Barcelona agree deal for Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes. Barcelona on Thursday agreed a deal to sign Portuguese midfielder Andre Gomes from Valencia. "The player will sign a contract and be presented as a new FC Barcelona player next week," the Spanish club said in a statement. The club gave no financial details but Spanish media reported that Gomes will cost it around 50 million euros ($55 million). The 23-year-old, part of Portugal's 2016 European Championship-winning side, agreed a five-year deal with Barcelona, according to the reports. Gomes made 77 appearances for Valencia in two seasons after joining from Portuguese side Benfica where he started his career. He was also believed to be a target of Barcelona's bitter rivals Real Madrid.
2016-07-22
10:25:05


Guardiola's City reign starts with 1-0 defeat at Bayern. Pep Guardiola's reign as Manchester City boss started with a 1-0 defeat in a friendly at his former club Bayern Munich on Wednesday in a game watched by 68,000 fans. Erdal Ozturk scored the only goal of the game in the 76th minute although both sides were under-strength and under-cooked at the Allianz Arena with many of the leading players enjoying longer summer vacations following Euro 2016 and the Copa America. Belgian international Vincent Kompany was an unused substitute for City after recovering from the thigh surgery which kept out of the Belgium team at the Euros. "I had a special feeling -- it was like coming home once again," said Guardiola who has been replaced at Bayern by Carlo Ancelotti. "I had three really great years here and it was great to come back. You've got a great manager and so many great players and I'm going to enjoy your matches on TV -- all the best."
2016-07-21
13:20:25


All eyes on Pogba as United chase world record swoop. Manchester United have stepped up their world record chase for Paul Pogba by reportedly thrashing out a huge financial package with his agent while the Juventus midfielder eagerly awaits developments in sun-kissed Miami. United manager Jose Mourinho has made Pogba his top transfer target as he bids to make a big impact in his first season at Old Trafford and a record-breaking £100 million ($130 million, 119 million euros) deal looks to have moved closer on Wednesday. British media reported United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward pulled out of the club's pre-season tour to China to meet Pogba's agent Mino Raiola on Wednesday, when the pair negotiated a prospective five-year contract worth £220,000-per-week after tax. Although United are believed to have had an opening bid of £86 million rejected by Juventus, they are certain to test the Italian champions' resolve with an improved offer that would easily shatter the previous world record fee of £85 million paid by Real Madrid for Gareth Bale in 2013. While Pogba's future is debated by some of football's leading powerbrokers, the man himself appeared completely unflustered by the hype while on holiday with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, who is another of Raiola's clients. A series of social media posts by the star show Pogba soaking up the sunshine and working out in Miami, where he has also been pictured playing basketball while wearing a jersey of the recently crowned NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Determined to restore United to their former glory as he tries to erase the stain of his sacking by Chelsea last season, Mourinho has already spent more than £50 million on defender Eric Bailly from Villarreal and midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as well as recruiting former Paris Saint Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer. But it is Mourinho's expensive courtship of Pogba which has developed into the most high-profile transfer saga of the close-season. While his capture would be a major coup, it would also be a source of a few rueful looks at Old Trafford after the 23-year-old was allowed to leave for Juventus on a free transfer just four years ago. The Turin giants persuaded Pogba to turn his back on United in 2012 after he made just a handful of appearances in England and fell out with then manager Alex Ferguson, who slammed him for showing no respect to the club. Pogba has since emerged as one of the top midfielders in Europe, playing an integral part in the France side that reached the Euro 2016 final and helping Juventus win four successive Serie A titles. Juventus won't make the same mistake as United and have made it clear they want at least £100 million, plus £8 million in add-ons for Pogba. Complicating matters for United and increasing their desire to tie up the transfer quickly is a potential bid from Real Madrid, whose French manager Zinedine Zidane is a confirmed admirer of Pogba. But Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri insisted Pogba had a difficult decision to make because United can't match his club's domestic dominance at present and also don't have Champions League action to offer. "Anyone who has the opportunity to leave Juventus has to consider things very carefully, because right now Juve are among the top four European clubs," Allegri was quoted as saying by the Italian media. "This is not a selling club that just lets its players go. Pogba belongs to Juve and at the end of the day he too will want to win another Scudetto and hopefully the Champions League."
2016-07-21
13:19:57


Germany's Gomez quits Besiktas after Turkey coup. German striker Mario Gomez, the top scorer in Turkey's Super Lig last season, on Wednesday said he was leaving Istanbul club Besiktas after just one year due to the political situation in the wake of the failed coup. "I have to tell you Besiktas fans personally that it is very heavy for me that I will not be playing for this great club in front of you wonderful fans in this unique stadium anymore," he said in a statement on his Facebook page. "It is purely down to the terrible events that happened in the last few days. I hope you can understand that." Gomez is so far the first big football name to quit Turkey after the coup, which resulted in terrifying scenes in Istanbul and Ankara. Several top European stars play in Istanbul, such as the Netherlands' Robin van Persie with Fenerbahce and Germany's Lukas Podolski at Galatasaray. Gomez, who was on a one-season loan from Fiorentina but had been widely expected to stay on in a full transfer, helped Besiktas last season surge to their first Turkish title since 2009. He rapidly became a firm favourite with the club faithful, scoring 26 goals in a special season for Besiktas that also saw the club move to a sparkling new stadium on the shores of the Bosphorus. "The reason for this is completely down to the political situation," said Gomez in the heavy-hearted statement. "There are no sporting or any other reasons that have made me make this decision. It is purely down to the terrible events that happened in the last few days," he added. He said that "it was a fantastic year with the championship providing the absolute highlight". "I hope that these political problems can be solved in a peaceful manner soon. Then it would be my great wish to play for Besiktas again. The club and the country grew very close to my heart in this past year."
2016-07-21
13:17:52


Liverpool seal deal for Estonia defender Klavan. Liverpool have finalised the signing of Estonia defender Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg, the Premier League club confirmed on Wednesday. Klavan agreed a "long-term contract" after passing a medical at Liverpool's Melwood training ground and will cost the Reds a reported £4.2 million ($5.5 million, 5 million euros). The 30-year-old has won over 100 caps for Estonia and is well known to Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp, a former Borussia Dortmund coach, after spending four seasons playing in the Bundesliga. Klavan, who featured in both legs of Augsburg's Europa League last-32 tie against Liverpool in February, will provide cover at centre-back as Mamadou Sakho and Joe Gomez are both currently injured and Tiago Ilori is heading to the Olympics with Portugal. The defender is Klopp's fifth close-season signing, following the arrival of goalkeeper Loris Karius, defender Joel Matip, midfielder Marko Grujic and forward Sadio Mane. "I'm really honoured to be part of this amazing club, this amazing team," Klavan told Liverpool's website. "It's hard to put it into words because it's been a dream of mine for 22 years to come to the Premier League and be a part of this amazing club, Liverpool. "The Premier League is the most attractive league in the world and you always have amazing players here. This is the home of football."
2016-07-20
15:46:33


Lewandowski staying at Bayern Munich - Ancelotti. New Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted on Wednesday that he would not allow key striker Robert Lewandowski to leave the German champions for Real Madrid. Italian Ancelotti, who led Real to their 10th European crown in 2014, took over at the Allianz Arena from Pep Guardiola, who left for Manchester City, at the end of the past season. Media reports in the last month have speculated that Lewandowski, who has been the Bundesliga's top scorer in two of the last three seasons, was close to moving to the Spanish capital, but Ancelotti is confident of keeping the Pole in Bavaria. "Real Madrid have many fantastic players, including (Karim) Benzema, (Gareth) Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, Real don't even need Lewandowski," Ancelotti told German sports daily Sportbild. "And even if they did, Bayern would not sell Lewandowski. Why should we let go one of the best strikers in the world voluntarily?" Bayern face Real Madrid in a friendly in the United States on August 4. The 57-year-old Ancelotti, who has won three Champions League titles as a coach, also revealed some of his training-ground methods. He gives his players marks out of 10 after each training session, but keeps them secret. "I set certain expectations of my players," he added. "After every game I note things down. This is my personal rating, in which no feedback is given out, including for the players. "They get scores on a scale of 10, very good, to 1, very bad. Like how the journalists in Italy, in "La Gazetta dello Sport" mark the players." Bayern brought in Ancelotti, whose continental pedigree is second to none, in the hope of sealing a sixth European Cup triumph, after three successive semi-final defeats under Guardiola. Ancelotti is not known as a particularly hard taskmaster, and although he does not want players turning up late for training, he'll leave it down to captain Philipp Lahm to dish out the punishment. "If a player is late, the captain must tell him that he must pay a fine in cash to the team," he said. "It's me who sets the rules, but the players who control them between them. That's what I usually do and that's what I also want to bring to Bayern." Ancelotti's first competitive match in charge will be against rivals Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup on August 14. Bayern begin their tilt at a record fifth successive German league title when they open the Bundesliga season with a home game against Werder Bremen on August 26.
2016-07-20
15:47:01


Swansea sign Aussie keeper. Australian international goalkeeper Mark Birighitti signed for Premier League side Swansea on a free transfer on Monday to become the fourth senior stopper on the club's books. The 25-year-old -- capped once -- signed a two-year contract with the "Swans" after leaving A-League outfit Newcastle Jets. He faces a battle with three others for the number one spot -- Polish international Lukasz Fabianski, Kristoffer Nordfeldt and Gerhard Tremmel -- having played under one of Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin's assistant coaches, Gabriele Ambrosetti, in Italy. "I worked with Gabriele in Italy at Varese, where he was the club's sporting director," Birighitti told the Swansea website. "He's a fantastic person and I'm looking forward to working closely with him again," added Birighitti, who spent six months at the Italian club. "Before coming here I knew there would be strong competition at the club. "But my plan is to take each training session as they come and try to be better than them. I have to make sure when the opportunity comes that I take the opportunity with both hands and don't look back." Birighitti was named in the A-League's team of the season last term.
2016-07-19
14:12:59


Manchester United new-boy Ibrahimovic to miss China tour. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Manchester United's pre-season tour of China as the Sweden striker takes an extended break following Euro 2016. Ibrahimovic joined Jose Mourinho's side on a free transfer after leaving French champions Paris Saint Germain at the end of last season, but the Premier League club's legion of fans in China won't get a first glimpse of the marquee signing in a United shirt. Although United's 25-man squad for the trip includes Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, David De Gea and Paddy McNair, who all exited Euro 2016 later than Ibrahimovic, the former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward was granted extra time off by Mourinho and is currently sunning himself in Los Angeles. Ibrahimovic's first United appearance is likely to come against Galatasaray in Gothenburg on July 30. The 35-year-old's absence won't slow the clamour to see United's glamour friendlies against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in Beijing on Monday. Ibrahimovic's fellow close-season arrivals Eric Bailly, an Ivory Coast defender signed from Villarreal, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a former Borussia Dortmund midfielder, are on the plane to Asia for the week-long trip. Also included is England left-back Luke Shaw, who will continue to step up his fitness after making his return from long-term injury in the 2-0 friendly win at Wigan on Saturday. Youngsters Axel Tuanzebe, Will Keane and Andreas Pereira will get a chance to impress after being named in the group. France internationals Anthony Martial and Morgan Schneiderlin, Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger and Italy's Matteo Darmian are not going to the Far East following their Euro 2016 campaigns. Striker James Wilson started against Wigan but is not included, nor are Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Tyler Blackett and Guillermo Varela.
2016-07-19
14:13:27


Leicester 'warrior' Morgan signs new deal. Towering Leicester City captain Wes Morgan has signed a new contract with the club to June 2019, the Premier League champions said on Tuesday. The 32-year-old played every minute of Leicester's title-winning campaign and was a key part of their shock success, forming a rock-solid central defensive partnership with Robert Huth. "To commit my future to Leicester City is a wonderful feeling," Morgan, who joined the Foxes in January 2012 from rivals Nottingham Forest, told the club's website. "Everyone knows how I feel about playing for this club and with my team-mates so I'm proud to have the chance to carry on wearing the shirt long term. "Lifting that Premier League trophy was a moment I will never forget and it's still sinking in." Morgan has gone on to make 196 appearances for the Foxes, scoring eight goals. Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri added: "Wes is a leader and a warrior. I'm so happy that he's committed his future to Leicester City Football Club. It's a wonderful time to be part of this team. "Last season was so special and Wes was fantastic. Now we have another huge season ahead of us and we need him."
2016-07-20
15:46:11


Ronaldo, Bale on UEFA best player shortlist. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale headlined a 10-man shortlist announced on Monday for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. Ronaldo struck the winning spot-kick as Real claimed an 11th Champions League title, beating city rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties in May, before leading his country to Euro 2016 glory. Fellow Portugal and Real team-mate Pepe also features on the shortlist along with Wales star Bale, who steered his country to the semi-finals of the European Championship in their first appearance at a major finals since 1958. Ronaldo is favourite to the win the award for a second time, after scooping the honours in 2013-14, which would see him draw level with Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Atletico striker Antoine Griezmann was also nominated after his six goals at Euro 2016 earned him the player of the tournament and the Golden Boot, only for France to fall short against Portugal in the final. Messi was one of two Barcelona players to make the list along with Luis Suarez, while Bayern Munich duo Manuel Neuer and Thomas Mueller, Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Real midfielder Toni Kroos were also included. The players were selected by journalists from each of UEFA's 55 members associations who will vote for a second time on August 5 to determine the three finalists. The winner of the award will be announced in Monaco on August 25 when the draw for the Champions League group stage is made.
2016-07-19
14:12:23


Juve to break bank for Higuain. Italian champions Juventus are set to pay a hefty 94.7 million euros ($105m) release clause in Gonzalo Higuain's contract with Napoli to lure the Argentina star to Turin, reports claimed Monday. Higuain joined Napoli for 40 million euros from Real Madrid in 2013 and has since gone on to become one of the most exciting, and bankable stars in Italy's top flight. The 28-year-old centre-forward hit a stunning 36 goals last season to break Gunnar Nordahl's 66-year-old record of 35 goals for AC Milan in a 20-team season, which he achieved in 1950. Now the Argentina star is set to break Napoli hearts by joining their bitter, northern rivals in a deal that could see Juventus offer several players and pay the massive release clause to Napoli to secure Higuain's services. According to widespread reports in the Italian media, Higuain has personally agreed to the move. Talks between both clubs were expected to begin on Monday and although they may continue for some time, Juventus are set to pull out all the stops in a bid to secure Higuain. La Gazzetta dello Sport said Juventus are willing to offer striker Simone Zaza and defender Daniele Rugani as part of the deal. If Higuain were to join Juventus, Napoli would then focus on replacing him with either Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid) or Nikola Kalinic (Fiorentina), said the report. Napoli have maintained in recent weeks that Higuain is not for sale, the club's vice-president Edoardo De Laurentiis -- the son of club owner Aurelio -- even telling worried fans on Sunday to "sleep tight" when asked about Higuain's possible departure. But a front page headline in Gazzetta dello Sport warned Napoli fans it was "Higuain Day" and that Juventus would be "launching an assault" in a bid to close the deal. At Juventus, Higuain would join up with fellow Argentina international striker Paulo Dybala, forming a formidable duo that would likely strike fear into the hearts of Serie A defences before a ball is kicked in anger. While Higuain hit 36 league goals in 2015-2016, Dybala finished Serie A's second-highest scorer on 19. Dybala also followed Higuain on the social media platform Instagram last weekend, fuelling speculation the Napoli striker is set to quit the southern club two years before his current contract expires. Juventus claimed their fifth consecutive Serie A title last season with a nine-point cushion on Napoli, who will feature in next season's Champions League. The new Serie A season starts on August 20.
2016-07-19
14:12:00


Robben out for six weeks with new injury. Arjen Robben looks set to miss the start of the new season after the Bayern Munich star suffered another injury ruling him out for six weeks with a groin problem. The 32-year-old Dutch forward, who had not played since mid-March because of a previous groin injury, hurt his right groin in Saturday's friendly away victory over Lippstadt. "The injury to the player's right leg was diagnosed after an examination conducted by the club's medical unit in Munich on Sunday. Robben will be sidelined for approximately six weeks," Bayern said on its website. Bayern begin the defence of their Bundesliga title on August 26 against Werder Bremen at home.
2016-07-18
12:55:04


Ba's horror leg-break 'could end career'. Former Chelsea striker Demba Ba's career could be over after the 31-year-old suffered a horrific broken leg in the Shanghai derby at the weekend. The Senegalese marksman tangled with SIPG defender and captain Sun Xiang in the 63rd minute of his side's 2-1 Chinese Super League victory. As the pair fell, Ba's left leg was caught between the turf and his opponent's boot, bending at a sickening angle and then appearing to snap gruesomely below the knee. Shenhua's medical team raced on to the pitch without waiting for the referee's signal and the match was stopped for eight minutes while the Chinese Super League's top scorer, with 14 goals, was treated on the pitch before being taken to hospital. Speaking after the match, a visibly shaken Shenhua coach Gregorio Manzano said the incident was potentially career-ending. "In my 33 years as a coach I have won, drawn and lost games, but today is the most bitter victory because what happened to Demba Ba is what no one ever wants to see," Manzano said. "Football is unfair sometimes to let such a terrible thing happen to such a good man. That could end a player's career." Shenhua, who won the match 2-1, described the injury as a broken leg and said the incident -- for which Sun was not booked -- was "unfortunate" in a statement released on Monday. Manzano told local media that Ba, who also played for Newcastle and West Ham in England, would be out for at least seven months. "If I can choose, I'd rather lose the match than lose Demba Ba," Manzano told the Shanghai Daily newspaper. SIPG's coach, the former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, expressed sympathy, according to Shanghai Daily, saying: "It was a bad injury. I'm very sorry for Ba." Ba's former club Chelsea posted a message of support on their official Twitter feed. "All at Chelsea FC send our best wishes to former striker @dembabafoot. Get well soon Demba." it said. The incident took the gloss off a pulsating and tempestuous Shanghai derby watched by more than 24,000 fans that saw 10 yellow and two red cards as both sides finished with 10 men. Chinese international forward Wu Lei put SIPG ahead in the 55th minute with a stunning strike from outside the box. Shanghai-born playmaker Cao Yunding equalised for Shenhua with just three minutes of the 90 left, before a Freddy Guarin penalty five minutes into added time sealed a dramatic 2-1 win for the home side. Elsewhere big-spending Jiangsu Suning lost 3-0 away to newly-promoted Yanbian Fude in the shock result of the Chinese Super League weekend action. And a late double from Chinese international midfielder Zheng Long in the last 10 minutes saw Luiz Felipe Scolari's table-topping Guangzhou Evergrande beat Changchun Yatai 2-1 away from home to extend their lead over second place Suning to 13 points.
2016-07-18
12:55:41


Conte lauds Kante signing after debut defeat. Chelsea coach Antonio Conte hailed the signing of N'Golo Kante after the France international joined from Premier League champions Leicester City on Saturday. Kante, 25, became Chelsea's second major signing this month, following the arrival of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille, after the Blues paid a reported £32 million (38 million euros, $42 million) for the defensive midfielder. "I want to say Kante was a target and for this reason I'm very happy the club bought the player," said Conte, after watching Chelsea lose 2-0 to Rapid Vienna in his first match in charge. "He's a good player. He has good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. If you want to win then a team needs this type of player that works hard for the team. "All together we are working to improve the squad. We know we have to but we prefer to wait and go for our targets, rather than go with emotion and take the players who don't adapt to our idea of football." Conte fielded an experienced side with John Terry named as captain for Saturday's pre-season friendly against Rapid in the Austrian capital. The Italian also handed starts to several first-team regulars including Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic, Willian and Branislav Ivanovic, but the English giants fell behind when Brazilian teenager Joelinton scored after just eight minutes. Chelsea academy product Ola Aina fired against the post in the second half. However, Rapid struck again through Tomi Correa on 82 minutes to wrap up the victory. "This is the first game for us but I knew it would be very difficult after three days of double training," said Conte. "I think it was a bit normal to meet these difficulties in the game, but I don't like to lose and it's the same for my players." Conte, who steered an unfancied Italy side into the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 before losing to Germany on penalties, said Chelsea's ultimate goal this season was to challenge for the title after a lowly 10th-place finish last term. "We'll work very hard because we want to come back and compete for the title until the end of the season. I know there is a lot of work to do but we are ready," he said.
2016-07-17
11:24:24


Mourinho off to winning start with United. Jose Mourinho's first game as manager of Manchester United ended in a short trip and comfortable 2-0 victory over newly-promoted Championship side Wigan Athletic at their DW Stadium on Saturday. Goals early in the second half from Will Keane and Andreas Pereira secured victory for United who parted company with former manager Louis van Gaal after winning the FA Cup on their last competitive outing two months ago. It was a weakened United line-up at the disposal of their new manager given that 14 players who represented their countries in the European Championships and Copa America this summer were unavailable and have yet to return to training. Nevertheless, it is a sign of the strength in depth that Mourinho will have at his call this season that the starting line-up he selected still boasted summer signings Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, bought for a total of nearly £60 million (71.7 million euros), and England left-back Luke Shaw, returning after 10 months out of action with a broken leg. The game, arranged at short notice to give Mournho extra competition prior to his team leaving for a tour of China on Tuesday, was predictably low-key. But it still represented a winning start to his reign as United manager as the 5,500 United supporters in attendance welcomed him by chanting his name within the opening minute. The victory will doubtless have pleased their manager even if the opening goal was a gift from veteran Wigan goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen who made an appalling clearance directly to Juan Mata who squared for Keane to convert after 48 minutes. Ten minutes later, United doubled their advantage with a goal that clearly owed much to the work put in by Mourinho in his first week on the training ground with his new charges. A well-worked free-kick saw Mata pick out Ander Herrera in the Wigan penalty area and, after his shot was blocked, Brazilian Pereira was handed the simple opportunity to sweep the ball in from a dozen yards. Otherwise, the game was a typical pre-season affair, with Mourinho making seven half-time substitutions, and swapping all 11 players before the end of the 90 minutes. Interestingly, Ivory Coast defender Bailly, a new arrival from Villarreal, played longer than any other outfield player, seeing out 82 minutes of the contest, as Mourinho presumably attempts to acclimatise him to the English game. But the United manager will nevertheless have gained satisfaction, and information, from the game with the new playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the first Armenian to play in the Premier League, particularly bright in the ppening exchanges. His neat lay-off after eight minutes should have been converted by Memphis Depay only for the Dutchman to see his shot blocked and the same United forward was guilty of an even more glaring miss halfway through the opening period when he missed the target at the far post after more good approach play from Mkhitaryan. Indeed, it was easy to see how Mkhitaryan led the Bundesliga in assists with Borussia Dortmund last season and he might have capped his first United outing with a goal just before the interval but volleyed over from a Jesse Lingard cross. The 45-minute performance of Shaw will also have pleased his new manager as the left-back showed no ill effects from the horrific double broken leg he suffered early last season in a Champions League tie at PSV Eindhoven. Mourinho will now welcome back the remaining 14 international players to Old Trafford this week ahead of Tuesday's departure to China where his team plays Dortmund in Shanghai and a Manchester derby meeting with City in Beijing. However, while a number of those players, including England internationals Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford, will travel with the squad, Mourinho has indicated they will not play in the two fixtures. Veteran newcomer Zlatan Ibrahimovic may remain in Manchester to concentrate on his fitness.
2016-07-17
11:20:36


Napoli snap up Giaccherini from Sunderland. Italy midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini ended a disappointing spell at Sunderland after signing a three-year contract with Napoli on Saturday, the Serie A runners-up announced. Giaccherini joined Sunderland from Juventus in 2013, but the 31-year-old struggled to earn regular playing time at the Stadium of Light and spent the past season on loan at Bologna. He started four of Italy's five matches at Euro 2016 as Antonio Conte's side dumped out defending champions Spain before losing to Germany on penalties in the quarter-finals. "I'm coming to a prestigious club and I'm very happy to pull on this shirt," Giaccherini told Napoli's website following his arrival in Naples. "I can't wait to start my adventure with Napoli. Playing at San Paolo will be fantastic."
2016-07-17
11:19:52


Celtic introduce groundbreaking safe-standing to Britain. Celtic have become the first British club to introduce safe-standing after the completion of a 2,600 capacity rail seating area at Celtic Park. The Glasgow club will open the area in the Lisbon Lions Stand, home to the Green Brigade supporters group, on Saturday when they take on German side Wolfsburg in Brendan Rodger's first home game in charge of the Hoops which he will hope shows a marked improvement after the humiliating 1-0 loss to Gibraltar part-timers Lincoln Red Imps in their Champions League clash earlier this week. The Scottish champions were granted a safe-standing licence from Glasgow City Council in June last year after five years of talks which had resulted in two previous applications being rejected, amid concerns over the initiative's safety. Celtic have paid £500,000 ($660,000, 600,000 euros) to replace the fixed seating area with a rail seating system more commonly found in the German Bundesliga, most notably Borussia Dortmund's Westfalen Stadion. It is a significant development in British football, given the long-term resistance to any reintroduction of standing by the game's key decision makers. Standing at English football matches was banned after the publication of the Taylor Report in 1990, following the Hillsborough Stadium disaster which resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters one year earlier. Celtic removed the standing areas at Parkhead in 1994 to comply with the provisions of the Taylor Report - which was accepted as the safety standard by the Scottish Football Association although it had no force in Scots law - when the stadium was reconstructed to its current 60,000 capacity under the ownership of Fergus McCann. A statement on the Celtic website said: "Demand from supporters for a place in the revamped area has been huge as the club embarks on a new era under manager Brendan Rodgers. "The introduction of the rail seating section is seen as a significant investment in spectator safety by the club, allowing fans in the area to stand safely at matches." Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell also revealed his delight when permission was first granted. "Celtic has worked tirelessly on this issue and we are delighted that this permission has finally been granted," Lawwell said. "Across football globally, the reality is that some supporters are choosing to stand at matches. "This is something we must accept and manage and also understand the positive effect which these areas have on atmosphere at matches." However, the use of safe standing area will not be allowed on Wednesday when Celtic attempt to overturn their first leg deficit against the Imps in their Champions League second round qualifier because UEFA rules prohibit the facility at European fixtures. The Football Supporters' Federation have been championing the idea of safe-standing since 2002 and it is hoped a successful trial in Scotland could lead to its implementation in England in the near future.
2016-07-16
11:17:13


Chelsea seal Kante capture from Leicester. Chelsea on Saturday announced the signing of Leicester City's all-action defensive midfielder N'Golo Kante on a five-year deal to become new boss Antonio Conte's second capture of the summer. The fee for the French international was about £32 million (38 million euros, $42 million), British media said, and comes after Chelsea snapped up Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille for a similar fee. Kante's move to London will bolster a side that failed miserably in its defence last season of the Premier League title, but represents a blow to reigning champions Leicester as they battle to keep together the side that shocked world football. "I am so happy to have signed for one of the biggest clubs in Europe. It's a dream come true for me," the 25-year-old Kante told Chelsea's website. "The opportunity to work with Antonio Conte, a brilliant coach, and some of the best players in the world was simply too good to turn down." Kante, signed for Leicester last summer from French club Caen for a bargain £5.6 million, was a revelation breaking down attacks during his maiden season in England as Claudio Ranieri's side became shock Premier League champions. He was named on the six-man shortlist for the PFA Players' Player of the Year award - won by Foxes team-mate Riyad Mahrez - but his displays also brought him to the attention of Europe's biggest clubs, including Real Madrid. "My first season in English football was very special and now I hope to go on to achieve even more during my time as a Chelsea player," added Kante, who could have played in the Champions League this season had he stayed at Leicester. "I am looking forward to meeting up with my new team-mates and helping the club achieve a lot of success." Chelsea's technical director Michael Emenalo called Kante "a perfect fit in terms of Antonio Conte's philosophies and the style of football he wants to play. "For a player of his age he has already built up a wealth of experience and his exceptional quality will without doubt be a great addition to the team." Days ago Ranieri, a former Chelsea manager, had told Kante to decide quickly on his future. Kante had a release clause of around £20 million in his Leicester contract, but Chelsea moved to seal his signature by going some way above that. Leicester fans will now be fearful for the future of Mahrez. The tricky Algerian international has also been at the centre of summer transfer speculation but Ranieri does not expect him to leave the King Power Stadium. "I am very confident with him," said the Italian this week. "He stays here with us. "He enjoys it and is not a man saying, 'Coach I want to go'. He is happy." Jamie Vardy, the prolific striker, rejected an offer from Arsenal earlier this summer to stay at Leicester.
2016-07-17
11:19:34


Barca's Umtiti grieves for Nice victims. France defender Samuel Umtiti shared his sorrow with the mourning families of the victims of the Nice terror attack as he was officially presented as a Barcelona player on Friday. "Even if it's a happy day for me, I'm full of sadness," Umtiti said at a press conference, just a day after Thursday's truck attack on the French riviera city which killed at least 84 people. "There were a lot of victims, I'm very sad for all the families who were affected by what happened yesterday." The conference was preceded by a minute's silence at the Camp Nou in honour of the victims, with around 50 more people still fighting for their lives. Barcelona on Tuesday concluded a deal worth 25 million euros ($27.7 million) to sign Umtiti from Lyon on a five-year deal. The 22-year-old said it was a "childhood dream" to wear the Barcelona shirt. "When I knew there was this possibility to come to this great club I had a lot of emotions, I openly shed some tears," he admitted. "It's really a dream to be at this club. "I knew all the players, the style of play. I know almost everything about this club even if I wasn't around." Umtiti made his international debut in France's quarter-final victory over Iceland at Euro 2016, retaining his place for the next two games as the hosts lost 1-0 to Portugal in the final. However, he will face stiff competition for playing time at Barcelona from Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and France team-mate Jeremy Mathieu. But Umtiti insisted the challenge will spur him on. "I need this competition, I know it, and here there's a lot more competition," he said. "I'm ready for that, I'm here to improve at everything and improve with these players who are more experienced than me. But I have lofty ambitions, I don't want to hide, I'm a player, I'm a competitor."
2016-07-16
11:16:53


