Ferrari confirm Kimi Raikkonen will drive alongside Fernando Alonso next season

Clive Mason

Kimi Raikkonen is to team up with Fernando Alonso at Ferrari for 2014, .

Ferrari’s announcement on Wednesday came a day later than expected.

Lotus had hoped to retain the but the 33-year-old found Maranello’s offer to difficult to resist.

The 2007 F1 world champion had initially courted Red Bull but they opted for Australian Daniel Ricciardo from Toro Rosso.

Raikkonen leaves Lotus amid reports he had financial issues with the team and a giant question marks hanging over its future.

Speculation intensified when Felipe Massa announced on Tuesday night via Twitter he would be leaving Maranello at the end of the year.

And a day later the Finn’s move was confirmed.

Earlier in the day Ferrari had confirmed to Raikkonen’s only rival for the seat – Nico Hulkenberg – he would not be required.

Teaming him up with double champion Fernando Alonso gives Ferrari the strongest line-up in the pitlane.

It was a move many thought would not happen.   

Although he became their first champion in the post-Michael Schumacher era he fell out with the team a year later.

They paid off his contract a year early – to the tune of £15m – to make way for Alonso.

After contract talks to join McLaren in 2010 collapsed over his unreasonable salary demands Raikkonen turned to the World Rally Championship.

After a two year sabbatical from he returned in 2012 with Lotus and won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The following season started well as he added a victory at the opening round in Melbourne.

Although rumours of financial issues between driver and team refused to go away the 33-year-old was generally expected to remain at Enstone, at least until the Monza weekend that was.

In their usual laconic fashion(just two sentences not even two lines long) Maranello finally confirmed on Wednesday what had been suspected for days.

Massa is yet to announce which team he will be driving for next year.

Fernando Alonso paid tribute to his current Ferrari team-mate with the following tweet:

 

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Who has qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

REUTERS

With two games remaining in the bid for World Cup qualification, who has already got the job done and secured themselves qualification for the tournament?

until the very last game in their qualifying group. They must beat Montenegro and Ukraine to be 100% certain of qualification.

But who has already qualified for the World Cup in Brazil next year? As hosts, Brazil are automatically in and they were joined by Japan, Australia, Iran and South Korea who qualified through from the Asian Football Confederation.

Here’s how it shapes up elsewhere around the globe:

Africa

The qualification set-up in Africa is reasonably convoluted – there are currently 10 groups of four teams that are playing each other twice, with the group winners advancing to five two-legged knock-out ties that will determine the continent’s five representatives in Brazil.

Gallo Images

The teams to go through to the play-offs are: Ethiopia; Ghana; Ivory Coast; Nigeria; Egypt; Cameroon; Senegal; Algeria; Burkina Faso; and Cape Verde.

Qualification will be decided when the play-offs take place in October and November.

Europe

Most teams here have two games left. There are nine groups, with the winners from each going through automatically and the eight best runners up contesting play-offs to determine the final four qualifiers.

Italy have secured qualification for themselves after running away with Group B. Holland have also secured qualification in Group D.

Elsewhere, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium each need just one point from their remaining two games to secure qualification.

Russia will qualify from Group F if they can win their final two games, Portugal are one point behind them, and might need to go through the play-offs to qualify.

Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece are tied on 19 points in Group G, either side could qualify with two games remaining, although Bosnia-Herzegovina have a far superior goal difference.

Group I is the most fun, with Spain and France equal on points, though Spain have a game in hand.

Scott Heavey

North and Central America

USA and Costa Rica have secured automatic qualification from the American qualifying group, but Mexico, who were on course for the third automatic qualification spot, have had a string of terrible results and now find themselves in danger of missing out. Honduras are currently in the third spot which would see them qualify automatically, and Panama are in fourth spot, which would see them go into a play-off.

South America

None of the South American teams have secured automatic qualification as yet, although Argentina, Colombia and Chile are looking likely to go through, with Ecuador and Uruguay breathing down their necks.

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Serie A blog: Italy's domestic heroes ensure World Cup qualification – Mina Rzouki

Claudio Villa

Four time winners and now, alongside the Netherlands, the first European nation to , Italy is the formidable force you can never overlook.

The masters of procrastination, the fact the Azzurri qualified for the FIFA competition with two games to spare is record-breaking – so used are they to perform only when absolutely necessary.

Sealing the World Cup place against the Czech Republic in Juventus Stadium, it seemed that for a while there, they had contracted the Juve disease of last season – squandering an abysmal amount of chances in front of goal.

They boasted the finishers Juve may have never had last term but for just over 50 minutes it seemed the Gods had conspired against them.

