Mbappe is named as France’s new captain by coach Deschamps

Mbappe is named as France’s new captain by coach Deschamps
France's forward Kylian Mbappe (2nd R) takes part in a training session in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines on Tuesday as part of the team's preparation for upcoming UEFA Euro 2024 football tournament qualifying matches. (AFP)
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Updated 22 March 2023

Mbappe is named as France’s new captain by coach Deschamps

Mbappe is named as France’s new captain by coach Deschamps
  • The 24-year-old Mbappe will captain France against the Netherlands on Friday when qualifying starts for next year’s European Championship

PARIS:  World Cup top scorer Kylian Mbappe was named as France’s new captain on Tuesday, succeeding goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

France coach Didier Deschamps made the announcement in a short video clip which is set to be aired on soccer show Telefoot.

“It will be Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann will be vice-captain. Kylian ticks all the boxes to take on this responsibility, given what he does and will continue to do on the field,” Deschamps told Telefoot. “And because he’s a unifying link between the youngest, the not so young and the oldest players. That’s why I made this choice but it’s not to the detriment of Antoine, because Antoine will also have an important responsibility.”

Griezmann, who turned 32 on Tuesday, has played 117 games for France and the forward is regarded as being very close to Deschamps.

The 24-year-old Mbappe will captain France against the Netherlands at Stade de France on Friday when qualifying starts for next year’s European Championship. France then play Ireland in Dublin on Monday.

Mbappe scored eight goals at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, where he became only the second player to score a hat trick in the final, taking his tally to 36 goals in 66 matches for Les Bleus of which 12 have been scored in World Cups. France lost on penalty kicks to Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Qatar following a wild 3-3 draw.

This season, Mbappe became French champion Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time leading scorer after overtaking Edinson Cavani and has 202 goals for the club in 250 games.

Lloris and central defender Raphaël Varane, who won the 2018 World Cup alongside Mbappe, announced their retirements from international play after France lost the 2022 final.

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan
Updated 29 May 2023

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan
  • Giroud guided home a brilliant header from Davide Calabria’s cross in the 40th minute to guarantee Milan at least fourth place
  • It was the one moment of quality in an otherwise drab match in Turin

ROME: Olivier Giroud secured Champions League qualification for AC Milan with the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win at troubled Juventus.

Giroud guided home a brilliant header from Davide Calabria’s cross in the 40th minute to guarantee Milan at least fourth place and complete Italy’s lineup in Europe’s top club competition next season.

It was the one moment of quality in an otherwise drab match in Turin in which little of consequence happened apart from Giroud’s 12th league goal of the season.

Stefano Pioli’s side, who were knocked out of this year’s Champions League in the semifinals by Inter Milan, join their local rivals, Lazio and champions Napoli on the continent’s big stage.

They are six points ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta with one match left in what has been a long season and one in which their title defense collapsed after the World Cup.

“This was the first time we truly tried to be competitive in two tournaments and we were lacking something,” said Pioli.

“We can enjoy the win and qualification, but it was a strange season for many reasons.”

Juve meanwhile stay seventh and in the Europa Conference League spot after being deducted 10 points for illicit transfer activity by the Italian Football Federation on Monday.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side can still reach the Europa League spots as they are one point behind Roma in sixth, although the spectre of more punishment for financial irregularities hangs over the Turin giants.

Lecce ensured Serie A survival after late penalty drama gave them a 1-0 win over Monza, while a crushing late draw with Empoli took Verona’s survival battle to the final day.

Lorenzo Colombo rammed home the spot-kick which maintained Lecce’s Serie A status in the 11th minute of stoppage time after Christian Gytkjaer was penalized for handball following a VAR check.

Former Denmark forward Gytkjaer had a penalty of his own saved by Wladimiro Falcone with six minutes of regular time remaining.

That allowed Colombo to fire Lecce five points clear of the drop zone and cause coach Marco Baroni to sink to his knees in joy and grief for his recently deceased father.

“I thought about my father because I lost him recently... I felt him by my side in that moment,” Baroni told DAZN.

Verona sit in the final relegation spot after a gut-wrenching Giangiacomo Magnani own goal in the sixth minute of injury time which snatched a 1-1 draw for safe Empoli.

They are level on 31 points with 17th-placed Spezia, whom they might have to face in a playoff devised this season to decide who ends up in 18th place between teams who finish on the same points.

Victor Osimhen’s brace wasn’t enough for Napoli as the newly-crowned Italian champions threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Bologna.