Barca begin title defence at home to Betis. Defending champions Barcelona will start the defence of their La Liga crown at home to Real Betis over the weekend of August 20-21, with Real Madrid visiting Real Sociedad in their opening match. The Spanish football federation released the fixtures for the 2016-17 season on Friday, with Atletico Madrid hosting promoted Alaves to kick off their campaign. Barcelona and Real will have to wait until the first weekend of December for the season's first Clasico, at the Camp Nou, with the arch rivals meeting on April 22-23 for the reverse fixture in the Spanish capital. Real visit city rivals Atletico over the weekend of November 19-20, before the two sides face off at the Santiago Bernabeu in early April. The league season will run until May 21 with the final of the Copa del Rey planned for the following weekend. Barcelona will warm up for their season opener against Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup. The first leg takes place in Seville on August 14 with the second leg three days later in Barcelona. Europa League winners Sevilla face a particularly hectic August schedule, with Jorge Sampaoli's men also playing Real in the European Super Cup in Trondheim in Norway on August 9.
2016-07-16
11:15:52


Liverpool starlet Ibe becomes Bournemouth's record signing. Flying England Under-21 winger Jordon Ibe cost Bournemouth a reported record £15million (17.9m euros, $20m) when he signed on Thursday from their Premier League rivals Liverpool. The 20-year-old -- capped four times at Under-21 level -- signed a four year contract with the 'Cherries' before joining them on their tour of the United States having given up hope of regular first team football at Liverpool. His transfer fee easily surpasses the previous club record of £9million outlaid for Benik Afobe from second tier Wolves last January. Liverpool's signing of Southampton's Senegalese international forward Sadio Mane also helped him seek a move to end four-and-a-half years on Merseyside. "We're delighted to bring Jordon to the football club," said Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake. "He played plenty of football with Liverpool last season and we're looking forward to seeing him to continue to grow now with us, he's a huge prospect. "We've now signed five players this summer, all of whom have an abundance of potential. "It shows that we're serious about nurturing talent at this football club and we have the long term in mind when we say we want to stay in the Premier League." Ibe, who played 58 times for Liverpool since making his debut in the 2012/13 campaign, joins Nathan Ake, Under-17 star Lewis Cook, Emerson Hyndman and Lys Mousset as the new faces manager Eddie Howe has brought in during the close season.
2016-07-15
11:50:48


Make your mind up, Leicester boss Ranieri tells Kante. Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has called on French midfield enforcer N'Golo Kante to decide quickly on his future as the Premier League champions plan the defence of their title. Kante's future is uncertain with a new contract from Leicester on the table amid interest from a host of rival clubs including Chelsea. Ranieri has warned he does not want to be left waiting for a decision from the 25-year-old, who was one of the stand-out stars of last season's title triumph and emerged with credit at Euro 2016 although he didn't get to play in the 1-0 defeat in the final against Portugal. "We offered a new contract to him, he went away because he wanted to finish Euro 2016, and now there is so much speculation around him," said Ranieri at Leicester's pre-season training camp in Austria. "I don't want to lose him but I can understand if he wants to go. "I would like now to be sure who stays with me or not, because the friendly matches start now and I have to start to manage and change and try things." Ranieri has made regular calls to 25-year-old Kante, who has a release clause of around £20 million ($26.6m, 23.9m euros) in his contract and is understood to be being monitored by European champions Real Madrid as well as Chelsea. "Maybe it is not Chelsea, maybe it is another team who made the Champions League," said Ranieri. But Ranieri is more bullish about his chances of keeping Riyad Mahrez, who was crowned PFA player of the year for his eye-catching displays last season. The Algeria international has also been at the centre of summer transfer speculation but Ranieri does not expect him to leave the King Power Stadium. "I am very confident with him," said the Italian. "He stays here with us. "He enjoys it and is not a man saying 'coach I want to go'. He is happy." Meanwhile, Ranieri is still to sign a new contract of his own despite leading the club to a fairytale title win last season. The 64-year-old believes he will agree a new deal before the start of the season but insists the negotiations between his representatives and sporting director Jon Rudkin are not a pressing concern. He signed a three-year agreement last summer but is likely to be rewarded for last season's title success with a four-year contract. "I think before we start the season I will sign, but I signed one year ago," said the former Chelsea manager. "I think I will sign but it's not important for me." One man who has signed a new deal is Jamie Vardy, whose goals fired Leicester to the title. He turned down the chance to join Arsenal and instead penned a four-year contract with the Foxes. He and Kante have been given extra time off after playing at Euro 2016, but Ranieri says Vardy's new contract has already boosted the squad. "It is unbelievable," said Ranieri. "It was fantastic because Jamie is our point of reference, or one of our points of reference. "Of course all his team-mates are happy and gave us a lot of energy to have another good season."
2016-07-15
11:51:10


PSG start summer with laboured win over West Brom. French champions Paris Saint Germain laboured to a 2-1 win over West Brom in their first pre-season friendly on Wednesday with mercurial midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa making his debut. Not helped by torrential rain and a soggy pitch in Austria, PSG defender David Luiz managed to give the English Premier League club the lead after 15 minutes, putting the ball past his own keeper Kevin Trapp off a cross from Saido Berahino. However, second-half substitutes Adrien Rabiot (62nd minute) and Lucas (79th minute) gave PSG the win.
2016-07-15
11:49:54


Conte hopes to light a fire under the Premier League. Antonio Conte says he hopes Chelsea under his stewardship will light up the Premier League title race this season. The 46-year-old -- who guided Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 only losing on penalties to world champions Germany -- said Chelsea may not be top of everyone's list to challenge for the crown after finishing 10th in their title defence last term. "We are under-rated a bit, and might slip under the radar, but I hope there's a small flame flickering here that can hopefully grow into a blazing inferno," said Conte at his unveiling to the media at Stamford Bridge on Thursday. The Italian -- who rejected the opportunity to follow the example of predecessor 'Special One' Jose Mourinho and give himself a nickname -- said a club the size of Chelsea shouldn't be scrabbling around in mid-table. "When you are a player, a footballer, or a manager of a great club like Chelsea, you must play to win," said Conte, who also took the opportunity to confirm Chelsea icon John Terry would be club captain. "To win. To win the title. Or to fight and, at the end, to compete with the other teams to win the title and reach your targets. "I know that this league is very, very difficult because there are six or seven teams who can win the title. For this reason, this situation is very exciting for me. It excites me, this situation. "We know that, this year, it won't be easy for us because if we think about the last season and 10th position... Last season was a bad season, yes? "I know, that there is only one team who wins the title. But we must stay there at the end of the season, to fight for the title and be there for the Champions League. Chelsea belongs in the Champions League, and we must stay there." Conte, whose animated behaviour on the touchline was one of the more memorable features of the Euro, refused to compare himself to Mourinho. "It's always tough to compare people," said Conte, who as a hardworking midfielder helped Juventus win five Serie A titles and to the Champions League trophy. "There are certain managers who are winners. On that I would agree with you. "Regardless of the job they do, some coaches have a winning mentality besides their working methods and philosophies. "There are winners in football, but not everyone has that in them. Those who do are, indeed, special." Conte, though, dismissed the suggestion with Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp also managing Premier League teams -- Manchester City and Liverpool respectively -- the coming season would be dominated by personalities in the dug-out. "In this league there are many, many players with great talent. Fantastic players. Also there are good managers," said Conte. "For me, I'm very happy to be compared with them, but in this tournament it's not a challenge between managers. Between great teams, between great players... these are the most important things. "There are also great managers, good managers, but the most important things when there is a game, Chelsea v United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal... Tottenham also. All teams." Conte, who guided Juventus to three successive Serie A titles before assuming the Italy role after the 2014 World Cup, said he didn't know whether the challenge he faced at Chelsea was any greater than the one he had taken on at Juventus. "I don't know if it's the most difficult challenge of my career," said Conte. "I know that when I arrived in Juventus, Juventus had just had two seventh places in the previous two seasons and then we built something. Something fantastic. "I think that this is a great challenge. I think that this is the right moment for me to arrive in England."
2016-07-15
11:50:26


Joachim Loew stays on as Germany coach. Joachim Loew ended speculation about his immediate future when he confirmed Tuesday that he would stay on as coach of Germany despite the disappointment of the Euro 2016 semi-final defeat by France. Loew, who took Germany to World Cup glory in Brazil in 2014, said in a statement issued by the German football federation: "We were disappointed after the semi-final, but despite our disappointment, the Mannschaft did not disappoint." Loew, 56, said he had seen "great potential" in the squad that would serve Germany well in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. "I'm sure it will bring us still much joy, so it is my joy to continue my work with these players and continue to evolve with them in the context of the 2018 World Cup." Loew, in charge since 2006, has a contract that runs to 2018 but he had left some doubt about his position after Germany were eliminated from the European Championships.
2016-07-13
18:16:01


Norwich sign Spanish teenager from Liverpool. Promising Spanish winger Sergi Canos's search for more first team football saw him drop down a division on Wednesday, signing for second-tier Norwich City from Premier League giants Liverpool for a reported £2million (2.3m euros, $2.6m). The 19-year-old, who has represented Spain at Under-17 and Under-19 levels, signed a four-year contract and could cost the Canaries a further £2million depending on the number of times he plays for them. Canos, who had been with Liverpool since 2013, progressing through the academy system, played just once for the Merseysiders in the Premier League, the final game of last season. Cano had a successful spell on loan at second-tier Brentford last term scoring seven times.
2016-07-13
18:16:30


Time for Balotelli to move on, says Klopp. Fiery Italian striker Mario Balotelli's unhappy spell at English Premier League side Liverpool is over with manager Jurgen Klopp saying Wednesday he should find a new team. Balotelli, 25, scored only four times for Liverpool since Klopp's predecessor Brendan Rodgers bought him from Manchester City in 2014 and was loaned out to AC Milan last term. He wasn't any more productive there either netting just three times in 23 appearances -- missing out on the Euro 2016 squad -- and was sent back to Liverpool where the squad is undergoing pre-season training. "He's (Balotelli) not at the stage of his career where he should be battling with four or five players for one or two positions," said Klopp. "So it's clear we need a solution. There will be a club who would be happy to have the new Mario Balotelli."
2016-07-15
11:48:51


Digne joins Barcelona from PSG. France international defender Lucas Digne has joined Barcelona on a five-year deal from Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint Germain, the Catalan club said on Wednesday. The 22-year-old left back spent last season on a successful loan deal at Serie A's Roma and had been expected to move there permanently. But Barcelona have sealed the stylish Lille-trained player's services in a deal worth 16.5 million euros ($18.26M) with a potential four million add on.
2016-07-15
11:49:13


Norwich sign Spanish teenager from Liverpool. Promising Spanish winger Sergi Canos's search for more first team football saw him drop down a division on Wednesday, signing for second-tier Norwich City from Premier League giants Liverpool for a reported £2million (2.3m euros, $2.6m). The 19-year-old, who has represented Spain at Under-17 and Under-19 levels, signed a four-year contract and could cost the Canaries a further £2million depending on the number of times he plays for them. Canos, who had been with Liverpool since 2013, progressing through the academy system, played just once for the Merseysiders in the Premier League, the final game of last season. Cano had a successful spell on loan at second-tier Brentford last term scoring seven times.
2016-07-15
11:49:36


Willian signs new contract with Chelsea. Chelsea rewarded their player of the year, Brazilian international midfielder Willian, with a new four-year contract on Tuesday, the Premier League club announced. The 27-year-old -- who Chelsea beat off London rivals Spurs to buy for £32million three years ago from Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala -- professed himself delighted to be continuing his career with the club. "I'm very happy to sign a new contract with Chelsea," Willian told the club's website. "It's a dream to continue with this club and over the next four years I will try to help the team win more trophies," added Willian, who caught the eye of potential suitors as part of the hugely successful Ukrainian side Shakhthar Donetsk who won the now defunct UEFA Cup in 2009. Willian, who has scored 19 goals in 140 appearances, had been linked with a possible big money reunion with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. However, despite winning the Premier League title and League Cup under Mourinho Willian is content to taste life under Chelsea's new manager, Italian Antonio Conte. "It's been an amazing time for me since I joined the club three years ago, I have won titles and last season I was named Chelsea Player of the Year," said Willian. "I hope to be able to stay at that level during the coming seasons and achieve more success."
2016-07-13
9:44:35


Rooney : Mourinho arrival added motivation. Skipper Wayne Rooney says Jose Mourinho's appointment as Manchester United manager has given him extra motivation for the new Premier League season. Mourinho, tasked with making United title contenders once more after the sacking of Louis van Gaal in May, has signalled that he sees Rooney playing up front -- rather than the deeper midfield position he took up for England and United at the back end of last season. Rooney, 30, who is only four goals behind Bobby Charlton's record haul of 249 in United's all-time top-scorers list, told Inside United magazine: "I'm really excited to be working with Jose this season as he's one of the best managers in the world. "It's an exciting time for Manchester United. I've always respected him both as a man and a manager, he's a nice guy and one of the most successful managers of all time. "I like to think I'm always motivated as a player but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit more motivated when a new manager comes in. "I'm sure all the lads will be happy to be working under Jose and also eager to impress." Rooney, who has been joined at Old Trafford over the summer by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ivorian defender Eric Bailly and Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, said he had never enjoyed an easy game against a Mourinho side. "His teams are always hard to beat, tactically disciplined and, most importantly, successful," Rooney said of the former Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Porto boss. "He'll bring all these qualities with him and I'm sure he'll have his own ideas, but one of the biggest assets will be his experience. "He's managed a lot of successful teams throughout his career and all that experience will be vital."
2016-07-13
9:43:58


Barca complete deal for Lyon's Umtiti. Barcelona have completed the signing of France defender Samuel Umtiti from Lyon in a deal worth 25 million euros ($27.7 million), the Spanish champions announced on Tuesday. Umtiti, 22, will pen a five-year contract with Barcelona which includes a buy-out clause of 60 million euros, the club said in a statement. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed last month that the two clubs had reached an agreement over the transfer while Umtiti was on international duty for France at Euro 2016. The Cameroon-born centre-back made his France debut in the quarter-finals against Iceland and retained his place in the team for the next two matches, including Sunday's 1-0 defeat by Portugal in the final. Umtiti, who can also play at left-back, will be officially presented as a Barcelona player on Friday after undergoing a medical at the Camp Nou. He will compete for playing time with Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and France team-mate Jeremy Mathieu, whose injury prompted Didier Deschamps to call up Umtiti for the European Championship. Umtiti, an under-20 World Cup winner in 2013, becomes Barca's second signing of the summer after the Catalan giants exercised a buy-back clause to re-sign midfielder Denis Suarez from Villarreal last week.
2016-07-13
9:44:19


Five facts on Graziano Pelle. Five facts on Italian international striker Graziano Pelle after he became the latest high profile player to move to China signing for Shandong Luneng on Monday from Southampton: Strictly Come Dancing..... Not necessarily the thing one would own up to in the macho world of football but Pelle was a national Under-12 champion dancer with his sister. He says he had to choose between ballroom dancing and football which didn't present too much of a quandary. "My sister wanted to dance and so after a day of football, I'd change and even have to put heels on because my sister was taller than me at the time! I was pretty good because I was physically strong and then I won champion for all kinds of disciplines," he revealed in his entertaining book 'Pelle talks: 1000 questions and more'. While he doesn't regret forsaking the dancing career for football he admits it served him well on the pitch. "It helped me with football because it gave me a lot of co-ordination and rhythm," he said. Family values A romantic at heart -- he once sent his Hungarian model girlfriend who he met through Facebook 100 roses -- his values in life were set in stone by a solid family background. All the Pelle's from grandfather Pipe to his parents, father Roberto, also a footballer but never at his son's level, and mum Doriana, and their children lived together in the same house built by the patriarch of the family in Monteroni in the heel of Italy. Pelle's biggest regret is his beloved grandpa didn't live to see him succeed. "Pipe drove me to and from the training. He always had the same advice: 'Graziano, if you don't shoot, you won't score'," Pelle told The Guardian in 2014. Pipe died in 2008 from a broken heart following the death of his wife. "I'm so sorry he can't see my current success," said Pelle. Koeman the spark that lit the fuse Pelle's first spell in the Netherlands hadn't gone swimmingly well and not much better when he returned to Italy. However, a chance meeting with a friend of the son of Ronald Koeman in the unlikely setting of a beach in party island Ibiza set him on the track that was to lead to his career turning in the right direction. "They were chatting to each other on the phone," Pelle told The Daily Telegraph in October 2015. "I said to say 'hi to Ronald Koeman and ask him to bring me to Feyenoord'. It was just a saying but in the end it went like that. A good vacation." Koeman duly did just that and signed him for Dutch giants Feyenoord. He rose to be captain, scoring 55 goals in 66 appearances, before eventually following his mentor to Southampton in 2014 and netted 30 times for them in two productive campaigns. Mynah regrets Pelle's favourite pet was neither a dog nor a cat or even a canary but a mynah bird called Calimero. Thus he was reduced to tears on learning dad Roberto had not buried it when it died aged 19 but instead put it in a dustbin. "That bird was like a brother to me. My heart broke and I had to cry again," revealed Pelle in his book. Wilde at heart Footballers perhaps unfairly aren't regarded as book worms let alone readers of the literary classics. Pelle again goes against the clichéed image as he is a devotee of the flamboyant Irish literary giant Oscar Wilde he claims in the book 'Pelle talks'. Certainly some of his interviews could be termed 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.
2016-07-12
10:15:09


Brazil's questionable World Cup legacy. Officials in Brazil claim the Rio Olympics will bring lasting benefits, but did the country's hosting of the World Cup two years ago manage to help local people? "I don't think so," Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said in June, expressing an opinion shared by many Brazilians who lament unfinished construction, oversized stadiums and expensive, underused infrastructure from the football championship. "There were parties, music, great food and fun people, but we continue to cultivate this image of doing things under the wire at an elevated cost, without adequate planning," said Paes. The Brazilian government told AFP hosting large events is an education, and helping the South American nation to grow. "Brazil is a developing country that has taken advantage of opportunities to organize major events like the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics to build a culture that puts more emphasis on planning and efficiency," a spokesman at the sports ministry said. Newly constructed or renovated football stadiums are the most obvious World Cup legacy. Some are regularly used, like the Sao Paulo Corinthians Arena or Rio's Maracana stadium, but others sit vacant. The much touted Arena da Amazonia in Manaus -- where England lost to Italy -- now hosts just a handful of matches a year. Local leagues complain that their low attendance can't support the high costs of holding matches there. To prevent the Amazonia from becoming a ghost stadium, prestigious Rio clubs occasionally play there. The sports ministry says it's not responsible for maintaining World Cup stadiums, and that managers must seek out partners to find alternative, multi-purpose uses for the arenas. Corruption allegations swirl around World Cup legacy projects in places like Fortaleza, where tram stations have become dumps, and Sao Paulo, where elevated monorail construction has dragged on into 2016. The renovation of Rio's Maracana stadium is the focus of a corruption probe linked to the Petrobras mega-scandal that has shaken Brazilian politics to its foundations. The project soared past its anticipated cost of 705 million Brazilian reais (about $214 million today) to 1.2 billion reais ($364 million), billed to Brazilian taxpayers. In the lead-up to the world's premier football event, millions of Brazilians took to the streets demanding the government invest in education and health rather than sports arenas. Public anger continues to swell as Brazil descends into political and economic turmoil. Now, after a World Cup that seemingly left little benefit -- not to mention the host's humiliating 7-1 semi-final loss to Germany -- many question the prospects of a positive Olympic legacy.
2016-07-12
10:15:28


Barca defend Messi social media campaign. Barcelona have defended their campaign on social media in support of Lionel Messi after the Argentine superstar's 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud. "We are involved in a controversy in which there is the feeling that FC Barcelona has committed a tax crime whereas that is not the case," said club spokesman Josep Vives on Monday. The Spanish giants were only "defending someone who has been and is still being treated unjustly," he added. Last Friday Barcelona took to social media following Messi and his father's conviction for avoiding paying taxes on 4.16 million euros of the player's income earned from his image rights from 2007-09. "Using the hashtag #WeAreAllLeoMessi while posting a photo or message with both hands open, the campaign is encouraging all Barça fans to express their sympathy for the greatest footballer in the world by voicing their unconditional support on social networks," a statement on the club's website explained. "By making it clear that #WeAreAllMessi, we want Leo to know that he is not alone. All members, supporters clubs, fans, athletes, media and everyone else are invited to participate." The statement was accompanied by a message of support on Twitter from club president Josep Maria Bartomeu: "Leo, those who attack you are attacking Barça and its history. We'll defend you to the end. Together forever!" The prison sentences handed out to Messi and his father are likely to be suspended as is normal in Spain for first offences for non-violent crimes carrying a sentence of less than two years. The four-day trial also fined the 29-year-old five-time world player of the year 2.09 million euros while his father was fined 1.6 million euros. The pair have vowed to clear their names and are appealing the guilty verdicts in Spain's Supreme Court.
2016-07-12
10:14:45


Wolfsburg boss tells Marcelo to 'cut the acting'. Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking has told Real Madrid defender Marcelo to "cut out the acting" following his antics during his team's 2-0 Champions League quarter-final first-leg defeat in Germany. The Brazil left-back thrust his head towards Wolfsburg midfielder Maximilian Arnold's chest in the 69th minute of Real's shock defeat, then crumpled to the turf, clutching his face. Arnold, who scored Wolfsburg's second after a penalty from Ricardo Rodriguez, was shown a yellow card, while Marcelo escaped a booking for the incident. "Marcelo is an actor," fumed Hecking. The Wolfsburg coach sought out the Real star at Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena stadium after the game to tell him not to try anything similar for the return leg in Madrid on Tuesday. "I told Marcelo to cut his acting out. He couldn't have complained if he'd found himself no longer on the pitch after that scene," added Hecking. "Arnold got a yellow card he didn't deserve. That annoyed me, because there was no need." Arnold gave a tongue-in-cheek answer when asked about the incident following his heated exchange with Marcelo on the pitch. "We ended up talking about our haircuts," said the German with a grin. Marcelo's theatrics were ridiculed on social media and drew comparisons to his fellow Brazilian Rivaldo's play-acting at the 2002 World Cup. Swiss full-back Rodriguez converted a penalty in the 18th minute before Arnold slotted home on 25 minutes to leave Real with it all to do next week in Madrid.
2016-04-08
14:21:07


Klopp unable to walk alone on Dortmund return. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp received a rapturous, emotional welcome on his return to Borussia Dortmund on Thursday, the occasion marked by a spine-tingling rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. Around 65,000 fans of both teams filled the air in the Westfalenstadion with the stirring hymn marking a fitting return for Klopp who spent seven seasons at the Bundesliga club before leaving for Anfield last year. A smiling Klopp warmly greeted his former players as they prepared for the Europa League quarter-final, first leg clash. 'Kloppo' also smilingly saluted the Yellow Wall of Dortmund fans, banked high behind the goal on the famous south terrace. "It's a very special moment. I can't be unmoved by it," the 48-year-old coach told Sky of a club where he was in charge from 2008 to 2015. However, he admitted it was strange walking into the visitors dressing room rather than the home side's. "I didn't know what they looked like," he smiled although he had been there before -- back in his days as coach of fellow Bundesliga team Mainz, where he worked between 2001 and 2008. "I only had to remind myself when I came in right, instead of left for the dressing room," he told BT Sport. Once 'You'll Never Walk Alone' -- performed movingly inside the cavernous arena -- was completed, the track-suited Klopp embraced his successor Thomas Tuchel as a huge group of photographers camped in front of the dug-out. The return of Klopp to Dortmund for the first time has dominated sports news in Germany all week. It even rivalled Wolfsburg's stunning 2-0 win over Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday on television bulletins and websites. "All the stories around, maybe the media created it a little bit but not a Dortmund player or manager or Liverpool player or manager," Klopp added to BT Sport. "For the team it is not a big difference, the team only has to think about what it has to do in the game. Dortmund are pretty good, that's the truth, but they are beatable. The most difficult thing is they are full, full, full of confidence."
2016-04-08
14:21:29


Klopp's Liverpool hold Dortmund, champions Sevilla win. Liverpool claimed an excellent 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday as Jurgen Klopp made an emotional return to the Westfalenstadion. The game marked Klopp's first coming together with his former club since his departure last summer and subsequent appointment by Liverpool back in October. He saw Divock Origi put the Premier League side in front in the 36th minute before Mats Hummels equalised for the hosts three minutes into the second half. However, that away goal means Liverpool have the upper hand ahead of next Thursday's second leg at Anfield and Klopp will be confident his side can progress to the last four after an encouraging display in Germany. "Dortmund's a pretty good side. Everybody could see that but we had our moments and we could have won the game," Klopp told BT Sport. A rousing rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' -- the Liverpool hymn that is also a Dortmund anthem -- preceded kick-off as Klopp took in the scene at the stadium where he is still idolised after a highly successful seven years as coach. "It was respectful, nice and how it should be," Klopp said of his welcome. But perhaps the emotion of the occasion got to the Bundesliga team because they were unable to repeat their superb performance in tearing Tottenham Hotspur apart in the last round. Their 36-goal leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was subdued and they were denied an opener when Mamadou Sakho bravely blocked a Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot. Dejan Lovren should have done better than head straight at Roman Weidenfeller at the other end but Origi put the visitors in front when he held off his marker and slotted low past the 'keeper after latching onto a Jordan Henderson flick. Weidenfeller prevented Origi from scoring again just before the interval and Dortmund drew level shortly after the restart, captain Hummels rising above Adam Lallana to head in a Mkhitaryan cross. Weidenfeller saved well from Philippe Coutinho and the final scoreline means the tie remains up for grabs, even if Liverpool have the edge. Meanwhile, holders Sevilla remain on course to win the trophy for the third season running after coming from behind to win 2-1 away to Spanish rivals Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of their tie. Sevilla have not won away from home all season in La Liga and, after a goalless first half in which Aritz Aduriz hit the post for the hosts, they went behind in the 48th minute. Iker Muniain crossed and the evergreen Aduriz headed in his 32nd goal of a remarkable campaign. But as the rain lashed down in the Basque Country, Sevilla silenced San Mames when Ever Banega pounced on a short headed back-pass by Muniain and set up Timothee Kolodziejczak to score. Kevin Gameiro then set up substitute Vicente Iborra to give Sevilla the win seven minutes from time and leave beaten 2012 finalists Athletic up against it ahead of the return leg. One Spanish side is guaranteed to make the last four and Villarreal hope to be there too after beating Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic 2-1 at El Madrigal. Cedric Bakambu got both goals for the hosts, charging down a clearance by goalkeeper David Bicik for the early opener and then scoring the winner in the second half after Jakub Brabec had headed Sparta's equaliser. Meanwhile Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, the 2009 UEFA Cup winners, are in the driving seat in their tie against Braga after a 2-1 victory in Portugal. Yaroslav Rakitskiy fired Shakhtar ahead on the stroke of half-time and Facundo Ferreyra increased their lead before Wilson Eduardo grabbed a potentially vital goal for 2011 runners-up Braga late on.
2016-04-08
14:22:02


Wenger admits Arsenal can learn from Leicester fairytale. Arsene Wenger insists he has not given up on Arsenal's Premier League title challenge but admits there are lessons to be learnt from Leicester's dominance at the top of the table. Wenger's third-placed side, who lie 11 points adrift of the leaders, head to West Ham on Saturday where they will seek the third successive victory they need to keep their slender hopes of becoming champions alive. Consecutive wins against Everton and Watford have raised hopes they could yet end a frustrating season on a high but Wenger is realistic enough to know Arsenal's main priority is to ensure they do not get dragged back towards those clubs - including West Ham - currently on the fringe of the top four. And if, as expected, Wenger is forced to contemplate another failed bid to deliver the title to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since 2004, the manager will point to Leicester's recruitment strategy as the key to the leaders' unexpected success. "What we learn from Leicester City is what I knew for a long time, which is that it's not just only down to the amount of money you spend," Wenger said. "It's down to the quality of players you bring in and sometimes the opportunities are not always necessarily linked with the amount of money. "If you look well, they finished very strongly last season and on top of that they brought some players in who have given them something more, like N'Golo Kante. He had a huge impact." With games running out, Wenger acknowledges Arsenal need to win virtually all their remaining matches to have any chance of a stunning title triumph. "We know that we need nearly the perfect run and we know as well that we don't look only in front of us, we look behind us as well," he added. "We are chased by a group of teams who can make it very difficult for us so we have just to focus on our performance and hope we finish in a very strong way. "As long as it's mathematically possible, there's a strong possibility we can catch Leicester. "You look at the difficulty of the Premier League and they have been very consistent but every game is very, very tight. That can go the other way." Aaron Ramsey could return to the squad but Wenger is unlikely to change the starting line-up that has delivered successive wins. West Ham won at Arsenal on the opening day of the season, a result that raised eyebrows at the time. The Hammers' form since then, however, has demonstrated that performance was no one off and while last weekend's home draw with Crystal Palace dented their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, boss Slaven Bilic and his players have not given up on reaching the top four. "We are both fighting for a place in Europe and from their point of view, they're trying to be champions," Bilic said. "They admitted that they must win all their remaining games, so it's a big game with a lot at stake." The game marks the start of a defining eight days in West Ham's season with the FA Cup quarter-final replay with Manchester United on April 13 followed by a trip to Leicester next Sunday. "We play Arsenal, then have a cup replay against Manchester United, then go to Leicester," Bilic said. "But we are approaching the Arsenal game and then we have three days to recover and think about Manchester United. We are going to put the best team out that we can on Saturday."
2016-04-08
14:22:29


