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World Cup (43)

Germany's Lars Stindl rescues late draw against France

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Published in World Cup
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 11:05

Germany's Lars Stindl scored a last-gasp equaliser to rescue a 2-2 draw against France in a friendly as the world champions stretched their unbeaten run to 21 matches.

France twice led through Alexandre Lacazette, who netted either side of Timo Werner's leveller, and looked set to triumph as they had in Germany's last defeat in a Euro 2016 semi-final.

But Stindl struck in stoppage time to rescue the hosts.

Both teams having qualified for next year's World Cup in Russia and are considered among the title favourites.
Germany coach Joachim Low was eager to test his squad and made six changes to the team that drew 0-0 against England at Wembley on Friday, including three in defence.

But the hosts struggled under early French pressure, with the speedy Kylian Mbappe and Blaise Matuidi a constant threat.

Lacazette, replacing injured forward Olivier Giroud, forced a good save from Germany keeper Kevin Trapp with a powerful shot but went one better in the 34th minute, tapping in from close range after superb work from Anthony Martial.
The Germans woke up after the break and substitute Antonio Rudiger should have levelled when he was set up by Julian Draxler in the box.

Instead it was Werner who grabbed the equaliser in the 56th minute with his seventh goal in his 10th international as he finished off a quick break launched by Mesut Ozil.

Toni Kross then hit the bar in the 70th as the Germans looked to be in complete control before another quick French break earned the hosts their second goal.

Martial should have added a third late in the game but Trapp did well to deny him as the forward charged into the box before Stindl's added-time goal salvaged a draw.

Elsewhere, Sergio Ramos scored two penalties as Spain played out an entertaining 3-3 draw against 2018 World Cup hosts Russia in St Petersburg to maintain their unbeaten record.

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku became his country's leading scorer at the age of 24 when his goal gave them a 1-0 win over fellow World Cup qualifiers Japan in a friendly.

World Cup qualifiers Uruguay paid for wayward finishing as they suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Austria.

Chris Coleman marked what could be his final game as Wales manager with a 1-1 draw against World Cup finalists Panama.

Tom Lawrence's 75th-minute wonderful solo strike - his second Wales goal - looked like settling a hard-fought friendly in Cardiff, but the hosts were pegged back in the third minute of stoppage time when Armando Cooper rifled home.

Martin O'Neill said he would need to have "a real think" about his future after the Republic of Ireland saw their World Cup hopes left in ruins.

Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen ended Ireland's play-off bid in brutal fashion with a hat-trick as the Danes raced to a 5-1 play-off second leg victory in Dublin, following the goalless draw in Copenhagen.

Republic boss O'Neill had been criticised for a perceived negative approach in the first leg, but he saw a more expansive approach cost his side dearly on Tuesday after they had taken an early lead.

"I'm really disappointed, obviously, we were well beaten in the end. We got off to a really good start and had a chance maybe to make it 2-0 and we probably needed that."
"But the two goals we conceded in a couple of minutes knocked us for six."
O'Neill and his coaching team have verbally agreed contract extensions with the Football Association of Ireland, with their existing deals effectively expired.

But asked if the result would have any effect on his immediate future, O'Neill said: "Do you know what, I'll have to have a real think about it.

"The disappointment obviously is very, very strong tonight because we haven't been able to do it, but I have to commend the players on getting this far."
Denmark boss Age Hareide said Eriksen is only going to get better.

Asked after the game if he could be considered as one of the current best 10 players in world football, coach Hareide said: "Yes, absolutely in the top 10.
"It's difficult to rank, but we saw (in Tottenham's Champions League matches) against Real Madrid he is probably one of the best players in his position in Europe at the moment.

"Ronaldo, Messi and some strikers are playing as forwards. Christian is more a wide man or a central midfield player. He has this capability of scoring goals, making assists, finding space, so, definitely top 10."
"He's in a team now at Tottenham which wants to play football. They play football - we saw against Real Madrid that it suits him very well to play there.