Nigeria forward Osimhen took his season’s tally to 30 in all competitions with finishes in the 14th and 54th minutes.

However Lewis Ferguson pulled one back in the 63rd minute and Lorenzo De Silvestri headed the hosts level in his final home match as a Bologna player.

Napoli won their first league title since 1990 this season but owner Aurelio De Laurentiis said that coach Luciano Spalletti will leave to take a year’s sabbatical.

“He’s a free man, he’s given us something and I thank him, it’s right that he does what he wants,” said De Laurentiis to state broadcaster Rai.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s 89th-minute winner in a 3-2 success over relegated Cremonese reclaimed second spot for Lazio.

Serbia midfielder Milinkovic-Savic had put Lazio two goals ahead at half-time but Pablo Galdames and a Manuel Lazzari own goal had the away side level within four second-half minutes just before the hour mark.

His late winner puts Lazio two points ahead of Inter with the two teams traveling to Empoli and Torino respectively on the final day.

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day
Updated 29 May 2023

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day
  • Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning 57th minute right-foot strike from outside the area earned Everton the victory they required
  • Leeds relegated after 4-1 loss to Spurs

LONDON: Everton emerged from a nerve-shredding afternoon with their Premier League status intact thanks to a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth at Goodison Park as Leicester City and Leeds United were relegated in a dramatic season finale on Sunday.

The Merseyside club’s 69-year stay in the top flight was in peril at halftime as they were drawing 0-0 and 2016 champions Leicester were ahead against West Ham United.

That combination of results meant Everton were in the relegation zone but Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning 57th minute right-foot strike from outside the area earned Everton the victory they required.

With Leicester winning 2-1 and that game over, Everton fans then had to bite their fingernails, pray, or just simply not watch the 10 minutes of stoppage time which included a superb save by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The final whistle prompted a pitch invasion with smoke from blue flares drifting across the old stadium that will host top-flight football again after another Everton escape.

Leeds, the other club in the last-day relegation drama, went down with a whimper as they were hammered 4-1 at home by Tottenham Hotspur for whom Harry Kane scored twice.

Everton ended in 17th place on 36 points after 38 games, with Leicester in 18th on 34 and Leeds on 31.

Southampton, who were already relegated, finished bottom with 25 points although their farewell was a memorable one as they drew 4-4 at home to fifth-placed Liverpool.

Everton relief

The celebrations at Everton were more of relief than pride as the famous old club once again found itself battling not for silverware but to avoid relegation. Last year they escaped in the penultimate game but this time it went down to the wire.

“It’s a relief, this has been the hardest season of my career, so tough mentally,” defender Conor Coady said.

“We had it in our hands, but we can’t make this a common theme, we have to draw a line in the sand. This club has to improve because it’s a giant.”

Everton’s relief was in marked contrast to the mood at Leicester where not even a win over West Ham, courtesy of goals by Harvey Barnes and Wout Faes, could save the Foxes.

Leicester fans lived in hope with Everton being held, but in the end they returned to the second-tier, having been promoted in 2014 and winning the title in fairytale fashion in 2016.

Dean Smith, who arrived as interim coach after FA Cup-winning manager Brendan Rodgers was sacked in April, said he had fallen a bit short in trying to save the club.

“When I came here with eight games to go I thought we probably needed 11 points. We’ve fallen two short of that with nine,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a club review but it’s disappointing. It wasn’t to be.”

City lose

Champions Manchester City left the majority of their first-choice players on the bench and were beaten 1-0 at Brentford, who signed off a brilliant season by completing the double over Pep Guardiola’s side — Ethan Pinnock scoring a late winner.

It was City’s first defeat in 26 matches in all competitions but their eyes are fixed on next Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester United and then the Champions League final versus Inter Milan a week later in Istanbul.

“I said to the players after the game, today we finished the Premier League that you deservedly won, enjoy two days with your families, don’t see each other and on Wednesday we’ll prepare the first final,” Guardiola said.

Arsenal, whose title challenge collapsed under City’s relentless pursuit, at least ended on a high note as the runners-up crushed visiting Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-0 with Granit Xhaka scoring twice.

Manchester United ensured they finished third with a 2-1 home win over Fulham while fourth-placed Newcastle United rounded off an impressive season with a 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

Seventh-placed Aston Villa grabbed the last European spot with a 2-1 victory against sixth-placed Brighton & Hove Albion to book a place in the Europa Conference League, leaving eighth-placed Spurs without any European football next season.