Having started out the match in a 3-4-2-1 system, Libor Kozak’s goal from a counter-attack for Czech Republic swiftly saw Prandelli alter tactics and scrap the three-man back-line.

The Czech Republic were 1-0 up and Italy needed to start the fight-back.

Daniele De Rossi who started in defence was restored to a midfield role and several chances were soon created only to see beautiful opportunities being squandered.

With Pablo Osvaldo’s arrival on the pitch in the second half, Italy formed a 4-3-3 formation and Balotelli was afforded help up top.

With what seemed like a plethora of corners awarded to them, Giorgio Chiellini finally made one count as he headed in the equaliser before SuperMario converted a penalty to seal the win.

Despite the missed chances and cursed moments, there is something special about Cesare Prandelli’s Italy and especially the current squad. Unlike previous

Azzurri sides, this current group is not known for their cynicism but rather by their entertaining game and willingness to rely on another.

More than that, they offer guarantees and are not the unpredictable beast that keeps fans on the edge of their seats in the most uncomfortable of ways. There is sincere motivation, great humility and above all enormous support from the fans who, once-upon-atime defined fickleness. 

This Italy is supportive. Balotelli’s missed sitters were disappointing but the crowd soon started to cheer his name, proving their loyalty.

The unity amongst the supporters seemed to especially touch the forward before it filtered down to the pitch encouraging the squad to play with contagious determination.

With 679 passes (more than double the opponents), 20 shots on goal, 90% passing accuracy and with 69% possession, Italy needed to celebrate even if the Czech Republic were desperate to keep their qualifying hopes alive.

 “We might not have the best individuals in the world, but as a collective on the field we make everyone raise their game,” explained Chiellini.

Whilst Italy needed to rely on two former World Cup winners, Gianluigi Buffon and Alberto Gilardino in their previous qualifier against Bulgaria, today’s team fought back hard and did all they could to guarantee their qualification and celebrate Captain Buffon’s 136th cap for Italy in his ‘home’ stadium.

“136 caps for Italy, you have tied the record of our friend – Fabio Cannavaro, the captain of ‘our’ World Cup,” wrote Juventus Legend Alessandro Del Piero on his website. “Just think of all the unforgettable memories both at Juventus and in the National team.”

Congratulations Italy and congratulations Buffon, it’s the least we expect from a four-time World Cup winning country but for once it’s nice to be celebrating early.

Sergio Aguero claims Manchester City can be surprise package of Champions League this year

Chris Brunskill

Sergio Aguero claims Manchester City can surprise everyone in the Champions League this season.

City have flopped in their two previous campaigns and failed to make it out of the group stages under .

Title-winner Aguero is confident they can do better under after the Blues were drawn with Bayern Munich, Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow in their group.

City begin their campaign away to Plzen on Tuesday and Aguero said: "The Champions League sometimes allows semi-surprises.

"Dortmund were finalists last year and Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea in 2012. They were good teams and tactically well-organised, but were certainly not considered the best at the beginning.

"Now I can only think of Barcelona, as a semi-finalist at least, and then the usual sides -Real, Bayern, United – and ourselves.

"We had only a few experienced players and came up against very tough opponents – Bayern and Napoli – two years ago, then Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax last time, which produced a finalist and semi-finalist.

"We have Bayern again this year, but we also play CSKA and Viktoria. Get past the first stage and, with luck, you can get to the final."

Aguero has already in his belief that City are capable of doing a Premier and Champions

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Everton skipper Phil Jagielka says loan signing Romelu Lukaku will solve club's goalscoring problems

Action Images

England defender Phil Jagielka has backed Romelu Lukaku to solve Everton’s goalscoring problems.

Everton have struggled to find the back of the net for years and Toffees skipper Jagielka feels .

The Belgian striker bagged 17 Premier League goals last season on loan at West Brom and Jagielka is excited about what he can do for the Blues.

"If he can repeat that sort of form for us, it will be magnificent," said Jagielka, .

"I’ve played against him and he’s a big, strong striker. He’s got pace, he’s got power and more often than not he finds the target.

"Last season he scored 17 goals for West Brom. If we can get him firing on all cylinders, we’ll have a real threat.

"We’ve got Nikica Jelavic and Arouna Kone already so we’ll have three strikers, who can hopefully put each other under pressure and do the business."

Lukaku was one of three deadline-day signings made by , alongside .

Darren Lewis column: Emmanuel Adebayor needs to be loved at Tottenham – and may just be ready to repay Spurs fans – Darren Lewis

Laurence Griffiths

Emmanuel Adebayor .

As unrealistic statements go it seemed up there with Roy Hodgson’s insistence that England’s goalless draw in Ukraine was a "game of good quality".

Or the bloke pictured offering out the police horse pleading not guilty.