"He has good players to play with, he has a good manager and I think he is enjoying his time at Tottenham at the moment."
Ireland got off to the perfect start when defender Shane Duffy headed them into a sixth-minute lead, but Cyrus Christie's own goal and the first of Eriksen's treble inside three minutes turned the game on its head.

The Spurs player helped himself to two more after the break before substitute Nicklas Bendtner sealed an emphatic win with a last-minute penalty.

Christian Eriksen fires hat-trick as Denmark break Irish hearts

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Published in World Cup
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 10:00

World Cup qualifying play-off, Aviva Stadium – Ireland 1 (Duffy 6’) Denmark 5 (Christie 29’ og, Eriksen 32’ 63’ 74’, Bendtner 90') – Denmark win 5-1 on aggregate

Christian Eriksen scored a spectacular hat-trick as Denmark came from a goal down to outclass Ireland and book their place at the World Cup finals.

The game was everything the first leg was not, starting quickly and never letting up. It took just six minutes for Ireland to edge in front, Shane Duffy nodding home after Nicolai Jorgensen failed to clear Robbie Brady's free-kick.

And Ireland had chances to increase their lead, Daryl Murphy and James McClean both coming close. But then on 29 minutes, Pione Sisto diddled Harry Arter and set Andreas Christensen to shoot; he hit the post, but on the line, Cyrus Christie could only push into his own net.

Three minutes later, Denmark scored again, Yussuf Poulsen robbing Stephen Ward and twice exchanging passes with Jorgensen, who fed Eriksen, who spanked home off the bar.

Ireland now needed to score twice without reply, a feat which never looked likely, and brilliant finishes from Eriksen - the first placed from outside the box, the second annihilated - reinforced Danish superiority, before Nicklas Bendtner sealed the win, and a fantastic attacking performance, with a late penalty.

Were Ireland too negative? When a side loses so conclusively, it's tempting to say that there was nothing they could have done. But Ireland got themselves a lead and almost increased it; perhaps they might've had a better chance of winning if Shane Long had started, because Daryl Murphy did more or less nothing in either leg. On the other hand, Ireland were fourth seeds in their group and did well even to reach this stage.


Christian Eriksen (Denmark): One of the best players around, his movement was too much for Ireland and his finishing was absolutely devastating. A class act.

Ireland: Randolph 7, Christie 5, Clark 5, Duffy 6, Ward 3, Arter 5, Meyler 6, Hendrick 4, Brady 5, McClean 6, Murphy 4. Subs: Hoolahan 5, McGeady 5, Long 6

Denmark: Schmeichel 6, Christensen 7, Kjaer 6, Bjelland 6, Larsen 6, Kvist 6, Delaney 6, Sisto 7, Eriksen 9, Poulsen 7, Jorgensen 7. Subs: Ankersen 6, Cornelius 6, Bendtner 6.


6’ - GOAL! Ireland 1-0 Denmark (Duffy). What a goal! What a goal! Ireland win a free-kick just inside their own half, which Brady drills towards the middle of the box. There, Jorgensen chucks a leg at it, sends the ball backwards, and Schmeichel isn't sure whether to come or stay. He comes, but he can't get there before Duffy, who nods over him and in!
22’ - ALMOST TWO! Christie wins a tackle close to halfway, bursts forward, and curves a lovely cross into the box, where Murphy has stolen ahead of Kjaer at the near post, leaping into a flick on the run. It looks a lot like he's deflected the ball in at the near post, but actually finds the outside of the side-netting; still, that was very nice play.

24’ - CLOSE! This is much, much better than the first game, and Ireland nearly score again! Brady advances down the left, and slides a pass inside to meet the run of McClean, who looks marginally offside. But the ref sees no such thing, and from a tight angle, he lashes a low shot just wide of the far post!