Newcastle sign off remarkable season with battling draw at Chelsea

Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon celebrates scoring their first goal with Elliot Anderson. (Reuters)
Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon celebrates scoring their first goal with Elliot Anderson. (Reuters)
Updated 28 May 2023

Newcastle sign off remarkable season with battling draw at Chelsea

Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon celebrates scoring their first goal with Elliot Anderson. (Reuters)
  • Magpies earn a point in London as the Premier League season comes to a close

LONDON: Football, at its best, is able to tell a fairy-tale like no other game on the planet. The story of Eddie Howe, Jason Tindall and Newcastle United is near Oscar-worthy.

As the sun beat down from the crystal-clear London skies, to light up the Stamford Bridge dugouts, Eddie Howe, flanked by partner-in-crime Jason Tindall cut like shadowed, dream-like, movie stars, who'd just played a major role in this season's Premier League contender for performance of the year.

From clearing out dressing rooms and helping clean kits at Bournemouth, as the club sat in 92nd place out of 92 teams in the English Football League, days from going out of business, to strolling to the mega-bucks big leagues of Europe’s premier club competition.

All in a decade and a half's work for Howe & Co. It’s been some journey. Maybe, one day someone will make a film about their progress. I suppose, in many ways, Amazon already are. And what a watch it will be, with almost unrivalled success, the like of which has not been seen on Tyneside since the days of Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan.

This Newcastle team, and Howe with Tindall, deserve to be talked about in that company. They've earned that right. And in truth, it still feels like they're only just getting started.

This was one will not go down in the annals of history, it was very much an end-of-season affair in West London, but that mattered little. Nothing was on the line, the hard work already done. It's not often things have meant to little, of late.

With that in mind, and injuries biting, Howe made four changes to the line-up with Martin Dubravka and Anthony Gordon the key inclusions. One won man of the match, the other scored Newcastle’s only goal in the 1-1 draw. Very little Howe touches these days doesn't turn to gold. Long may it continue for Mr Midas.

Alexander Isak, a signing of the year contender, rattled the limbs of Kepa in the Blues’ goal before Gordon rippled it with as easy a finish as he's ever likely to get.

Allan Saint-Maximin, who hugged the left-hand side touchline, was set free by the impressive Fabian Schar, the combining with Elliot Anderson, who squared for ex-Everton man Gordon to tuck in his first Newcastle goal. It was also young Geordie Anderson's first ever senior Newcastle assist.

That was really as good as it got for United, who could, and should have doubled and trebled their goals registered on the day but for the bizarrely profligate Miguel Almiron.

Chelsea didn't need a much of an invite to get in on the act, although their strike felt like a gift. With Saint-Maximin lacking in defensive work Chelsea had the run of their right and as Matt Targett was turned inside and out by Raheem Sterling, the England man found his international teammate Kieran Trippier, who turned into his own net when tracking back.

After the break it was all Chelsea, with Dubravka having to withstand a Blues' siege. Sterling went close before substitutes Joao Felix and Christian Pulisic wasted two gilt-edged opportunities to nick it late on.

It was too little, too late for Chelsea, whose damage was long done before the final day. For their opponents, it feels like the foundations are already being put in place for a changing of the guard at the very top of English football.

Three thousand-odd Geordies went through their full range of musical hits at the death, including a new tune for Howe and Tindall, and partied long after the home fans left the building.

Howe even attempted to emulate newly formed rival Jurgen Klopp with a fist pump towards the Geordie faithful. The roar he got back would rival any in world football.

Those fans know pain - and they also know real talent when they see it. In Howe, United have a manager the envy of the English footballing world. Europe will know that, too, soon enough.

Nuno banishes memories of recent disappointments as he leads Al-Ittihad to Roshn Saudi League glory

Al-Ittihad players and coach Nuno Santo celebrate the club's first league title in 14 years. (Twitter/@ittihad_en)
Al-Ittihad players and coach Nuno Santo celebrate the club's first league title in 14 years. (Twitter/@ittihad_en)
Updated 28 May 2023

Nuno banishes memories of recent disappointments as he leads Al-Ittihad to Roshn Saudi League glory

Al-Ittihad players and coach Nuno Santo celebrate the club's first league title in 14 years. (Twitter/@ittihad_en)
  • Jeddah club claim first championship in 14 years after missing out to Al-Hilal last season

JEDDAH: In November 2021, Nuno Espirito Santo lost his job as head coach of Tottenham Hotspur following defeat to Manchester United.

Eighteen months later, with the London club struggling and without a coach, he lifted the Roshn Saudi League trophy after Al-Ittihad won 3-0 at Al-Fayha on Saturday.

