'Guardiola's a bit crazy, so it's going to be fun' – Haaland excited after scoring first City goal

By Sports Desk July 24, 2022

Erling Haaland declared "it's going to be fun" working with Pep Guardiola after he scored his first goal in a Manchester City shirt.

Haaland netted the only goal of the game as City beat Bayern Munich 1-0 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Saturday.

Stormy weather conditions disrupted the friendly contest, but that did not stop the former Borussia Dortmund striker from getting on the end of a Jack Grealish cross in the 12th minute to tap in.

Speaking after the win, Haaland said: "As you probably all know, I've been watching a lot of City games in the last years, and in the last years it has been without a striker, so of course I've been seeing myself in these situations today, so I'm not surprised."

The Norwegian scored 86 goals in 89 appearances across all competitions during two and a half years at Dortmund, with only Robert Lewandowski (123 in 108 games) and Kylian Mbappe (93 in 111 games) from Europe's top five leagues scoring more in that time.

On his new manager, Haaland added: "Guardiola is a bit crazy and I like that, so it's going to be fun. It's one week so I cannot tell too much, but I've been training good and I'm ready for what's next."

Haaland's debut goal in the United States came courtesy of neat passes from Kevin De Bruyne and Grealish, and the 22-year-old is looking forward to playing with the England international.

"[Grealish is] good. He has to get better, I have to get better, but [it's a] good link. I like the vibe around him, so it's going to be fun."

Guardiola was pleased with the first sighting of his new number nine, saying after the game: "He scored a goal, which is important. These type of goals in front of keeper – always he's there. 

"The first minutes, he needs more rhythm and time but already he had 45 minutes which is good for him.

"We'll see how he reacts to the niggles that he had in the previous weeks. After we come back we have long weeks to prepare every weekend game. In those two or three weeks we will get the best form."

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    Rasmus Kristensen is ready for a tough tussle with Australia, while Denmark team-mate Jesper Lindstrom is confident Kasper Hjulmand's side will go through to the last 16.

    Denmark's defeat to France on Saturday, combined with Australia's victory over Tunisia, has left the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in need of a victory to stand a chance of progressing to the knockout stage of the World Cup in Qatar.

    With France's progress from Group D already assured, all three of the other sides could clinch second place, which is occupied by Australia heading into the final matchday.

    Wednesday's match at Al Janoub Stadium will be the second meeting between Australia and Denmark at the World Cup, following a 1-1 draw in the group stage in 2018, and Kristensen knows it will be a battle.

    "For sure we're up for it," the Leeds United defender told reporters. "If fighting is what it takes we're going to do it.

    "I know a few [Australia] players. We've seen the first game and we're going to watch a lot of them in the next few days.

    "I think the expectations were the last game would always be decisive."

    Lindstrom, who almost put Denmark ahead against France before Kylian Mbappe's second goal sealed a 2-1 victory for Les Bleus, has faith his team will get the job done.

    "We have confidence, everyone has belief. We have that mentality. We will do our best," said the Eintracht Frankfurt attacker, who believes Denmark played at a much higher level against France than in their opening draw with Tunisia.

    "We are really disappointed but we have to look how we can develop, how we can use the situations we created," he added.

    "The second half was better than the first but we had 20 minutes where we controlled the game, we scored the goal and we had big chances."

    Denmark could qualify for the knockout stage at back-to-back World Cup tournaments for a second time, previously doing so in 1998 and 2002.

    The Danes have only failed to qualify from the group stage in one of their previous five appearances at the tournament, while Australia have only made it to the last 16 once in their history back in 2006.

    However, should France beat Tunisia as expected in the other Group D's game on Wednesday, then a point would be enough for Australia to go through.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Australia – Mitchell Duke

    Mitchell Duke scored Australia's winner against Tunisia, heading home brilliantly. The 31-year-old has scored five goals in his past eight starts for his country, with four of these goals being headers.

    Denmark – Jesper Lindstrom

    Handed a start against France, Lindstrom felt he had done enough to impress Hjulmand, though he rued been unable to score, with Hugo Lloris making a fine save from the forward's strike.

    Denmark have only scored once so far in Qatar, and Lindstrom will be hoping for more luck in front of goal against Australia.

