AS IT HAPPENED: Tunisia 1 v. England 2

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Tunisia are preparing to take on England in Monday’s Group G encounter in the World Cup. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 June 2018
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AS IT HAPPENED: Tunisia 1 v. England 2

FULL-TIME: England seal an opening game victory at the World Cup with a late, late winner from Harry Kane giving England a 2-1 win. Tunisia can hold their heads high and must lift their spirits for the Belgium game.

10:48PM: GOAL - Harry Kane breaks Tunisians hearts with a headed goal from a corner with just 2 minutes remaining...

10:42PM: Saber Khalifa comes on for Wahbi Khazri as Tunisia look to hit England on the break...can they steal this?

10:31PM: Tunisia looking more and more comfortable as Naim Sliti comes off to be replaced by Ben Armor. England not looking anywhere near as threatening as they were in the first half...

10:25PM: Raheem Sterling comes off, as Marcus Rashford replaces him. England looking to inject a bit of pace up front against the resolute Tunisian defense.

10:17PM: England in full control, pushing Tunisia back further and further...fans getting slightly restless as a Mexican wave breaks out in the stands.

10:10PM: England come out after the break looking dangerous and hoping to continue where they left off, forcing a corner... nothing doing for England.

HALFTIME: It's halftime, and Tunisia are level. The African side are holding their own against their more illustrious opponents and it has been an evenly-contested half of football. Tunisia will be confident of pushing England all the way here in Volgograd. Stay tuned for the second half...

9:38PM: The pace of the game slows down somewhat in the sapping heat of Volgograd, defenses looking weak for both teams. Chances surely to come in the second half...

9:33PM: Penalty to Tunisia! GOAL! And Sassi tucks it away with aplomb in the bottom right hand corner. Definitely game on now! Tunisia 1 England 1

9:25PM: Sassi of Tunisia has a rare chance in front of goal for Tunisia, as the Eagles of Carthage gives their fans hope in their best spell of the game. Game on?

9:21PM: Tunisia force a corner in their first meaningful attack of the game. It comes to nothing.

9:09PM: GOAL: Harry Kane of England is on hand to tap in the rebound from a fantastic save from Hassem after a Stones header. Tunisia under the cosh.

 

9:02PM: Hassem in the Tunisian goal under pressure early as England pepper the goal with a Lingard shot and the resulting England corner. Close.

 

8.55PM: We are seconds away from kick-off... stay tuned ...

8:35PM: The Tunisia dressing room ahead of their opening game against England. Excitement building in Volgograd!

Tunisia starting XI: Hassem, Ben Youssef. S, Meriah, Bronn, Maaloul, Badri, Sassi, Skhiri, Ben Youssef. F, Khazri (C), Sliti

England starting XI: Pickford, Maguire, Stones, Walker, Young, Henderson, Trippier, Alli, Lingard, Sterling, Kane (C)

Here we go then. It's been a long 12 years for Tunisia fans, but they will finally be cheering their team on in a World Cup for the first time since 2006. The "Eagles of Carthage" are preparing to take on England in Monday’s Group G encounter, with the weight of Arab expectation and the hopes of an entire region rest on the shoulders of Nail Maaloul’s charges. After just one defeat in 10 games for Nail Maaloul’s side, their players and supporters - and many a neutral - will be quietly confident of an upset of a generation.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 20 July 2018
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.