Uzbekistan and Japan to contest 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup final

Uzbekistan and Japan to contest 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup final
Japan beat Iraq, the last Arabian team standing, 2-0 with goals from Mao Hosoya and Ryataro Araki. (File/AFC website)
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Updated 30 April 2024
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Uzbekistan and Japan to contest 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup final

Uzbekistan and Japan to contest 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup final
  • Semifinal wins mean both nations progress to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer
  • Winner of third place playoff between Iraq and Indonesia will also qualify for Paris 2024

DOHA: Uzbekistan and Japan will face each other in the final of the 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup after beating Indonesia and Iraq in their respective semifinals in Qatar on Monday.

The results mean both countries also qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris this summer. Indonesia and Iraq will contest third place, with the winner also booking their spot at the Games. The loser will have a final chance to qualify in a game against an African federation team.

In the first semifinal at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Uzbekistan took the lead after 68 minutes, thanks to Khusayin Norchaev. Their victory was sealed by an own goal by Pratama Arhan in the 86th minute.

Later in the evening at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Japan beat Iraq — the last Arabian team standing — 2-0 with goals from Mao Hosoya (28 minutes) and Ryataro Araki (42).

The current holders of the trophy, Saudi Arabia, exited the competition at the quarterfinal stage following a 2-0 loss to Uzbekistan.

The final between Uzbekistan and Japan is set to take place on Friday at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.


Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024

Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024
Updated 20 June 2024
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Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024

Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024
  • It is the sixth-straight major international tournament in which Shaqiri has scored, dating back to the World Cup in 2014

COLOGNE, Germany: “Shaq” did it again.
At the age of 32 and having left top-flight European soccer behind to play in MLS, Xherdan Shaqiri is back on the international stage and back scoring again.
His stunning first-half strike secured a 1-1 draw for Switzerland against Scotland at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.
It is the sixth-straight major international tournament in which Shaqiri has scored, dating back to the World Cup in 2014.
That’s three World Cups in a row and now three European Championships for the Chicago Fire forward.
“He proved tonight that he lives and breathes for moments like these,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said.
Shaqiri rolled back the years with a first-time curling effort from about 20 meters out at Cologne Stadium.
Scotland had led from the 13th minute when Scott McTominay’s shot took a wicked deflection off Fabian Schar to beat Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
But Shaqiri pounced on Anthony Ralston’s loose pass in the 26th to even the match with a left-footed shot into the top corner and past Scotland keeper Angus Gunn.
“If that chance falls to any other player in the Swiss team, it’s not a goal,” Scotland manager Steve Clarke said. “You knew when it was rolling toward Shaqiri it was destined for the back of the net. He’s a top, top player, so you don’t give top, top players that kind of chance.”
Shaqiri’s career has seen him play for some of Europe’s most iconic teams, including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool. He joined Chicago Fire two years ago, but in that time has continued to produce for his country on the biggest stage.
“Shaq always gives everything in training,” Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji said. “I don’t know how many other players are able to score that goal.”
The draw leaves Switzerland on four points, second in Group A behind Germany and likely to advance to the round of 16.
Germany became the first nation to advance to the round of 16 after 2-0 win over Hungary.
Scotland’s hopes of making the knockout round depend on its final game against Hungary on Sunday and results elsewhere. No team has failed to advance from the group stage with four points.
Both teams had chances to win the game.
The Swiss should have taken the lead just before the hour mark when Dan Ndoye turned Kieran Tierney on the edge of the box. With just goalkeeper Angus Gunn to beat, Ndoye fired wide of goal.
Grant Hanley then headed against the post from a Scotland free kick and Switzerland’s Zeki Amdouni headed wide at the far post late on.
Scotland has never advanced beyond the group stage of a World Cup or Euros on 11 previous attempts.
But repeated disappointment doesn’t seem to dampen optimism among its fans, who filled Cologne’s square before the game.
Swiss fans were out in numbers, too, creating a raucous atmosphere in the stadium.
It was certainly a more enjoyable evening for Scotland’s fans than the opening game of the Euros — a 5-1 loss to Germany.
“It was what we expected. It was a good reaction to a disappointing night. We’re still alive in the tournament,” Clarke said.
Goals from Jamal Musiala and İlkay Gündoğan made it two wins from two for host Germany after victory against Hungary and ensured there would be no repeat of its group stage exit from the 2022 World Cup.
Albania substitute Klaus Gjasula scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to hold World Cup semifinalist Croatia to a 2-2 draw in Group B. Gjasula’s own goal, just four minutes after entering the game in the second half, had looked like handing Croatia the win until his late strike.


