to rely on a 79th-minute winner from substitute Joaquin Correa to deny Bolivia and end their 15-year drought in La Paz.
The most drama was reserved for Santiago as Radamel Falcao turned home from close range in added-time leaving Chile just short of a much-needed win. La Roja had come from behind to lead thanks to goals from Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.
Paraguay inflicted late pain on an unlucky Venezuela as Gaston Gimenez netted the only goal of the game five minutes from full time.
Ecuador secured a crushing 4-2 win over visiting Uruguay whose only two goals came late on from Luiz Suarez.
Did you know?
Firmino: I want to be the No9 Brazil can rely on
Brazil coaches, throughout time, have been pestered by a persistent problem: getting their cosmically gifted but equally carefree attackers to track back.
Tite has had a paradox problem. The present SeleÃ§Ã£o shot-caller, indeed, requested that his spearhead do less tracking back as he endeavours to polish him into a bona fide striker. Roberto Firmino responded by scoring twice as Brazil thumped Bolivia 5-0 in step one of their mission to reach the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022â¢.
The Liverpool man chatted to FIFA.com about this positional modification, the forthcoming game against Peru, Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Mohamed Salah and his eagerness to help Brazil win footballâs most prestigious prize.
FIFA.com: How did it feel to score two goals against Bolivia?
Is it true Tite asked you to track back less?
Brazil had Careca, Romario and Ronaldo for three decades, but have struggled in the striker department thereafter. Can you be this No9?
What do you think of Peru?
Alisson is out injured, but where do you think he ranks among the worldâs best goalkeepers?
Philippe Coutinho is in fine form...
What do you think of Neymar?
And Mo Salah?
Finally, youâve won so much with Liverpool. How badly do you want to win the World Cup?
Giants out to jump on to six points
Although the long and winding road from South America to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022â¢ only began last week, this eveningâs Matchday 2 fixtures already look important, especially for those sides who got off to a bad start. FIFA.com previews all the action.
Matchday 2 schedule (all times local)
The big match
Peru-Brazil, Estadio Nacional (Lima)
Ricardo Gareca knows Peruâs opening-day draw in Paraguay will look even better if his side can build on it with a result against Brazil at home. The coach is expected to stick with his trusted 4-3-3 formation despite the attacking prowess shown by his opponents in their opener.
It is worth remembering that, although they twice lost out to Brazil at the Copa America 2019, including in the final, the Peruvians won their last meeting: a September 2019 friendly in the USA.
For Brazil coach Tite, "all those results are in the past". Nor is he worried that Neymar was not on the score-sheet in the 5-0 rout of Bolivia: "He fulfilled his responsibilities by getting on the ball and being creative. Football is a team sport."
After their narrow opening-round victory, Argentina visit a still-reeling Bolivia in La Paz, historically not the happiest of hunting grounds for La Albiceleste. All told, they have won there three times in this competition, but not since 2005. In the intervening years, Messi and Co have come away with one draw and two defeats, including a chastening 6-1 reverse in 2009. Cesar Farias is expected to make several changes to the home side, including starting the veteran Marcelo Martins up front.
Uruguay, who also kicked off their campaign with a victory, have an equally challenging trip to Quito to face Ecuador. Oscar Tabarezâs side will be without the injured Giorgian De Arrascaeta but are expected to bring in another centre forward to accompany Luis Suarez. La Tri, who have won their last two home qualifiers against Uruguay, could make up to five changes as they search for the attacking threat that was missing in last weekâs reverse to Argentina.
Meanwhile, in Santiago, Chile welcome Colombia with La Roja keen to make amends for their loss last week in Uruguay. Reinaldo Rueda has Mauricio Isla available again after the veteran defender recovered from COVID-19 â an option worth considering given Los Cafeteros' impressive forward play on Matchday 1. Aside from the injured Santiago Arias, it remains to be seen if there will be any other changes to the team that put three goals past Venezuela.
Speaking of Venezuela, they will be hoping to put that shaky start behind them when they welcome Paraguay to Merida. The latter had the chance to take all three points in their opener but in the end had to settle for one. "It's not a question of being more offensive or defensive, but of finding the right balance,â said Vinotinto coach Jose Peseiro, who has the option of starting with attacking midfielder Yeferson Soteldo. His opposite number, Eduardo Berizzo, is also weighing up changes, including that of starting with forward Angel Romero.