29’ - GOAL! Ireland 1-1 Denmark (Christie own-goal). Eriksen goes short with the corner to Sisto,who finds himself one-on-one with Arter. Arter does his best to jockey but no one comes out to help so he winds up getting megged and then Sisto crosses low for Christensen, who pokes goalwards; it looks like the shot might just go wide, but it actually clips the inside of the post, then hits Christie, defending it, and trickles in. Denmark are ahead in the tie!
32’ - BRILLIANT GOAL! Ireland 1-2 Denmark (Eriksen). This is over! Ireland now need to score twice! Ward takes a pass on halfway, tires to get wide by nicking it away from Poulsen, fails, and Denmark charge forward, Pulsen finding Jorgensen inside him, accepting a return down the right and squaring a returned return. Jorgensen then moves the ball one more to Eriksen, and with no one anywhere near him, he has time to close his body and spank a right-footer in off the bar close to the near post. That’s superbly done!

63’ - GOAL! DENMARK ARE GOING TO RUSSIA! Ireland 1-3 Denmark (Eriksen). Denmark have played really well tonight and taken their chances really well. Sisto pulls into space between the lines, finds Eriksen doing likewise just outside the box, and one touch gets the ball out of his feet in order for a second to plant a sidefooted finish inside the post, halfway up. That's his second goal and his second tremendous finish!

74’ - WHAT A GOAL! WHAT A PLAYER! ERIKSEN HAS A HAT-TRICK! Ireland 1-4 Denmark (Eriksen). Christie makes a mess of a situation and allows Jorgensen a hopeful cross which picks out Ward in the middle of the box. For reasons uncertain, he can only prod it a few yards, so Eriksen fa

England hold Brazil in dire encounter

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Published in World Cup
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 09:56

International friendly, Wembley Stadium – England 0 Brazil 0

England’s 2017 ultimately ended with two 0-0s against the world’s top two as they held Brazil just four days after shutting out Germany.

An uninspiring affair against Brazil will have made for pleasant viewing for England head coach Gareth Southgate, who watched his side quell the visiting trio of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho.

Brazil had a couple of chances, namely Coutinho’s low effort in the second half which was saved well by Joe Hart, but they hardly looked like the side who took 12 wins and lost just once in the South America qualifiers.
Southgate will undoubtedly draw the positives from Tuesday’s draw, but there will be concern over the lack of attacking threat.

March friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy will allow Southgate to address those issues, but for now it’s time to celebrate the mundanity that is holding Brazil to a 0-0 draw.

England’s solidity in defence. When you see Neymar, Jesus and Coutinho in the opposition’s line-up, you do not expect a quiet night. England’s back three of John Stones, Harry Maguire and Joe Gomez proved they could stem the attacking flair of their opponents. It wasn’t pretty viewing, but you would take a 0-0 if it were the World Cup finals, even if that does mean penalties…

Joe Gomez (England): What a full debut for the Liverpool defender, who started at centre-back alongside John Stones and Harry Maguire. His reading of the game was brilliant, and he put in a number of vital interceptions to keep Brazil at bay. Southgate warned his Young Lions not to go souvenir hunting when facing Neymar and co, but Gomez rarely looked fazed. He may have to check his back pocket tomorrow morning to make sure the £198m man isn't still in there.

13’ - SAVE! It looks like Alves is lining up to shoot once more from out wide, but the fizzed ball in finds the head of Jesus, but Hart dives to his left to save the attempt.

47’ - SAVE! Closest we've come to a goal at Wembley! And it's Coutinho who almost sneaks in an opener for the visitors, but his low strike is saved well by Hart.
77’ - OFF THE POST! Dier loses the ball in the middle of the park, and it's Fernandinho who storms down the pitch before unleashing a fierce low strike, but it clips the outside of the post.

85’ - SAVE! Flowing Brazil move and it's a terrific touch from Paulinho to carry it into the area, but Hart stands tall and sees the Barcelona midfielder's effort cannon off his chest and out for a corner...