By the end of Adebayor’s confessional, however, his ambition didn’t seem so ridiculous at all.

Not only that, it struck me as far more appropriate for to declare his intention to fight for the Tottenham shirt than to simply accept his wages and do nothing to justify them this season.

Indeed for , you do wonder whether it is the fallen that could grow mighty over the coming campaign at White Hart Lane.

The idea of Adebayor forcing his way back from the brink to present himself as a serious rival to £26million Spain striker Roberto Soldado really is an intriguing prospect.

Spurs wanted him out this summer. They offered the 29-year-old Togo striker to anyone willing to have him.

They had an audacious swap bid for Chelsea’s Fernando Torres rejected.

They offered Adebayor to Real Madrid as part of the Gareth Bale deal.

They accepted interest from QPR, Schalke and Besiktas.

Yet word coming out of Adebayor’s camp each time was that he was not moving. And why should he?

You or I would not walk away from kind the contract he is on at White Hart Lane. (It never ceases to amaze me when fans suggest footballers should turn their backs on the kind of money they never would).

Michael Regan 

Adebayor was on around £170,000-a-week at Manchester City and both clubs had to make sure they found a way to maintain his hefty salary (he had two years left to run at City) before he would even agree to a permanent four-year switch to Spurs last summer in the first place.

Adebayor had finished the previous campaign at White Hart Lane, on loan, with 17 Premier League goals. Last season the goals dried up with just five in the Premier League and three in the Europa League.

His languid style has never been anyone’s cup of tea and he is prone to missing more than a few sitters.

But when he is on his game, Adebayor is unplayable.

Arsenal found that out in last season’s derby before an adrenaline rush too many saw him sent off and the Gunners went on to cash in.

The point is, Roberto Soldado could be the spur, the classy competition that Adebayor needs to recapture the animal he became on that Saturday afternoon at the Emirates last November.

Last season his only real rival was the diminutive Jermain Defoe, the pint-sized finisher who knows where the goal is but lacked the physical presence – in the view of Andre Villas Boas – to make the lone striker’s role his own.

As a result Adebayor knew that whatever he did last term he would play when he was fit. AVB needed his muscle in preference to Defoe’s willingness and endeavour.

This season, Soldado provides everything that Adebayor is able to offer and more. say that, despite his impressive goal ratio, he too is not immune to missing a few sitters.

But Spurs believe he offers more cutting edge on a consistent basis and has a better attitude, hence their club record £26million outlay.

So the gauntlet has been thrown down to Adebayor who has declared himself ready to accept.

To be fair, we should put the whole thing into stark perspective by pointing out that it comes after the death of Adebayor’s brother Peter.

It is the latest tragedy to hit the Spurs star in three years after three members of his national team’s set-up were killed in those terrorist shootings at the 2010 Africa Caup of Nations in Angola.

There really is more to life and you do wonder whether Adebayor has had the respect or the compassion that such massive blows in his life deserve.

The football could well come as a release to him this season. The battle for that striking berth could be the catharsis that enables him to overcome the latest loss in his life.

It clearly isn’t as simple as the football for Adebayor right now. But the last thing he needs is exile. He needs to be loved. He needs to be appreciated. He needs to be supported.

And he might just be ready to give something special back to the Spurs fans in return.

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England centurion Frank Lampard insists returning stars will ensure World Cup 2014 qualification

Getty

believes the Three Lions’ returning front men will see them over the line to World Cup 2014 qualification.

Lampard reached his hundredth cap , as moved a point clear at the top of Group H, meaning home wins against Montenegro and Poland will see them through.

And Lampard insisted the draw was a good result for England – despite drawing criticism from back home and ex-players, including Gary Lineker, who described the second half performance as ‘awful’.

"Playing two games at home and with the way we have been performing there lately, I fancy us to do it," Lampard said.

"We will have to tackle that one in a month’s time. The first thing here was not to lose and it was a shame that we couldn’t win the game but we have to believe in ourselves that we can go and do it next month.

"We all know how difficult it is when you go away in competition football in the group games. Of course we wanted to win but you have to dig in sometimes and we did that in the second half.

"I thought Rickie Lambert did very well holding the ball up last night and he worked his socks off – he’s got real quality.

"But the options you are talking about – when you are without Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, the form striker in the Premier League, then of course you are going to miss players like that.

"Unfortunately, there will always be a couple of injured players at any stage in an England squad of 24 or whatever. The team have to react and get results like we did here."

Lampard, admitted it was a special night for him to reach 100 caps, even though he missed a late chance to make it even more memorable.

But the 35-year-old chose to highlight the influence of another of his fellow centurions – Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole.