Player to watch
Marcelo Martins Moreno (Bolivia)
The 33-year-old Bolivian striker is one of the players who Cesar Farias will have earmarked to face Argentina â and not without good reason. Of the five occasions he has faced La Albiceleste in World Cup qualifiers, he has scored in four of them.
Did you know?
This Tuesday, Colombian Reinaldo Rueda will be facing his country of birth for the seventh time in his coaching career. He has met them twice with current side Chile (two draws), three times with Ecuador (one win and two defeats) and once with Honduras (win).
On social media13/10/2020 12:00 PM
Romero: There's a long road ahead for Paraguay
It is likely that Eduardo Berizzo glanced two or three times at his bench before bringing in Angel Romero versus Peru in Paraguayâs opening match of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022â¢ qualifying campaign.
With the Paraguayans trailing 1-0 with 27 minutes to go, and with Angel sitting beside his twin brother Oscar as usual, it would have been understandable had the experienced coach confused the pair in the heat of the moment.
Once the substitute was out on the pitch, it became clear that Berizzo had chosen wisely by introducing the forward rather than the attacking midfielder: in the space of 18 minutes, Angel scored two goals, equalling his tally for his previous 16 international matches combined, and turning the game on its head in the process.
Although the eventual outcome was a 2-2 draw, Romero preferred to look on the bright side. âOur big mistake was not managing the game correctly when we went in front,â the 28-year-old goalscorer explained to FIFA.com after the encounter. âBut this is just the beginning, and thereâs a long road ahead. This is a useful point.â
Angel Romero, who is on the cusp of becoming a father for the first time, is doubtless accustomed to coaches doing a double-take before giving him the nod, as he has spent a large part of his career with Oscar. In fact, both brothers currently play for the same club, San Lorenzo (Argentina), where they reunited in 2019 after a period apart. And since July of this year, the twins have even shared a Twitter account.
Raised by their mother Maria Lucia, their grandmother Dora, and their aunt Margarita, they started kicking a ball around on the fields of Fernando De La Mora, on the outskirts of Asuncion, and they stuck together as they joined the Sport Primavera club in the local Liga Fernandina.
It was there they were spotted by Adolfino Canete, who starred for Paraguay at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The former attacking midfielder helped to polish Oscarâs innate talent and Angelâs goalscoring prowess.
Both brothers completed a successful trial with Boca Juniors when they were 14, but they were unable to sign for the Argentinian club due to administrative problems. Instead, they joined Cerro Porteno, where they made their first Paraguayan top-flight appearance in 2011. Angel reached this milestone first, scoring on his debut, and Oscar followed in his footsteps a week later.
Subsequently, Angel earned his maiden cap for Paraguay on 6 September 2013, and his brother again emulated him the following week. Oscar would actually go on to play a more regular role in that particular side, which failed to qualify for Brazil 2014.
That year, Angel scored 15 goals in 43 matches for Cerro Porteno and clinched a league-winnerâs medal. âThis has been an unforgettable year for me, my brother and my family due to what we achieved,â he said at the time.
The siblings finally parted ways in 2015: Oscar moved to Racing Club, which seemingly caused Angel to suffer a loss of form. While his brother was representing Paraguay at the Copa America in Chile, he was left out of the squad altogether.
Angel got back to his best with Brazilian giants Corinthians in 2016, scoring 13 goals in 53 matches. His form saw him regain his place in La Albirrojaâs squad during their unsuccessful qualifying campaign for Russia 2018, making eight appearances, but without hitting the back of the net.
Berizzo has placed his confidence in both brothers since announcing his first squad at the beginning of 2019. And after a recent unfortunate incident in which he injured a San Lorenzo youth player during a training session, for which he has apologised profusely, Angel set about repaying that trust with the double strike against Peru last week.
Now the forward is fully focused on Venezuela, Paraguayâs next opponents in the South American qualifying campaign. âItâs essential to avoid lapses in concentration, because although this is a long race, the second challenge will come along pretty quickly,â he concluded.12/10/2020 07:40 AM