It has been a long and hard season for the Jeddah giants who have waited 14 years to get their hands on this particular prize, but hiring the Portuguese boss last summer was a turning point in that journey.

Rivals such as Al-Nassr, who will have to settle for second after a 1-1 draw with Ettifaq, have signed world-class stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, but having a coach who has worked at the top levels of the global game proved to be exactly what Al-Ittihad needed.

“The players have worked very hard,” said Santo after the final whistle as the celebrations started.

“Al-Ittihad has suffered from many problems since last season, and we faced important absences, and the effort had to be collective in order to be able to win the title.”

The biggest problem was getting over last season itself. Fans will never forget how, in February, Al-Ittihad were 16 points clear of Al-Hilal, but still managed to slip up and had to watch in horror disbelief as their bitter rivals from Riyadh took the title.

After missing out more than once since 2009, there was a feeling that while Hilal were a winning machine, Ittihad had forgotten what was necessary to stay the course over a league season.

Enter the former Porto, Valencia and Wolverhampton Wanderers boss.

“I am happy when I see the team organized and balanced on the pitch,” the 49-year-old said. “For me, work, organization and commitment are the basic pillars of any team and are not up for negotiation.”

That is obvious to anyone who has watched the Tigers, who have lived up to the spirit of their name this season.

In 29 games, they have conceded just 13 goals. The defense has been rock solid. Goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe has been one of the unsung heroes and the Brazilian has already managed a record 18 clean sheets this season.

It helps that in front of him is one of the best central defenders in Asia, as well as his home continent of Africa. Ahmed Hegazi has been a revelation since arriving from West Bromwich Albion in October 2020. The Egyptian is a leader and inspiration to his team-mates and, like his defensive partner Ahmed Sharahili, who scored an early opener on Saturday to calm any nerves, chips in with vital goals. 

Hegazi’s fellow Egyptian Tarek Hamed is a more recent addition, and the defensive midfielder has added bite, weight and experience to the middle since arriving in pre-season. Not only does he protect the backline, but the 34-year-old is always available to receive the ball, relieve pressure and keep possession.

It is not just about a rock-solid defense, either. Al-Ittihad still score plenty, with attackers knowing that a goal or two will almost certainly be enough to win. The Brazilians are always a threat. Bruno Henrique has been as steady as always, with Igor Coronado one of the more creative presences in the entire league and along with his six goals, having provided two assists in the vital 3-0 win at the weekend to take his season total to 13. 

Romarinho has had another excellent season. He may not get the plaudits he deserves, but is almost sure to score on the rare occasions that Abderrazak Hamdallah fails. The Moroccan is an exceptional goalscorer and, with 20 so far this season, is on course for a third golden boot in Saudi Arabia which would be a major achievement.

It is, of course, not just about the foreign players. Haroune Camara has been a willing assistant in attack, Ahmed Bamsaud has improved at left-back under Santo, and on the right side of defense, Madallah Al-Olayan has also been a steady presence.

Santo has brought all this together with his watchwords of organization, hard work and balance. There is also mentality. When Al-Shabab were impressing early in the season, Ittihad just plugged away and did the same when Al-Nassr were top. At the halfway point, they were third, but like the best long-distance runner were dangerously on the shoulder of the leaders and ready to make their move.

And this is what happened. As Al-Shabab dropped off, and Al-Nassr blew a little hot and cold up in Riyadh, down in Jeddah Al-Ittihad just kept going. They lost only two games all season, and a big difference between this campaign and last was how they bounced back from unfortunate results. An early season loss against Al-Hilal and then a draw with Al-Shahab were setbacks that could have raised concerns, but the Jeddah club then picked up 34 points from the next 36 games — a run that the other teams were unable to live with. 

The second loss was 2-1 to Al-Taawoun with five games to go. Last season’s Ittihad may well have crumbled, but any hope rivals may have had that this version was faltering were dashed with the subsequent 4-0 win at home to Abha. Even when the performances were not great, they found a way to win and that, as Al-Hilal fans know, is what champions do. 

And, after 14 years, Al-Ittihad fans know it, too. They have waited a long time for this success, as has Nuno. They all deserve it.

Chelsea must ‘build step by step’ to get back among challengers, says Sterling

Chelsea must ‘build step by step’ to get back among challengers, says Sterling
Updated 28 May 2023

Chelsea must ‘build step by step’ to get back among challengers, says Sterling

Chelsea must ‘build step by step’ to get back among challengers, says Sterling
  • The London club will end a torrid season with home clash against Champions League-bound Newcastle United

Raheem Sterling casts his mind back to the start of his Manchester City career to reflect on a turbulent debut season at Chelsea.