Suarez-less Barca seek rare win at Real Sociedad. Barcelona must overturn a terrible run of results away to Real Sociedad in recent years to prevent losing their grip on the Spanish title race when they visit Anoeta on Saturday. Despite tasting defeat for the first time in 40 games on their last La Liga outing at home to Real Madrid last weekend, Barca still hold a commanding six-point lead over Atletico Madrid with Real a further point adrift and just seven games remaining. However, the European champions haven't won in their last six trips to San Sebastian, including defeats in the last three seasons in La Liga. "We have shown in recent years that we can beat Barca and we can do it again on Saturday," Real Sociedad's former Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi told the club's website. "This team can beat anyone when we play well. "Until it is mathematically decided Barca will have to fight and I am sure Atletico and Real Madrid won't give up." Barca have particularly bad memories of their last visit to Anoeta as a 1-0 defeat plunged the club into crisis and left coach Luis Enrique on the verge of the sack. Luis Enrique had left Lionel Messi and Neymar on the bench as a punishment for arriving back later than their teammates from their Christmas break. Barca recovered in style from that setback to land the treble six months later, but their quest to become the first side to retain the Champions League could play a major role in the coach's selection as they hold a precarious 2-1 lead over Atletico heading into the second leg of their quarter-final tie on Wednesday. Luis Suarez scored both Barca's goals against Atletico on Tuesday, but the Uruguayan will definitely miss out as he is suspended. Munir El Haddadi is likely to replace Suarez with Sergi Roberto, Arda Turan and Rafinha -- who made his first appearance after a six-month injury layoff in midweek -- in contention to start in midfield. Champions League considerations are likely to weigh heavily on the minds of Atletico and Real bosses Diego Simeone and Zinedine Zidane. Atletico can close to within three points with victory at Espanyol before Barca kick-off on Saturday. Fernando Torres looks certain to start as he will be suspended for the Champions League return leg after being sent-off having opened the scoring at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Real's hopes of an 11th European Cup also suffered a huge blow as they were shocked 2-0 by Wolfsburg on Wednesday leaving Zidane's men needing a monumental effort when the Germans visit the Santiago Bernabeu to progress to the last four. Having admitted his side suffered physically after their efforts in the Clasico last weekend, Zidane is likely to ring the changes for the visit of Basque minnows Eibar on Saturday. Karim Benzema is set to miss out despite the knee injury that forced him off against Wolfsburg being diagnosed as just a knock. Dani Carvajal, Isco, James Rodriguez and Jese Rodriguez are all set to feature, but Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo are expected to start. At the other end of the table, Valencia need to snap a run of four consecutive league defeats to ensure they aren't dragged into a relegation scrap when Sevilla visit the Mestalla seeking their first away win of the season. Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao's Europa League commitments could also have serious consequences at the bottom as they host struggling Getafe and Rayo Vallecano respectively.
2016-04-08
14:23:02


Napoli eyes on Juventus trip to San Siro. The fall-out from Gonzalo Higuain's four-match ban will overshadow Serie A this weekend, when the Argentine striker and his Napoli team-mates will be glued to a crucial San Siro clash between AC Milan and Juventus. Sitting three points behind Juventus before last week's games, Napoli's bid for a first Serie A title in 26 years looks to be in tatters following a shock 3-1 defeat at Udinese that saw Higuain lose the plot after being shown a red card. Higuain pushed and insulted referee Massimiliano Irrati and had to be restrained by teammates before being dragged off the pitch. His moment of madness led to a four-match ban and, with Juventus now six points in front, will be seen as a pivotal moment in Napoli's title quest. Although Napoli are set to appeal what they regard as an "unfair sanction", their best hopes now lie with Juventus slipping up along the way as they look to secure a fifth consecutive title. But the champions are on an unbeaten run of 21 games, and defender Andrea Barzagli believes Juve's strength and belief will prevail. A win would allow coach Massimilano Allegri to walk away victorious from the club that sacked him in January 2014. "Winning at Milan would be a big step towards the title. We will have one less game to play and be even closer to our objective," Barzagli told juventus.com. "In recent years we've become a stronger side thanks to our belief and to the hard work we've put in, so we feel like we deserve our place in the table. "But our feet are firmly on the ground." A 21st win in 22 games would take Juve's lead over Napoli to a morale-sapping nine points a day before Maurizio Sarri's men host basement side Verona at the San Paolo. But Milan haven't surrendered yet, and Napoli's players will be praying the Rossoneri cause an upset with a home win that would reignite the title race and boost Milan's Europa League hopes. Milan are currently 24 points behind Juventus, 14 off the last Champions League spot and six behind Inter Milan, who occupy the last Europa League spot. The pressure on coach Sinisa Mihajlovic increased after last week's 2-1 defeat at Atalanta, meaning Milan have taken only two points from their last four games. It is hardly what you expect from a club that have been European champions seven times, but struggling to qualify for the Champions League is now the reality for Rossoneri fans. Meanwhile, captain and midfielder Riccardo Montolivo says the club, and the players, are fully behind the boss. "The team is and always will be behind Mihajlovic. I know him better than anyone else here, and when he's under pressure that's when you get the best out of him," said Montolivo. "Together, we're working hard to get out of a sticky situation. It will be a tough game on Saturday, but we'll be a different side when we go out on the pitch." Milan will have one eye on Inter's visit to Frosinone earlier on Saturday, although Roberto Mancini's men are expected to prevail at the league strugglers having won the corresponding fixture 4-0 earlier this season. Higuain will serve the first match of his ban on Sunday, when Manolo Gabbiadini should step into the centre of Sarri's three-pronged attack alongside Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon. Anything less than a win against a Verona side that has been rooted to the bottom most of the campaign would likely spark early title celebrations in Turin. It would also boost Roma's hopes of overtaking Napoli and clinching the league's second automatic Champions League qualifying spot. Roma are third but only four points behind Napoli before hosting Bologna on Monday.
2016-04-08
14:23:23


PSG seek boost ahead of City return. Paris Saint-Germain will use Saturday's Ligue 1 trip to Guingamp to iron out the mistakes that plagued them in their 2-2 draw against Manchester City in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final. Laurent Blanc's side have their hands full going into next week's return leg in England having drawn Wednesday's encounter 2-2 at the Parc des Princes. "We made too many mistakes and Manchester City punished us. You can't afford to make mistakes like this against a team of this quality," Zlatan Ibrahimovic told PSG TV. "In the return leg, we have to play simple football and fix what didn't work (Wednesday). I'm confident, because I believe in myself and my team." Ibrahimovic missed a first-half penalty against City, but the Swede made amends just before the break with his 39th goal of the season and needs just two more to match his haul from the 2013-14 campaign. Paris were beaten 1-0 on their last trip to Guingamp however and are winless in three visits to the Stade du Roudourou. Meanwhile in the race for second Lyon can crank up the pressure on faltering Monaco when they visit Montpellier on Friday where a win would send resurgent Lyon level on points. Lyon have won seven of their last nine games to charge back into contention for France's second automatic Champions League qualifying spot, and they could also welcome back Nabil Fekir for the trip to the Stade de la Mosson. The France international missed seven months with a serious knee injury but returned to action with Lyon's reserve team last weekend as he bids for a place in Didier Deschamps' squad for Euro 2016. "To have Nabil back for the final push is good for us but you can't be too demanding right away. He's going to need to rediscover his rhythm as he gets back to 100 per cent," said Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes. Monaco inflicted a first home defeat on PSG since May 2014 prior to the international break, but Leonardo Jardim's side then crashed to a 2-1 reverse against Bordeaux last Friday and have won just once in five outings. On Sunday, they will try to hold onto second when they visit Lille, who have undergone a remarkable turnaround under Frederic Antonetti and are gunning for a fifth win in a row. Last weekend's defeat in Paris damaged Nice's Champions League pursuit, and Claude Puel's men next face a Rennes side who are in direct competition with them for a top-three finish. Ousmane Dembele struck twice in a 3-1 victory over Reims last weekend as Rennes made it four wins in five to stay within a point of Lyon, while climbing above Nice into fourth. Saint-Etienne remain in the European picture as well and will fancy their chances of turning over Troyes, whose relegation was finally confirmed last weekend after a sixth successive defeat. Beleaguered Marseille coach Michel remains in charge at the Stade Velodrome despite presiding over an eight-match winless run that has left the traditional French giants just six points above the drop zone. Marseille are without a win at home since September, an agonising sequence of 13 matches, with Bordeaux hoping to extend their miserable run this weekend. "The current situation is delicate and represents a big challenge for all of us," Marseille owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus said in a statement. "Regarding the short term, I'm reassured by the professionalism and the desire of Michel to successfully complete the end of the season, with all his strength and energy," she added. Two wins in three have given Toulouse hope of escaping relegation and Pascal Dupraz's team will target a third straight home victory against Bastia on Saturday.
2016-04-08
14:23:45


Borussia boss warns Bayern ahead of Stuttgart derby. Borussia Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has warned Bayern Munich that his team is ready to pounce in the Bundesliga title race should Pep Guardiola's leaders slip up at Stuttgart on Saturday. With only six games left, the Bavarian giants are five points clear of second-placed Dortmund but face a tricky tie at Stuttgart in the south Germany derby. Guardiola's side has shown signs of fatigue in recent weeks. They laboured to a 1-0 win over Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday on the back of a workmanlike 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Eintracht Frankfurt in the league. "Bayern have to go to Stuttgart and that won't be a friendly game," said Watzke, indulging in some mind games certain to annoy Bayern's bosses. "Bayern need to make sure they give nothing more away this season, otherwise we will certainly be there (to take advantage)." Likewise, Dortmund must keep winning to stand any chance of a first league title since 2012 and they are at arch-rivals Schalke on Sunday in the Ruhr Valley derby. Bayern are bidding to come the first German club to win four straight Bundesliga titles, having won the league at a canter for the last three seasons. But Watzke is pleased that Dortmund still have even a remote chance of breaking the Bavarians' monopoly. "At this stage of the season in recent years, it's all been decided. At least now we are forcing Bayern into keep producing top performances," he added, with Dortmund seeking to keep the pressure up until the final league weekend on May 14. In Stuttgart, Bayern will be without Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who has not played since mid-March because of a groin injury. "I am working on my return, but there is no schedule," he told magazine Kicker. And France winger Kingsley Coman struggled in Wednesday's training session after a leg knock. Stuttgart will be without Ivory Coast midfielder Serey Die, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn groin. Guardiola is set to rotate his squad to keep his stars fresh for Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal, second leg, at Benfica as the Bavarians take their slender 1-0 lead to Portugal. After he sat out Thursday's 1-1 draw at home to Liverpool with a foot injury, Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan is doubtful for Sunday's derby against Schalke. Roman Buerki is set to return as goalkeeper having sat out their European matches. Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel will want to rest some of his stars before the Europa League quarter-final return leg at Anfield next Thursday. After a fresh shoulder injury, Schalke will be without midfielder Leon Goretzka, leaving Pierre-Emile Hoejbjerg to take his place for the Royal Blues. On Friday, third-placed Hertha Berlin have a good chance of securing a confidence-boosting win over Hanover 96 to ease the pain of last Sunday's thumping 5-0 defeat at Borussia Moenchengladbach. Fresh from their stunning 2-0 win over Real Madrid at home on Tuesday in the Champions League, Wolfsburg host Mainz on Saturday night looking to bring their European form to Germany's top flight. Dieter Hecking's Wolfsburg are winless in their last three league matches, but will want to rest their top performers ahead of next Tuesday's crucial return leg at the Bernebau. But sixth placed Mainz are no push-overs and they are the only team to have won at Bayern's Allianz Arena this season when they poached a 2-1 victory last month.
2016-04-08
14:24:05


Liverpool wait on Henderson after Dortmund knock. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is waiting on the fitness of Reds' captain Jordan Henderson after the midfielder was forced off in their Europa League quarter-final draw at Borussia Dortmund. The full extent of Henderson's injury will only be known after a scan on Friday. "He's injured his knee. It's not a small matter and it doesn't look good," said Klopp. "We'll have to wait on the results of a scan." The 25-year-old Henderson failed to come out for the second half at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park stadium and was replaced by Joe Allen in the 1-1 draw. Liverpool claimed a precious away goal when Belgian striker Divock Origi slotted home in the first-half before Dortmund equalised after the break with a header from captain Mats Hummels. Henderson is likely to miss Liverpool's next home game against Stoke City on Sunday and the second leg of the quarter-final at Anfield next Thursday.
2016-04-08
14:24:27


Guardiola: Bayern can't bow to fatigue in title race. Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola insists his side can not allow fatigue to be a factor ahead of Saturday's German league game at Stuttgart in this season's title race. Bayern have shown recent signs of tiredness in scraping through with 1-0 wins in their last three matches including Tuesday's narrow home victory over Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals ahead of Wednesday's return leg. Bayern head to Stuttgart for the south German derby holding a five-point lead over second placed Borussia Dortmund. The Bavarians have won all of their last 14 meetings with Stuttgart. Having won the 2013/2014 Bundesliga title with a record seven games to spare, Guardiola says his side can ill afford any slip-ups in this campaign with their rivals ready to exploit any points given away. The Spaniard, who is set to rest some of his stars in Stuttgart, says the pressure from Dortmund may even be a good thing to keep his team on their toes. "In my first year here, we were already German champions (by now), in the second year we had almost done it," said Guardiola. "So we switched off. "Now, in Borussia Dortmund, we have an opponent who will be champions if Munich doesn't pay attention. "We can't afford to wait for them to make a mistake. "We have to, we have to (keep winning). And perhaps this is good for us." Guardiola can sign off his three years in Munich with the treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League trophies before taking over as Manchester City coach next season. He says he wishes they already had the league title secured so they could "focus on the Champions League and German Cup" where they face Werder Bremen in ten days time for a place in the May 21 final in Berlin. Guardiola says he will be without Dutch winger Arjen Robben for the foreseeable future as the 32-year-old recovers from the groin injury he suffered in mid-March.
2016-04-08
14:25:03


Rooney to return to action next week. Louis van Gaal has revealed Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney will make his comeback from injury in the club's under-21 side next week. Rooney has been sidelined for 11 games due to a knee injury and United manager van Gaal has opted not to rush him back to face Premier League title-chasing Tottenham on Sunday. Instead, the 30-year-old striker will play for the reserve team against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford next Monday -- 48 hours before United's FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham. "He is playing for the Under-21s and it's going very well," van Gaal told reporters on Friday. "He has trained with us only two times, so not too much, so he has to build up his capacity in the Under-21 team." Having had up to 10 senior players injured at the same time earlier this season, United's injury problems are clearing up with only Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw and Adnan Januzaj unavailable for the trip to White Hart Lane. And van Gaal admits that has given him a more enjoyable selection headache to deal with in his squad. "It makes my job more easy because I can select better, but it makes the time for my players a little bit more difficult," he said. "There was a time that I could not select only the fit players. Now with all the youngsters who have proved they are capable to play, with all the players who are coming back, now I have to select. "I have a bigger squad. I have said also to my players you have to help your colleagues when they are not selected. "Now a lot of players are not selected to play or are sitting on the bench." While second-placed Tottenham are chasing leaders Leicester in a bid to win the title for the first time since 1961, United are desperate to finish in the top four to secure Champions League football next season. They currently trail fourth-placed Manchester City by one point, which could be four by the time United go to London on Sunday. However, United haven't lost at Tottenham since 2001 and their record against the top sides in the Premier League this season is impressive - with five wins and three draws from nine games against the current top seven. They have had costly slip-ups against lower-ranked teams, though, which van Gaal attributes to the way teams have played against United. "We need creative players. Also more fast players, quick-thinking players. The lower teams are mostly parking the bus, as the English say," he added. "That's more difficult. Top teams want to play against us, then we can play also. That's the big difference. I have analysed it that way." After spending much of the season under seige from fans and former United players for his conservative tactics, van Gaal has weathered the storm and could still salvage his reputation by securing a top-four finish and winning the FA Cup. "It's not so interesting, my record. It's interesting for the players that they have to win this game at this moment. We still have to close the gap of one point," he said. "We have to win and we are dependable on the results of our competitors. We have to win and I have to say every week that we must win. The pressure is our pressure. "The pressure is also on Tottenham Hotspur now. They have to close the gap on Leicester City. It is the same position more or less as Manchester United at this time."
2016-04-09
9:30:55


Neymar gets Barca go-ahead for Olympics, not Copa. Brazilian superstar Neymar was Friday given the go-ahead to play at the Olympics by his club Barcelona but was ordered not to take part in the Copa America, local media reported. Brazil coach Dunga had been hoping to have the influential striker at both tournaments -- the Copa in the United States from June 3-26 and the Rio Olympics football tournament which runs from August 4-20. But in a letter sent to the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), and seen by Globoesporte and Mundo Deportivo, European champions Barcelona insist that Neymar needs to have adequate rest over the summer before the start of the next domestic season. The CBF refused to confirm to AFP that they had received such a request from the Spanish giants. According to Mundo Deportivo, Neymar has proposed a solution to the impasse -- he will sit out the group phase at the Copa and only play from the quarter-finals stages before heading to the Olympics. FIFA regulations demand that clubs release players for tournaments on the the international calendar A-list which includes the Copa but not the Olympics which does not figure on the global body's international schedule. Neymar, who is 24, would be one of the three players over the age of 23 who are allowed to feature in an Olympic football squad.
2016-04-09
9:31:28


Ranieri hopes Leicester can be first past post. Claudio Ranieri has urged Leicester not to lose focus as he tries to guide the shock leaders past the Premier League's winning post. On the weekend of the Grand National, Ranieri's side can take another significant stride towards becoming English football's most unlikely champions as the title race enters the final furlong. The Foxes, who face struggling Sunderland on Sunday, are seven points clear of second placed Tottenham, who host Manchester United also on Sunday, with just six games remaining. "We are in front, but we have to run a lot now. We have finished the (last) corner and now we are looking at the line," Ranieri said when asked if his team might stumble like horses in Saturday's race at Aintree. "We have to hold on tight and stick our elbows out to make sure nobody gets past. "What we do is important, before thinking about everything, then we can check the table. I'll repeat to my players it's important what we do. "I must be focused. I expect Tottenham, Arsenal, everyone to win all their games. "At this moment I don't think behind me, I look forward and to the next match. Sunderland is a very difficult match. "Everyone is looking at what happens in the last six matches, me too, I am very curious, but we have to wait. "There are a lot of people pushing behind us and that's important but it's important to keep our feet on the ground."
2016-04-09
9:34:06


Spurs confront Man Utd demons in title pursuit. Tottenham Hotspur will once again grapple with historical portents on Sunday when their bid to prevent Leicester City running away with the Premier League title sees them entertain Manchester United. It is 15 years since Tottenham last won a home league game against United and they spurned one opportunity to reverse a long-standing trend last weekend when a 1-1 draw at Liverpool -- where they have won just once in 22 league visits -- allowed Leicester to open up a seven-point lead. With Leicester visiting third-bottom Sunderland earlier in the day on Sunday, Spurs could be 10 points off the pace by kick-off, but manager Mauricio Pochettino says his side will not abandon hope. "You need to believe in football that things can change," he said. "It's important for us to be focused and prepared, but we can't play when Leicester play. We can only do our job and be focused on the three points. "We will see what happens with Leicester. It's important for us to believe and to fight. There are six games ahead and anything can happen in football." While Tottenham continue to believe in a first league title since their feted league and FA Cup double of 1961, the omens for victory over United are not good. They have not scored a goal against United in the league in three games under Pochettino, who has failed to record a victory over the men from Old Trafford in six attempts with Spurs and former club Southampton. Of greater concern will be the fact that while Leicester have cranked out gritty 1-0 wins in five of their last six matches, Spurs have won only three times in the same period. Predicting how long United's fleeting bursts of form will last has proved a fool's errand this season, but Louis van Gaal's side appear to be on an upward curve, having won four of their last five league games to close to within a point of the Champions League places. The treatment tables at United's Carrington training base are also beginning to vacate themselves, while Van Gaal has seen his team lose just one of the seven games they have played to date against other teams in the top six. These are different times, however, to the days when Alex Ferguson could motivate his players to beat Spurs with a simple "Lads, it's Tottenham" -- as former United captain Roy Keane revealed he once did -- and Van Gaal is well aware of the threat that the north London club pose. It took a fortuitous Kyle Walker own goal for Van Gaal to get the better of Pochettino on the season's opening day and Spurs' high pressing style could discomfit United, who were out-hustled by Liverpool in their recent Europa League defeat. Pochettino has been touted as a potential successor to Van Gaal and the Dutchman has expressed admiration for the work that the former Argentina centre-back has produced at White Hart Lane. "I think they have a very good squad. I have said that also last year," Van Gaal said. "I think he has made a team of this squad of individual players. They are pressing high, they are playing a very good positional game and they score goals. They score a lot of goals. "They also have a lot of clean sheets, so it's a very good team in organisation structures, so I think that you can give credit to Mauricio Pochettino." With Spurs and United boasting the league's two meanest defences, it is unlikely to be a high-scoring affair. Tottenham's back line could be bolstered by the return of Belgian centre-back Jan Vertonghen, who has been out for almost three months with a knee problem. United remain without captain Wayne Rooney, who will make his comeback from a knee injury for the club's under-21 side on Monday, but Ashley Young and Phil Jones could both feature.
2016-04-09
9:34:53


Zidane : Ronaldo mind set on facing Man City. Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo will miss his side's visit to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday to ensure he will be fit for their Champions League semi-final, first leg at Manchester City on Tuesday. The club confirmed on Friday that Ronaldo suffered a thigh strain as he hobbled off towards the end of Real's 3-0 win over Villarreal on Wednesday. However, Zidane admitted that he has had to convince the three-time World Player of the Year -- who has been an ever-present for Madrid in the league this season -- to sit out the trip to Vallecas. "He won't play against Rayo. He'll stay at home and we'll see for the next game," Zidane said on Friday. "He wanted to play tomorrow, but he knows that it isn't possible. We've had to put the brakes on him and he knows his mind has to be on City." Zidane admitted after the Villarreal game that he regretted not having rested Ronaldo more in his first few months in charge. However, he appeared to backtrack on those comments as he rejected suggestions Ronaldo's injury was caused by fatigue. "I don't think he is shattered at the end of the season, I think he is in good shape and it is an anecdote that in one move this type of thing can happen. "For a coach it is great to have someone who always wants to play. I think about the positives of what Cristiano can always offer the team." And Zidane rejected recent comments by Spain coach Vicente del Bosque that coaches are now slaves to the demands of star players. "He is untouchable because he shows with his numbers that he deserves to be untouchable. "I don't share (that opinion), what we have to do is always talk with the players and think that at times they need a rest." In brighter injury news for Madrid, Zidane confirmed that Gareth Bale will be fit to face Rayo after missing the Villarreal clash with a minor muscle injury. "Gareth is fine, he is better, completely recovered and the idea is that tomorrow he will be available for the team." A run of eight straight La Liga wins has taken Real to within a point of leader Barcelona and Atletico Madrid with just four games remaining. On paper, Zidane's men seem to have the hardest run-in of the three title contenders as three of their remaining games are away from home, whilst the on-form Valencia also visit the Santiago Bernabeu. And Zidane believes they will need to win all their remaining games to have a chance of landing a first La Liga title in four years. "We have difficult games, three away and Valencia at home who are a very good team and have played very well lately. "We have four games and we know that if we aspire to something we have to win the four games that are left."
2016-04-23
10:08:58


Luis Enrique : Messi fit to face Sporting. Barcelona coach Luis Enrique insisted Lionel Messi will be 100 percent fit to face Sporting Gijon on Saturday despite suffering a series of knocks in Barca's 8-0 hammering of Deportivo la Coruna. "He didn't have much luck with the blows in the game the other day, but he trained today and is in perfect condition," said Enrique on Friday. Luis Suarez led Barca's stunning return to form with four goals and three assists on Wednesday following a run of three straight La Liga defeats for the first time in 13 years. "It is a perfect result which reinforces us and came at a marvellous time," added Enrique. Only Barca's superior head-to-head record separates them from Atletico Madrid at the top with four games remaining, whilst Real Madrid are only a point further back in third. The Catalans have a favourable run-in on paper, but face three sides in Sporting, Espanyol and Granada who are fighting to avoid relegation at the other end of the table. "We have to continue what we saw against Deportivo in the four games that remain. It will interesting at the top and the bottom." However, Enrique again rejected suggestions that his refusal to rotate the star front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar in particular had been the cause of Barca's slump in the past month. "My decisions depend on what the team needs. "I normally make changes if I see the possibility to improve the team or due to tiredness. Last year I rotated a lot and people didn't like it then either."
2016-04-23
10:09:54


PSG wary of in-form Lille in League Cup final. Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc knows Lille pose a serious threat to his side's chances of completing another clean sweep of the domestic trophies as the teams prepare to clash in Saturday's French League Cup final. With the Ligue 1 title and the season-opening Champions Trophy already in the bag, PSG are bidding to win the League Cup for the third year on the bounce before returning to the Stade de France for a French Cup final against Marseille next month. However, Lille have found form at the right time, with six straight victories lifting them up to sixth in Ligue 1 and ensuring they head to the national stadium full of confidence. "They are the form team of the moment but the context is always a bit unusual in a final," Blanc said at a press conference on Friday. "Lille, physically, will oblige us to be really very strong. They are on form and still fresh physically, which is maybe not the case with us." PSG rebounded from the enormous disappointment of their Champions League quarter-final exit to Manchester City by beating Caen 6-0 last weekend and then defeating Lorient 1-0 in the French Cup semi-final with a Zlatan Ibrahimovic winner. "At the start of the season the objective was to win one cup and we are in the final of both. We want to win the two cups. If we don't win them then clearly we will not have fulfilled our objective," admitted Blanc. The coach also revealed that Italian playmaker Marco Verratti is fit and could make his first appearance in two months after a groin injury. "He is fit. That has not always been the case. All going to plan Marco Verratti will be in the squad so I am happy," he said. Lille have not lifted any silverware since winning the Ligue 1 and French Cup double in 2011. Then, they secured the title against PSG at the Parc des Princes and also beat the capital club in the cup final. They have never won the League Cup, and coach Frederic Antonetti is hoping it will be fourth time lucky after being a beaten finalist with Bastia in 1995, Nice in 2006 and Rennes in 2013. "I said to myself the other day, the first final (a 2-0 defeat to PSG with Bastia) took place in 1995 and I am here again 21 years later to talk about it. That's already not bad," he said.
2016-04-23
10:10:52


Leicester strike for home against Swansea. Humble Leicester City's quasi-miraculous quest for the Premier League title has captivated imaginations around the world, but now, Claudio Ranieri's men must finish the job. Five points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur, the 5,000-1 outsiders embark upon a defining run of four matches on Sunday when Swansea City visit the King Power Stadium. All season long, Ranieri has played the caution card, checking off Leicester's achievements one by one -- survival, European qualification, a Champions League berth -- but now that the finishing line is in sight, he has urged his players to strike for home. "Now we go straight away to try to win the title," the Italian told his pre-match press conference. "Yes man, only this remains. I wanted 79 points and we have to fight more now. I talk to my players: 'Come on, now is the right moment to push.' "I always believe. I am a positive man. If Tottenham go above us, congratulations, but I prefer to be five points ahead." Leicester's fate remains in their own hands, but the mood music around the central England city has taken on a more ominous tone in the aftermath of last weekend's chaotic 2-2 draw with West Ham United. Leicester went into that game seven points clear, but a frantic encounter in which attacking talisman Jamie Vardy was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for diving has changed the picture significantly. Substitute Leonardo Ulloa's stoppage-time penalty enabled Leicester to rescue a point and extend their unbeaten home run to 13 games, but Spurs promptly trimmed their advantage with a slick 4-0 win at Stoke City. Lose on Sunday, and Spurs can close to within two points by beating West Bromwich Albion on Monday. Vardy will miss Sunday's game through suspension and is also likely to be unavailable for next weekend's thorny trip to a resurgent Manchester United after accepting a Football Association misconduct charge over his furious reaction to his dismissal. The West Ham game would have been costlier still without Ulloa's 95th-minute intervention, but it nonetheless served to allow nerves to creep into the King Power. Following weeks of anticipation of a jubilant Leicester coronation, the spectre of a disastrous collapse is now drifting into view. Steven Gerrard, who came within a whisker of leading Liverpool to the title as captain in 2014, wrote in the Daily Telegraph this week: "Now they're in the midst of a different physical and psychological challenge. "The hunters became the hunted and it has become their title to lose, every misstep scrutinised to levels they would never have experienced before. "Suddenly, it is not only a case of loving every minute, but there is a fear of failure to try to banish, too." The absence of Vardy, Leicester's top scorer with 22 goals, means that Ranieri will have to change his starting XI for the first time in seven games. Ulloa is expected to fill in alongside Shinji Okazaki up front, but Ranieri could elect to start an extra wide player such as Jeff Schlupp or Demarai Gray and move the influential Riyad Mahrez infield. Swansea's unbeaten three-game run came to an end in a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle United last weekend and although they are 10 points clear of the relegation zone, they are not yet mathematically safe. Swansea head coach Francesco Guidolin admits that he would love to see his friend and compatriot Ranieri win the title, but he has warned him not to expect any favours. "This is an important game for Leicester, but it is for us as well," Guidolin said. "I will give Claudio one of my favourite wines -- a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo -- but my job is to see my team play well and fight against the first team in the table." Central midfielders Leon Britton and Jack Cork are both available for Swansea -- beaten 3-0 in December's reverse fixture -- following back and head problems respectively.
2016-04-23
10:13:53


Atletico gain edge against Bayern. A sensational solo effort from Saul Niguez handed Atletico Madrid a precious 1-0 advantage over Bayern Munich from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday. The Spanish under-21 international skipped past four Bayern players before firing into the far corner to give Atletico the perfect start after 11 minutes. Bayern dominated for long spells thereafter, but the closest they came to a vital away goal was a thunderous long-range effort from David Alaba that came back off the crossbar. Atletico will travel to Bavaria for the return next Tuesday looking to complete the job to reach their second final in three years and exact revenge for their defeat to Bayern in the 1974 final. Bayern lost the first legs of their semi-finals in Spain in the previous two seasons to Real Madrid and Barcelona on their way out of the competition. And they couldn't have made a worse start once more in the Spanish capital as, roared on by a vociferous support, Atletico flew out of the blocks early on. Niguez had already had a long-range effort saved by Manuel Neuer before he opened the scoring in stunning style. The 21-year-old picked the ball up near halfway and skipped past four half-hearted Bayern challenges before curling a left-footed shot in off the inside of the far post. Atletico nearly gifted Bayern an equaliser immediately as Jose Maria Gimenez's miscued clearance pinballed around the area before the Uruguayan atoned for his initial error by clearing off the line. Bayern were dominant in possession, but struggled to create clear-cut chances against an Atletico side that now hasn't conceded at home in their last seven Champions League knockout ties. Alaba shot wide from distance, while Douglas Costa's free-kick nearly caught out Jan Oblak at his near post. Yet, it was Atletico who squandered a big chance to make it 2-0 before the break when Antoine Griezmann's shot from a narrow angle was turned behind by Neuer. Bayern were completely dominant after the break as Atletico tired and dropped deeper towards their own goal. Alaba smashed a wonder strike off the underside of the bar from fully 35 yards before Javi Martinez's powerful header from Costa's corner was gratefully grasped by Oblak low to his right. Guardiola had controversially left Thomas Mueller on the bench despite his 31 goals in all competitions this season. The future Manchester City boss eventually called upon the German World Cup winner and Franck Ribery in search of a vital away goal. Costa came close again seconds after Mueller's arrival as his attempted lob over Oblak dipped just over the bar. Oblak was called into action again to parry an Arturo Vidal piledriver from distance. Yet, once more Atletico had the best chance to put the tie beyond the German champions in the final stages as Fernando Torres hit the post from Griezmann's fine through ball and Neuer saved Koke's follow-up effort. Oblak made simple saves from Mehdi Benatia and Vidal in stoppage time as Atletico held out to record their 33rd clean sheet of the season.
2016-04-28
9:29:17