Lionel Messi could be playing in his final tournament with Argentina at Copa America

Lionel Messi could be playing in his final tournament with Argentina at Copa America
Updated 20 June 2024
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Lionel Messi could be playing in his final tournament with Argentina at Copa America

Lionel Messi could be playing in his final tournament with Argentina at Copa America
  • “The moment I feel that I am not going to help my team, I will retire,” Messi said in March in an interview with Saudi broadcaster Riyadh Season
  • He spends time with his three children, starts new businesses and lives as if soccer is slowly becoming a smaller part of his life

BUENOS AIRES: It’s sad but true, Copa America could mark Lionel Messi’s final chapter with Argentina’s national soccer team.

The World Cup winner will turn 37 during the tournament in the US, which kicks off Thursday. He’s clearly past his peak at Inter Miami after two decades of playing at the highest level in Europe.

Messi has not set a date for his retirement and has kept the door open to playing in a sixth World Cup in 2026 to defend his title from Qatar. But he already recognizes his shortcomings.

“I don’t think about that yet. The moment I feel that I am not going to help my team, I will retire,” Messi said in March in an interview with Saudi broadcaster Riyadh Season. “I always ate well, trained. But as I grew I became aware that the physical effort we make is getting harder. As you grow old, things become more difficult.”

Last year, the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner struggled with muscular injuries while playing in MLS and for Argentina. That didn’t change much in 2024.

Messi has shown he enjoys going out at night with his wife, Antonella, and his friends in Miami. He spends time with his three children, starts new businesses and lives as if soccer is slowly becoming a smaller part of his life.

Still, he has 12 goals and 13 assists for Inter Miami this season.

“I have a good time at the club. I am lucky to have teammates and friends (Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, all former Barcelona players) by my side,” Messi told ESPN. ”I have a good time in the national team, where I have teammates and friends, too. And I enjoy the little details that I know that when I don’t play anymore, I’m going to miss.”

Angel di Maria, a 36-year-old winger who has played alongside Messi for years with the national team, is sure to bid farewell to international soccer after the Copa America. That has also brought more questions about whether the team’s biggest star will remain on the squad.

“As long as I feel like I’m fine and I can continue contributing, I’m going to do it. Today, the only thing I think about is getting to the Copa America well and being able to compete in it,” Messi told the Star Plus platform in December. “Fighting for it again, as we always did, trying to be champions.”

Argentina’s all-time top scorer and the national team’s leader with 26 World Cup appearances is also seeking records in the continental competition.

Messi, who won the South American championship in 2021, wants to become the Copa America’s leading scorer. He has 13 goals in six editions, four behind Norberto Méndez of Argentina and Zizinho of Brazil with 17.

He also wants to be the player with most appearances in the Copa America, a record he currently shares with former Chile goalkeeper Sergio Livingston, both with 34 games.

Messi’s teammates don’t want to see him go.

“We’ll see how long, but while he’s here we’re going to enjoy it to the fullest,” Argentina defender Cristian Romero said. “We grew up watching him. We are part of those tournaments.”


Playing Italy like ‘looking in a mirror’, says Spain’s De la Fuente

Playing Italy like ‘looking in a mirror’, says Spain’s De la Fuente
Updated 19 June 2024
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Playing Italy like ‘looking in a mirror’, says Spain’s De la Fuente

Playing Italy like ‘looking in a mirror’, says Spain’s De la Fuente
  • “They’re very similar to us, they have changed coach and they have young players,” De la Fuente told reporters
  • “I think it will be a very high quality match“

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: Luis de la Fuente said on Wednesday he was struck by the similarities between his Spain team and Italy as the pair aim to secure qualification for the knockout stage of Euro 2024.
La Roja and champions Italy have undergone a change in playing personnel over the last year, and have young blood throughout their squads.
Spain are more direct than under previous coach Luis Enrique while Luciano Spalletti is attempting get Italy to play a high-intensity attacking style with which he won the Serie A title for Napoli.
“They’re very similar to us, they have changed coach and they have young players. They are very competitive,” De la Fuente told reporters.
“It’s almost like we’re looking in a mirror actually. We are a growing, developing team which is working on cohesion and consistency and so are they. I think it will be a very high quality match.”
Spain have faced Italy at each of the last four Euros and meet in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday where both teams can ensure top spot in Group B with a win.
They are locked on three points at the top of the group, two ahead of Albania and Croatia who played out an exciting 2-2 draw earlier on Wednesday.
And De la Fuente, who has a fully fit squad at his disposal, is in no doubt that his team will play to win rather than try to not lose and then attempt to secure top spot in their final group game with Albania.
“Without doubt we want to win. This game most important game for us so far,” he said.
“That is the only thing we’re thinking about... We play all matches to win. I don’t know how to play any other way.”
Fabian Ruiz, who will face his former coach at Napoli in Spalletti, shrugged off talk of Spain being favorites for the Euros despite their blistering debut win over Croatia.
“We don’t see ourselves as favorites but we have confidence in our potential,” said Fabian Ruiz.
“We know we have the quality to get to the final and we’ll do what we can to get there. Maybe if we get to the final I’ll be able to tell you whether we’re favorites or not. But it’s very difficult to win a tournament.”