    PREDICTION

    Australia have lost eight of their 11 World Cup games against European sides (W1 D2), failing to keep a clean sheet in all of those matches, while they have won just one of their four games versus Denmark, winning a friendly match 1-0 in June 2010.

    Opta make Denmark – ranked 28 places above Australia by FIFA – as the strong favourites, giving them a 63.2 per cent chance of securing a crucial victory.

    The likelihood of a draw is 22 per cent, leaving Australia's chances of coming out on top at 14.8 per cent.

  • Arnold hoping to emulate - and surpass - the 2006 Socceroos Arnold hoping to emulate - and surpass - the 2006 Socceroos

    Coach Graham Arnold aims to "put smiles on Australian faces" on Wednesday by emulating the great Socceroos team of 2006 and advancing to the knockout stages of the World Cup.

    Australia head into their final Group D game knowing a win against Denmark will be enough to see them reach the round of 16 for just the second time in the nation's history. A draw would also be enough unless Tunisia beat defending champions France.

    Arnold was an assistant to Guus Hiddink 16 years ago and he understands the size of the prize on offer.

    He said: "That's the whole purpose. My whole goal is to put smiles on Australian faces. It's not about me, it's about the game in Australia.

    "If you're not Australian and you don't know, football is probably the fourth or fifth-main sport. To leave a legacy is huge and in 2006, what that generation did... these guys [the current squad] grew up watching them and they were their inspiration.

    "Even now at dinner, this generation talk about matching the achievements of 2006 but there is so much more to do."

    Midfielder Mathew Leckie added: "It's huge for the sport. I don't know how much it will impact young kids but when they watch it on television and see how big the World Cup is, they may decide to be a footballer rather than, say, an AFL player.

    "The World Cup and the Socceroos bring the country together. We can create something special but we haven't done anything yet, without a result on Wednesday it means nothing."

    Denmark also have plenty to play for at Al Janoub, a win would likely see them progress at Australia's expense and Arnold is certainly not getting ahead of himself.

    "They are a strong team, ranked 10 in the world, but the focus is on ourselves and making sure the players recover well and are ready to go," he said.

    "They have been a top team throughout Europe for a long time. We can only do so much worrying about them, the focus has to be on ourselves. They can play two systems, 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3, so we have to be ready for them tactically."

    Although a draw may be enough, the Socceroos will play to win the game, said Arnold, who joked throughout his press conference with 2006 goalkeeper-turned journalist Mark Schwarzer in the room.

    "One thing Hiddink did was go for the win," Arnold added. "That's what we are going to do. I've never coached to play for a draw. In 2006, we got one win and a draw, we want to go for it and get two wins.

    "It's not often you get to go to a World Cup, and I've been saying this to the boys, enjoy the ride. We've gone through some difficult periods over the last four years, through the pandemic, playing four games out of 20 at home...

    "It's all about the belief, the energy in the players. I feel relaxed and ready."

  • Depay fit to start alongside Gakpo for Netherlands against Qatar Depay fit to start alongside Gakpo for Netherlands against Qatar

    Memphis Depay was named in the Netherlands starting XI for the first time at the 2022 World Cup ahead of their final Group A match against Qatar.

    The Barcelona forward was battling a hamstring injury heading into the tournament and was initially ruled out of the opener against Senegal, only to appear from the bench in a 2-0 win.

    Depay was a substitute again as Louis van Gaal's side drew with Ecuador, and the coach insisted ahead of the meeting with hosts Qatar he would be taking no risks.

    However, he said: "We're going to do anything and everything to progress to the next match."

    That has led to a recall for talisman Depay – a member of Van Gaal's 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil – who lines up alongside breakout star Cody Gakpo in attack.

    Gakpo was a chief beneficiary of Depay's absence, trusted to be the Netherlands' creative force behind a front two of Steven Bergwijn and Vincent Janssen.

    The PSV attacker, linked with Manchester United, was moved into the front line against Ecuador and now keeps his place there, linking up with Depay.

    Gakpo has scored two of the Oranje's three goals so far.

    The Netherlands will be through with a win or a draw and would advance regardless if Ecuador defeated Senegal.

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