Bayern punished for slow start, admits Guardiola. Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola conceded his side had paid a heavy price for a slow start as Saul Niguez's sensational 11th minute solo effort handed Atletico Madrid a slender 1-0 from their Champions League semi-final, first leg on Wednesday. The German champions dominated possession, but struggled to create chances as Atletico held out for their 33rd clean sheet of the season to take a huge step towards their second final in three years. "We had talked before the game about how Atletico tend to start well," said Guardiola, who will leave Bayern to join Manchester City at the start of next season. "It is not a great result for us. It is always unpleasant to have not scored an away goal, but we still have 90 minutes." Bayern also lost the first leg of their semi-final in Spain to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the previous two years of Guardiola's tenure. And despite being on the verge of a third German title in as many years in Munich, Guardiola's men must turn the tide if he is to avoid the embarrassment of leaving for Manchester without having conquered Europe. "In the Champions League you need to use the full 90 minutes, which we didn't manage here and didn't play well for the first 15 minutes. "We have to play more intelligently in the return match, we need patience and we only need a goal to take the game to extra time." Bayern captain Philipp Lahm also lamented Bayern's inability to score an away goal and was far from happy with the state of Atletico's stodgy pitch. "We didn't think we'd have so many chances to score in the second half as we did, but we didn't use them. "You have to use them in games like this, but we still have 90 minutes to come with the fans behind us to try and turn the game around. "At home, the pitch will be watered, the ball will roll better and we'll get our passing game going." By contrast, Atletico were jubilant after 21-year-old Niguez announced his arrival on the European stage with what he described as the "most beautiful and most important goal" of his career. Niguez eased past four Bayern challenges before curling left-footed in off the far post. "I was dribbling with the ball, I saw that I'd got by two opponents so when I got into the area I thought about getting it onto my stronger foot, and because it was on my left, I placed it," he said. "It's the most beautiful and most important goal I've scored." Despite being under the cosh for almost the entire second half, Atletico were inches away from doubling their advantage when Fernando Torres struck the post 15 minutes from time. "It was a fantastic night and I'm happy for all Atletico fans," said Torres. "We've got what we wanted which was to get the scoreline in our favour and we have the second leg to come. "We suffered and kept suffering, kept fighting, that's what we do. "Bayern have a level few teams have but we kept on doing our thing."
2016-04-28
9:30:00


America retain CONCACAF Champions League crown. Mexican giants Club America clinched back-to-back CONCACAF Champions League crowns on Wednesday after coming from behind to beat fellow Liga MX side Tigres 2-1, sealing a 4-1 aggregate victory. America had been heavy favorites to retain their continental crown and seal their place in this year's FIFA Club World Cup after a superb 2-0 away victory in last week's first leg. But the holders were given a scare towards the end of the first half at the iconic Azteca Stadium when French international Andre-Pierre Gignac rifled in a low shot to give Tigres hope. The goal lifted Tigres in a first half which threatened to boil over towards the break when an ugly challenge by America's Rubens Sambueza triggered a prolonged melee that led to four bookings. Sambueza and team-mate Paul Aguilar were both cautioned for their role along with Tigres goalscorer Gignac and Damian Alvarez. With tension mounting in the second half, the game swung in America's favor with the introduction of Ecuadoran international midfielder Michael Arroyo in the 65th minute for Dario Benedetto. Arroyo did not take long to make his mark and three minutes after coming on scored the equalizer for America. The 29-year-old surged forward purposefully towards the edge of the area and after feinting to shoot, wrongfooted his marker before unleashing a venomous low shot which kicked up off the turf to beat Argentina international goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman. The goal left Tigres shattered and needing to score twice more to grab an aggregate victory on away goals. But any chance of a Tigres fightback was snuffed out in the 86th minute when Hugo Ayala upended Miguel Samudio inside the area. Paraguayan international Osvaldo Martinez duly rammed home the spotkick as the Azteca Stadium erupted. Martinez almost put the icing on the cake with a vicious long-range strike which Guzman did well to turn around the post.
2016-04-28
9:36:13


Leicester holds its breath for footballing miracle. A collective euphoria has gripped Leicester's humdrum streets as the often-overlooked English city stands at the cusp of achieving global sporting immortality by winning football's most coveted league title. Many in the medium-sized Midlands city will not talk about the possibility of one of sporting history's most unlikely triumphs for fear of jinxing their heroes. "If you look at all the fans, the people, the city, it's an incredible, incredible time," said Ian Smith, while readjusting his Leicester City scarf. "It means the world to them. A once in a lifetime experience." But the impossible dream will become a reality if the Foxes win at Manchester United on Sunday. The club, who started the season as one of the relegation favourites and 5000/1 shots to finish top, would still have two more matches to seal arguably the most unlikely league title in English football history if they were to lose at Old Trafford. Sitting between the powerhouses of Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester, Leicester has a population of around 330,000. Locals pride themselves on their hospitality, welcoming strangers with open arms and using the affectionate greeting "m'duck". For a city instilled with restraint and discretion, the current emotional eruption is unprecedented. "It's an unbelievable buzz everywhere, there are... blue items just everywhere," said Anna Hulewicz-Brown, adding that the city was almost unrecognisable from the one where she had spent her whole life. The temperature will ramp up a notch on Friday when the city's landmarks, houses and shops will be illuminated and draped in blue until the end of the season. Fans nervous about Sunday's big match will be able to calm their nerves in the city's pubs with a "Vardy bomb", a cocktail invented in honour of star striker Jamie Vardy. Others are seeking divine intervention, with a city-centre street preacher now using football to begin his sermon while singing the praises of "Saint Vardy". Even fans of the town's successful rugby club Leicester Tigers are on board, having Vardy's name emblazoned on the back of their shirts. "Every time I go out in the street, everybody wants to talk about football," said mayor Peter Soulsby, who has been swamped with international media requests to explain the miracle. "It's a wonderful thing for the city, with Richard III being reinterred last year and Leicester winning the Premier League,... we couldn't hope for anything better," added die-hard fan Sandra Baum. The last Plantagenet king was buried at the city's cathedral last year following the sensational discovery of his remains underneath a council car park, 500 years after his death. The story shone a rare spotlight on the city, but fans say the city's footballing fairy tale eclipses everything. "It puts Leicester City on the map," said Prami Singh, a regular at the team's King Power Stadium. His friend Asif Sheikh lauded the city's cosmopolitanism and the authentic atmosphere inside the stadium. "Manchester United, Chelsea fans are from different cities, but the fans here are all born and bred here," he said. Fruit and vegetable seller Scott Lee, 43, epitomises the city's familiarity, working on the stall that used to be run by the family of Gary Lineker. The former England international is revered in Leicester and his family name still appears above the stall. The ardent fan, now a presenter, promised last December that he would host BBC's flagship football show in his underpants if the team won the title. Lee revealed that the current players can wander around town free from hassle, and said the absence of "big time Charlies" in the squad was a key part of their success. "Manchester United spent 270 million ($395 million, 350 million euros) and have got nothing. We've got a team like Leicester, they play together and are friends. "(Japanese striker) Shinji Okazaki was around town last week. I talked to him, didn't understand him, but a lovely man. You wouldn't see that at Chelsea." He is in no doubt that the country is behind them, and that they will have the world's support when they tackle Europe's elite in next season's Champions League. "The world likes it, it's the underdog story. We'll beat them, we've got a team, not just individual players," he said.
2016-04-28
9:37:03


Frank de Boer quits as Ajax coach. Ajax coach and former Dutch international Frank de Boer announced on Thursday he was quitting the Amsterdam club after failing to win the Dutch title. "Frank de Boer is quitting as Ajax trainer. He told the club's board in a meeting," Ajax said in a statement issued in Amsterdam. De Boer's announcement comes after Ajax drew 1-1 against minnows De Graafschap on Sunday while defending champions PSV retained their hold on the trophy with a 3-1 victory against PEC Zwolle. Ajax needed a win to claim the 34th championship in the club's 116-year history. PSV's victory saw wild parties in their southern home base Eindhoven, but in the Dutch capital many Ajax fans slinked off in despair at the end of the highly anticipated televised match. "After four national championships the 2014-15 season was a disappointment and we wanted to fix it this season," said De Boer, a former Ajax player, in the statement. "We've done everything. But alas, what we hoped for and were expecting didn't happen. "I'm realising more-and-more that it's time to do something else. It's better for me and it's better for Ajax," said De Boer, indicating that he may take a year off from any coaching duties. "It's an option, but I'll wait and see what lies ahead on the road." De Boer's last official job will be taking the team on a season-ending tour to China, leaving from the Netherlands on Friday, Ajax said.
2016-05-12
16:27:06


Wallace, McKay, but no Griffiths in Scotland squad. Rangers pair Lee Wallace and Barrie McKay were named in Scotland's squad on Thursday for friendlies against Italy and France, but there was no place for Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths. Defender Wallace returns after three years in the international wilderness, while McKay earns his first call-up, but Griffiths misses out despite scoring his 40th goal of the season on Wednesday. In Griffiths's absence, Charlie Mulgrew is the only representative in the squad from Scottish champions Celtic. Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes was also overlooked. Gordon Strachan's Scotland, who failed to qualify for Euro 2016, play Italy in Malta on May 29 before tackling tournament hosts France in Metz on June 4. Scotland squad Goalkeepers: Scott Bain (Dundee), David Marshall (Cardiff City/WAL), Allan McGregor (Hull City/ENG) Defenders: Christophe Berra (Ipswich Town/ENG), Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion/ENG), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers/ENG), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa/ENG), Russell Martin (Norwich City/ENG), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Callum Paterson (Hearts), Andrew Robertson (Hull City/ENG), Lee Wallace (Rangers) Midfielders: Ikechi Anya (Watford/ENG), Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday/ENG), Oliver Burke (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion/ENG), Shaun Maloney (Hull City/ENG), James McArthur (Crystal Palace/ENG), John McGinn (Hibernian), Barrie McKay (Rangers), Matt Phillips (Queens Park Rangers/ENG), Matt Ritchie (Bournemouth/ENG), Robert Snodgrass (Hull City/ENG) Forwards: Steven Fletcher (Marseille/FRA, on loan from Sunderland/ENG), Chris Martin (Derby County/ENG), Ross McCormack (Fulham/ENG), Steven Naismith (Norwich City/ENG)
2016-05-12
16:27:39


McKinnon appointed Dundee United manager. Ray McKinnon has been appointed manager of Dundee United on a three-year contract following the departure of Mixu Paatelainen, the relegated Scottish Premiership club announced on Thursday. McKinnon, 45, resigned as Raith Rovers manager on Wednesday in order to take the job at his home-town club, where he made 122 appearances as a player over two spells. "This is a wonderful opportunity at a club that is close to my heart and I am looking forward to taking on the task of rebuilding the club and developing the talent required to get us where we should be," McKinnon told the club website. United were relegated after a derby defeat by Dundee earlier this month and were docked three points on Wednesday for including two ineligible players in their squad for Friday's 3-2 win at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. McKinnon will watch United's final game of the season at Kilmarnock on Saturday from the stands, with Gordon Young continuing in his caretaker role.
2016-05-12
16:28:10


USA beat Puerto Rico in Copa America warm-up. Bobby Wood, Tim Ream and Paul Arriola scored to give the United States a 3-1 victory at Puerto Rico in an international friendly on Sunday. In their opening tune-up for next month's Copa America Centenario, the Americans dominated their first-ever match against a team trying to make inroads against the more popular baseball and basketball on the Caribbean island. "We hope the keep playing well and reach our peak for the Copa," Wood said. Ream opened the scoring in the 20th minute, reacting first after Alfredo Morales' shot, before blasting a left-footed effort past Puerto Rico goalkeeper Matt Sanchez. It was the first goal in 21 US appearances for the Fulham defender. Wood gave the Americans a 2-0 lead in the 34th minute, fighting off two defenders on a charge into the area, and flicking the ball over a sprawled Sanchez. Home suppporters booed Wood for not kicking the ball out of play with two Puerto Rico players down on the turf. "They had two players down and kept attacking us until they turned the ball over," Wood said. "If they kept playing on then we keep playing on." Puerto Rico, 152nd in the FIFA rankings, responded in the 42nd minute, as Luis Betancur's left-footed shot flew over US keeper Brad Guzan. Arriola, a forward for Mexico's Club Tijuana, scored his first US goal in the 56th minute of his debut from Alejandro Bedoya's cross. Hamburg striker Wood is the only forward among 10 US players facing Puerto Rico who are also on the 23-man Copa roster announced Saturday by coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "It's a good exercise because they have to push themselves," Klinsmann said. "It's exactly what we wanted. Hopefully it will help us moving forward to Copa America." The Americans play host to Ecuador on Wednesday at Dallas and Bolivia on Saturday at Kansas City in other Copa warm-up matches. The hosts open the 100th anniversary edition of the South American tournament on June 3 against Colombia.
2016-05-23
10:27:49


Russia suffer Dzagoev injury blow. Russia midfielder Alan Dzagoev has been ruled out of Euro 2016 after fracturing a bone in his foot, with the CSKA midfielder replaced in the 23-man squad by Dmitri Torbinsky. "Today, (Dzagoev) underwent a medical exam after which it was established he suffered a fracture to the second metatarsal," the Russian Football Union (RFS) said in a statement on Sunday. "FC Krasnodar midfielder Dmitri Torbinsky has been called up," the RFS added. Dzagoev, 25, was hurt during CSKA's 1-0 win at Rubin Kazan on Saturday, in which he scored the only goal after 19 minutes to hand the Moscow club a sixth Russian Premier League title.
2016-05-23
10:28:24


Barcelona edge out Sevilla in bad-tempered Cup final. Jordi Alba and Neymar struck in extra-time as Barcelona completed a league and Cup double by lifting the Copa del Rey for a 28th time after a 2-0 win over Sevilla in a fiery game that saw three red cards on Sunday. Javier Mascherano's dismissal just before half-time for pulling down Kevin Gameiro put Barca on the back foot and they were further depleted when 59-goal top scorer Luis Suarez limped off early in the second period. However, they resisted Sevilla's pressure after the break and Barca's numerical disadvantage was cancelled out in stoppage time when Ever Banega saw red for chopping down Neymar. Barca dominated the extra 30 minutes, but needed just six to finally make the breakthrough when Lionel Messi's sumptuous pass picked out Alba to volley into the far corner. Neymar then slotted home a second in the dying seconds from another brilliant Messi assist after Daniel Carrico had also been dismissed for two bookable offences. "It was a great intense and exciting final," said Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta. "It was a last push for the club to complete a magnificent season." Sevilla were looking for a double of their own after winning a third consecutive Europa League by beating Liverpool 3-1 on Wednesday. However, just as in a thrilling 5-4 defeat to Barca to open the season in the European Super Cup in August, they fell just short as Luis Enrique's men claimed their fourth trophy of the season, having also won the Club World Cup in December. "It has been a spectacular end to the season," added Barca boss Luis Enrique. "The team has known how to compete marvellously despite the difficulties we have faced this season." And Sevilla coach Unai Emery believes his side's exertions in midweek robbed them of the energy needed to make their numerical advantage count. "We lacked freshness. If we had have been fresher we would have been able to create more chances," said Emery. "Barca didn't have many opportunities, but they were efficient." The political fallout over an initial ban on Catalan separatist flags by the Madrid authorities that was eventually overturned on appeal in the courts continued before kick-off as Barca fans jeered the Spanish national anthem. The game appeared to swing Sevilla's way nine minutes before half-time when Mascherano hauled down Gameiro just outside the box as he bore down on goal. Banega nearly doubled Barca's punishment as his sweet strike from the resulting free-kick was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Sevilla roared back from a goal down at the break to outclass Liverpool in midweek and started the second-half with intent once more as Banega's low drive came back off the post. Barca were then dealt another huge blow just before the hour mark when Suarez pulled up with a muscle injury before leaving the field in tears with his chances of representing Uruguay at the Copa America next month now in jeopardy. Sevilla were camped in the Barca half for much of the second half, but struggled to create clear-cut chances. Grzegorz Krychowiak saw a deflected effort flash just wide, whilst Vicente Iborra's appeals for a penalty after he clashed with Dani Alves were waived away. Parity was restored in numbers on each side in stoppage time when Banega saw red for tripping Neymar on the edge of the area, but Sergio Rico tipped over Messi's resulting free-kick to take the game into extra time. However, the Spanish international was left flat-footed when Alba latched onto Messi's ball over the top six minutes into extra-time and volleyed across goal into the far corner. Rico kept Sevilla in the game with brilliant saves from Pique and Sergio Busquets, whilst Dani Alves also hit the post from distance as Barca threatened a second. Sevilla's hopes of an equaliser were ended when Daniel Carrico was also sent-off for a second bookable offence. And Messi promptly teed up Neymar to round off Barca's fourth Cup triumph in eight years in stoppage time.
2016-05-23
10:28:55


San Jose, Galaxy draw in 'California Clasico'. Fatai Alashe headed a late equalizer as the San Jose Earthquakes snatched a 1-1 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer's "California Clasico" on Sunday. Alashe glanced in a Chad Barrett cross on 87 minutes to give San Jose a share of the points at the StubHub Center in Carson just four minutes after the Galaxy had taken the lead through a Marvell Wynne own goal. It was a disappointing result for the Galaxy, who had been hoping to continue their march up the Western Conference standings with a victory. The Galaxy fielded all of the biggest names of their overseas contingent -- including Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Ashley Cole -- and looked to be on their way to a win after Wynne's own goal on 83 minutes. The San Jose defender steered a Sebastian Lletget cross into his own net as the Earthquakes defense finally cracked after a sustained period of Galaxy pressure in the second half. Ireland record international goalscorer Keane and Mexican international Giovani dos Santos had both gone close to opening the scoring in the minutes before San Jose's own goal. However, with Galaxy's boisterous home fans preparing to celebrate a victory, San Jose conjured a goal in a rare foray into Los Angeles territory. Barrett's persistence saw him win the ball on the left flank, and he curled an inviting cross into the area which Alashe met to direct into the Galaxy goal. The draw leaves Galaxy in fifth place in the Western Conference standings with 20 points from 11 games. Real Salt Lake and Vancouver Whitecaps are third and fourth on 20 points ahead of Los Angeles on goal difference. The Colorado Rapids head the table with 27 points from 13 matches. In Sunday's other game, MLS Cup champions Portland downed Vancouver 4-2 in the Pacific Northwest derby, which saw three penalties awarded. Diego Valeri fired Portland ahead from the spot in the fourth minute and Jack McInerney made it 2-0 just before the half-hour mark. Kekuta Manneh pulled a goal back for the Whitecaps just after half-time but two goals in four minutes from Dairon Asprilla (78) and Darlington Nagbe (82) gave the Timbers a 4-1 lead. Pedro Morales scored a late consolation for Vancouver with a penalty on 84 minutes.
2016-05-23
10:29:26


Tearful Suarez a doubt for Copa America. Barcelona striker Luis Suarez is a doubt for next month's Copa America after hobbling off in tears midway through the Copa del Rey final win over Sevilla Sunday with a muscle injury. The Uruguayan departed just before the hour mark of a bad-tempered final which saw three players sent off as goals in extra-time from Jordi Alba and Neymar handed Barca a 2-0 win and a 28th cup triumph. "It is something muscular. Until the doctors look at him in Barcelona we won't know the extent of the injury," said Barca boss Luis Enrique. "Now we have to wait for the tests tomorrow," Suarez posted on his official Twitter account. "I hope it is nothing and I can be with my national team next week. Thank you for the support." Suarez only returned to competitive international duty in March after completing a lengthy ban for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup. Uruguay face Mexico in their opening match in the Copa America, which is being hosted by the United States, on June 5 before playing Venezuela and Jamaica in Group C. Suarez scored 59 goals in a prolific season for Barcelona to become the first man in seven years other than teammate Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Pichichi prize for La Liga's top scorer.
2016-05-23
10:30:00


They think it's Gaal over - Mourinho waits in wings. Jose Mourinho was widely reported to be close to joining Manchester United on Monday as The Times said his agent was due in England for talks on replacing embattled manager Louis van Gaal. British media have been awash with reports of van Gaal's demise, after a leak from an unknown source spread as Manchester United lifted the FA Cup on Saturday. The Dutchman cryptically commented, "It's over" as he left the squad's London hotel on Sunday, but it was not clear whether he was referring to his tenure or United's season. The BBC said van Gaal had not been informed whether he was staying for next season, although it said Saturday's 2-1 win over Crystal Palace was believed to have been his last game. The Times reported that he is fuming over his treatment by the club, adding that Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes was flying to England to "conclude negotiations" on a three-year contract. There has been no official comment from the 20-time English champions, although the no-nonsense van Gaal was defiant after Saturday's Cup final. "I show you the cup and I don't discuss it with my friends of the media, who already sacked me for six months," the 64-year-old said. "Which manager can do that, what I have done?" Despite winning their first trophy since the great Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013, van Gaal's United didn't challenge for the Premier League title and failed to qualify for the Champions League. Fans were also unhappy with the brand of football their team played under van Gaal, which many felt ran counter to the club's traditional attacking style. Mourinho saw his second spell as Chelsea manager end with the sack in December, after last season's champions made a miserable start to the their Premier League title defence. The Portuguese manager may have won trophies in several European leagues but has never stayed at one club longer than the three years and three months he racked up in his first spell with Chelsea. Some media weren't convinced about the apparently imminent appointment of the brash Portuguese, who despite his success has a reputation for alienating players and waging public feuds with adversaries. If hired, Mourinho will arrive in Manchester at the same time as incoming Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, resuming their bitter rivalry from when they coached Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. But former United defender Phil Neville said even if Mourinho was only at Old Trafford for a brief time, he would bring silverware to the club. "I can't see him staying too long at Man United, maybe two or three years, that seems to be his shelf life at a football club," Neville told BBC Radio on Sunday. "When Jose finishes at a club it tends to be a pattern where he falls out with a few players, he gets disgruntled and the team dips. "It happened at Chelsea, it certainly happened at Real Madrid where there were rumours he fell out with a few players. "It's a pattern with Jose, he comes into a club, he gets success but he doesn't stay for too long." United have now failed to finish higher than fourth in the Premier League in any of the three seasons since legendary manager Alex Ferguson retired. For a club of United's stature that represents an embarrassing record but Neville believes Mourinho, who won three Premier League titles with Chelsea, can transform their fortunes. "He's a proven winner, a proven champion," Neville said. "United fans want a team that will challenge for the league title, not a team that finishes seventh or fifth, and Jose is probably the man for the job."
2016-05-23
10:30:32


Euro security fears at the back of German minds. Defender Jonas Hector admits security concerns are a distraction for Germany's opening Euro 2016 match against Ukraine on Sunday, while Manuel Neuer will have family there -- like a normal game. Germany defender Jerome Boateng caused a stir on Wednesday by admitting his wife and five-year-old twins will not be in France to watch him play in the European Championship finals because of terror fears. Centre-back Boateng was in the German team playing at the Stade de France in Paris on November 13 last year when a series of jihadist attacks across the French capital left 130 dead. Suicide bombers had tried to get into the stadium. Next to him in the Germany defence that night was left-back Hector, who says security will be put at the back of the players' minds against Ukraine in Lille in Sunday's Group C game. "It's at the back of your mind, of course, but primarily it comes down to football and enjoyment of the game," said Cologne's Hector, who has recently been courted by Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, in Thursday's press conference. Hector, who is set to start against Ukraine, echoed the comments of German Football Association chief Reinhard Grindel, who said everyone must decide for themselves. "It's up to the individual whether they come to the stadium or not, anyone who does will clearly really want to be there," said Hector. "I'm focused more on the match." Just like any other big game, goalkeeper Neuer, set to stand in as captain while Bastian Schweinsteiger recovers from a knee injury, will have friends and family in Lille's Stade Pierre Mauroy, which holds 50,000. "There will be people from my circle there," said Neuer. "For club games, you always have relatives at matches. I don't have a problem with ringing people before a game and exchanging "all the best" wishes." Germany head coach Joachim Loew has described the mood in their Evian camp as "relaxed". But his squad will make their first return to the Stade de France since the November attacks -- when they spent the night in the ground after suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium -- on June 16 when they face Poland in their second group game. A few days after the November attacks, a friendly between Germany and the Netherlands in Hanover was scrapped at the last minute over a terror threat.
2016-06-09
18:24:32


Manuel Neuer ready to skipper Germany for Euro opener. Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is ready to step up and captain the world champions in their opening Euro 2016 group game against Ukraine on Sunday. Regular skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger, 31, played the final 23 minutes of last weekend's 2-0 warm-up win over Hungary but is doubtful for Germany's opening Euro 2016 Group C clash. Germany's midfield talisman tore a medial knee ligament while on national duty in March. The Manchester United star has not played 90 minutes of football since January and if, as expected, he fails to start in Lille, either Neuer or Sami Khedira will skipper the world champions. Head coach Joachim Loew has yet to decide who will wear the captain's arm-band. But Neuer has already led the team in friendlies and qualifiers and is braced to step in again for the European Championship finals. "Basically, as a goalkeeper, I have to take responsibility anyway and I see my role as guiding the younger players," said Neuer, who has been voted world's best goalkeeper for the last three years. "As a goalkeeper, you are expected to talk a lot, both on and off the pitch." As well as deciding on his skipper, Loew must also rejuggle his defence after centre-back Antonio Rudiger dropped out with torn knee ligaments on Tuesday. He suffered the injury in training. Jonas Hector will start at left-back with either Benedikt Hoewedes set to move in from right-back or Shkodran Mustafi to partner Jerome Boateng at centre-back. Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich, 21, could cap his first season in the German senior squad with a start for die Mannschaft at right-back. But Neuer does not mind who plays in front of him. "Basically, we will have a very good defence, whoever plays," said the 30-year-old Neuer, who has been Germany's first-choice shot-stopper since the 2010 World Cup. "I get on well with each player and we will have a functioning defence out there." The Germans suffered uncustomary defeats in their qualifying campaign, losing away to Poland and the Republic of Ireland. Now the world champions have a point to prove in France. "We are pleased that it's finally going to get started. We can barely wait to get on the pitch," said Neuer. Germany also face Poland on June 16, then Republic of Ireland on June 21.
2016-06-09
18:25:47


England must be ruthless, warns Hart. England must be decisive in both penalty areas to avoid a repeat of their humiliating World Cup exit at Euro 2016, goalkeeper Joe Hart said on Thursday. Roy Hodgson's side travelled to Brazil two years ago confident that they would make an impact, only for consecutive 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay to send them crashing out after just two matches. Hopes are also high ahead of Saturday's Euro opener against Russia in Marseille, but Hart warned that it will count for nothing if England are not on their mettle in the game's decisive moments. "Playing to a decent standard sometimes isn't enough. We've got to be really ruthless at both ends of the pitch," the Manchester City goalkeeper told a press conference at England's Chantilly media base. "It's an obvious thing. That doesn't differ from Premier League football or Capital One Cup football. It probably stood out the most in the two games that we lost in the World Cup. "We could have walked off easily with two victories, but we didn't. That's most important thing." Left-back Ryan Bertrand trained apart from the squad earlier this week due to an unspecified injury problem, but following training on Thursday, Hart said that everyone was fit and available to face Russia. England have selected their youngest squad at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, with manager Hodgson putting faith in youngsters such as 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford. Aged 29 and with 59 caps, Hart is at the other end of the scale, but he said that there was no split in the squad between young and old, thanks in part to the efforts of captain Wayne Rooney. "There's a lot of youngsters, so they're probably going to be more comfortable than maybe other teams," he said. "There's a good bond right the way through. It's well known that at 30 years old, Wayne is such a key part of the squad. He's accessible to all the players. "You look at him doing an interview with Marcus. That's just how Wayne is. There's definitely a connection. Age doesn't really factor into this team. We're all one and we're all pushing in the right direction."
2016-06-09
18:26:09


Carrick signs one-year extension with United. Michael Carrick has ended speculation over his future by signing a new one-year contract with Manchester United, the Premier League club announced on Thursday. Carrick was due to be out of contract in the close-season and faced the possibility of having to leave Old Trafford when Jose Mourinho was appointed to replace sacked manager Louis van Gaal. The 34-year-old was offered the chance to move to Australian outfit Perth Glory. But Mourinho believes Carrick can play a significant role in his plans to revitalise United next season and agreed to rubber stamp a new deal that keeps him at the club until 2017. "Michael is a very intelligent midfielder and a great reader of the game. I am pleased that he will be extending his contract," Mourinho said in a United statement. "His form this year shows his ability and his enjoyment of the game are as strong as ever. "Michael has a wealth of experience from his many years at the club and that knowledge will be invaluable to me. I am really looking forward to working with him." England international Carrick joined United from Tottenham in July 2006 and has won five Premier League titles, as well as the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. He has emerged as one of the more vocal voices in the United dressing room, reportedly joining with captain Wayne Rooney to inform Van Gaal that many players were unhappy with his methods. Carrick also defied criticism of his form this season to help the club beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final at Wembley last month. "This great club has been a part of my life for the past 10 years so I am delighted that this incredible journey is continuing," Carrick said. "It's great to have the opportunity to work under Jose Mourinho, who has achieved so much during his managerial career. "I would like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Winning the FA Cup was a special moment and hopefully we can go on to win more trophies in the future."
2016-06-09
18:26:37


Southampton's Juanmi signs for Real Sociedad. Southampton forward Juan Miguel Jimenez, better known as Juanmi, has signed for five years with Real Sociedad, the Spanish La Liga club said on Thursday. "Real Sociedad have reached agreement with Southampton to sign forward Juanmi," the Basque club said, adding that the player had penned a deal until June 30, 2021. Juanmi, 23, is heading back to the Spanish league after just a year with Southampton, where he signed a four-year deal in 2015 with a seven-million-euros release clause after previously spending five seasons at Malaga. "It's a matter of pride to be part of an historic club, a big club with an exciting project and a great group," said Juanmi, who has twice won the European under-19 title with Spain.
2016-06-09
18:26:56


