Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final

Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final
Barcelona players attend a training session on the eve of their UEFA Women's Champions League final against Olympique Lyonnais at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on May 24, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 25 May 2024
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Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final

Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final
  • The titleholders from Spain have a shot at a statement victory by finally overcoming the storied French club and winning their third European title
  • Lyon won five titles in a row from 2016-20, and hold nearly every Women’s Champions League club record

BILBAO, Spain: Barcelona have to find a way past the most successful club in women’s soccer if they want to build on their recent dominance.

Barcelona will play in their fourth straight Women’s Champions League final on Saturday in Bilbao against record eight-time champion Lyon, the nemesis they have never been able to beat.

The titleholders from Spain have a shot at a statement victory by finally overcoming the storied French club and winning their third European title — all within a four-season span.

Lyon, meanwhile, will be hoping to reclaim the trophy after not getting out of the quarterfinals last season and seeing the hype grow about Barcelona and their star players Alexia Putellas and Aitana Bonmatí, who have won back-to-back world player of the year awards.

“We are a team that has won a lot in the past. But we remain really ambitious,” Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor, the first woman to win the league as a player and coach, said on Friday.

“For me we are the best team in the world and will continue to be no matter what happens tomorrow. I trust my players. I know there is all the individual and collective talent needed to achieve this goal.”

Bompastor, who can become the first woman to win two titles as a coach, said it’s natural for rivals to be extra motivated to try to bring down Lyon, which will be playing in its 11th European final in 15 seasons.

Lyon won five titles in a row from 2016-20, and hold nearly every Women’s Champions League club record. The French side has won all four of its matches against Barcelona, including 4-1 in the 2019 final in Hungary and 3-1 in the 2022 final in Italy.

“This Barça is different from the one we faced in the final two years ago,” Bompastor said. “They have made new signings and each final brings with it a different story. It will be a totally different game tomorrow.”

Bonmatí said Barcelona have “grown a lot” since the first final against Lyon.

“I would say that we didn’t have any kind of experience, and physically, we were far off the big teams,” she said. “Now, we are probably one of the teams to beat out of anyone.”

Barcelona beat Chelsea for their first European title in 2021, and Wolfsburg for their second in 2023.

“We’ve had a fantastic season, playing great football, and the recent weeks have seen us on a great dynamic,” said Barcelona coach Jonatan Giraldez, who will leave at the end of the season to join US club Washington Spirit. “It’ll be a great final because I have no doubt at all that these are the two best teams in the world right now. To have the chance to add another Champions League means we can try to show we are still the best team in Europe.”

The club had nine players in the Spain squad that broke through with the nation’s first Women’s World Cup title last year. Barcelona also sent eight players to the semifinals of the inaugural Women’s Nations League, which Spain won in February.

Barcelona are trying to become the third team to win three European titles, after the eight by Lyon and four by Eintracht Frankfurt. They reached the final by overcoming a 1-0 first-leg loss to Chelsea at home in the semifinals. Lyon eliminated French rival Paris Saint-Germain.

Lyon have lost two of their goal scorers from the 2022 final in Turin — Amandine Henry and Catarina Macario. The other, Ada Hegerberg, had been nursing a injury but was expected to be fit to play on Saturday.

“Ada has resumed normal team training,” Bompastor said. “She could be available tomorrow.”
 


Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024

Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024
Updated 20 sec ago
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Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024

Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024
  • A draw against a Poland side who are already eliminated will be enough to secure France’s last-16 place

