Pedri labels Messi penalty miss a 'big blow' but not to blame for Barcelona exit

By Sports Desk March 10, 2021

Barcelona midfielder Pedri conceded Lionel Messi's saved penalty was a "big blow" in their Champions League last-16 exit, but blamed wasting numerous chances.

The Catalans prematurely exited the Champions League 5-2 on aggregate to Paris Saint-Germain after a second-leg 1-1 draw in the French capital.

Pedri admitted Barca's 4-1 first-leg defeat left them with plenty to do in Paris but argued they had the better chances.

Messi cancelled out Kylian Mbappe's penalty opener before the Argentinian had a spot-kick saved by Keylor Navas on the stroke of half-time which could have given Barca the momentum to kick on in the second half.

Messi's miss was his first failed penalty attempt in the Champions League since February 2015, having scored his previous eight spot-kicks.

"We knew it'd be vital to take our chances," Pedri said post-game. "We produced a really good game but we missed big chances.

"We believed we could produce another big fightback and qualify but the penalty just before half-time was a big blow to miss.

"We kept on fighting and you can't define a result or a game looking just at a missed penalty. We had many chances and didn't take them."

Barcelona had 21 shots compared to PSG's seven, including 10 on target, while they had 73 per cent possession.

Forward Antoine Griezmann agreed that profligacy in front of goal cost the Catalans.

"It's a real shame, I'd say there were four clear-cut opportunities plus the penalty," Griezmann said.

"If you don't put them away, it's harder later in the game. Nevertheless, it was a completely different contest to the first leg."

Barca's failure to reach the Champions League quarter-finals was their first since 2006-07; having been on the longest-run in the competition's history of 13 consecutive last-eight appearances.

France international Griezmann vowed they would return in 2021-22 to challenge for the European crown.

"It's time to keep our heads up and feel confidence because of how we played," he said.

"We need to keep improving for the season to come. We are hacked off because we were desperate to go through. I don't think we deserved to go out this early but next year we'll try to win this competition."

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    Luke Shaw says England are extra motivated heading into their World Cup clash with Wales after their opponents wildly celebrated the Three Lions' exit from Euro 2016.

    An infamous video circulated following England's embarrassing last-16 defeat to Iceland six and a half years ago showing Wales' players lapping up their fierce rivals' demise.

    Wales surpassed expectations by making it to the semi-finals of that competition, despite losing to England in the group stage, but they have had less success at Qatar 2022.

    The Dragons require a victory against England at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium if they are to avoid a group-stage exit and must hope the United States and Iran play out a draw elsewhere.

    A four-goal win for Wales against their neighbours on Tuesday would also be enough, but they have not so much as avoided defeated against England in their past six meetings.

    Shaw, who played a full part in England's 6-2 win over Iran and goalless draw with the USA, believes the scenes from 2016 will add more spice to an already feisty fixture.

    "I think you could say that," Shaw said. "But our motivation in itself has to be at its highest level. We are at the World Cup. We have great aims for what we want to achieve.

    "We have to have the maximum motivation at every game. I don't think there's any more motivation than what we have already. 

    "It wasn't nice. I don't want to dwell too much on that. I want to focus on what we do on the pitch. We can say things in interviews and I'd rather do our talking on the pitch."

    Asked if England's players would consider recording similar scenes of celebrating should they knock out Wales, Shaw said: "I think we are a respectful group.

    "We do things in the right way. That's the example Gareth [Southgate] wants to set. We are fully behind that. We are fully respectful.

    "I think their motivation is going to be extremely high. They are going to give everything to win. It's not an easy game. But we need to focus on what we do."

    England will advance to the knockout stage if they avoid a heavy loss to Wales, though Southgate's side will be targeting a victory to make certain of top spot in Group B.

    Speaking ahead of England's first ever World Cup match against a fellow British side, Southgate said: "We have got to play well. 

    "We are going to play an opponent that is wounded and, like everybody else, desperate to beat the English. We've got to play an intelligent game, play well and match their spirit.

    "I would be very disappointed if someone says their players will want it more than ours. I'd be asking questions about what we stand for and what we have been for five years."

    England have lost their third and final group-stage game in just two of their 14 participations at the World Cup (W7 D5), doing so against Spain in 1950 and Belgium in 2018.