Cole moved level with Billy Wright on 105 caps in Kiev and he used every ounce of his experience to stifle the pace and trickery of Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko.

"I thought [Cole] was fantastic. He was our best player, in fact," Lampard said.

"It’s not always easy to manage everything on the pitch but he kept tight to their right-winger and didn’t give him a chance to get a run in.

"The speed and fitness of him at his age is fantastic. He has great awareness – people talk about him going forward but defensively he is absolutely top drawer.

"He has done it many times for England, Chelsea and Arsenal before that. He really rises to the task of playing against top-class wide men.

"Ukraine had very good wingers last night and Ashley blocked them off straight away."

Gary Lineker says Roy Hodgson has his 'full support' in Twitter climbdown following Ukraine draw

BBC

Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has backtracked after during last night’s 0-0 draw against Ukraine – insisting that boss Roy Hodgson has his full support.

The ex-Spurs, Leicester and England striker described the Three Lions’ passing as "woeful" on Twitter, before adding sarcastically: “Good result for England… Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina et al, you’re in big trouble!”

Hodgson defended his side, describing the result as “remarkable” and dismissing the pundit’s barbs as unfair.

Now Lineker has taken to Twitter once more to explain himself to his 1.8 million followers.

 

He wrote: "Decent result from a team missing a few key players.

"My only criticism, but it’s a crucial one, was the inability to pass the ball accurately. Effort, defence, tactics, spirit, all sound.

 

"Roy Hodgson can’t be blamed for some of England’s finest having a bad night. With injured players returning his options will be greater.

"He may play Carrick as he’s the only natural holding player we have, as well as our best passer. But who to leave out? Age old dilemma.

 

"Finally, I’d like to make it clear that I’m fully supportive of Roy and think he’s doing a good job. Onwards."

This is not the first time that Lineker has criticised England under Roy Hodgson.

 

Following the 1-1 friendly draw against the Republic of Ireland in May, he said the Three Lions had “gone back to the dark ages”.

When Lineker’s criticism was put to Hodgson last night, he said: “I don’t think that is a fair comment on our performance.

 

“Ifthe expectations upon us are so great we come to places like Ukraine andexpect to roll teams over, it will be difficult for us to ever get agood result."

England are now assured of a place in Brazil 2014 if they win their final two home games against Poland and Montenegro.

Matthew Ashton/AMA 

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Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo meet as world's most expensive player prepares for Real Madrid debut

Real Madrid

Gareth Bale shakes hands with the man he surpassed as the world’s most expensive footballer as he gets ready to make his Real Madrid bow.

Spanish media famously claimed was in fact £76million, therefore not beating the £80million record set when Cristiano Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in 2009.

But there appeared to be no tension over who cost more at training today as the two met having returned from international action.

Bale could make his debut on Saturday as Real Madrid visit Villarreal.

Yet he’s unlikely to play 90 minutes after only coming on as a substitute for Wales against Serbia last night and having missed nearly all of pre-season through injury.

England's Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill partnership will get better, says Everton man

Reuters

is backing his central defensive partnership for England with Gary Cahill to get better after a second successive shut-out against Ukraine.

The pair were magnificent in the on Tuesday night as moved one point clear at the top of Group H with two matches left.

It is the fifth successive time the two have been paired together, but Jagielka believes he and Cahill – who was ridiculed after a poor display in – have silenced their critics.

"The partnership is getting better, definitely," he said. "To play two games together in quick succession makes life easier.

"It’s been quite a few times that Gaz and I have played together so hopefully if we can stay fit and in-form, we can keep on putting that England jersey on and be as good together as possible.

"We would have loved to have got three points but our destiny is in our hands now.

"We knew it would be tough. Ukraine have fantastic support and they are on a fantastic run of form at the moment but we could have nicked all three points.

"When the group came out we knew it was going to be a really tough group and it has proven that way."

Jagielka believes England should have enough to overcome Montenegro and Poland in four weeks’ time, despite their only victories in qualifying coming against Moldova and San Marino.

And he insisted he and his Three Lions teammates are focusing only on the last two games, and not on Brazil.

"Nothing was taken for granted before the Ukraine and Moldova games and I don’t think it will be any different for the last two games," the 31-year-old said.

"If we can put on a couple of good performances and get a couple of victories, then we can look forward to a long summer."

Cahill also came in for praise from his Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard, who believes the young centre-half has come on leaps and bounds since joining from Bolton.

"[Cahill] has been consistent in a lot of difficult games we have played – Champions League and Europa League finals," Lampard said.

"He has always stood up and performed fantastically well on those occasions.

"He has come on so much considering he has only been with us a couple of years and he has won a Champions League, a Europa League and is now first choice for England, so he definitely deserves everything he gets."

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