Sunderland's Defoe signs new deal. Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe has signed a one-year contract extension as a reward for helping preserve his club's Premier League status. Defoe's tally of 18 goals this season included 15 in the league as Sunderland climbed out of the relegation zone. The 33-year-old, who netted a crucial winner against Chelsea in the penultimate game of the season, will now be tied to Sunderland until 2019. "Jermain is one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of the Premier League and is a player that every manager would want to have in their team," Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce said. "He proved that beyond doubt last season by scoring 15 league goals, he is in fantastic physical condition and we are very pleased that we have been able to extend his stay with us." Defoe's club form this season prompted calls for him to be included in the England squad for Euro 2016. But although the former Tottenham and West Ham star was ignored by England manager Roy Hodgson, he has resurrected his career since returning to the Premier League from Major League Soccer. Defoe's brief stay with Toronto was a disappointment and he arrived at the Stadium of Light in a swap deal with United States international Jozy Altidore in January last year.
2016-06-09
18:27:20


Brazil striker Fred joins Atletico Mineiro. Veteran Brazil striker Fred has agreed a transfer deal from Fluminense to Atletico Mineiro, the two Brazilian clubs confirmed on Thursday. "Fred will be at Independencia (Stadium) on Sunday! He's a Galo (Rooster)," Atletico Mineiro president Daniel Nepomuceno said on Twitter referring to the club's nickname. Fred joined Fluminense in March 2009 from French club Lyon, where he won the Ligue 1 title three times -- 2006, 2007, 2008. The 32-year-old was captain and scored 172 goals in 288 matches for the Rio de Janeiro club, winning Brazilian league titles in 2010 and 2012. He returns to his home town of Belo Horizonte, where he started his career playing with the cities two other big clubs America and Cruzeiro between 2003 and 2005. Capped 59 times for Brazil, scoring 18 goals, Fred won the Copa America in 2007 and Confederations Cup in 2013, but retired from international football after the 2014 World Cup when hosts Brazil suffered a humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-finals in Belo Horizonte, a fiasco for which he was blamed by the Brazilian public.
2016-06-09
18:27:36


Messi to make Copa debut - Martino. Lionel Messi will return to Argentina's starting line-up for Friday's Copa America Centenario clash with Panama, coach Gerardo Martino confirmed Thursday. Speaking to reporters at Soldier Field ahead of Friday's Group D game, Martino said Messi had been cleared to play after recovering from a back injury. "Leo trained with the group normally. There is nothing unusual, and he will play tomorrow," Martino said. "With Leo as with any other player, once you get a medical discharge, he is available for selection," he added. Messi, who injured his lower back during Argentina's friendly win over Honduras last month, was on the bench for the Albiceleste's opening 2-1 victory over Chile on Monday in Santa Clara. He was replaced by Nicolas Gaitan, who is likely to make way for the Barcelona superstar on Friday, where a win will send Argentina into the quarter-finals.
2016-06-09
18:27:52


Hodgson in a hurry, but won't underestimate Russia. England manager Roy Hodgson stressed his side would not underestimate an injury-hit Russia ahead of their opening Euro 2016 clash in Marseille, which he said "can't come soon enough" for his young players. "We are fully aware of what a good team Russia are, we're aware of their experience and of their quality," Hodgson told media at Marseille's Stade Velodrome on Friday. "We've prepared for that. We've scouted them, of course, and I'm sure (Russia coach Leonid) Slutsky will have done the same. "That's the respect I show other members of my profession. And at this level of football, every team will be very prepared vis-a-vis the opposition." England take on a depleted Russia side, who are without injured midfielders Alan Dzagoev and Igor Denisov, desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2014 World Cup when an opening defeat to Italy was followed by another 2-1 reverse to Uruguay. But in the year of the 50th anniversary of England's 1966 World Cup triumph, their sole major title, belief is growing that Hodgson's young side can shock bigger favourites like Germany and Spain. England fine-tuned their preparations for the tournament with friendly wins over Germany, Turkey, Australia and Portugal. And Hodgson says his players can't wait to get the tournament started. "As far as we're concerned, tomorrow can't come soon enough," he added. Hodgson remained coy over his possible starting 11, although Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane of Tottenham are expected to spearhead the attack with Manchester United veteran Wayne Rooney playing in support. Rooney looked red-faced when he admitted he "can't remember the time" he played at the imposing Stade Velodrome earlier in his career. But he was unequivocal when it came to underlining the importance of Saturday's opener. "We know how important our first game is," said Rooney, one of several players left gutted by their first-round exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. "It cost us two years ago. Now, it's an exciting time, everyone's excited for this game. We're ready for tomorrow night." Hodgson has assembled the youngest England squad at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, putting faith in youngsters such as striker Marcus Rashford, 18, centre-back Chris Smalling, 25, and 20-year-old Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli. It will also be the first time Vardy, 29, and Kane, 22, feature at a major finals, creating plenty of pre-match intrigue as to how they will perform on the big stage together. Hodgson admitted the big step up to "tournament football", which he said is "different", will be a challenge. But the England manager added: "Some of them are relatively inexperienced... but the lack of experience is counteracted by the youth, energy and enthusiasm. "They're really keen to do well and are certainly very well prepared for this tournament." When asked what his message to the new recruits will be, Rooney said: "Enjoy it." And he should know, having broken into the England team as a fresh-faced 17-year-old in 2003. Although he admitted some words of support won't go amiss ahead of walking out into a stadium filled with up to 70,000 fans, Rooney believes the ambition and desire of England's young players will shine through. "I think you can obviously play without fear, naturally young lads do that. I did it when I broke into the team in 2003," said Rooney. "It's a case of the manager me telling them how good they are. I've been around the players the last few weeks and you can see the desire and ambition. "We're ready as a group of players, as much as we can be, and this tournament could be a big moment for England and this group of players."
2016-06-11
8:20:37


Talent and tension as Croatia & Turkey reconvene. The twinkle-toed talents of Luka Modric's Croatia and Turkey led by Arda Turan resume their European Championship rivalry on Sunday with both sides mindful of contests past. The teams met at Euro 96 in England, Croatia winning 1-0 late on, and in qualifying for Euro 2012, when the Croats again prevailed. But it is their encounter at Euro 2008 that rekindles the strongest emotions. A classy Croatian team took the lead through Ivan Klasnic in the penultimate minute of extra time in their quarter-final in Vienna, only for Semih Senturk to equalise in the second minute of stoppage time before the Turks won on penalties. "We should not think about what happened at Euro 2008 in Austria. This is a new match, everything is different," said Croatia's Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic. "We should think about our qualities much more than those of our opponents. I like that our coach thinks that way. "We have to focus on what can we do -- not what our opponents can do -- because we are really good and have great players." Croatia's coach, Ante Cacic, took over from Niko Kovac last September following a stumble in the qualifying campaign. His squad, characteristically, is blessed with exceptional quality in the middle of the pitch, where Real Madrid maestro Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic pull the strings in a Spanish-accented midfield. Cacic is expected to deploy Fiorentina's Milan Badelj alongside Modric as one of the holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, affording the former Tottenham Hotspur schemer more freedom to get forward. Croatia lost only once in qualifying, away to Norway, and twice drew with Italy, but with defending champions Spain and the Czech Republic also awaiting them in Group D, they can ill afford a slow start at the Parc des Princes if they are to advance to the last 16. Turkey's qualifying campaign, in contrast, was a rollercoaster, as opening defeats against Iceland and the Netherlands, plus a draw against Latvia, left them with a mountain to climb. But they produced a stunning flourish, beating The Netherlands 3-0, winning 2-0 away to the Czech Republic and then edging Iceland courtesy of a 89th-minute Selcuk Inan free-kick to qualify as the best third-place team. It was a fightback that recalled their crowd-pleasing exploits at Euro 2008, when aside from eliminating Croatia, they also came from behind to beat both Switzerland and the Czech Republic in the group phase and narrowly lost 3-2 to Germany in a gripping last-four tie. Coach Fatih Terim, now in his third stint at the helm, saw his side go 13 games unbeaten prior to last month's 2-1 friendly defeat by England and in players like Barcelona's Arda Turan and Hakan Calhanoglu of Bayer Leverkusen, he possesses plenty of attacking quality. "In this type of tournament, the start is very important," said Terim. "If we beat Croatia, we will get a very big morale boost and get a very important advantage in trying to get out of the group. "I am happy with how everything is going. It's going very well. We want to show our strengths in the Croatia match. Let's start well and bring good news to our country from France."
2016-06-11
8:21:01


Wales more proud than England, says Bale. Gareth Bale has raised the temperature ahead of Wales's Euro 2016 clash with England next week by claiming that his country will show more "passion and pride" than their neighbours. "I think we've got a lot more passion and pride about us than them. We'll definitely show that on the day," said the Wales forward, in comments published by British media outlets on Saturday. Wales open their Group B campaign against Slovakia in Bordeaux later on Saturday before locking horns with old foes England in the northern industrial city of Lens on Thursday. England, who tackle Russia in Marseille on Saturday, are the favourites to win the group, but Bale believes it is time Roy Hodgson's men were taken down a peg or two. "They big themselves up before they've done anything, so we're going to go there and we believe we can beat them," said the Real Madrid forward. "For me it is probably the stand-out game in the group stages, but there is no pressure on us because they believe they can beat us. "I had a chuckle when England came out (in the draw), I'm not going to lie. It's an amazing game to be involved in and it's like any derby -- you never want to lose to the enemy. "Even in the recent (rugby) World Cup when we won, I remember those. England don't get that, do they?" Bale also paid tribute to former Wales manager Gary Speed, who sparked the team's revival before tragically taking his own life in November 2011. "What happened made us come together, stronger," said Bale, citing the team's 'Together, Stronger' motto. "We've had to go deep to bring our emotions out, bring it onto the field. In this campaign you've seen it. After every game, we are all in huddles. "We've been through so much to be here now, and it's definitely a shame that we've had so many great players -- Ryan Giggs being one of them -- who never experienced a major tournament. "I think we appreciate it more than other countries, and we just have to give it a go."
2016-06-11
11:42:47


Poland's Milik breaks Northern Ireland hearts. Poland striker Arkadiusz Milik broke Northern Ireland hearts on Sunday after rifling home the only goal in a 1-0 win in their Euro 2016 Group C opener in Nice. Poland had never won a game before at the European Championship, with three draws and three losses over two appearances in 2008 and 2012 -- the latter a tournament that they co-hosted with Ukraine. Now they can look forward to a spicy tie with neighbours Germany in the Stade de France on June 16 with eyes on a spot in the last 16. "It's just the beginning, the next matches will show that we can play even better," said man-of-the-match Grzegorz Krychowiak. On a day when Poland's brightest star Robert Lewandowski was successfully stifled by Northern Ireland, the rest of the team stood up for duty, with Krychowiak in particular shining in a midfield playmaker role. "The team has realised that we won't win as individuals but we can achieve something as 23 players in a squad," Krychowiak said. "Every player thinks in a collective way," he said. The result dents Northern Ireland's pre-tournament hopes of qualifying from a tough group as one of the four best third-placed teams, with a win now essential against Ukraine in Lyon the same day. Adam Nawalka's side dominated the game but took time to break down a stubborn defence, Milik's strike early in the second half coming after several missed chances in the first. For Michael O'Neill's side, it was a disappointing end to their first ever European Championship match, and first major tournament appearance since the 1986 World Cup. They entered the game unbeaten in a record 12 matches, but although they held their more vaunted opponents scoreless until half-time, they ultimately paid for an overly-defensive approach in the impressive Stadium Nice. From the off Poland dominated possession but struggled to penetrate close to goal against a back-four stoutly marshalled by West Brom's Jonny Evans. With Bayern Munich star Lewandowski bottled up by a dogged Northern Ireland defence and Milik misfiring on several occasions, it was a frustrating opening period for Poland. Top scorers in qualifying for Euro 2016, they managed just two shots on target in the first period. The first was on the half-hour when a left-footed drive by Milik from outside the box was easily parried by Michael McGovern. Milik should also have scored after a cut-back by Piszczek put him in space 10 yards out but he sliced high and wide. Then as a scrappy half drew to a close, Poland almost broke the deadlock when a left-foot snapshot by the always lively Bartosz Kapustka from the edge of the area was superbly tipped over by McGovern. Northern Ireland, whose striker Kyle Lafferty was their only player in the opposing half for much of the game, soon paid for their defensive approach. Just six minutes into the second period Milik made no mistake when firing through the legs of Craig Cathcart after Jakub Blaszczykowski found him unmarked on the edge of the area. Blaszczykowski had his own chance to add to Poland's tally on 68 minutes but steered wide after Milik had stroked a ball behind the Northern Ireland defence. Krzysztof Maczynski, substitute Kamil Grosicki, Milik again, and Krychowiak had chances to put Poland 2-0 up in the last 15 minutes but all narrowly missed. Northern Ireland rarely looked like scoring although a speculative off-target scissor kick from Lafferty gave their raucous fans some hope, while captain Steven Davis almost got on the end of a through ball late on.
2016-06-13
9:32:47


Germany an unstoppable 'machine', admits Ukraine boss. Ukraine boss Mykhaylo Fomenko hailed world champions Germany as a "machine" after his side lost their first Euro 2016 game 2-0 on Sunday. "Germany are a machine, their team is full of great players," said Fomenko. "There are no surprises with this team. A machine is a machine." Shkodran Mustafi's early header and Bastian Schweinsteiger's first international goal for five years in stoppage time got Germany off to a flier in Group C in Lille. However, they had to toil for long spells as Ukraine threatened an equaliser, particularly in the latter stages of the first-half. Manuel Neuer made a fine save from Yevhen Khacheridi, whilst Jerome Boateng made a spectacular acrobatic clearance of his own line. Fomenko believes his players' confidence will be intact when they face Northern Ireland on Thursday. "We understand of course that it is going to be very difficult when you play in a game against Germany. "We have to forget about it now and move onto the next match. "I think physically and mentally everything will be ok for the next match. "The most important thing is the next game and our chance to win the next game."
2016-06-13
9:33:07


Austria look to lay down marker against old foe Hungary. Seen by many as dangerous dark horses at Euro 2016, Austria have an early chance to underline their credentials when they begin their Group F campaign against old rivals Hungary on Tuesday. The game in Bordeaux will be the 138th meeting of the two nations, but their first encounter in a decade and their first competitively in more than 30 years. Their only previous clash at a major tournament came in the quarter-finals of the 1934 World Cup in Italy, when Austria won 2-1, and Marcel Koller's men are the favourites to come out on top again this time. Propelled by star man David Alaba, Austria were superb in qualifying and the Bayern Munich full-back, who is deployed in midfield by his country, will be the man to watch out for against Hungary. "He plays an important role in midfield, particularly because he brings a lot of experience to the table. We hope he continues to perform as well for the national team this summer as he has in qualification and throughout the season as a whole," teammate Marko Arnautovic, of Stoke City, told UEFA.com. Arnautovic is one of several Austrians coming into the European Championship on the back of impressive seasons in England, with Leicester City left-back Christian Fuchs and Tottenham Hotspur defender Kevin Wimmer also set to feature. Meanwhile, Hungary, who beat Norway in a play-off to reach a major tournament for the first time since the 1986 World Cup, have no such star presence and are expected to struggle in a group also containing Portugal and Iceland. The game will nevertheless be a special occasion for goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly, famous for always wearing tracksuit trousers on the pitch and set to become the oldest ever player at a European Championship if he starts at the ripe old age of 40. "I've always told him that age isn't important for me," Hungary's German coach Bernd Storck said of Kiraly. "I don't care if a player is young or old, he has to be good. Gábor is good -- he's outstanding." It will also be a memorable evening for the Austrian full-back Gyorgy Garics who, as his name suggests, is Hungarian by birth and only moved to Austria as a 14-year-old. Garics, of Darmstadt in the German Bundesliga, could be forgiven for momentarily forgetting which side he is on when the national anthems ring out in Bordeaux. "I will certainly sing the Austrian anthem and probably the Hungarian as well and I think no-one can blame me for that," Garics told media. "I hope we will get three points against Hungary, but after that I'll support them as well to advance."
2016-06-13
9:33:40


Brazil crash out of Copa America after Peru upset. The Copa America Centenario erupted into controversy on Sunday after a refereeing blunder sent Brazil crashing to a 1-0 defeat against Peru -- and out of the tournament. The defeat left Brazil struggling to digest their worst performance in the Copa America since 1987, the last occasion the five-time world champions failed to make it past the group stage. Brazil, needing only a draw to qualify for the quarter-finals as winners of Group B, looked to be on course for a place in the last eight with 15 minutes to go against Peru. But a rare foray into Brazilian territory from Peru ended with Raul Ruidiaz bundling in Andy Polo's cross from the byline, appearing to use his arm to score. Ruidiaz wheeled away to celebrate and Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha signalled for the goal. Brazil's players protested furiously, swarming around Cunha in a bid to persuade the official to reverse his decision. The protests appeared to have swayed Cunha, who looked to be frantically checking with the fourth official via his headpiece to determine whether the goal should stand. Yet after a chaotic delay of around four minutes -- with players from both sides surrounding the referee -- Cunha ruled the goal should stand. Multiple replays from different angles, however, showed that Ruidiaz had used his arm to knock the ball into the net past Brazil keeper Alisson. Brazil pressed forward in the final closing minutes in an attempt to find an equaliser that would take them through but it was to no avail. Elias squandered a golden chance from close range in injury time and Brazil's fate was sealed. Peru will now play Colombia in the quarter-finals after finishing top of Group B. Brazil coach Dunga lambasted the decision to allow Peru's goal. "I am sure the Brazilian fans saw the game and saw how Brazil was eliminated," Brazil coach Dunga said. "There is no way to anticipate imponderables. The team was not eliminated by anything to do with football," he added, criticizing the lengthy deliberations between the match officials which held up the game. "I do not quite understand who or what the referee was consulting," Dunga said, adding that he had watched replays of the incident on screens in the Gillette Stadium. "It was such a clear handball, but we have no influence over the referee," he said. Peru coach Ricardo Gareca meanwhile insisted his side had deserved to win. "I thought we did enough to deserve to win," Gareca said, adding he had not had a clear view of the handball incident. "I haven't seen it yet. I've heard some comments. But I never think too much about mistakes by officials," he said. Brazil's early exit is certain to pile pressure on Dunga after what was a lacklustre tournament. The Brazilians, desperate to begin the road to recovery after their humiliating 7-1 defeat by Germany in the World Cup semi-finals two years ago, never convinced at any point of the group stage. A 0-0 opening draw with Ecuador -- where a refereeing decision which might have given Ecuador a victory went in Brazil's favour -- was followed by a 7-1 drubbing of Haiti, arguably the weakest team in the tournament. Another drab display against Peru followed on Sunday, with Dunga's side barely getting a shot on goal in the first-half with the exception of a shot by Gabriel in the 26th minute that was tipped away by Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Dunga, meanwhile, emphasized that Brazil's long-term rebuilding job would take time. "There are no quick-fixes," he said. "We will need to be patient."
2016-06-13
9:34:06


Hungary's Storck salutes record-breaker Kiraly. Hungary coach Bernd Storck showered praise on 40-year-old goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly after he became the oldest player in European Championship history in Tuesday's shock 2-0 win over neighbours Austria. Kiraly, famous for his grey tracksuit trousers, celebrated the record-breaking occasion by keeping a clean sheet as he eclipsed the old mark set by Germany's Lothar Matthaus, who was 39 when he played at Euro 2000. "He was chosen in goal because he's a great player," said Storck. "I never said I had old players, I have good players. I still think he's one of the best players in the world. "He contributed to this victory, keeping the clean sheet. He led the team to the win and was rewarded for all his hard work over the years." Second-half goals from Adam Szalai and Zoltan Stieber steered Hungary to an opening win in Group F, their first victory at the tournament since they finished third in 1964. Hungary, who are appearing at their first major finals since the 1986 World Cup, will target a place in the last 16 when they take on Iceland in Marseille on Saturday.
2016-06-15
10:41:03


Deschamps tells France to move up a gear for Albania. France coach Didier Deschamps has called on Les Bleus to move up a gear against an Albania side that he insisted could trouble the Euro 2016 hosts. Deschamps' men earned the perfect start to the competition with a 2-1 win over Romania at the Stade de France in Paris last Friday. But at times, it was a nervous performance and the hosts were only rescued in the final minutes when West Ham midfielder Dmitri Payet fired home a cracking long-range effort to seal a 2-1 win over their Group A rivals. France meet Albania at Marseille's Stade Velodrome on Wednesday, a venue Deschamps knows well having won the league title twice there as a player and once as coach of the French giants. But, despite the Balkan minnows starting their competition debut with a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland and missing captain Lorik Cana through suspension after his early red card, Deschamps remains cautious. Although he expects a "red hot atmosphere" at a "real football stadium", Deschamps wants France to move up a gear against a "well organised" and defensively-minded side. "They (Albania) are a very well-organised team," Deschamps told media in Marseille on Tuesday. "With an Italian coach it's quite logical they defend well but even with 10 men against Switzerland, they were still in the match and were unlucky not to level at the end." Media speculation suggested Deschamps will shake things up in his starting XI following mediocre performances by Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann. The 47-year-old Deschamps refused to be drawn on questions on either player, but said: "I would like us to control things a little better, and for us to get the ball up the pitch a bit quicker. "Romania did a lot of pressing up front and shut down space and, at times, we took some risks and we weren't sharp. "Obviously the quicker and more fluid you are, the better it is for us." A France win would leave the hosts with six points from their two opening games, enough to virtually guarantee their place in the last 16 knockout phase. But Deschamps wants a clean sweep of wins in the group, a feat that would -- perhaps like 1998 when he was part of the team that won the World Cup -- stir the French public's imagination as the hosts look to end their 16-year wait for the title. "We're only at the second match and so I don't want to start looking too far ahead," said Deschamps. "We have to focus on winning this match first, but for sure, we want to finish top of our group." However, Deschamps played down comparisons with the 1998 team that united a nation with their maiden World Cup win. "1998 was personal for me and this competition should be about the players who are here. Today, the public are already enthusiastic about the team, but it's been like that since our preparation camp and friendly games."
2016-06-15
10:41:31


Brazil sack coach Dunga after Copa exit. Brazil sacked national coach Dunga on Tuesday after their humiliating group-stage elimination from the Copa America Centenario. The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said in a statement it decided to fire Dunga and "dissolve the Brazilian national team's coaching staff" following their latest debacle. The news came after CBF officials met with Carlos Caetano Bledorn, alias Dunga, earlier on Tuesday. The exit from the Copa America centennial edition in the United States was the latest blow to demoralized, recession-hit Brazil. The country was still recovering from the national team's 7-1 World Cup semi-final thrashing by Germany on home soil in 2014. After an opening 0-0 draw with Ecuador was followed by a 7-1 win over Haiti, Brazil needed a draw with Peru on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of the Copa. Instead they crashed out of the tournament after losing 1-0 to a disputed goal. Peru's Raul Ruidiaz appeared to bundle in a cross with his arm to score late in the second half. It was the first time in three decades that Brazil had exited the tournament at the group stage. Brazilian media speculated that Dunga would be replaced by Tite, coach of Sao Paulo side Corinthians. The 55-year-old led Corinthians to a double of the regional Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup in 2012. The following year his side won the Copa Sudamericana. The CBF had yet to announce Dunga's successor on Tuesday afternoon, however. Speculation had swirled that Dunga was on his way out, although he had said he was not afraid of the sack. "I am only afraid of death," Dunga told reporters in the wake of Sunday's defeat. He had called for patience, insisting the five-time World Cup champions were at an early stage of a transitional period. But as of Tuesday, Brazil were searching for a new coach just weeks away from hosting the Olympics in August. At the Rio de Janeiro summer Games they will be seeking to win football gold for the first time. Dunga, 52, won the Copa America twice as a player and was captain of Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winning squad. After months of sharp recession and political turmoil, Brazilians were looking to at least lay to rest the trauma of the 2014 World Cup. Dunga had an earlier stint managing Brazil from 2006 to 2010 and took over again from Luiz Felipe Scolari after the 2014 defeat. He led the national team to victory in the Copa America in 2007, the Confederations Cup in 2009 and a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics. But the side failed to regain their shine during his second term in charge. They have had a disappointing qualifying campaign so far for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They are currently in sixth place in their regional group, which would be too low to qualify. Brazilian media branded Sunday's defeat a national disgrace. Newspaper O Dia described it as "another humiliation".
2016-06-15
10:42:00


Ronaldo slams Iceland for 'parking the bus'. Cristiano Ronaldo slammed minnows Iceland for proverbially 'parking the bus' in front of their goal as the north Atlantic Islanders held Group F favourites Portugal to a 1-1 draw. Real Madrid ace Ronaldo had ten of Portugal's 24 shots on goal in Saint Etienne on Tuesday, but failed to become the first man to score in four European Championships. The 31-year-old equalled Luis Figo's record number of caps with both the Portugal legends now on 127 appearances. A superb finish by Nani gave Portugal the lead before Iceland's industrious midfielder Birkir Bjarnason volleyed the equaliser. But Ronaldo stormed off after the final whistle, clearly frustrated by his own failure in front of goal, while Iceland scored by converting one of only four chances. Iceland's dogged defence was capped by an outstanding display from Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson. "It was difficult over the 90 minutes, because they scored one goal and that was after they had put every player behind the ball," fumed Ronaldo. "They put the bus in the net. (Parked the bus in front of goal). "We tried our best, we created many chances and kept the ball. "Iceland didn't try nothing, they just defend, defend, defend, they had two chances and scored a goal, it was a lucky night for them. "We're frustrated, they didn't try and play. "It's why I think they will do nothing here. In my opinion, it's a small mentality. "It's difficult when Portugal tries to win the game and the other team doesn't." Portugal are now under pressure in their second game against Austria, who earlier lost their opening match 2-0 to Hungary in the other pool match in Bordeaux. But Ronaldo is confident of victory in Paris on Saturday. "It's a little bit of frustration for us, but this is just the beginning, we're not worried about that," said the former Manchester United star. "If you look at Spain and France, they are strong teams in the tournament and they had difficulties winning their first game. "It was tough, but we are 100 percent confident we're going to win the next game." Ronaldo was not the only Portugal forward to feel the effects of a lack of finishing. "We had enough chances, but we couldn't score another one," added Nani, who also used to grace Old Trafford. "It's only the first game and we have to win our next two games. "We were on top, we were the better team and we played the better football, but Iceland are a good team and played a lot of long balls, which caused us problems. That's football. "We've shown we are a good team, but this was the first game, there was a lot of anxiety. I think we will relax more from now, but we have to score more." Portugal boss Fernando Santos lamented Nani's first-half header which smashed off the boot of Iceland goalkeeper Halldorsson. "Nani's header was blocked by their goalkeeper, who still doesn't know how he did it, that's football," said the Portugal manager "We could have done better in defending the cross which led for their goal, but this was the first game, there were a few nerves and we need to play better for the next two games."
2016-06-15
11:02:06


Bale, brawl fears stalk England in Lens. England face the twin threats of a disqualification warning if their fans misbehave and a super-motivated Gareth Bale ahead of their Euro 2016 showdown with neighbours Wales in Lens on Thursday. The bloody clashes between rival fans that marred England's opening 1-1 draw with Russia in Marseille at the weekend left Roy Hodgson's side facing the threat of elimination from European governing body UEFA. England midfielder Adam Lallana said that such an outcome would be "devastating" and Hodgson and team captain Wayne Rooney have released a video message pleading for calm. But with England and Wales fans having been advised to base themselves in nearby Lille, where Russia play Slovakia on Wednesday, the build-up to the game will be wreathed with tension. Police numbers will be boosted in Lens, an industrial city in northern France, with 2,400 security personnel on the streets. Extra officers are being deployed from Britain to provide support, while a ban on alcohol sales has been announced and all local schools will be closed. The Football Association and Football Association of Wales have both urged fans without tickets not to attend, but despite Lens's Stade Bollaert-Delelis holding only 35,000 fans, between 40,000 and 50,000 British supporters are expected to descend on the city. England's players witnessed the violence firsthand on Saturday when Russia's fans charged their English counterparts at the final whistle, but they are doing their best to deflect attention from the issue. "The scenes weren't nice to see at the end of the game, but the people in charge will be dealing with that," said left-back Ryan Bertrand. Of equal concern to Hodgson will be the danger posed by Real Madrid forward Bale, whose stunning 25-yard free-kick against Slovakia in Bordeaux set Wales on their way to a 2-1 win. With England having dropped points against Russia, a second Group B defeat would seriously compromise their chances of remaining in the competition, as well as propelling Wales into the last 16. Lallana, a former Southampton team-mate of Bale's, says that England must avoid giving away "silly fouls" around the box, but he believes it would be foolish to focus all their attention on the Welsh number 11. "You don't want to leave your team too vulnerable on the counter-attack with players like Gareth Bale playing, the strengths and the quality that he has. But it's not a one-man show," said the Liverpool midfielder. "They've got plenty of other good players. I've got the pleasure of playing with Joe Allen. I know what a talented player he is. "Aaron Ramsey, another player who's very talented. So we can't just put all our focus on Gareth and then get sucker-punched by one of their other good players." Bale raised the temperature even before his team's meeting with Slovakia, saying that England "big themselves up before they've done anything" and that Wales play with "more passion and pride". It drew a rebuke from Hodgson, who described the remarks as "disrespectful", but Bale is standing by what he said. "It's good that they bit," Bale told a press conference in Dinard on Tuesday. "I really don't care what they say, to be honest. We know we're a good team and we know we can beat them on our day." Asked how many England players would get into the Wales team, he grinned: "None." Wales manager Chris Coleman has a fitness concern over goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, whose absence due to a back spasm against Slovakia saw 22-year-old Liverpool player Danny Ward make his first start. Joe Ledley and Hal Robson-Kanu are both pushing for starting roles after coming off the bench against Slovakia, the latter scuffing in a raucously celebrated 81st-minute winner. Raheem Sterling's place may be under threat for England after a poor display on the left flank against Russia. England's failure to kill the game off, meanwhile, could open the door for Daniel Sturridge or Jamie Vardy.
2016-06-15
11:03:08