England: Hart 7, Walker 7, Maguire 7, Stones 8, Gomez 8, Bertrand 6, Livermore 7, Dier 7, Loftus-Cheek 6, Vardy 6, Rashford 7. Subs: Lingard 6, Solanke 6, Abraham 6, Young N/A, Rose N/A

Brazil: Allison 6, Alves 6, Marquinhos 6, Miranda 7, Marcelo 7, Casemiro 7, Paulinho 7, Renato Augusto 6, Coutinho 6, Jesus 6, Neymar 7. Subs: Fernandinho 7, Willian 6, Firmino 6


England claimed back-to-back goalless draws for the first time since 1995.

Daniele De Rossi has explained that his touchline row with Giampiero Ventura, in Italy’s failed effort to reach the World Cup, was because he wanted the manager to bring on more strikers.

The Azzurri were chasing a goal in Milan after their 1-0 first-leg play-off defeat in Stockholm, and Ventura asked Roma’s defensive midfielder to warm up, leaving the in-form forward Lorenzo Insigne on the bench.

But De Rossi, who was filmed arguing, is reported to have said: “Why the hell should I go on? We don't need to draw here, we need to win!"
The match ended 0-0, with Italy failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, and De Rossi explained to Rai Sport afterwards: "We have this tendency to warm up three at a time, then after five minutes we change and another three go.”

"I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strikers to warm up. I pointed to Insigne too.

" It wasn't up to me whether it was a tactical issue. I'm sorry if I offended anyone. At the time I just thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead."
De Rossi, who retired from the national team along with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli after the match, added: "We will begin again, just as we did after other desperately disappointing moments.

"I don't believe we deserved to go out considering the 180 minutes, Sweden deserve credit for their performance, but it was fairly even.
"I've been wandering around Coverciano and all over the world with this jersey for over a decade, so to take it off for the last time is a strange feeling."

Beleaguered Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura denied that he had resigned and apologised to his countrymen after his team's failure for the World Cup.

Speaking in the same monotone voice which has characterized his 18 months in charge, Ventura said he would not decide on his future before speaking to the Italian soccer federation (FIGC).

"I haven't resigned because I haven't yet spoken to the (FIGC) president (Carlo Tavecchio)," he told reporters after Italy were held goalless by Sweden and lost their European playoff 1-0 on aggregate to miss next year's Russia finals.

"I absolutely apologise for the result but not for the effort we put in or our desire to win. It's a terrible result from a sporting point of view. I'm upset. I thank the San Siro crowd for supporting the team until the very end."
"I am proud to be part of the Blue team and to have worked with great champions,” added the 69-year-old.
"We knew about the goodbye of the veterans," he said, referring to several older players who will almost certainly not play for their country again, including keeper Gianluigi Buffon, 39, who immediately announced his international retirement.

"The target was the World Cup. We will confront the problem with the federation, I can't say any more than that at the moment."

Italy eliminated as resilient Sweden earn draw

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Published in World Cup
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 07:41

World Cup qualifying play-off, San Siro – Italy 0 Sweden 0 (Sweden win 1-0 on aggregate)

Italy missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958 as resolute Sweden booked their place in Russia with a heroic defensive display.

The hosts headed to the San Siro hoping to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit, but they failed to fashion clear-cut chances as their opponents defended in numbers.

Both sides saw penalty shouts waved away on a tense night, but Sweden were good value for their reward after keeping back-to-back clean sheets.

A late Stephan El Shaarawy volley - beaten away by Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen - was the closest Italy came.

The result will mean the end for Italy manager Gian Piero Ventura, who has been under fire for much of the qualification campaign, while for Sweden it's a first World Cup since 2006.

Embarrassment for Italy - The Azzurri’s presence at the World Cup is usually a given –they have only once before failed to qualify for the tournament – but not now. Ventura will shoulder a lot of the blame, having constantly changed his tactics and personnel through this ill-fated campaign, but the inquest will have to look beyond just one man and it must be said that this Italian side is lacking in quality compared to those of the past. With players like Gianluigi Buffon set to retire, Italy must unearth a new generation of talents if it is to return to its former glory.

Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) - The Swedes defended brilliantly but none more so than Granqvist, who made a number of vital blocks and clearances.