UEFA fines Albania, Serbia $10,700 each for nationalist fan banners at Euro 2024 games

UEFA fines Albania, Serbia $10,700 each for nationalist fan banners at Euro 2024 games
Updated 19 June 2024
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UEFA fines Albania, Serbia $10,700 each for nationalist fan banners at Euro 2024 games

UEFA fines Albania, Serbia $10,700 each for nationalist fan banners at Euro 2024 games
  • Each federation was charged with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event”
  • UEFA also opened a separate investigation into alleged discrimination by Serbia fans

FRANKFURT: UEFA fined the Albanian and Serbian soccer federations 10,000 euros ($10,700) each on Wednesday for fans displaying banners with nationalist maps at European Championship games.
Each federation was charged with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event” because they are responsible for the conduct of their fans at stadiums.
Albania fans displayed a banner with a map of their country extending its borders into the territory of neighboring countries. It was shown during the 2-1 loss against Italy on Saturday in Dortmund.
Serbia fans’ banner included the independent territory of Kosovo and a slogan “No Surrender” at a 1-0 loss against England in Gelsenkirchen. A case was prosecuted by FIFA at the 2022 World Cup when players were photographed with a similar banner in their locker room ahead of a game against Brazil.
UEFA also opened a separate investigation into alleged discrimination by Serbia fans. The Kosovo soccer federation field a formal complaint with UEFA.
The Albanian federation was fined a further 27,375 euros ($29,400) for fans lighting flares and fireworks, throwing beer cups and a fan who went on the field.
Fans invading the playing area have been a regular feature in the first week of games at Euro 2024.
UEFA announced the sanctions of its disciplinary panel hours after Albania drew 2-2 with Croatia in their second Group B game.
Serbia’s federation must pay 4,500 euros ($4,800) more for fans throwing beer cups.


Southgate in a ‘happier’ place shut off from criticism

Southgate in a ‘happier’ place shut off from criticism
Updated 19 June 2024
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Southgate in a ‘happier’ place shut off from criticism

Southgate in a ‘happier’ place shut off from criticism
  • The Three Lions men got off to a winning start, but a 1-0 victory over Serbia attracted criticism for not maximizing the use of the attacking talent on offer to England
  • "My world is a happier place if I shut myself off," Southgate said

FRANKFURT: England boss Gareth Southgate said he will ignore media coverage during Euro 2024 as his joy at winning matches lasts just “45 seconds” due to the scrutiny he is under.
The Three Lions men got off to a winning start, but a 1-0 victory over Serbia attracted criticism for not maximizing the use of the attacking talent on offer to England.
Jude Bellingham stole the show with the only goal in Gelsenkirchen, but Phil Foden and Harry Kane were among those who struggled to shine in a slow start by one of the pre-tournament favorites.
“My world is a happier place if I shut myself off,” Southgate said at his pre-match press conference ahead of facing Denmark on Thursday.
“It’s not good from a global perspective because I haven’t got a clue about politics or (world) events, but for the next month that’s going to be a better place for me.”
Under Southgate England have risen back into contention for glory, reaching a final, semifinal and quarter-final in his three attempts at major tournaments.
However, that record has not sheltered him from a backlash at times due to the wealth of talent he has to choose from.
And Southgate conceded there should be more joy in leading his country.
“We’ve had some good results over the years so maybe even we take wins for granted. I should let the boys enjoy it more than they do,” he added.
“I get about 45 seconds of enjoyment. The whistle blows, I cuddle everybody, walk off the pitch and that’s about it. I hope they have a little bit longer than me!
“There should be more joy in it but that’s not my reality if I’m frank. My focus is to get qualified from the group, two tough opponents and two games to achieve that.”
Manchester City defender Kyle Walker said he is also keen to shut out any outside noise — apart from the opinion of his mum.
“I don’t read it at all,” said Walker. “If you have outside noise, positively or negatively, it can have an impact so I’d rather not see it and concentrate on what it’s in camp, what the gaffer says, and mainly what my mum says. She always tells me if I’ve had a good game.”
Victory over Denmark in Frankfurt will secure England’s place in the last 16 with a game to spare.
Luke Shaw remains the only player unavailable to Southgate as he continues his rehabilitation of a calf injury.
The Manchester United left-back has not played at all for club or country since February, but Southgate remains confident Shaw will have a role to play in the tournament.
“Luke won’t be involved tomorrow. He is actually on track for where he was originally.
“He needs a bit more volume work. There are days he needs to do more than the rest of the group and other days he needs to recover.”