Germany focus on Poland for emotional Paris return. Old rivalries and fresh memories face Germany when they return to the Stade de France in Paris to face familiar foes Poland in a crucial Euro 2016 clash just seven months after being caught up in last November's terror attacks in Paris. Die Mannschaft were forced to spend a traumatic night in the dressing rooms at France's national stadium when a series of jihadist attacks across Paris left 130 dead on a night they faced the French in a friendly. Loud explosions could be heard during the match as three suicide bombers unsuccessfully attempted to get into the stadium before blowing themselves up outside and killing one man. German defender Jerome Boateng, who was in the world champions' team that night, caused a stir when he announced his wife and five-year-old twins would not be travelling to France to watch him play because he believed "the risk is simply too big." However, Boateng insists Germany will not be spooked by their return to Paris as they look to take a firm grip of Group C. "It's not a topic for us, we feel safe and are concentrating on sporting matters," said the Bayern Munich defender. "We want to prepare well and that is our goal at the moment, we're not worried about the rest." Of more immediate concern to Joachim Loew's men will be the sight of Boateng's Bayern teammate Robert Lewandowski in a Poland side high in confidence after winning their first ever game at a European Championship finals 1-0 over Northern Ireland on Sunday. Lewandowski scored 42 goals as Bayern romped to a fourth consecutive Bundesliga title this season. The former Borussia Dortmund forward also top scored in Euro 2016 qualifying with 13 goals and played a vital role as Poland beat Germany for the first and only time 2-0 in November 2014 in Warsaw on their road to France. "Lewandowski is a top striker," Boateng said. "At the club, we play together, but we had often played against each other before and we'll certainly come up against each other this time as well." Boateng, though, was keen to stress that Germany can't obsess over Lewandowski if they are to build on their opening 2-0 win over Ukraine with Ajax's Arkadiusz Milik, who scored the winner against Northern Ireland, also a clear threat. "It's important that we get a win in the second game, we know Poland well and it won't be easy, but with our playing qualities, I am positive that we can decide the game for ourselves. "Of course, we have to be careful, they have good people in attack, not just Lewandowski." Germany have a stunning record against their neighbours, winning 13 of their 20 previous meetings, and bouncing back from defeat in Warsaw to win their last clash 3-1 in September. The four-time world champions won the only previous European Championship finals match between the two 2-0 in 2008 when Polish-born Lukas Podolski scored twice. Podolski could face the country of his birth for a sixth time on his 128th cap, but is hoping both sides make it into the last 16. "It's a special game for me, anyone who knows my story knows that. I have a lot of friends, relatives and family who live there," said the Galatasaray forward. "Personally, I hope we win the group and Poland finish second. "Poland have taken a big step forward (in recent years) and are a dangerous opponent. They have developed well and have a lot of young talent, many of whom also play abroad. "They will find it hard against us, but they have the quality to reach the last 16."
2016-06-15
11:03:49


Mourning N.Ireland battle for Euro survival. Northern Ireland face Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday with both sides needing a win to keep their Euro 2016 knockout stage dreams alive while the Irish are mourning the death of a young fan. Irish fans plan a round of applause at the Stade de Lyon in the 24th-minute of the Group C clash to pay their respects to Darren Rodgers. The 24-year-old from Ballymena died in the early hours of Monday morning in Nice after falling from a restaurant balcony after his team's 1-0 defeat to Poland. Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill described Rodgers' death as "devastating". "There was a sense of disappointment at losing the game, we were very tired and then got up in the morning to learn of the situation and nature of the tragedy," said O'Neill. "The players were devastated by the news and it puts into perspective the nature of football." Having seen their 12-match unbeaten run ended by Poland, Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans says his side must be bold against Ukraine. "To give ourselves the best chance (to progress) we are going to have to go out and win. It makes it exciting because Ukraine are in the same position," said the former Manchester United defender. "You'll see a lot more aggression, a lot more pressing on the opposition, giving them less time on the ball. "That's something we've been good at in the past and we want to get back doing that." With world champions Germany next up for Northern Ireland in their final group game, Evans acknowledges the Ukraine game is crucial to their chances of reaching the knock-out phase. Goalkeeper Michael McGovern, who impressed in Sunday's defeat when Arkadiusz Milik's goal sealed a 1-0 result, is favourite to start between the posts ahead of 38-year-old veteran Roy Carroll. Ukraine have never lost to yet to Northern Ireland, with two wins and two draws in previous meetings. Ukraine also arrive in Lyon on the back of a defeat after going down 2-0 to Germany but assistant coach Andriy Shevchenko said he saw things he liked. The Eastern Europeans expect a tough fight against the British minnows. "We have no complaints against our players for the first half of the match against Germany, but the second one was a bit less intense," said the ex-Chelsea star. "Now we have to forget about that and totally focus on the next match, which is absolutely decisive for us. "It's clear if we don't get three points our chances to go through to the next stage will be much worse. "Northern Ireland's strengths are great fighting spirit, like in all British teams, set-pieces, defensive organisation and counterattacks. "They try to play very compact and make fast transitions. But if we play with desire and passion we can achieve our goal." Dynamo Kiev midfielder Serhiy Sydorchuk acknowledged the Northern Irish game is effectively a final for both sides. "Now all our thoughts are on Northern Ireland. This is the most important game for us so far," said the 25-year-old. "Maybe we weren't confident enough at the beginning of the Germany match but then we saw they were also men of flesh and blood. "Now we are definitely not afraid of anyone."
2016-06-15
11:04:27


Germany battling to get Boateng fit for Slovakia. Germany's medical staff are working around-the-clock to get key defender Jerome Boateng fit for Sunday's Euro 2016 last 16 clash against Slovakia. The burly Bayern Munich centre-back came off on 76 minutes with a knock to his calf in their 1-0 group stage win over Northern Ireland on Tuesday. "The hardening is declining, he and the medical staff are working flat out," revealed Germany's assistant coach Marcus Sorg on Thursday. "We hope that he makes it, but I'm not a prophet. "We still have two training sessions, so a lot can happen." Boateng was more positive when asked about his calf injury, telling German daily Bild he will definitely face Slovakia in Lille. "The calf is a little hard. I got a stabilising tape on it," said the 27-year-old. "Our medical department does an excellent job. "I'll definitely be able to play on Sunday." Boateng has been outstanding at Euro 2016, especially with an eye-catching goal-line clearance against Ukraine in Germany's 2-0 opening win. Alongside Mats Hummels at the heart of Germany's defence, Boateng's performances in Brazil two years ago were a key factor in their World Cup triumph and he has won 62 caps for his country.
2016-06-23
17:47:08


England captain Rooney keeps mum on Brexit. England captain Wayne Rooney refused to reveal on Thursday which way he was voting in Britain's European Union referendum -- or even whether he had voted. "The option (to vote) has been there for the players," Rooney told a press conference at England's Euro 2016 media centre in Chantilly, north of Paris. "I don't know which ones have and which ones haven't." Asked if he had voted, the Manchester United striker replied: "I'd like to keep it private. Whatever happens will happen." The Football Association made provisions for England's 23 players to vote via post if they wished. After a divisive campaign, million of Britons voted on Thursday to decide whether their country should remain in the EU. Euro 2016 has been notable for the success of the four British Isles representatives, with England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all reaching the knockout phase. But while their exploits have captivated supporters in Britain, Rooney said that he had not been rooting for England's neighbours. In response to a question about whether he had been cheering them on, he replied: "Not really. "For us we are happy England are through, and Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland are competitors for us. I'm not bothered if they're through or not, to be honest." England play Iceland in the last 16 in Nice on Monday.
2016-06-23
17:47:43


After the insanity, Euro 2016 turns to revenge and giant slaying. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Paul Pogba are through, now the European Championship finals turn to revenge, a fairytale David v Goliath tale and a heavyweight rematch. Ronaldo hit two crucial goals -- becoming the first player to score in seven straight major tournaments: three World Cups and four European Championships -- as Portugal three times came back from a goal down to draw 3-3 with brave Hungary and reach the last 16. "It was an insane match," said the three-time World Player of the Year. Now Portugal have to take on Luka Modric's Croatia in Lens on Saturday with the pressure even higher with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. "Croatia are a tough team with very good players. It's not every team that beats Spain. They have, so we respect them," said Ronaldo. "We know our worth and we will look them in the eyes when we face them." There will be showdowns aplenty in the eight matches over an action-packed three days, starting with Croatia-Portugal, Wales-Northern Ireland and Switzerland-Poland on Saturday. After a landmark 1-0 triumph over Italy, for Republic of Ireland there could be vengeance in the air when they play hosts France with Pogba looking to prove his worth in Lyon on Sunday. Irish fans will never forget Thierry Henry's handball in extra time of a World Cup qualifying playoff in Paris in 2009 that led to William Gallas's equaliser securing France's place at the 2010 finals. Eight of the team that started that night are still in Martin O'Neill's squad. But goalkeeper Shay Given said "it's not about looking back ... what happened is gone now." Robbie Keane also believes it is time to "move on". "Yeah I was there. I will not think about that for one second," the 35-year-old striker declared. Substitute Ingvi Traustason's last-gasp goal earned Euro debutants Iceland a famous 2-1 win over Austria and a last 16 clash with Wayne Rooney's England in Nice on Monday. Iceland are appearing at their first major tournament and are the lowest ranked of the 16 teams left at 34 in the FIFA standings. Magnus Ver Magnusson, the Iceland powerhouse who has four times won the world's strongest man title, said it would be "David vs Goliath" battle. But Magnusson and the Iceland team believe the whole nation of 330,000 is behind them in the quest. More than 25,000 Iceland fans have been at some of their games in France. "I've always supported England at big international tournaments when we haven't been playing," said Iceland co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. "It's a dream come true, but we go into the game to get a result. We believe in our ability." Italy also believe they will be the underdogs when they take on fellow European powerhouse Spain in a repeat of the 2012 Euro final in Paris on Monday. Both countries came into the contest licking their wounds suffering disastrous first round exits at the World Cup. Both teams also lost their final group matches in France after two strong victories. "We mustn't get above our station," said Italian coach Antonio Conte. "A last-16 match against Spain should excite us and we need to play like we did against Belgium, against a side who are supposedly superior." Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the 2012 Euro final and on penalties in the 2008 quarter-finals. Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque has so far only said that the draw against Italy was "not ideal". British Isles sides have had spectacular success at Euro 2016 so far with all four through to the second round. Bale has been the standout British player on show with his three goals so far making Wales strong favourites against the Northern Irish. Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes said the whole team will have to watch the Real Madrid superstar, who is joint top scorer at the tournament. "You can never really deal with the threat of a player of that calibre by marking him one-on-one. You need to work as a team," said Hughes who is looking for a new club after one year playing in Australia. Poland take on Switzerland in Saint-Etienne on Saturday hoping that Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski will finally start scoring. In other key clashes world champions Germany will also be hoping their faltering forwards start firing when they take on Slovakia -- who beat them in a recent friendly -- in Lille on Sunday. Surprise package Hungary also play Belgium in Toulouse on Sunday.
2016-06-23
17:48:08


Wales have 'bragging rights' over England - Bale. After claiming "bragging rights" over England, Wales star Gareth Bale said Thursday he was savouring the prospect of a new Battle of Britain against Northern Ireland at the European Championship finals. Wales stole a march over England by finishing top of Group B despite losing the clash between the two, and Bale was clearly delighted. "It is a moral victory for us. It gives you bragging rights to finish top. It is always nice to get one over on the English," he said. Bale had riled England with his comments before their Euro game. But England won the match 2-1. Wales start Saturday's game against Northern Ireland as heavy favourites, but Bale is not using the same pre-match mind games as with England. "We know each and every game is as important as the last. It's a cliche but we'll take each one as it comes," Bale said toning down his comments when talking about Wales prospects at Euro 2016. "Yes we would love to win it, but all our focus now is on Northern Ireland." Winning Group B means Chris Coleman's men will not have to face Germany, Italy, Spain, France or England unless they get to the July 10 final. And Welsh supporters are dreaming of getting to the Stade de France in a campaign which would match the wins of Denmark and Greece in the 1992 and 2004 tournaments. "Obviously you come to the tournament for one reason: to win," said the 26-year-old forward who is level with Spain's Alvaro Morata in the top scorer race. Both have three goals. "You do not come out here to play three games and go home. The ultimate goal is we want to try and win the tournament." Bale said: "It is up to others to decide if we are favourites. We just concentrate on ourselves. The tag doesn't matter to us. We all know what we have to do and we'll go out to win the game. "Until that whistle goes and we're through we can't think about what may be ahead for a second before." Wales and Northern Ireland are competing at their first Euro finals and their places in the last 16 are already a cause for celebration. The two drew 1-1 in Cardiff in a friendly in March that Bale missed through injury. And the Real Madrid ace can see the qualities in Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland team. "They topped their group in qualifying, you don't do that by mistake," he said. "They have a very similar team spirit to us. They are a bit more defensive than us. It will be difficult to break them down but we will try our best. "At this stage no matter who you get it is not going to be an easy game. "We know more about Northern Ireland than Albania or Turkey and obviously we are happy with the draw. "It is a difficult game but one we can win, we will concentrate on ourselves as we usually do and take it from there."
2016-06-23
17:48:27


Real's Navas targets pre-season after foot surgery. Keylor Navas is recovering well from recent foot surgery and is targeting a return for Real Madrid's pre-season programme, the Costa Rican goalkeeper said on Friday. Navas went under the knife on June 9 for a nagging left-foot problem that saw him play through the pain in Madrid's Champions League winning campaign, but he hopes to be fit for July 15, when Real start the coming campaign. "I will only come back when I'm 100 percent fit but the aim is to be there on the first day of pre-season with the boys," Navas told Friday's edition of sports daily Marca. "Things are going well and I'm getting better," said the 29-year-old who admitted he played with pain-killing injections 'many times' last season. "It was a tough year and I had to get used to the pain, which is far from ideal. So once the season was over we tackled the problem at the root." Despite his foot problem Navas had a good season with Real after watching from the sidelines as his club tried but failed to buy David de Gea from Manchester United during the last close season. Coach Zinedine Zidane is on record as saying he trusts Navas to continue in the Madrid number one spot. "I'm very happy here in Madrid. I don't want to leave and I'll always give my all for Real," Navas said.
2016-06-24
18:12:20


Petkovic targets 'killer' Swiss to breach Poland. Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic is looking for his team to find the "killer" touch to break down Poland's so far unbreached defence when the sides clash at Euro 2016 on Saturday. The sides meet at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne having made it through to the knockout phase of a European Championship for the first time. The Swiss 'Nati' only managed two goals in three games in Group A, in their 1-0 win over Albania and 1-1 draw with Romania -- they also played out a goalless draw with France. "What we have lacked so far is shooting from range. We have top players, but we need to focus on the killer pass and killer cross to players inside the box," said Petkovic. "Poland have been very strong, very compact and they haven't conceded a goal yet, but it's up to us to make a difference." Poland and Germany are the only teams at Euro 2016 who have yet to concede a goal. The Poles beat Northern Ireland 1-0, held world champions Germany to a goalless draw, then finished with a 1-0 win over Ukraine in Group C. But their star striker Robert Lewandowski, top-scorer in Euro 2016 qualifying with 13 goals, has yet to open his account in France. "But of course he's still a threat," said Swiss captain and Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner. "It's not as though if a striker doesn't score for three games then he's not good anymore. He can still be a problem for us." With no suspensions or injuries, Petkovic has a full squad to choose from and there is a quiet air of confidence around the Swiss camp. "I think we're getting a taste for success. We still have feet on the ground, but we want to continue our progress," said Petkovic. "It will be a close match, small advantages will decide the result. "I read in the Polish press that there is a lot of belief and pressure (in their squad) to get into the final, as they have a good chance. "It's up to us to make a difference."
2016-06-24
18:13:01


Nolito : Spain don't fear Italy. Spain forward Nolito insists the two-time defending European champions have no reason to fear a blockbuster Euro 2016 last-16 clash with old foes Italy in Paris on Monday. A shock defeat to Croatia saw Spain lose out on top spot in Group D after starting the tournament in impressive fashion with victories over the Czech Republic and Turkey. "We weren't so great before, nor are we so bad now," said the Celta Vigo frontman, who is a target for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. "We know how this works. We can't look back, we have a difficult game ahead of us, but Spain are Spain, we play good football, we've got a good team. We respect everyone, but we don't fear anyone." Ivan Perisic's late winner for Croatia in Bordeaux on Tuesday forced Spain from a dream part of the draw into a devilishly difficult half that could also involve a quarter-final against world champions Germany and a semi-final clash with hosts France. However, Nolito believes the extra two days off gained by losing to the Croats could help a Spanish side worn down by the toils of a long season. "These rest days have helped us. It's in our hands, but the route is difficult." Despite a first competitive defeat since October 2014, Spain remain strong favourites to make the last eight. However, having seen an unfancied Italy side sweep aside Belgium in their opening game on the way to topping Group E, Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke insisted Spain's chances of going through are no more than '50-50.' "In a game with two teams as big as this there are no favourites. It will be a very tight match, it is a huge game and we will have to suffer to win. It's 50-50. "Against Italy we need to go out to win. We need to show that this team has the hunger to win."
2016-06-25
10:51:17


Croatia aim to 'limit' Ronaldo. Croatia coach Ante Cacic believes his side can shut out Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo to reach the Euro 2016 quarter-finals on Saturday. Ronaldo struck a double to become the first player to score in four separate European championships and rescue Portugal from an embarrassing early exit in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Hungary on Wednesday. In contrast to Croatia's impressive route to the last 16 by beating two-time defending champions Spain to top spot in Group D, Portugal are the only side left in the competition yet to win a game in France. "Of course we have to take care and defend well against Portugal, a team with great individual qualities," said Cacic. "Ronaldo is their main player, the aim is not to allow them to show how strong he is, we have to limit him." The Croatia boss made five changes to his side for the stunning 2-1 win over Spain in Bordeaux on Tuesday, but is set to name an even stronger side for the clash in Lens with star midfielder Luka Modric and striker Mario Mandzukic likely to return from injury. "I cannot say if they are fit to play 90 minutes, but everything looks good," added Cacic. Both sides have a golden opportunity to land their first major international trophy after landing on the much softer side of an unbalanced draw, avoiding any of the traditional giants Germany, France, Spain, Italy and England. Croatia's best previous showing came with third place at the 1998 World Cup, also held in France, and midfielder Milan Badelj believes this generation can go even further. "It is funny for the media to compare the generation from 1998. They achieved a great result, third in the World Cup is not easy, and we will do everything to repeat their success." Portugal's preparation has been hit by the double blow of having the shortest rest time of any of the 16 teams left in the competition and a nightmare journey north from their training base in the outskirts of Paris to Lens. Ronaldo and his team-mates spent over four hours on their team bus due to Parisian traffic on the eve of the match, having played in sweltering conditions in Lyon on Wednesday. However, coach Fernando Santos defended his decision to train at their base in Marcoussis on Friday morning rather than training in Lens. "I would make the same decision, it was important to rest in the morning, sleeping at this stage is essential to recover. "We had our training at 11am after 10 hours' sleep, the players then went back to their rooms and rested, but that won't prevent us from being ready to play tomorrow." Three draws saw Portugal sneak through in third place of Group F behind surprise package Hungary and Iceland, on their debut in a major finals. However, Santos believes his side deserved more from their performances and will benefit from the knockout format against more offensive opponents. "You have to look at these matches, we were better than Iceland, much better than Austria and better than Hungary. "Maybe we couldn't score the chances we had, and also because we conceded. It's hard to score three times (against Hungary) and not win the match. "If we had seven points we would have a different opponent and play a few days later, but we would still be in the knockout stages. "If we continue to draw and reach the final (on penalties) it is no problem."
2016-06-25
10:51:59


Morata expects game of his life from Italian friends. Spain striker Alvaro Morata believes his clash with old friends when the European champions take on Italy at Euro 2016 on Monday is one of the biggest game of his young career. Morata is joint top scorer in the tournament with three goals from three games, but will face the unique challenge of having former Juventus teammates Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon blocking his route to goal. The 23-year-old's return to Real Madrid was confirmed last week after a glorious two-year spell in Turin as he won back-to-back league and Cup doubles and led Juventus to the Champions League final in 2015. "If the coach starts me tomorrow it is one of the most important fixtures in my career," said Morata on Sunday. "It is tough to come up against them, but I am playing for Spain and my teammates have allowed me to relax. "At Juventus I improved a lot tactically. For a striker, playing in Italy is very difficult and I learned how to play against an Italian defence." Spain coach Vicente del Bosque highlighted the vast improvement in Morata's consistency over the past two years to establish himself as Spain's number one striker and earn a move back to European champions Madrid. "He had this process of learning and growing," said Del Bosque. "He has had to find the consistency that the great players have and that is what he has done bit-by-bit in Italy. It has been very good for him." Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in what midfielder Cesc Fabregas described as the most enjoyable match of his career. However, the Chelsea midfielder expects a much closer encounter when he goes head-to-head with his future club boss Antonio Conte. "For the circumstances, it was (the most enjoyable). A European championship final, against Italy, normally finals are incredible but you don't enjoy them because they are so tight. "They tend to go to penalties, there is a lot of pressure. We enjoyed this final a lot from the first goal until the 90th minute. Enjoying yourself in a final is the best thing that can happen to a team. "Tomorrow will be completely different, though, we have to play very well to go through." A surprise 2-1 defeat to Croatia on Tuesday ended Spain's 15-game unbeaten run at European Championship finals and a repeat could signal the end of Del Bosque's eight-year reign with his future to be decided after the tournament. However, Spain have won all seven of their knockout matches under Del Bosque at the Euros and World Cup. And he insisted they intend to defend their title in Paris on July 10 despite a treacherous run to the final which will see the winners of the Italy clash face world champions Germany in the quarter-finals. "We have a lot of respect for a very strong team like Italy. They are just as much favourites as we are. "We have shown great reliability in these matches, but what you have done in the past doesn't matter. "The most important thing is we are true to ourselves. "It will be a very open, hard, demanding game for the team, but hopefully we can continue in the Euros with aspirations to get to the final."
2016-06-27
14:39:52


Spain aim to maintain reversal of fortunes with Italy. Euro 2016's joint top scorer Alvaro Morata expects Spain to be taken to the limit by old foes Italy if they are to remain on course to win a third consecutive European Championship. Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final four years ago and also ousted the Azzurri on penalties at the quarter-final stage in 2008 on course to winning their first major trophy for 44 years. Fresh from sealing his return to Real Madrid for 30 million euros ($33 million), Morata will come up against a host of former Juventus teammates, who are determined to shut out the 23-year-old. "Italy are one of the strongest teams there are," said Morata. "They work a lot on tactics, but we have the players to score more goals, even if they are one of the national teams that defends the best. "We have to show that we are Spain, the champions." Before winning back-to-back Euros and a maiden World Cup in 2010, Spain suffered an inferiority complex with Italy having never beaten them in five tries at major finals. However, they have since also defeated the Italians at the 2013 Confederations Cup in a run of just one defeat in their last 11 meetings. Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has been a constant menace to the Azzurri. He scored the winning penalty in 2008, Spain's equaliser in a 1-1 draw to open Euro 2012 and then set up David Silva's opener in the final. Fabregas will also be coming up against his future manager as Italian boss Antonio Conte will take over at Stamford Bridge next season. Spain started the tournament in great form, sweeping aside the Czech Republic and Turkey. However, a shock 2-1 defeat to Croatia in Bordeaux on Tuesday cost Vicente Del Bosque's men top spot in Group D and a much easier route to the final. Yet, Conte claims he would prefer to have faced an undefeated Spain side that could have been complacent. "I think defeat always gives you a bit more in terms of focus, concentration and anger," said Conte. "I would prefer Spain to have a bit more of a soft centre on the back of a winning run." Whoever emerges victorious in Paris faces another huge task in world champions Germany in the quarter-finals on July 2. And Fabregas insisted Spain must get back to the level they showed in their opening two games. "We need to get back to playing our best football because they will not stop running and fight for every ball," added Fabregas. "They have a very strong defence and they know how to take their chances." Italy have been dealt a huge blow with influential midfielder Antonio Candreva ruled out due to a groin injury. However, Conte will welcome back a host of players rested for their 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday. The former Juventus boss made eight changes with qualification to the last 16 as Group E winners already assured. Conte was keen to play up Italy's tag as underdogs, but insisted "nothing is impossible" for a side that so impressed in opening their campaign with a 2-0 win over Belgium. "Nothing is impossible, otherwise everything would be too easy. It would be a shame to give up every time the odds are against you."
2016-06-27
14:40:11


Messi retires from international football. Lionel Messi sensationally announced his international retirement leaving Argentinian football in turmoil after a traumatic penalty shootout defeat to Chile in the Copa America final. The heartbroken Barcelona superstar left the field in tears on Sunday after missing a spot-kick in the shootout -- Messi's fourth straight defeat in a major final with Argentina. "For me the national team is over," the crestfallen 29-year-old told reporters. "I've done all I can, I've been in four finals and it hurts not to be a champion. "It's a hard moment for me and the team, and it's difficult to say, but it's over with the Argentina team." "We were all devastated in the dressing room, particularly Leo, I'd never seen him in such a state," said Manchester City star Sergio Aguero who warned that other players could also quit the national side. "It's likely that Messi won't be the only one to go into international retirement," said Aguero. "Several players are wondering whether to continue. It's our toughest defeat to take." Aguero did not say whether he would follow Messi in quitting but his name and that of Javier Mascherano were mentioned in media reports. Social media campaigns were immediately launched in Argentina in a bid to get the superstar to change his mind. The hashtags "NotevayasLeo" -- Don't go Leo -- and "Messiquedate" -- Messi stay -- spread quickly in the fallout. Messi's dramatic announcement followed Argentina's third loss in a major final in three years. They were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the final of the 2014 World Cup and lost on penalties, also to Chile, in the 2015 Copa America final. Messi also tasted defeat with Argentina in the final of the 2007 Copa America. Despite a glittering career that has seen him named FIFA World Player of the Year five times, Messi has faced persistent sniping from critics in Argentina. Yet he received support on Sunday from Chile's victorious Argentine coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, who maintained that Messi is the best player ever. "As well as an admiration for Messi, I'm driven very much by his numbers," Pizzi said of Messi's record-breaking career. "Messi's numbers are unmatched, and I don't think they will ever be matched because it's impossible for a player to find the things that Messi finds." While universally regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever, he has regularly been targeted for his inability to land a major title with Argentina. Messi's failure to match the achievements of Diego Maradona, who single-handedly carried the team to victory in the 1986 World Cup, has often been held against him. Pizzi said comparisons with Maradona were unfair. "My generation can't compare him with Maradona, because of what Maradona did for Argentine soccer," Pizzi said. "But it seems that the best player in history played in the United States. For me the numbers are impossible to argue with." Maradona has often taken potshots at Messi, criticizing him on the eve of the tournament in the United States for a perceived "lack of personality." "He's a really good person, but he has no personality," Maradona said this month on the sidelines of Euro 2016. "He lacks the character to be a leader." Messi's bombshell decision comes after a gruelling season disrupted by injury last year. He recovered to help Barcelona win the Spanish title once more and was relishing the prospect of leading Argentina at the Copa America Centenario. His commitment to playing for Argentina was reflected in his decision to fly from Spain to Argentina for a low-key friendly against Honduras shortly before the tournament, where he suffered a back injury. He returned to Spain to give evidence at his trial for tax fraud before jetting off to the United States to join up with his Argentina team-mates. Although he was injured for his team's opening group game against Chile, he came on as a substitute in a 5-0 hammering of Panama to score a hat-trick in 19 minutes. He then equalled Argentina's international goalscoring record of 54, held by Gabriel Batistuta, in the quarter-finals before setting a new mark with his 55th international goal in the semi-final win over the United States.
2016-06-27
14:40:54


Spain-Italy in 'early final', England eye quarters. Two-time defending champions Spain meet Italy in a mouthwatering last 16 clash at Euro 2016 on Monday, while Wayne Rooney's England must overcome outsiders Iceland to reach the quarter-finals. To keep alive their hopes of a third consecutive European title, Spain must negotiate a repeat of the Euro 2012 final that they won 4-0. But they come into Monday's game at on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Croatia which relegated Vicente Del Bosque's team to runners-up in Group D and into the path of Italy so early in the tournmant. It will not get any easier for the winners as world champions Germany await in the quarter-finals. While Italy arrived at the tournament with low expectations they impressed in their first two matches and Del Bosque insists they will pose a formidable threat at the Stade de France. "We have a lot of respect for a very strong team like Italy. They are just as much favourites as we are," he said. Recent history is on Spain's side -- they have won all seven of their knockout ties under Del Bosque at the Euros and World Cup. Italy coach Antonio Conte urged his players to defy the odds in the 1600 GMT kickoff. "I don't want to go home, the boys don't want to go home. We are not the sacrifical lamb. Spain have to show they are better on the pitch," said Conte, who will join Chelsea after the tournament. Spain will unleash striker Alvaro Morata, the competition's joint top scorer on three goals, on a solid Italian defence that he knows well from his just-completed two-year spell at Juventus. Italy will be without Antonio Candreva because of a groin injury, with Alessandro Florenzi likely to replace him on the right side of midfield. England were spared the task of facing Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal when Iceland grabbed a last-gasp winner against Austria in their final group stage match. Iceland's population of 330,000 makes them the smallest nation ever to have qualified for a major tournament and they approach the game in Nice as underdogs. But the pressure is on England coach Roy Hodgson, who was criticised for weakening the side with six changes in the final group game against Slovakia which ended in a goalless stalemate. Finishing second in Group B behind Wales put England into the more difficult side of the draw and if they overcome Iceland they will have to face hosts France in the capital on Sunday. Hodgson has called the match in Nice (kickoff 1900 GMT) a "win or bust" clash and a defeat would call into question his future, but he has insisted he will not "beg" for his job. "I am prepared to carry on. It is different to wanting it. I'm prepared to carry on if the FA want me to," Hodgson said. "If they don't want me to, then my contract will have run out and that is how that will be. So I'm not begging for the job." England captain Rooney, who has yet to score at Euro 2016, said he is wary of an Iceland team that twice defeated the Netherlands in qualifying and held Portugal in their opening group game. "We're not going into this game showing a lack of respect for Iceland. We're showing full respect." Iceland's co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said the game represents the opportunity of a lifetime for his players. "If we beat England, their lives will change forever, and significantly. Icelandic football will go up in reputation and the way we approach football will be different," he said. "But whichever way this goes, these players are winners already." Iceland have complained they have only been granted between 3,000 and 3,500 places in the 34,500-capacity Stade de Nice, but thousands of their fans invaded Nice where they were drinking and swapping chants with England fans before the match.
2016-06-27
14:41:22