“My first two years at City, it was not all beauty,” he says. “We had to build step by step and that’s exactly what we have to do here at Chelsea.”

From his arrival in 2015 until 2017, a League Cup triumph in 2016 was City's sole trophy and all they had to show for their exertions in four competitions.

They came fourth and third too in a Premier League they have since dominated.

That latter placing came in Pep Guardiola’s eagerly-awaited first season as they finished empty-handed and the Spaniard came under intense scrutiny as he tried to shape their transformation.

It was way below the expectations of the club and their supporters - something six-time league champions Chelsea can relate to now as they endure their worst campaign in the Premier League era.

The Blues, who host Newcastle in Sunday’s final day of fixtures, are in 12th place with a 43-point tally after spending £600 million on 16 new signings under new owner Todd Boehly.

Their fall - in contrast to the rise of Eddie Howe's side as they secured Champions League football next season after previously battling relegation - has been astonishing.

Just 15 months ago Chelsea were crowned World Club champions in Abu Dhabi - following on from their 1-0 victory in Porto over Sterling’s City side in the 2021 Champions League final.

Critics and fans have savaged them for their under-achievement since, with Sterling among the main targets following last summer’s £50m arrival from City, where he won four league titles and six domestic cups.

“It’s been hard, but it’s a transitional period for the club and I know, like everything, how things can be,” the 28-year-old tells Arab News exclusively.

“There’s an expectation of a certain level for clubs and players, and if you don’t match that, then you are going to get that criticism.

“But that’s what you want at this top level, because that’s what drives you to build, to get better and have a better season than the one we have had this season.

“And I have got no doubt that once we get the organisation right, once we get the personnel right, then we will be challenging.”

And Sterling, who was left out of England’s squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia in June after talks with boss Gareth Southgate amid injury concerns, is ready to accept the challenges ahead.

He has faced hardships and vitriol before. Whether it was his acrimonious departure from Liverpool to City, leading the fight against racism or having to constantly prove his worth for England, for whom he has 20 goals in 82 appearances.

As a two-year-old, Jamaica-born Sterling’s father was murdered and his mother Nadine moved to England to provide a better life for the family.

Setbacks only serve as a driving force for the forward to respond and succeed.

So too does watching former club City lift this season’s title for a fifth time in six seasons - and after a 1-0 loss at the Etihad where the Chelsea players formed a guard of honour for the champions beforehand.

"That’s what I want, that’s the level I want to be at, that’s the motivation for me," adds Sterling, who has scored nine goals for Chelsea but struggled to find consistency in a side unsettled by managerial changes and the influx of new faces.

“It’s not been hard at all for me personally. I don’t hear the criticism. I keep working, keep going and that’s it.

“I’ve got the ambition to do well. This is one season and you just have to brush it off and go again.

“Sometimes these tough times are what gets you to go to the next level. That’s why you use this fuel, you use this motivation of seeing City, my old club, win the title, right in front of me, and go again. It’s simple.

“That’s the level I’ve been at for the past seven years and that’s the level I want to stay at. I won’t accept this season and we just build now.”

Chelsea’s rebuild will begin with the imminent arrival of Argentine Mauricio Pochettino to take charge.

He will be the club’s fifth manager since September, following the departures of Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and interim bosses Bruno Saltor and Frank Lampard, who will lead them for the last time against Newcastle.

Sterling believes Pochettino, who managed Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain, can restore the good times at Chelsea.

“From his time before at Tottenham, I heard a conversation about him and he’s the exact person that we need,” he says.

“He will bring leadership, he will challenge players physically and mentally and I think he is going to come here and he is going to have the personality that everyone is going to respect. That’s what we need, someone in charge.”

Sterling adds: “We have a good squad, the quality is there. We will add some players and some will leave, I get it, but there’s no doubt in my mind we will be challenging again very soon.

“From the start of this season we have not had our best XI out. The majority of it, we have had 11, 12 players out injured so it was an unfair start. 

“But then again, these are the challenges that happen at the top football clubs and it will get us the consistency we need.

“It’s been hard work, it’s been a tough season, but I always believe after tough times there will be good times if you keep working hard. 

“No matter how this season has gone, good, bad or indifferent, I’ve tried to keep the same focus, the same work-rate and believe you will see the shadow pass.”