  • Queiroz accuses Klinsmann of 'outrageous' slurs against Iran, demands German quits FIFA job Queiroz accuses Klinsmann of 'outrageous' slurs against Iran, demands German quits FIFA job

    Carlos Queiroz has demanded Jurgen Klinsmann resign from his FIFA position after making a string of accusations about Iran's World Cup team, labelling the German's comments "a disgrace".

    Iran head coach Queiroz reacted after his team were accused by Klinsmann of having "worked the referee" during the 2-0 win against Wales on Friday.

    Working as a BBC pundit, Klinsmann suggested Iran getting to the match officials and pushing the boundaries of acceptability was "part of their culture".

    In response, Queiroz suggested California-based Klinsmann's "outrageous remarks" stemmed from his "American/German" background.

    He said Klinsmann should visit Iran's training camp to learn more about the team, but must step down from FIFA's World Cup technical study group beforehand.

    Prompted about the conduct of Iran's players in the Wales game just staying on the right side of the game's laws, Klinsmann said: "That's their culture, that's their way of doing it, and that's why Carlos Queiroz, he fits really well the Iranian national team.

    "He struggled in South America and failed with Colombia to qualify, and then he failed with Egypt to qualify as well, and he went back right before the World Cup and guided Iran, where he worked already for a long, long time.

    "This is not by coincidence. This is just part of their culture, that's how they play it. They worked the referee. You saw the bench, always jumping up and always working the linesman and fourth referee on the sidelines, they are constantly in their ear.

    "This is their culture; they make you lose your focus, make you lose your concentration and what's important to you."

    Klinsmann said there could have been a "big difference with another referee" and added: "Let's say it did not play into the hands of Wales."

    Queiroz responded on Saturday with a string of withering Twitter messages aimed at Klinsmann, who was a 1990 World Cup winner as a player with West Germany and later coach of Germany and the United States.

    Queiroz began by saying: "Even not knowing me personally, you question my character with a typical prejudiced judgement of superiority.

    "No matter how much I can respect what you did inside the pitch, those remarks about Iran culture, Iran national team and my players are a disgrace to football. Nobody can hurt our integrity if it is not at our level, of course.

    "Even saying so, we would like to invite you as our guest, to come to our national team camp, socialise with Iran players and learn from them about the country, the people of Iran, the poets and art, the algebra, all the millennial Persian culture…

    "And also listen from our players how much they love and respect football. As American/German, we understand your no support. No problem. And despite your outrageous remarks on BBC trying to undermine our efforts, sacrifices and skills, we promise you that we will not produce any judgements regarding your culture, roots and background and that you will always be welcome to our family.

    "At the same time, we just want to follow with full attention what will be the decision of FIFA regarding your position as a member of Qatar 2022 technical study group.

    "Because, obviously, we expect you to resign before you visit our camp."

    This is former Manchester United assistant boss Queiroz's third consecutive World Cup as Iran boss. His short spells with Colombia and Egypt followed the 2018 tournament, with Queiroz leading Egypt to this year's Africa Cup of Nations final.

    They were defeated in that game on penalties by Senegal, and Egypt also lost by the same method to the same opposition in a World Cup play-off, with Queiroz departing and returning to the helm with Iran in September.

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    The former Spain international succeeded Ronald Koeman last year in charge at Camp Nou, and has helped to revive fortunes at the Catalan side since his arrival.

    Though his team have slipped into the Europa League for a second season running, they remain competitive in the domestic top-flight, sitting two points ahead of rivals Real Madrid at the World Cup break.

    Xavi has revealed he was approached by Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Rogerio Caboclo over a role with the Selecao during his time in charge at Al Sadd, but that he turned them down to hold out for Barca.

    "It was an opportunity [that came] through the president of the CBF," Xavi told ESPN. 

    "They [came] to Qatar, and they talked to me, [and asked if] I could be part of Tite's staff.

    "But I wanted to be a coach, not an assistant. My desire was to be a coach.

    "It would be a tremendous opportunity - it was [a chance] to make history, to be the first European to work in the Brazilian national team.

    "But, at that moment, it did not happen. I was clear that I wanted to be coach of Barcelona, ​​which was my dream, and here I am."

    However, Xavi teased he would not rule out taking up the chance if it was offered again, adding: "You never know. It would be a spectacular opportunity.

    "But my intention was to take over Barcelona. You never know about the future [though]. I'm working hard, and you can't rule anything out."

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