Ibrahimovic - Towering winner with ego to match. If Manchester United fans have been put to sleep by several dull seasons of late they are about to be awoken by the arrival of the strutting Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The giant striker with an ego as great as his astonishing talent said Thursday that he would be joining coach Jose Mourinho's bid to take United back to the top of English football. A player who stands 6ft 4ins tall (1.95m) and has a black belt in taekwondo, he has scored some of the most eye-catching international goals, from his back-heel against Italy at Euro 2004 to his breathtaking overhead kick from 35 yards against England in 2012. Born in a difficult neighbourhood of Malmo to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, Ibrahimovic has never forgotten where he came from while enjoying a glittering career. On his international retirement last week after a disappointing Euros, where he had promised: "The legend can still deliver," he once again evoked his tough background. "It's a nice story because where I came from, what people call the ghetto, and I made that country (Sweden) my country." Swedish fans will remember his 62 goals in 116 international matches. But he is a consistent goalscorer at club level too, a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room and recently won his 11th league title, a fourth straight French championship with PSG following two titles at Ajax, three at Inter Milan, one at Barcelona and one at AC Milan. There were also two with Juventus that were revoked because of a match-fixing scandal. Nobody in Manchester should expect any modesty from Ibrahimovic. On signing off from Paris Saint-Germain with a Cup win he was visibly pleased with himself: "It's mission accomplished. I didn't learn to speak French but I've won everything. I came, I saw, I conquered." He was less euphoric after quitting Barcelona, where he failed to fill the boots of departing Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o. Ibrahimovic blamed coach Pep Guardiola, who he told to "go to hell" after his disappointing stint at the Camp Nou. "When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari," he said. "If you drive a Ferrari you put premium fuel in the tank, you drive onto the motorway and you floor the accelerator. "Guardiola filled up with diesel and went for a spin in the countryside. If that's what he wanted, he should have bought himself a Fiat from the start." But continental and international honours have not followed as "Ibra" has featured at just one World Cup, in 2006, has not gone beyond the quarter-finals of the European Championship and has never shone in the European Champions League. He famously said the 2014 finals in Brazil would "not be worth watching" after Sweden lost to Portugal in a two-legged play-off. "One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch," he said at the time. One thing is for sure, there will be plenty to watch in Manchester with Ibrahimovic and Mourinho now in the red half of town -- and Guardiola over at "noisy neighbours" Manchester City.
2016-07-01
10:27:40


Germany attempt to throw off Italian shackles. Europe's titans clash on Saturday when Germany and Italy meet in the plum Euro 2016 quarter-final with huge stakes for both countries. Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is poised to make his first start in the Bordeaux match, while Italy's veteran defender Daniele de Rossi faces a race to be fit. Like two heavyweight boxers eyeing up their opponent before the first bell, both teams have talked up the respect factor and down played the significance of Italy winning the last eight meetings at major tournaments. In the most recent matches, Italy claimed a 2-1 win in the Euro 2012 semi-finals while Germany romped to a 4-1 win in a meaningless friendly in March. Joachim Loew's Germany insists they have no 'Italy trauma' as they look to beat the Azzurri at the ninth attempt on a big stage and throw off their Italian shackles. Antonio Conte's Italy has compared taking on the world champions as football's equivalent of 'climbing Everest'. Italy have their own trauma after crashing out of the 2014 World Cup in the first round. Both squads insist this will be their toughest test so far at the European Championship finals. No doubt penalties have been practised behind closed doors, should the tie be decided by a shoot-out. The Azzurri proved they are up for the challenge by dumping previous holders Spain out of the competition with a 2-0 win in the last 16. But Conte's team will have to become the first team to score past the Germans at Euro 2016, unless the tie is settled by penalties. The clear, often repeated, German message this week has been of great respect, but no fear of the Azzurri. As has been well documented in the media of both European footballing powerhouses, Italy has a rare unbeaten record over Germany at major tournaments. "It doesn't mean anything to me that we have never beaten Italy in a big tournament", said Germany midfielder Toni Kroos. "They are the best team we will have faced here. I'm looking forward to the game and I'm very optimistic." But the question will be whether previous failures appear at the back of German minds should Italy take the lead in Bordeaux. Torino striker Ciro Immobile, who spent an unhappy season at Borussia Dortmund, is not impressed with the respectful noises coming from the Germans. "We've beaten them so many times ... they're just trying to cover themselves," he said. "We know Germany are strong and will be sure of themselves. But our victory over Spain has really lifted our confidence." Germany have all their players fit and no suspensions. Centre-back Jerome Boateng has recovered from a calf strain which made him doubtful for the 3-0 win over Slovakia in the last 16. The burly Bayern Munich defender scored his first international goal against Slovakia. After three Euro 2016 appearances off the bench, Die Mannschaft's leader Schweinsteiger is poised to make his first start after a knee injury. Germany's shot-stopper Manuel Neuer is on a record run of five games unbeaten, a first in the 108-year history of the German FA, which includes the 2-0 warm-up win over Hungary. Italy have Thiago Motta suspended and are waiting on the fitness of two other midfielders. Italy's De Rossi is almost certain to miss out after injuring his right thigh in the win over Spain. Likewise, Lazio winger Antonio Candreva is doubtful after suffering a hamstring injury in their 1-0 group stage win over Sweden nearly two weeks ago. Neither took part in Thursday's Italy training session behind closed doors.
2016-07-01
10:28:11


Neymar agrees new five-year Barcelona deal. Brazilian striker Neymar will sign a new five-year contract with Barcelona this week, his agents said Thursday, ending speculation over his future at the Spanish champions. The international, 24, is widely regarded as one of the finest talents in world football and is part of the much-feared attacking trident alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona. "The athlete, along with his family, has decided to stay with FC Barcelona and will renew his contract for five more years," said NN Consultoria, the agency representing the international forward, 24. "The contract will be formalised this week. The decision puts an end to speculation about the star's future." Neymar wrote on Twitter: "I am very happy to continue living this dream. Long live Barca and long live Catalonia!" The Catalan club's president Josep Maria Bartomeu had earlier rejected rumours over Neymar's possible transfer to another club, with Manchester United among the teams supposedly chasing him. The prolific Neymar was already under contract until 2018 with Barcelona, having transferred in 2013 from Brazil's Santos. That transfer deal has haunted the club because of alleged hidden payments that have sparked legal action. Speculation had mounted around whether or not Neymar would extend his stay at the Camp Nou or make another lucrative move. Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, United and Manchester City had been named as possible suitors. "I read that there are many clubs interested in Neymar. It's normal they are, but Neymar has never said he wants to leave Barca, just the opposite," Bartomeu said. "Neymar wants to continue at Barca and Barca wants Neymar to continue with us." Neymar has been a huge success for Barca on the pitch but a judicial nightmare off it. He helped them win the Spanish league last season for the second year in a row, narrowly beating their fierce rivals Real Madrid. But he has been investigated in Brazil and Spain over his transfer from Santos. Barcelona agreed on June 13 to pay a 5.5-million-euro ($6.2 million) fine over the transfer in a deal with prosecutors that sees the club avoid trial on tax evasion charges. "It was better to accept this agreement than continue on with the uncertainty that has dragged on for a long time over the Neymar case," Bartomeu told reporters at the time. Neymar was named on Wednesday as the star of a young Brazil Olympic football squad for next month's Games in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil are looking to bounce back from a humiliating group stage exit from the Copa America Centenario this month. They are also hoping Olympic gold will help soothe the trauma of their devastating 7-1 semi-final loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup on home soil. "Neymar is different. He is one of the best players in the world. Any national team would want to have a player of his profile," the Olympic squad's coach Rogerio Micale told a news conference. "He will mean a lot for the team. I hope he will be able to help the younger players."
2016-07-01
10:28:35


Ronaldo's 'dream' still alive after shootout win. Cristiano Ronaldo took his "dream" of an international title another step closer when Portugal beat Poland in a penalty shootout to reach the European Championship semi-finals. Robert Lewandowski scored barely 100 seconds into the latest night of Euro 2016 drama before Portugal unleashed the player who many say could lead the country's post-Ronaldo era. Making his first start at Euro 2016, Renato Sanches, a powerful 18-year-old and already a 35 million euro ($38 million) player, smashed home a 25 metre drive to equalise the match that went into extra time and then penalties. Sanches followed Ronaldo in hitting home his spot kick as Portugal won 5-3, having again failed to win a game in the alloted 90 minutes. That did not prevent relieved Portuguese celebrations. Ronaldo said it had been an "unforgetable" night as Portugal had reached their target of a semi-final place. "Everyone should be congratulated." But the Real Madrid star acknowledged again that the prize he really cherishes is a world or European title. And at 31, he knows time is running out. "The dream is getting closer and anything can happen now. I'm not missing anything (in honours) and even if my career finished today I would still feel privileged," said the Real Madrid star. "But I've always said, and I don't hide it, that I would love to win a title with the national team. We're on the right road." Poland started strongly, with Robert Lewandowski scoring his first goal of Euro 2016 before the stadium had settled. Kamil Grosicki hurried past Southampton right-back Cedric Soares to deliver a great cross for Lewandowski to drive past a flailing Rui Patricio as Poland made a flying start. It was the Polish striker's first goal of the competition, after hitting a record 13 in qualifying. Sanches, his new teammate at Bayern Munich, came to Portugal's rescue. German referee Felix Brych waved away Ronaldo's claims for a penalty on 31 minutes despite replays suggesting the Real Madrid star was bundled over by centre-back Michal Pazdan as he went to meet a cross. Two minutes later, Sanches collected Nani's cutback from the right side of the area and hit a fierce shot that deflected off Grzegorz Krychowiak and beat Lukasz Fabianski at his near post. Portugal should have hit the winner on 85 minutes, but after sneaking behind Pazan to meet a high ball from substitute Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo's left foot failed to connect with what looked like a simple chance. Extra time was notable more for the pitch invader who tried to reach Ronaldo than for real scoring chances. Fourteen security personnel carried the Ronaldo fan off after he was caught. Goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Ricardo Quaresma were Portugal's shootout heroes. Patricio dived left to save Jakub Blaszczykowski's tame fourth shot for the Poles, who had reached the quarter-finals for the first time. Quaresma was next up for Portugal and made no mistake firing high into the net to beat Fabianski. Sanches said it was a "wonderful moment for the team" and for himself to score. He made little of Portugal's failure to make a clear win again. "People criticise us but we don't care, because we are in the semis," Sanches said. Ronaldo looked vulnerable, but Portugal coach Fernando Santos hailed his performance as "amazing". "People focus on Ronaldo because he has to score, but he played amazing, he is a great captain." Santos said it was "an exaggeration" to say Sanches was taking over from the team's number one player. "He played a great game, but he is still growing. "This is not the future Renato because (in the future) he will be an even better player. "Renato is still growing and he has to take all his qualities and put it all on the pitch." Poland were disconsolate. "It hurts and it will hurt for a long time," Lewandowski said as he watched Ronaldo celebrate. Portugal play the winner of Friday's game between Belgium and Wales in Lille. The final two quarter finals are between Germany and Italy on Saturday followed by France against underdogs Iceland on Sunday.
2016-07-01
10:29:04


Spain's Nolito signs for Man City. Spanish international forward Nolito has signed for Manchester City from Celta Vigo, the Premier League club confirmed on Friday. The 29-year-old has agreed a four-year contract and becomes new manager Pep Guardiola's second signing after Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. It will be the second time both have worked together after Barcelona in 2011, before Nolito joined Benfica. "Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers in the world," Nolito told City's official website. "He knows a lot about the game and he's going to help me progress as a player and I'm sure he'll get the best out of me. "I'll try to bring as much as I possibly can. I'll do everything that the manager asks of me, try my absolute best and do everything I can to try to repeat the form I've shown throughout my career at various clubs. "It's just about trying to play my normal game and let's hope that I can help Manchester City to win games." Nolito, whose real name is Manuel Agudo Duran and who has been given the number nine shirt, started each of Spain's four fixtures before their elimination from Euro 2016. During his three seasons at Celta he scored 39 goals in 103 appearances. He will face stiff competition in City with Sergio Aguero expected to remain their first-choice striker, meaning Nolito's rivals include, among others, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri.
2016-07-01
10:29:33


Ibrahimovic reunited with Mourinho at United. Swedish superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed his free transfer to Manchester United on Friday, with coach Jose Mourinho declaring: "He needs no introduction." The 34-year-old -- who left French champions Paris Saint Germain at the end of last season having scored 156 goals in 180 appearances -- is reunited with Mourinho, under whom he played at Inter Milan. Ibrahimovic is Mourinho's second signing of the summer after highly rated Ivory Coast centre-back Eric Bailly from the Spanish outfit Villarreal. "I am absolutely delighted to be joining Manchester United and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League," said Ibrahimovic, who will help bring back some much-needed swagger to Old Trafford, along with Mourinho. "It goes without saying that I cannot wait to work with Jose Mourinho once again. He is a fantastic manager and I am ready for this new and exciting challenge. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my career so far and have some great memories. I am now ready to create more special memories in England." Ibrahimovic, who has won 11 domestic league titles but never the Champions League, will not only be a crowd pleaser but also help the development of younger players, said Mourinho. "Zlatan needs no introduction. The statistics speak for themselves. Ibra is one of the best strikers in the world and a player who always gives 100 percent," said Mourinho, who along with Ibrahimovic shares an antipathy towards Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. "He has won the most important league championships in the world of football, now he has the opportunity to play in the best league in the world and I know he will grasp this opportunity and will work hard to help the team win titles. "I am certain that his talent will delight fans at Old Trafford next season and that his experience will be invaluable in helping to develop the younger players in the squad." Mourinho has been tasked with making United realistic title contenders again after barren years under first David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal, who was sacked having delivered the FA Cup but crucially not Champions League football for next season. Ibrahimovic, who hit 62 goals in 116 appearances for Sweden before retiring after a miserable Euro 2016, couldn't resist leaving France without a trademark burst of frank speaking. "I wasn't expecting very much of Ligue 1 when I signed for PSG," he told Sport & Style, a supplement to L'Equipe magazine. "Ligue 1 wasn't up to my level nor of the clubs where I'd played before. "Its the simple truth. So there was clearly a risk to me, for my value, for my image," added Ibrahimovic. The blunt Swede, who aside from PSG and Inter Milan also played for AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Ajax, said he had entered the unknown by joining a French league that lacked the passion and the glamour of Serie A. He rounded the interview off with a typical flourish. "I symbolised for a while Paris's image," said Ibrahimovic, who had a poor Euro 2016, failing to score and quitting after Sweden's first-round elimination.
2016-07-02
9:03:18


Conte: Italy ready for 'ultimate test' of Germany. Italy coach Antonio Conte was full of praise for German counterpart Joachim Loew, but believes the Azzurri are ready to avenge a recent friendly thrashing to book their place in the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Two years on from crashing out of a second successive World Cup at the group stage, Italy are in contention to win their first European championships since 1968. Yet, standing in their way are the world champions and "the most complete" squad of players Conte has ever seen. The Chelsea-bound coach admits beating Loew's men four months after a 4-1 friendly humbling in Munich is the "ultimate test" of the Azzurri's title-winning credentials. However, he insists Italy are ready to face their destiny and "play to our strengths" in a bid to cause a second successive upset after shocking holders Spain 2-0 in Paris on Monday. "I don't know if the gap between us and Germany has closed, but that friendly taught us a lot of things about them," Conte said ahead of Saturday's clash in Bordeaux. "Since then they've gotten better, but so have we. "They have talent and technique throughout their squad. They're the world champions and the most complete national team out there in my opinion. "And for that, I have to offer my compliments to their national team staff and their coach, Loew. "It's the ultimate test for us, especially given we were considered also-rans leading up to the tournament. "We never imagined we would be sitting here, but we're ready for it. We've worked hard on the pitch and just as hard trying to study Germany and their game." However, Germany also go into the quarter-final tie with some trepidation as they are facing their bogey team. Die Mannschaft have never beaten Italy in eight previous encounters in a major competition, the last of which came in the semi-finals four years ago when Mario Balotelli's double in Warsaw took Italy to the Euro 2012 final. Italy have injury concerns in midfield with Daniele De Rossi a major doubt after suffering a thigh injury and Antonio Candreva still nursing a hamstring problem. Conte indicated De Rossi was unlikely to play, adding: "In these games you have to be 120 percent because they are very intense and physical. You can't play if there's any doubt. You have to be tip-top." Instead, he is counting on the collective strengths that produced a stylish 2-0 win over Belgium, a battling 1-0 victory over Sweden and a comprehensive 2-0 dismantling of defending champions Spain. Most fans in Italy believe Conte's unfancied squad have already over-achieved. But the 46-year-old coach, who will take over at Stamford Bridge later this summer, echoed the thoughts of goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon when he said the Azzurri want more. "We started these championships with very little credibility from the national and international media, because Italian football has gone through something of a dark period," added Conte. "I think we're showing that with hard work and the right approach you can get over obstacles that, at the start, seem insurmountable." Buffon will take his record caps tally to 161 when he lines up against Germany at the Stade de Bordeaux, where he will meet another world class goalkeeper in the shape of Manuel Neuer. He called on Italy to step up a gear on Saturday: "Until now, we've been good. Now we want to go out and do the same, but in a more convincing manner. "We have to step up our game if we're to give ourselves the best possible chance of progressing, and keep the dream alive."
2016-07-02
9:03:51


Guardiola, Mourinho and Ancelotti primed for new challenges. The fat lady may be clearing her throat at Euro 2016 but the three tenors of the coaching world Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are due for the first rehearsals with their new club sides. All three are renowned not only for their coaching ability -- they have all won multiple Champions Leagues -- but also their vastly different characters. For Manchester City's Guardiola and Manchester United's Mourinho it sometimes borders on the cult of personality. Ancelotti will not have to put up with Mourinho's penchant for barbed comments as he has replaced Guardiola in the Bayern Munich hotseat. One remark that Mourinho will unable to drag back out is labelling Claudio Ranieri a "loser" -- the Italian silenced that one by guiding Leicester City to a shock Premier League title last term. However, the football world can expect sparks to fly between Mourinho and Guardiola, especially now they are both in the same city. A bitter rivalry between the two already exists from their time in Spain when Mourinho's Madrid ended Guardiola's glorious reign at Barcelona by winning La Liga in 2012. Many will hope the Mourinho who pitches up at United will not be the highly strung out-of-sorts figure who left Chelsea under a cloud last term. Usually Mourinho's early days at a club are more civil and respectful, even if that often turns out to be a false dawn. The 53-year-old Mourinho shrugs off the criticism of his combative nature designed to get under the skin of his rivals on the touchline. Unsurprisingly, one of the Portuguese's greatest admirers is Alex Ferguson, no stranger himself to the mind games of Premier League management. "I look at Jose and I see myself reflected in many of the things he does," said Ferguson. "We're only human. We can't hide our emotions. They're always there, they're part of who we are, of our character." While Mourinho lets his emotions bubble to the surface, 45-year-old Guardiola seems self-contained and almost cold in his press conferences, only once letting the mask slip when Mourinho had provoked him one too many times. This coldness appears to be borne out by the man who replaced him at Barcelona and his former assistant Tito Vilanova's testament about when he was undergoing treatment for cancer in New York, where Guardiola had gone on sabbatical. "He visited me once in New York when I'd just arrived, but during my recovery from the operation... I was there for two months and I didn't see him," Vilanova said in July 2013, nine months before he died. Ancelotti engenders respect and popularity wherever he has gone on a European tour of the continent's biggest clubs taking in AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. At Madrid the 57-year-old succeeded Mourinho and, much to the chagrin of the latter, coached them to their long-awaited 10th European Cup trophy. A feat Mourinho was hired to achieve, but failed to deliver in his three years in the Spanish capital. Mourinho's spell at Real turned sour with the players -- he dropped iconic goalkeeper Iker Casillas -- and even when Real's form dipped in Ancelotti's second season in Madrid a star-studded squad made clear their preference for the Italian. "I think we are a better team now than under Mourinho in all aspects of the game. I think this is clear to see for all -- for both fans and journalists," said Real defender Sergio Ramos. "I don't like this injustice, where one coach gets all the credit, whereas the other doesn't get recognition. "I go by what I have experienced, not by what I have been told. It is enough to look at what he has won here and how long it took." Ancelotti, like Guardiola a Champions League winner as a player and as a coach, has become phlegmatic about the insecurities of the job. "My ass is earthquake-proof," he told The Financial Times in 2014, summing up how his fear of the sack has diminished over the years.
2016-07-02
9:04:14


Giroud and France eye Germany revenge. France will have the perfect opportunity to avenge their defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup when they take on their old foes in the Euro 2016 semi-finals on Thursday, according to star striker Olivier Giroud. "It will be a great match, we have a lot of desire to get our own back for the World Cup," Giroud said after his two goals helped France thrash Iceland 5-2 in Sunday's quarter-final. A header from Mats Hummels knocked France out in the quarter-final in Rio de Janeiro two years ago and Germany went on to win their fourth global crown. But an even more painful elimination at German hands lingers in the French sporting memory -- the 1982 World Cup, which featured the infamous flooring of Patrick Battiston by Harald "Toni" Schumacher. Arsenal forward Giroud said the showdown with Germany in Marseille will be "a completely different match" to the romp against the Icelanders. "They are the world champions and they are often in the last four of major tournaments," Giroud said. "I'm very proud of what this France side is achieving and I hope we'll come out once again with the right result." In contrast to France's straightforward passage, Germany were given a severe test in their quarter-final. Italy took them to an error-strewn penalty shootout in Bordeaux on Saturday before Joachim Loew's side triumphed 6-5. The Germans suffered injuries that ruled out Mario Gomez for the rest of the tournament and left key midfielders Sami Khedira and captain Bastian Schweinsteiger struggling to be fit in time. Despite those setbacks, France coach Didier Deschamps is in no doubt that Germany are the class act of the tournament. "Germany are the best team, there is no doubt about that, even if Italy gave them a few scares. But we are there in the final four and we'll give it our all," Deschamps said. "They are one of the rare teams which can control a match. It will be a great game but it won't be a stroll in the park." France striker Antoine Griezmann said taking on the Germans in front of a predominantly French crowd at the Stade Velodrome will help. "We'll have to give everything we've got, it'll be a semi-final at home, in front of so many supporters," he said after his goal against Iceland left him top of the Euro 2016 scorers' charts with four. Hummels will not be there to torture France again as he did on that stifling hot day in Rio as he is suspended for the semi-final. Deschamps withdrew Giroud and key defender Laurent Koscielny during the Iceland game as they were at risk of suffering the same fate. The match on Thursday takes place almost 34 years to the day since the 1982 World Cup semi-final in Seville which ended in a traumatic defeat for Michel Platini's team. Schumacher's shoulder-charge on Battiston left the French substitute with three broken ribs, broken teeth and cracked vertebrae. The German goalkeeper escaped without even a booking as the referee claimed he had not seen the incident. France roared to a 3-1 lead in extra-time but the Germans fought back to equalise with goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer. The Germans, inevitably, won the penalty shootout 5-4, but went on to lose to Italy in the final.
2016-07-04
19:34:23


Japan striker Asano wants to play aggressively for Arsenal. Japanese international striker Takuma Asano, set to play for English side Arsenal, said Monday he is keen to strut his stuff for the North London club. "I am glad that I can have a challenge overseas, which I have always wanted," Asano said in Hiroshima, where he currently plays for J-League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Jiji Press reported. "I want to play aggressively." Asano, 21, who is in line for the Japanese squad at the Rio Olympic Games, was rookie of the year in Japan last season and has been on two J-League title-winning teams. "I want to score many goals on the pitch, performing with my quick moves and eagerness," he said. The move to Arsenal in the English Premier League is still subject to a medical and the club are yet to reveal details of the deal. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he was looking forward to working with Asano, who he described as "a talented young striker and very much one for the future", on Arsenal's website. Takuma signed for Sanfrecce Hiroshima aged 18 and scored 11 goals in 56 appearances for the club.
2016-07-04
19:34:47


Wales star Bale dismisses Ronaldo focus. Gareth Bale said Monday he has not spoken to his Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo since Euro 2016 began but insisted the semi-final between them on Wednesday should not be seen as a clash of the superstars. Bale, 26, and Ronaldo, 31, will be the centre of attention at Stade de Lyon on Wednesday, when a place in the final against either Germany or hosts France will be on the line. "It's not about two players. Everybody knows that really. It is about two nations in a semi-final, 11 men against 11 men," Bales said Monday. Whereas Bale has been a relaxed presence during his dealings with the media, Ronaldo has shown signs of stress, throwing a reporter's microphone into a lake two weeks ago. Bale said he had not spoken to Ronaldo since the start of the tournament and was reluctant to be drawn on the former Manchester United star's likely state of mind. "I can't comment on how he's feeling, what he's doing," Bale told a press conference at Wales's Dinard media centre. "I am sure he has his reasons for doing what he did. That's entirely up to him. "For me, I feel comfortable. We are enjoying ourselves here. Sometimes you have to fulfil your responsibilities and doing interviews is part of that." Wednesday's game has been billed as a play-off for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award, which Ronaldo relinquished to his long-term rival Lionel Messi last year, having previously won it in 2008, 2013 and 2014. Ronaldo has confessed to using the Ballon d'Or as a source of motivation, but Bale says that he is only interested in making history with Wales. "I don't think that makes sense at all," he said when asked if the trophy would be at stake in Wednesday's game. "It's not just one game -- it's over a whole season. To me I never think about the Ballon d'Or at all. "For me it's all about helping my team. If an individual award comes along, then so be it. But more important is that my team win trophies and fight for trophies. That's the ultimate aim."
2016-07-04
19:35:21


Pepe remains on the sidelines but Portugal 'believe'. Portugal's veteran defender Pepe remained on the sidelines Friday as his team plotted the daunting challenge of facing France on home territory in the Euro 2016 final. The 33-year-old Real Madrid star, who has played a key role in Portugal's advance to the final, stretched and did warmup exercises away from the main training group during a 15 minute period when Portugal allowed media access. Pepe missed the semi-final win over Wales on injury because of a leg muscle problem that has been troubling him for a while. Bruno Alves took his place in the team. Portugal must now take on a French side that has been swept up in a wave of national football fervour after their 2-0 win over Germany in Thursday's semi-final. Midfielder Joao Mario said that Portugal's 11 million population were also backing Cristiano Ronaldo's side. "Probabilities don't win matches," said the Sporting Lisbon player when asked about French polls backing the home side. "They can believe that but 100 percent of the Portuguese people believe in a Portugal win," he told a press conference. The 23-year acknowledged that playing France at the Stade de France would be "special". "Twelve years ago we were playing in Portugal and there was an incredible atmosphere across the country," he said. Portugal lost the Euro 2004 final in Lisbon to Greece in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament. "I hope this time we will be the winners," said Joao Mario. "We believe in ourselves, we have always believed. The coach has given us this confidence, this spirit. "There are always critics, even in Portugal but we believe and we will try to show that in the final." Before beating Wales in the semi-final, Portugal had not won any of their games in 90 minutes of regulation time.
2016-07-08
13:14:55


Cech ends international career. Veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech has announced his retirement from international football after a record 124 games for the Czech Republic over an eventful 14-year career. "I would hate to end up in a situation when I would start feeling tired midway through a qualifying campaign," the 34-year-old told reporters in Prague on Friday. "I like to do things at a 100 percent." "The decision is final." "I feel there will be a moment when I will need more time to rest," said the former Chelsea and current Arsenal stopper. Cech played all three games for the Czech Republic at Euro 2016, where his team lost to Spain and Turkey and drew with Croatia, bowing out after the group phase with a single point. "I'm sorry we failed to fulfil the potential of the team, we obviously could have done better," said Cech. His move from Chelsea to Arsenal last year made the headlines, and so did his season. He beat Karel Poborsky's record of 118 games for the Czech Republic and then passed David James as the man with the most clean sheets in the Premier League, stopping for now at 178, with James making 169. Born on May 20, 1982, Cech played for Czech top-flight sides Blsany and Sparta Prague before moving to Rennes in France in 2002. He then joined Chelsea in 2004, after a European Championship at which the Czechs got to the semi-finals, beating Germany and the Netherlands en route. With Chelsea he won four Premier League titles (2005, 2006, 2010, 2015), the Champions League (2012), the Europa League (2013) and a host of other trophies. After 11 years with the Blues, Cech made a £10 million ($14.4 million) move across London to join the Gunners as he only managed seven games in the 2014/2015 season, shaded by manager Jose Mourinho's first-choice keeper Thibaut Courtois.
2016-07-08
13:15:13


Deschamps : France never gave up. France coach Didier Deschamps said the Euro 2016 hosts had beaten world champions Germany to reach the final by never giving up despite suffering relentless pressure. "We found it tough but we didn't give up," Deschamps said as he celebrated the 2-0 win in Marseille. Deschamps hailed Germany as "a great team." The World Cup holders easily dominated possession in the match. "There is quality in this German team. And when they don't have the ball it gets even more complicated. We had the best team in the world opposite us." Deschamps said he felt "so much joy, and happiness for the players because they deserved" the victory. The players had felt the support of the French nation behind them, he said. "Before we came to the stadium we saw people going crazy -- they are going to be even crazier on Sunday. "I've always believed in my players. The ones I chose to form this squad have repaid me handsomely. This is their story, their victory." Paul Pogba, the influential midfielder who provided the cross which led to Antoine Griezmann's second goal, said: "It's great, it's crazy. Look at all the people here to support us, it's magnificent. "It's great, but it's not over yet." Olivier Giroud paid tribute to two-goal hero Griezmann, his partner in the French forward line. "'Grizi' did his job and we pushed them right to the end," Giroud said. "He has had a great Euros and he has got stronger and stronger and silenced some critics. "He has now taken the role of the leader of the attack for France and he is indispensable for us." Experienced defender Patrice Evra said the team had been told so many stories about the last time France beat Germany in a major tournament, at the 1958 World Cup. But he said the psychological barrier was broken with victory in the November 13 friendly which was soon forgotten when suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside the Stade de France at the start of a series of deadly terror attacks in Paris. "As soon as we beat them in a friendly, it gave us a lift," Evra said. "Of course they were strong, of course they were the favourites and they had good ball possession. "But we told each other we would never give up. And that's why I'm proud of my teammates."
2016-07-08
13:16:51