13’ – PENALTY APPEAL! Huge appeals for a penalty, this time from Sweden, after the ball strikes the outstretched arm of Darmian. It's not given and Italy have really got away with one there.

27’ – CHANCE! A lovely dinked pass from Jorginho puts in Immobile, who fizzes a ball through the six-yard box that runs to Candreva who then blasts just over. Best chance of the game by some distance.

40’ – SAVE! Jorginho has been Italy's best player by a distance and he almost has an assist as another excellent through ball finds Immobile, but a combination of the goalkeeper and then Granqvist keeps the ball from crossing the line.

47’ – PENALTY APPEAL! Candreva's cross makes its way to an unsuspected Darmian at the back post and he promptly takes a knee in the ribs from Lustig, but whilst the home fans are screaming for a penalty the referee penalises Darmian for handball. He didn't touch the ball with either arm.

53’ – CHANCE! Darmian crosses from the left and Florenzi almost scores a spectacular goal, meeting it with a flying volley, but the ball spins just wide of the far post.

87’ – SAVE! Olsen makes a fine save to keep out a ferocious El Shaarawy volley from just 12 yards out.


ITALY: Buffon 6, Barzagli 6, Bonucci 6, Chiellini 6, Candreva 6, Florenzi 6, Jorginho 7, Parolo 5, Darmian 5, Immobile 6, Gabbiadini 5. Subs: El Shaarawy 6, Belotti 5 Bernardeschi 5.

SWEDEN: Olsen 8, Lustig 6, Lindelof 7, Granqvist 9, Augustinsson 7, Claesson 7, Larsson 6, Johansson 6, Forsberg 7, Toivonen 5, Berg 6. Subs: Svensson 6, Thelin 6, Rhoden 6.


The only other time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup was in 1958, when Sweden hosted the tournament.

Italy remain unbeaten at the San Siro, a run that now spans 43 matches.a

Gabriel Batistuta admits he was annoyed he lost his Argentina scoring record to Lionel Messi, but has taken consolation from seeing it held by ET.

Barcelona striker Messi is seven goals clear of retired former Fiorentina forward Batistuta, who hit 54 goals in 77 games between 1991-2002 for the national side.

Messi is on 61 goals from 110 appearances having overtaken Batigol's record during the Copa America Centenario last year.
"Honestly, not a little but a lot, yes. It was a title that I held. It's not just any old thing," said Batistuta when asked if he was annoyed about losing the record.

"You go around the world and you say, 'I'm the top scorer for the Argentina national team.' I liked that.

"But the advantage I have is that I'm second to an extraterrestrial.

"He'll finish with double the goals that I've scored."

Morocco and Tunisia qualify for 2018 World Cup

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Published in World Cup
Sunday, 12 November 2017 09:56

Morocco and Tunisia both qualified for the 2018 World Cup after their respective games with Ivory Coast and Libya.

Tunisia booked their place in next year's World Cup finals after securing a point from a goalless draw at home against neighbours Libya on Saturday.

Tunisia finished on 14 points in Group A of the African preliminaries, one ahead of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who fell short despite a 3-1 win over Guinea in Kinshasa at the same time.

Unbeaten Tunisia, who have been to four previous World Cup finals and were the first African country to win a game at the finals in 1978, were denied a fifth win in six group matches as Libya’s goalkeeper Mohamed Nashnush made a number of key saves.

Diving saves kept Youssef Msakni, Anice Badri and Ghilane Chaalani from scoring as Nashnush proved a one-man roadblock.
Goals from defenders Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia handed Morocco a 2-0 away win over the Ivory Coast on Saturday in their last World Cup qualifier and booked a return to the finals for the first time in two decades.
Morocco needed only a draw in their last group game to finish top of the Group C standings in the African preliminaries, ahead of the Ivorians, who had to win to clinch a fourth successive World Cup finals appearance.

But after weathering an early storm, including a potential penalty call, Morocco scored two goals in the space of five minutes to put themselves on their way to the finals, in which they last appeared in 1998, in France.

