Player: Roberto Soldado (Spain)
Even in the greatest squad in international football, there is no room for complacency, and Roberto Soldado gave Vicente del Bosque pause for thought after scoring Spain's winner, four minutes from the end of a trying FIFA World Cup encounter in Georgia on Tuesday. The 27-year-old missed out on the squad for UEFA EURO 2012, but underlined his class with his fourth international goal in six appearances. "The coach congratulated me and my team-mates afterwards because he knew it wasn't easy winning that game," Soldado said, adding: "There are no certain starters in this squad."
Team: FC Shakhtar Donetsk
A 3-1 win against arch-rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv on 2 September saw the Pitmen win their eighth league game in a row – by some distance the strongest start any side has made to a 2012/13 season – and also broke a club record; the Ukrainian champions have now won 17 league games straight. Henrik Mkhitaryan has scored 11 league goals already, but as the weekend game against FC Zorya Luhansk looms, he has his eyes on bigger prizes. "We have a lot of games ahead, and we must work even harder to prepare for the Champions League," the Armenia striker said. "After Zorya, we have to face Nordsjælland, and our fans expect a lot from us. We have to do our best to win."
Goal: Tornike Okriashvili (Georgia)
A mention in dispatches for Greece's Giannis Potouridis, 20, who lobbed Cyprus goalkeeper Kyriakos Ioannou from inside his own half to give his side a 1-0 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying win this week, but the top prize goes to another 20-year-old, with Georgia midfielder Okriashvili managing to flatten three Belarus defenders with one deft touch before scoring in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win on Saturday. "I don't usually score goals as good or as important as that," said the goalscorer. Not many people do.
"He has been practising that all week."
France coach Didier Deschamps gives his sly appreciation of Christophe Jallet's goal against Belarus on Tuesday; the Paris Saint-Germain FC full-back miscued a cross from the right, which smashed into the net off the underside of the crossbar. Goal of the decade, if he had meant it.
There was no sign of ring-rustiness as European champions Olympique Lyonnais returned to competitive action this week, thrashing Rodez AF 8-0 on Sunday in their opening French league game, in front of a 3,000-strong crowd, with summer signing Laetitia Tonazzi, substitute Lotta Schelin and captain Camille Abily scoring two each. Coach Patrice Lair, however, was not overawed. "The way we started the game displeased me a lot," he harrumphed. "Otherwise, 8-0 is not bad for a first game." Lyon visit Finland's PK-35 Vantaa in their opening game of their new UEFA Women's Champions League season on 26 September.
Redemption: Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Russia)
A 4-0 victory in Ramat Gan on Tuesday saw Russia beat Israel for the first time in 12 years, and it was an especially satisfying night for FC Zenit St Petersburg striker Kerzhakov, who scored twice. The 29-year-old last found the target in a friendly against Italy at the start of June, and received a barrage of criticism for his finishing at UEFA EURO 2012; the verb 'to Kerzhakov' (to miss) even gained circulation back in Russia. "I couldn't score in the national team for a long period, but despite this I felt good mentally," he said after the game. "Since EURO, I have won many matches for my club and this helped. Team wins are the most important thing: they relieve stress, and give you confidence."
Shaggy dog story: Lecquio (CD San Roque)
Relieving stress on the terraces at Spanish third tier side San Roque in last weekend's 4-1 victory against CD Loja was the club's newest 'socio', or member, Lecquio. Sick at leaving their pet at home while traveling to home games at the Ciudad de Lepe Stadium in Andalusia, Manuel Contreras and Lola Romero decided to buy the seven-year-old Yorkshire terrier a membership card, which club officials insist needs to be scanned at the gate like everyone else's. "Seeing him sitting in the stand in his own seat is quite the spectacle," Snr Contreras commented. "He follows the movement of the ball closely and wags his tail when a dangerous move begins." A nose for goal and terrier-like in the tackle: sign him up!
Fat chance: Belgium
Aiming to reach the finals of a major tournament after a ten-year barren spell, Belgium struck an unusual bargain with their supporters. If fans managed to produce 500,000 decibels of noise in a series of mad stunts around the team's opening World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Croatia, the team promised to put in a "fat performance". The fans kept their part of the bargain with 590,000 decibels of racket. The Red Devils duly picked up four points while Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini, Jan Vertonghen, Guillaume Gillet and Romelu Lukaku expressed their gratitude with an unlikely game of sumo football in an official team video. Watch it here.
Star guest: Arrigo Sacchi
Twice a European champion as coach of AC Milan, Arrigo Sacchi's praise is worth something, and the Republic of Ireland's Under-21 side were honoured indeed as the 66-year-old called in on them after a 4-2 qualifying win against Italy in Casarano on Monday. Out of the running for a finals place and weakened by suspensions, Noel King's side managed to prevail despite having two players sent off, and Sacchi admired their spirit. "It was a nice touch by such a legendary figure," said King. "He was one of 3,500 Italians in the stadium at Casarano and none of them could have disputed we deserved to win the tie."
Living legend: Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)
Paris Saint-Germain FC striker Zlatan Ibrahimović was honoured with a place on the sporting walk of fame outside the new stadium in his home town, Malmo, ahead of Sweden's 2-0 win against Kazakhstan. "It is a great honour," said the 30-year-old. "We usually say that you cannot become a legend until you die, but I am a living legend - at least in Malmo." Sweden's U21 team, meanwhile, had a taste of life on the other side of the dream as they visited Stigby, a remand home for young adults who have engaged in criminal behaviour or substance abuse. The U21s took on Stigby residents in a game of foot volley, before dining together. "I think the visit was good for the players and the guys at Stigby," said joint U21 coach Tommy Söderberg. "The players got to see and learn something about society and how they can contribute."
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