Five of Euro 2016's biggest flops. With the European Championship coming to a close, here are five stars who failed to live up to expectations at the tournament in France: Fresh from scoring 50 goals for Paris Saint-Germain last season, Ibrahimovic looked ready to terrorise opposition defences at the Euros. On the eve of Sweden's first game against the Republic of Ireland, Ibrahimovic -- who has never done modesty -- declared: "The legend can still deliver." He left France -- definitively after signing for Manchester United -- having failed in his quest to score at a fourth consecutive European Championship finals. He forced the own goal which brought Sweden's equaliser in their opening draw with Ireland but did not manage a single shot on target in that match or in the 1-0 defeat to Italy that followed. It was an inauspicious end to his international career, with Ibrahimovic retiring from Sweden duty after the 1-0 loss to Belgium that eliminated them in the group stage. Curiously Mueller was once again unable to reproduce his superb World Cup form at a European Championship finals. The 26-year-old Bayern Munich forward won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup with five goals and scored five more as Germany became world champions in Brazil two years ago. And yet, after failing to find the net at Euro 2012 he was again unable to hit the target in France as Germany lost to France in the semi-finals. It was another major tournament to forget for England as they bowed out in the last 16 after a humiliating 2-1 defeat to Iceland. And it was another awful tournament for English goalkeepers. After David Seaman at the 2002 World Cup, David James at Euro 2004 and Robert Green in 2010, Hart got in on the act in France with not one, but two, major gaffes. The Manchester City 'keeper was widely criticised for not getting to Gareth Bale's free-kick that put Wales ahead during their group game in Lens. At least England came back to win that match 2-1, but they did not recover from seeing Hart let Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's shot squirm under his body for Iceland's crucial second goal in Nice. Spain were a disappointment in France as they bowed out in the last 16 having won the last two Euro titles. Ramos is a survivor of Spain's three successive international triumphs, at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. But in France, after Vicente del Bosque's side began promisingly with wins over the Czech Republic and Turkey, things did not go to plan. Ramos missed a penalty before La Roja succumbed to a 2-1 loss to Croatia in their final group match. That condemned them to second place in their section and so a last-16 meeting with Italy. In that game, Ramos endured a torrid time up against the Azzurri's strike pairing of Graziano Pelle and Eder as Spain lost 2-0 and made an early exit. Barcelona midfielder Turan's status as an icon in his home country of Turkey meant fans were largely pinning their hopes on him to drive Fatih Terim's team on in France. But after a difficult season at club level Turan toiled at the Euros, struggling to influence games from a position wide on the left. The 29-year-old issued a public apology for his display in Turkey's opening 1-0 loss to Croatia, but he then had to endure the ignominy of being booed by Turkish fans during the 3-0 defeat to Spain in Nice. "Whatever happens that shouldn't happen," Terim said before Turkey bowed out.
2016-07-11
17:26:47


Griezmann named best player of Euro 2016. UEFA on Monday named French forward and tournament top scorer Antoine Griezmann as the best player of Euro 2016, a day after the hosts' 1-0 final defeat to Portugal. "Antoine Griezmann was a threat in every game he played. He works hard for his team and possesses technique, vision and quality finishing," said UEFA chief technical officer Ioan Lupescu, who led the panel that picked the striker. Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, was among UEFA's 13-strong panel of technical observers. Atletico Madrid man Griezmann, 25, for whom Sunday's defeat was a second major final loss in a month after the loss to arch-rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League, also won the Golden Boot award for his six goals. He also had two assists in France's run to the final, but had a rare off-night in front of goal on Sunday and was unable to haul the hosts to victory. Griezmann and midfield schemer Dimitri Payet were included in the UEFA team of the tournament named Monday, as was Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, who was stretchered off injured and in tears after a crunching tackle by Payet. Portugal defensive lynchpin Pepe was also included, along with fellow Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Raphael Guerreiro. There was no place for Gareth Bale, but Wales team-mates Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, both midfielders, were named in the team of the tournament. UEFA team of the tournament: Rui Patricio (POR); Joshua Kimmich (GER), Jerome Boateng (GER), Pepe (POR), Raphael Guerreiro (POR); Toni Kroos (GER), Joe Allen (WAL), Aaron Ramsey (WAL); Antoine Griezmann (FRA), Dimitri Payet (FRA); Cristiano Ronaldo (POR)
2016-07-11
17:27:16


Turkish winger joins West Ham on loan. Turkey international Gokhan Tore has joined West Ham United on a season-long loan from Besiktas with the option of a permanent move, the Premier League club said on Monday. The German-born winger was part of Turkey's squad at Euro 2016 and helped Besiktas win the Turkish league title last season. Tore, 24, also spent two years in Chelsea's youth academy and will be reunited with West Ham coach Slaven Bilic, who he played under at Besiktas. "I am very happy to be at West Ham. I watched many games that they played last season and saw how passionate the fans are. That made me want to come here and I am looking forward to playing in front of them," Tore told the club's website. "Slaven was also a big factor in me coming here and he is a great manager. He is the main man and knows me very well. I could not have said no to him. "He is the best manager I have worked under and he is like a father to the players." Tore was born in Cologne and spent time at Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea before making his senior debut with Hamburg. He also had a short spell at Rubin Kazan in Russia prior to signing for Besiktas.
2016-07-11
17:27:35


Toure makes Celtic switch for Rodgers reunion. Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure will be reunited with former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after joining Scottish champions Celtic on Sunday. Toure agreed a one-year contract to become Rodgers' latest signing since he took charge at Celtic earlier in the close-season. Rodgers also signed Toure for Liverpool in 2013, following the centre-back's previous spells at Manchester City and Arsenal. Toure, 35, will thrive in the Scottish Premiership and be a big asset to Celtic, according to Rodgers. "I brought Kolo into Liverpool to add that bit of experience and help to the centre-halves there at the time," Rodgers told Celtic's website. "You saw from his impact there and in particular last season, he was a very important player for Jurgen Klopp towards the end of last season, playing in the Europa League final. "He was outstanding in the big games for me when I was there. He looks after himself, he's a wonderful professional and he has good experience. "With a lot of young players in our squad, he can really help them and he can be of great assistance for the likes of Scott Brown, who is a wonderful leader. "But he needs support and help around him as well. It will be nice for Scotty to have someone behind him who has that real big-game experience. Kolo can do very well for us."
2016-07-24
15:01:18


After Guardiola, Ancelotti delights Ribery at Bayern. Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery claimed Monday that he has finally felt trusted again since Carlo Ancelotti took over as head coach from Pep Guardiola. With Guardiola now coaching Manchester City after three years in Munich, Italian Ancelotti has taken charge of Bayern, who have won the Bundesliga title in each of the last four seasons. Bayern flew to the US on Monday to play a friendly against AC Milan on Thursday, before further games against Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Ribery had a professional, but cool relationship with Guardiola, which was not helped by the Frenchman's injury-ravaged final season under the Spaniard. The 33-year-old said he needs to feel the confidence of his coach "to play to my best". "Under Ancelotti, I finally feel like I'm trusted again," Ribery told German magazine Kicker. "He's an awesome coach, I need people like him or (former Bayern coaches) Jupp Heynckes and Ottmar Hitzfeld." Alongside fellow veteran Arjen Robben, Ribery faces stiff competition for a place on Bayern's wing from the likes of fleet-footed pair Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman. Ancelotti tried to bring the former France international to Chelsea when he was the head coach at Stamford Bridge in 2009, and Ribery added that he now feels "free, completely motivated." Ancelotti has only been coaching Bayern for the last two weeks, but took Ribery aside to explain how he is part of his plans, describing him in public as "a fantastic player. I like his style and how focussed he is. "He can still be very important for us with this quality and experience." Ancelotti, 57, will travel to the States shorn of his current Germany internationals, who are recovering from the European Championship. But the Bayern squad will still boast the likes of Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso, Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara and Ribery. Bayern open the new Bundesliga season at home against Werder Bremen on Friday August 26, after facing rivals Borussia Dortmund for the German Super Cup on Sunday August 14.
2016-07-25
15:20:09


Egyptian teenager Sobhi signs for Stoke. Highly-regarded Egyptian teenage winger Ramadan Sobhi became Stoke City manager Mark Hughes' first signing of the summer on Monday, joining for a £5million fee (6m euros, $6.5m) which could rise to £6m. The 19-year-old -- already capped six times at senior level -- joins from Egyptian giants Al-Ahly and is expected to fly out to join his new team-mates on their pre-season tour of the United States. "We are absolutely delighted to have signed a player of Ramadan's undoubted quality and potential," Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes told the club website. "He's a special young talent who is excited about the prospect of making an impact in the Premier League and we're looking forward to giving him that platform." Sobhi, who made his professional debut as a 16-year-old and was capped for the first time a year later, helped Al Ahly win a series of domestic honours, including the 2015/16 Egyptian league title under the guidance of former Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham manager Martin Jol. Sobhi is the latest Egyptian star to try his luck in the Premier League, after former striker Mido played for Spurs, while Hull City winger Ahmed Elmohamady is a current example.
2016-07-25
15:20:29


Dortmund out to break 'monsters' Bayern's hold. Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis believes it's high time Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich were knocked from the top of the German league after four years with an iron grip on the title. Bayern have won the Bundesliga title for a record four consecutive seasons, but it is all change in Munich for 2016/17 with Carlo Ancelotti replacing Pep Guardiola as head coach while director of sport Matthias Sammer has resigned on health grounds. Dortmund, the last team other than Bayern to win the German league title, were Bundesliga champions back in 2011 and 2012, and have finished runners-up to the Bavarians in three of the last four seasons. Dortmund host Bayern in the German Super Cup on August 14 in the official season opener, but Sokratis says they want more titles than just that this season. "Without Bayern, these monsters in the sporting sense, we would have long since been league or cup champions," Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who is known by his first name in Germany, told magazine Kicker. "I am about to start my sixth season in the Bundesliga and have yet to win a title apart from the Super Cup. "That annoys me. It's time to win a title." The new league season in Germany begins on Friday August 26 when Bayern host Werder Bremen while Dortmund are home to Mainz the following day. Ancelotti has taken his squad on a three-match tour of the United States where they will face European giants AC Milan, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, albeit minus their Germany stars, still resting after the European Championship. While Bayern have boosted their squad by signing Dortmund defender Mats Hummels and midfielder Renato Sanches from Benfica, Borussia have also been busy in the transfer market. They have signed Germany internationals Mario Goetze, who returns to Dortmund after three years with Bayern, and Andre Schuerrle from Wolfsburg. Without either of their new recruits, Dortmund romped to a 4-1 win over Manchester United last Friday in Shanghai on their tour of China. New United manager Jose Mourinho compared Borussia to a "Formula One" racer while said his squad were like a less powerful "Formula Three" car. Coach Thomas Tuchel had already added Portugal defender Raphael Guerreiro and ex-Barcelona centre-back Marc Bartra. Dortmund have also invested in the future, signing French teenage forward Ousmane Dembele, who scored a superb individual goal against United, and 19-year-old Turkey international Emre Mor.
2016-07-25
15:20:51


After Guardiola, Ancelotti delights Ribery at Bayern. Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery claimed Monday that he has finally felt trusted again since Carlo Ancelotti took over as head coach from Pep Guardiola. With Guardiola now coaching Manchester City after three years in Munich, Italian Ancelotti has taken charge of Bayern, who have won the Bundesliga title in each of the last four seasons. Bayern flew to the US on Monday to play a friendly against AC Milan on Thursday, before further games against Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Ribery had a professional, but cool relationship with Guardiola, which was not helped by the Frenchman's injury-ravaged final season under the Spaniard. The 33-year-old said he needs to feel the confidence of his coach "to play to my best". "Under Ancelotti, I finally feel like I'm trusted again," Ribery told German magazine Kicker. "He's an awesome coach, I need people like him or (former Bayern coaches) Jupp Heynckes and Ottmar Hitzfeld." Alongside fellow veteran Arjen Robben, Ribery faces stiff competition for a place on Bayern's wing from the likes of fleet-footed pair Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman. Ancelotti tried to bring the former France international to Chelsea when he was the head coach at Stamford Bridge in 2009, and Ribery added that he now feels "free, completely motivated." Ancelotti has only been coaching Bayern for the last two weeks, but took Ribery aside to explain how he is part of his plans, describing him in public as "a fantastic player. I like his style and how focussed he is. "He can still be very important for us with this quality and experience." Ancelotti, 57, will travel to the States shorn of his current Germany internationals, who are recovering from the European Championship. But the Bayern squad will still boast the likes of Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso, Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara and Ribery. Bayern open the new Bundesliga season at home against Werder Bremen on Friday August 26, after facing rivals Borussia Dortmund for the German Super Cup on Sunday August 14.
2016-07-26
7:04:01


PSG strike deal for Argentine teen Lo Celso. Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday completed the signing of Argentine teenager Giovani Lo Celso from Rosario Central, the French champions announced. Lo Celso has penned a five-year deal with PSG, but the 19-year-old midfielder will remain with Rosario until the end of 2016. The left-footed Lo Celso can play both through the middle and out wide in an attacking midfield role and has been picked to represent Argentina at next month's Rio Olympics. He is PSG's fourth signing ahead of the new season following the arrivals of Hatem Ben Arfa, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Thomas Meunier.
2016-07-27
7:44:08


Arsenal defender Mertesacker ruled out of MLS All-Star game. Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker will be "out a few months" with the knee injury that prevented him from joining the Gunners' North American tour, manager Arsene Wenger said Tuesday. In a press conference looking ahead to Thursday's Major League Soccer All-Star Game in San Jose, where Arsenal will take on a collection of the North American league's top players in its' annual mid-season showcase, Wenger indicated he'd be looking for a way to compensate for the absence of the German World Cup winner, who picked up the injury in last Friday's friendly at Lens. "We should look for an option, of course, to get a bit more experience," Wenger said. He indicated some of his young center backs would see time on Thursday, but he would also be looking to bolster the squad. "With Per being out, we are a bit short on experience and we are looking to bring somebody (on the transfer market)," he said. Calum Chambers is Arsenal's most experienced center back in the States for matches against the MLS All-Stars and Chivas of Mexico. As far as other areas of the field, Wenger confirmed that new signing Granit Xhaka and US international Gedion Zelalem would see time against the MLS All-Stars. "We are asked to do a job. We are under pressure every time to win the game," Wenger said. "We play to win and we want to win as always with style and respect of our identity and values ... that's what we do. "We know, in fact, that that the history of this game is in favor of MLS because from what I've heard, they have won in former seasons," he said. The MLS team has won seven of the 11 versions of the All-Star game since the format of playing an invited club was adopted in 2005. "They have won the games most of the times," Wenger said. "We know we face a very determined and motivated team."
2016-07-27
7:44:24


Premier League giants refuse Trophy invites. Manchester United are among several leading English Premier League clubs to reject invitations from the Football League to have their academy sides play in the revamped English Football League Trophy. United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur were missing when the draw for the knockout tournament, which traditionally has just been made up from the 48 clubs involved in English football's third and fourth tiers, was made on Wednesday. But Premier League champions Leicester City have agreed that their academy side will take part, with Chelsea also set to have their fledgling players compete in a tournament amid suggestions that Trophy matches would cause fixture clashes for top-flight academy teams, who already had sufficient matches in a season. In a bid to give a higher profile to the competition, officials announced in June that 16 'category one' academy outfits had been invited to take part. The new tournament will see 64 teams divided into 16 groups of four, on a north/south regional basis, each group containing one 'invited' club. Then the top two from each group will go forward to a regional knockout round of 32, with the last 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals all open draws ahead of a final at London's Wembley Stadium on April 2.
2016-07-27
7:44:50


Guardiola : No City players overweight. Pep Guardiola denied dictating to his Manchester City players exactly what they can eat and said none were overweight, after Gael Clichy claimed the new manager had banned junk food and exiled out-of-shape stars. Speaking in China, where City are on a money-spinning pre-season tour, the French defender told the Guardian newspaper and other British media that former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach Guardiola had wasted no time in laying down the law. "You often hear managers say being healthy is really important. With him, if your weight is too high, you're not training with the team. That is the first thing and you can hear it a lot, but for my part it's the first time any manager has really done it," Clichy said. "So we have a few players who are not training with the team yet. "He cut out some juice and pizza and all the heavy food is not allowed," added the 31-year-old. There has been plenty of attention paid to Guardiola's new regime on and off the pitch since his high-profile arrival this summer, but the Spaniard denied taking a dictatorial approach with his players. "The nutritionist is the boss. I'm not a chef. He decides what they have to eat," he said, speaking in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, the latest leg of their stop-start China tour. He also denied his players had returned to training out of shape: "No, they are not overweight. "I want my players fit. For me that is important... I need to get my players absolutely fit." City's pre-season preparations took a hit on Monday when their derby against Manchester United was called off because of the poor pitch at Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium, following heavy rain. Guardiola, who will be under pressure to inspire ambitious City to silverware in his first season, now wants to get on with the business of playing football. He revealed that the club were making a frantic push to line up an English Championship or non-league club for a friendly next week to replace the lost Beijing game. "We haven't travelled here to China for just a holiday, we have travelled here to play games," said Guardiola. "Maybe it's a lesson for the people who organised the games. The pitch is the most important thing." The City players arrived in Shenzhen on Tuesday and were given scorching late afternoon workouts, and again Wednesday, as they dusted off the disappointment of the cancelled Manchester derby. Guardiola said he had been enjoying putting the City squad through its paces and assessing the quality at his disposal. "Every manager has his own ideas," he said. "But it's impossible to achieve even one victory if the players don't want it. They are comfortable with the challenge and they are trying to understand me and I am trying to understand them as soon as possible." The heat in Shenzhen remains as it was in Beijing - baking - but there seems little chance of any similar heavy downpours. So City have been able to get on with the business at hand -- getting match ready for Borussia Dortmund, who breezed past United 4-1 in Shanghai last Friday. Guardiola's men can expect much of the same Thursday from last season's Bundesliga runners-up in front of what is expected to be a sell-out crowd of around 40,000 at the Shenzhen Universiade Stadium. The Spaniard revealed he had been singling out his midfielders for extra work when it came to tracking back to help the defence. Midfielder Fabian Delph, who joined his boss to meet the press before Wednesday's workout, said City's players knew what they were in for when Guardiola signed on. "If you can't follow the regime, you fall short," said Delph.
2016-07-27
7:45:26


Di Matteo resigned to Gana joining Everton. Aston Villa manager Roberto di Matteo has said he expects Idrissa Gana to join Everton after the Premier League club triggered a £7.1 million ($9.4 million, 8.4 million euros) release clause in the Senegal midfielder's contract. The clause expires at the end of the transfer window but Everton are the only club to have so far launched an official bid. Villa were relegated from the Premier League last season and then appointed di Matteo, who said Friday there was little he could do to stop Gana leaving the Birmingham club, even though the Italian would like him to stay. "It's public Everton have triggered his clause and he's going to leave," di Matteo said Friday. "There's no news so far but the expectation is, once personal terms are agreed and a medical (is done), he's going to go. "There are other clubs interested, that's right, but the only official bid so far has been from Everton. "There's not much I can do because he had a clause in his contract and that's something I inherited and my hands are tied. We will be losing him. "The fact he is leaving is basically down to the clause he has in his contract, otherwise there would be no chance. "We're not a club looking to sell, we don't have to, we don't need to." Gana joined Villa from Lille before the start of last season and scored one goal in 38 appearances as the club were relegated from the Premier League, winning just three league matches in the process. He could become Everton's first major signing of the summer after they appointed former Leicester assistant manager Steve Walsh, who helped bring Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante to the reigning English champions, as director of football at Goodison Park.
2016-07-30
8:57:33


Leicester's King signs new contract. Welsh international midfielder Andy King signed a new four year contract with the only club he has played for Premier League champions Leicester City on Friday. The 27-year-old -- who is the only player in the Premier League era to have won the league titles in the top three tiers -- joins England striker Jamie Vardy in committing to the Foxes since their stunning title win. "Leicester City are delighted to announce that midfielder Andy King has committed his long-term future to the football club by signing a new contract until 2020," said the club on their website. King, who made his professional debut for Leicester in 2007 and has scored 59 times in 331 appearances, played 29 times for the champions last term in all competitions, and went on to play for Wales as they reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals. King's signature will please Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri who has worked hard to keep his squad together. However, he has lost French midfield enforcer N'Golo Kante to Chelsea and is working hard to convince Professional Footballers Association player of the year Algerian Riyad Mahrez to stay. However, veteran Swiss international midfielder Gokhan Inler and Belgian defender Ritchie de Laet have been told they can find other clubs provided the buyers come up with the right valuation having not been included in the squad for their pre-season trip to the United States.
2016-07-30
8:57:58


Brazil coach hails 'huge-hearted' captain Neymar. Barcelona superstar Neymar was hailed as "a good guy with a huge heart" after being named captain of the Brazil Olympic team on Thursday. Coach Rogerio Micale admitted that appointing the international star as skipper was an easy decision to make for a team who have never won football gold at the Olympics. "Neymar has exceeded my expectations. He is appreciated, he's a good guy with a huge heart especially around the younger players," said Micale. "He has shown that he is more than just a great player -- he's a great man admired by everybody." Micale said he had no fears that Brazil could become a one-man team. "I want to be dependent on Neymar. What coach in the world would not want a Neymar in their team?" At the Olympics, which get under way on August 5, Brazil are in Group A in the first round where they will face South Africa, Iraq and Denmark.
2016-07-30
8:58:18


Ranieri sets survival target for champions Leicester. With a first Premier League title under their belts and a place secured among Europe's footballing elite, Leicester City could be forgiven for expecting the silverware to just keep coming. But the Foxes' Italian boss Claudio Ranieri is keeping his players' feet firmly on the ground, insisting the goal for 2016-17 remains the same as 12 months earlier -- avoiding relegation. "It's the same this season at the start -- to achieve 40 points, at the beginning, to be solid and to believe in yourself," the 64-year-old Italian said. Leicester, 5,000/1 outsiders in pre-season, were crowned champions for the first time in their 132-year history in May, handing Ranieri his first domestic title as a manager. They are due to lock horns in the pre-season International Champions Cup in Los Angeles Saturday with French title winners, Paris Saint-Germain. Ranieri, who will surely have the tougher task, has been busy in the transfer market, beating the club record outlay twice in a week to secure French midfielder Nampalys Mendy for £13 million ($17.2 million, 15.4 million euros), and Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa for £16.6 million. One of Ranieri's biggest headaches ahead of the season opener at Hull will be keeping his team of newly-minted all-stars together, with big-spending Premier League rivals dangling lucrative contracts. Welsh international midfielder Andy King -- the only player in the Premier League era to have won titles in the top three tiers -- gave the manager a boost by signing a four year deal Friday. The 27-year-old, who made his Leicester debut in 2007, joins 19-year-old Ben Chilwell in committing to the King Power Stadium along with Jamie Vardy, who has rejected an offer from Arsenal. Ranieri told reporters King was "a good example for everybody," and described Chilwell as "one of the best young players in the UK." But the team's all-action defensive midfielder N'Golo Kante went earlier this month on a five-year deal to Chelsea for a reported £32 million. Kante, signed for Leicester last summer from French club Caen for a bargain £5.6 million, was a revelation in breaking down attacks and was shortlisted for PFA Players' Player of the Year. Ranieri said he expected Leicester to cope fine without the star, as they had when Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiaso moved to Greek giants Olympiacos in the last close season. Kante's team-mate, Algerian international Riyad Mahrez, has also been at the center of summer transfer speculation alongside Kasper Schmeichel and Danny Drinkwater. Ranieri said however he expects all three to still be at the club when the transfer window closes. "I think they want to stay with us to try to improve our last season. We know it is very difficult but we are ambitious," Ranieri said. "It is important they sign, stay with us and (get) experience in the Champions League." Ranieri said the chairman, Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was ready to fork out if the manager decided he needed more players. Polish international winger Bartosz Kapustka, 19, confirmed on Friday he is is on the verge of a £7.5 million switch from Polish club Cracovia. "We are waiting, and when this player is with us I will tell you something more," Ranieri said. One problem for Ranieri going into the new season is that his team has lost the element of surprise, and will not benefit again from being underestimated by opponents. "We have to change something because the other teams know us very well. We have to make a plan B," Ranieri said. Towering captain Wes Morgan, who signed a new contract with the club to June 2019, is relishing his participation in the exhibition ICC, which involves 17 clubs playing on four continents. The 32-year-old played every minute of Leicester's title-winning campaign and was a key part of their success, forming a rock-solid central defensive partnership with Robert Huth. "It's fantastic to be here. It's a lot different to 12 months ago," he said. "It's a pleasure to be in a prestigious competition like this, to come to these types of places and play against the world's best teams." Morgan said his teammates were still "buzzing" over their title win but warned: "We can't dwell on that. There's another season ahead and we have to focus on that. "We're here to work and we're here to get a job done."
2016-07-30
8:58:38


Ibrahimovic delighted to make United debut in front of fellow Swedes. Veteran Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he is delighted his compatriots will get to see the moment 'everyone has been waiting for', namely his debut for new club Manchester United in his homeland on Saturday. Ibrahimovic will lead United's frontline in the pre-season friendly with Turkish side Galatasaray in Gothenburg, Sweden, after missing the club's trip to China. Ibrahimovic, who has had to wait till the end of his career to play in the Premier League having won titles in Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands, said it pleased him his compatriots would be the ones to see him don the United shirt for the first time since arriving on a free transfer from French champions Paris Saint Germain. "Everybody has been waiting for that moment," a typically immodest Ibrahimovic told the club's television station MUTV referring to his first appearance. "There has been a lot of talk and to make my debut in my country will feel great. "I think the fans are waiting for me to come back and they are waiting to enjoy not only me, but the team as well. "Hopefully, we can give them a good game and, at the same time, we are in the preparation. "We need to keep focused, to build up the physical part and the conditioning part but we will give them what they want." Ibrahimovic, 34, who retired from international football following a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign in France, said he had been impressed with the first few days of training under United manager Jose Mourinho, for whom he played at Inter Milan. "Positive vibes. They seem to be good guys, quality players, they train very hard and, during the training, are very focused," said Ibrahimovic. "The coach (Mourinho)-- he is direct, he is concrete, he says what he wants and the players are adapting. So there are only positive things." Ibrahimovic, who scored 156 goals in 180 appearances for PSG, said he didn't feel his age because of his attitude to training and playing. "I believe in working hard," he said. "Not only in games but even in training. "The way you train is the way you play in the games -- that's my philosophy. Working hard, training hard and feeling good. Then you need to get the rhythm by playing games."
2016-07-30
8:59:19


Atletico sign Gameiro from Sevilla. Atletico Madrid will sign French forward Kevin Gameiro from fellow La Liga side Sevilla, the Champions League runners-up announced on Saturday. Atletico have brought in Gameiro on a four-year deal, and he will join up with compatriot Antoine Griezmann in attack. Gameiro will arrive in Madrid on Saturday afternoon to undergo a medical. The 29-year-old joined Sevilla from Paris Saint-Germain in 2013 and was part of the side that won three consecutive Europa League titles. Gameiro enjoyed the most prolific season of his career last term, scoring 29 goals in all competitions, including 10 in Europe, but missed out on selection for Dider Deschamps' France Euro 2016 squad. Atletico coach Diego Simeone had been looking to strengthen his forward line, as Griezmann and Fernando Torres have been sharing the bulk of the striking duties. Argentinian Simeone had also added former Benfica winger Nicolas Gaitan and Croatian defender Sime Vrsaljko to his squad this summer. Atletico will be hoping to push on in the coming season, after narrowly missing out on both the Champions League and La Liga titles last campaign. They finished third behind Real Madrid and champions Barcelona in the league, and lost the Champions League final to city rivals Real on penalties.
2016-07-30
8:59:49


Chile face Ecuador test in South America qualifiers. Chile face a daunting trip to Ecuador on Thursday as they attempt to get their faltering 2018 World Cup qualification campaign back on track at a venue where they have never won. After eight rounds of South America's marathon qualifying campaign, two-time Copa America champions Chile are languishing in seventh place, two points adrift of Ecuador in fifth. The failure of Chile's star-studded squad to impose themselves on their rivals has been one of the biggest surprises of the qualifiers to date. With back-to-back Copa America victories in 2015 and 2016, the Chileans have been the dominant force in competitive South American football in the past year. However despite being able to call upon the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Bravo, Chile have stumbled from one setback to the next so far. Last month they were beaten 2-1 by Paraguay in Asuncion and were then held to a 0-0 draw by minnows Bolivia at home in Santiago. While there is still plenty of time for Chile to turn their campaign around, they can ill afford to lose further ground in what is expected to be a tight battle for places. Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has recalled playmaker Jorge Valdivia following a 10-month exile while Bravo, Sanchez and Vidal are all expected to start at Quito's Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa, which is some 9,000 feet above sea level. Chile, like many visitors to the stadium, have often struggled in the thin air and so far have not won a competitive fixture at the arena. Ecuador, meanwhile, head into the game looking to rediscover their winning habit. After starting qualifiers with four straight wins, Ecuador have taken only one point from their last four games. In other matches on Thursday, Uruguay will be confident of holding onto their position at the top of the standings when they face Venezuela in Montevideo, with star strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez both expected to play. Venezuela are bottom of the 10-nation standings with no wins from eight games, although they gave Argentina a mighty scare in their last outing on September 6, taking a 2-0 lead before eventually being held for a 2-2 draw. A resurgent Brazil meanwhile will attempt to extend the feelgood factor created by back-to-back wins over Ecuador and Colombia last month when they take on eighth-placed Bolivia in Natal. Argentina, who are level with Brazil on 15 points but trail their rivals on goal difference, face an awkward trip to Lima to face Peru, with coach Edgardo Bauza mulling how best to plug the gap created by injury to captain Lionel Messi. Messi returned from a short-lived retirement from international football last month to inspire a crucial 1-0 win over Uruguay, but is out of Thursday's game after suffering a groin injury while on Barcelona duty last month. Bauza has indicated either Juventus's Paulo Dybala or Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa could start in Messi's place. "Either of them could do a job. I will see how they train this week and decide," Bauza said in Lima on Monday. Argentina's Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori meanwhile urged his team-mates to beware the threat posed by Peru's veteran striker Paolo Guerrero, the 32-year-old Flamengo attacker who is his country's all-time leading scorer with 27 goals in 73 games. "We may be the favourites but you always have to be careful around a guy like Guerrero. He's a tricky player," the defender said.
2016-10-05
6:49:47