Morocco completed the campaign without conceding a goal, finishing on 12 points, four ahead of the Ivorians. Gabon had seven and bottom-placed Mali five.

Ireland hold Denmark to first leg stalemate

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Published in World Cup
Sunday, 12 November 2017 09:54

World Cup qualifying play-off, Telia Parken – Denmark 0 Ireland 0

In a devastatingly rancid game of association football, poor finishing from Denmark and excellent goalkeeping from Darren Randolph sneaked Ireland a goalless draw in Copenhagen.
But the visitors may come to rue the lack of an away goal, because if Denmark score once - something it is easy to envisage - they will need to score twice - something almost impossible to envisage.

Immediately after kick-off the game set into its pattern: Ireland sat off, Denmark probed. And on 11 minutes, Randolph made an excellent double-save from Styger Larsen and Andreas Cornelius, the latter of whom ought really to have scored. Then, on 32 minutes, Randolph saved again, this time from Pione Sisto, before Kasper Schmeichel foiled Cyrus Christie.

Almost nothing happened in the second half, but then just before time, Larsen crossed and Yussuf Poulsen headed firmly, but straight at Randolph, who tipped over.

So the teams are level going to the Aviva where, though we will have to endure more of the same, it will at least end with one of these miserable sides experiencing severe misery.

Need Ireland be quite so terrible? Every time Ireland had a dead ball, they simply pumped it into the box, exactly what Denmark expected. And their prowess is not such that it didn't matter; perhaps at home, they might at least switch the angle and ask a different question of their opponents.


Darren Randolph (Ireland): Slim pickings, but Randolph made three decent saves to keep without which his team would have lost, perhaps conclusively.

Denmark: Schmeichel 6, Ankersen 6, Kjaer 7, Bjelland 6, Larsen 7, Kvist 7, Delaney 5, Eriksen 6, Cornelius 6, Jorgensen 5, Sisto 5. Subs: Bendtner 6, Poulsen 6.

Ireland: Randolph 8, Christie 7, Clark 6, Duffy 7, Ward 6, Arter 5, Hendrik 5, O'Dowda 5, Brady 5, McClean 5, Murphy 4. Subs: Long 5, Whelan 6, Hourihane 6.


11’ - DOUBLE SAVE! Oh yes! Darren Randolph! Kjaer drills a fantastic crossfield pass from right to left, brilliantly controlled, in mid-air, by Stryger Larsen. It allows him to drill a shot, which Randolph gets down to, but can only put back into play! Cornelius is on it too, but goes for a firm sidefooter when laces or clever placement was required, and Randolph not only saves again, but holds on! Denmark are hitting a stride, though.

32’ - CLOSE! Fields of Athenrye is banging out ... and oh what a miss! Eriksen picks up a weak clearance from Clark and leathes a low shot which Randolph beats away ... hard enough so that the ball whizzes past those nearest to it, but straight to Sisto! He opens his body, relaxes into the shot, and guides it expertly inches past the post!

43’ - CHANCE! Superb from Christie, exploding past Larsen and nashing towards goal! But Schmeichel is out quickly, makes himself big - you might've seen the technique before - and blocks the shot, then Hendrick takes a touch when he ought to have hit it first time, and Ireland have a corner... which is useless.

89’ - NOPE... O'Dowda runs with it, Kvist hauls him down, free-kick Ireland, 45 yards from goal. Brady curls into the box, just what Denmark won't be expecting, Long flicks but from 12 yards, and Schmeichel saves easily.

90’ - BIG SAVE! Saaaaaaved Randolph! Larsen down the left, and what's this?! A decent cross! Poulsen is in the middle too, thumps a header goalwards, thinks he's scored .. but it's straight at Randolph, who tips over!

90+1’ - DRAMA! This is easily the best part of the game. Eriksen's free-kick is headed away, Larsen races towards the loose ball, and shoots ... Christie has a wild swing, and sends it behind him for a corner which comes to nothing.

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Djilibodji is loaned to Dijon

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