PADERBORN, Germany: France midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni says he is not concerned about criticism of the team’s performances so far at Euro 2024 as the favorites stand on the brink of a place in the last 16 despite not lighting up the tournament.
“Some people want to win and do so by playing well, and others just want to win. Personally I just want to win, whether we play well or not,” the Real Madrid star told reporters at the French team’s base in Paderborn on Sunday.
“The most important thing is winning and getting three points because I think at the end of our careers what we will remember is what we have won, not how we played.”
The 2022 World Cup runners-up go into Tuesday’s final Group D game against Poland in Dortmund with four points from two outings having scored just once via an own goal while keeping two clean sheets.
They beat Austria 1-0 in their opening match after Maximilian Woeber put through his own net, and then drew 0-0 with the Netherlands in Leipzig in the absence of the injured Kylian Mbappe.
That is despite France boasting supreme attacking quality in their ranks beyond their captain.
Yet Les Bleus have often been criticized in the past for not playing more expansive football under coach Didier Deschamps.
They went on to win the 2018 World Cup after laboring through the group stage, recording a narrow 2-1 win against Australia thanks to a penalty and an own goal, then edging Peru 1-0 before a 0-0 draw against Denmark.
“In recent times we have had quite a lot of good results and won titles with this coach. That is the most important thing,” Tchouameni said.
“I understand that some people want to see a team play really good football.
“Maybe we are not the team that plays the best football, but we are the ones who are most often in the latter stages and that is the main thing for me.”
A draw against a Poland side who are already eliminated will be enough to secure France’s last-16 place.
Mbappe could return after sitting out the Netherlands match as he recovers from a broken nose suffered against Austria and adapts to wearing a protective face mask.
“I think everyone knows he is really eager to play in the next match,” Tchouameni said of his future Madrid teammate.
“As for the mask, I think he is starting to get used to it. Of course he would rather not wear it but I think if you ask the doctor he would say there is no choice.
“But that won’t change anything for him. We know that when he is on the field he will bring a lot to the team.”
Even a defeat against Poland might not stop France progressing, depending on the result of the other group game between Austria and the Netherlands.
However, a victory might not be enough for the French to top the group, if the Dutch win too and so by a bigger margin.


Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies
Updated 58 min 9 sec ago
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Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

BERLIN: UEFA will increase security during the rest of Euro 2024 after several pitch invaders attempted to take selfies with Portugal’s star striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 39-year-old forward posed for a photo with a young boy during the 3-0 win over Turkiye in Group F on Saturday in Dortmund, but grew exasperated as at least five more fans attempted to do the same.
“Safety and security in the stadium, on the pitch and at team facilities are the ultimate priority for UEFA,” the European football governing body told AFP on Sunday.
“To this end, additional safety measures will be deployed in the stadiums to further meet the requirements of the tournament, and to prevent such incidents.”
One security guard crashed into Paris Saint-Germain striker Goncalo Ramos while trying to stop a pitch invader reaching Ronaldo.
Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said it was lucky that the supporters who ran on to the pitch were only trying to take photographs.
“It is a concern because today we were lucky that the intentions of the fans were good,” said Martinez.
“It is a very difficult moment if those intentions are wrong... probably we should give a message to the fans that it is not the right way.”
UEFA said any spectators entering the field of play will be thrown out of the stadium, be banned for further matches and face “the filing of a formal criminal complaint for trespass.”
Portugal qualified for the last 16 with their comfortable win over Turkiye as Group F winners.


Albania team says UEFA banned player Mirlind Daku for two Euro 2024 games after nationalist chants

Albania team says UEFA banned player Mirlind Daku for two Euro 2024 games after nationalist chants
Updated 23 June 2024
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Albania team says UEFA banned player Mirlind Daku for two Euro 2024 games after nationalist chants

Albania team says UEFA banned player Mirlind Daku for two Euro 2024 games after nationalist chants
  • Daku joined in chanting slogans against Serbia and North Macedonia
  • 26-year-old forward began playing for Albania last year having used his right under FIFA rules to change his eligibility from Kosovo

TIRANA: The Albanian soccer federation said UEFA banned its player Mirlind Daku on Sunday for two games after leading fans in nationalist chants at the European Championship.
Daku took a megaphone after Albania’s 2-2 draw with Croatia on Wednesday in Hamburg and joined in chanting slogans against Serbia and North Macedonia.
The Albanian federation also said UEFA imposed fines totaling 47,250 euros ($50,500) for incidents at the game, where its fans joined Croatian fans and chanted an anti-Serb slogan.
The Serbian soccer federation said it would leave the tournament if UEFA did not punish the incidents.
Albania play a decisive group-stage game on Monday against Spain. If Albania advance, Daku also would sit out the round of 16 game.
Daku later apologized for his actions in a social media posting, as UEFA appointed an in-house investigator to study his “alleged inappropriate behavior.”
The 26-year-old forward began playing for Albania last year having used his right under FIFA rules to change his eligibility from Kosovo, the ethnic-Albanian former province of Serbia that declared independence 16 years ago.
UEFA also announced charges against its Albanian and Croatian member federations for “potential racist and/or discriminatory conduct” by fans on Wednesday, who were reportedly chanting “Kill the Serbs” in Serbian.
The Albanian soccer Federation, or FSHF, called on the fans to be “accountable and avoid incidents and riots.”
“The FSHF invites fans and football lovers to support to the end the Albanian national team in this magical and historic path in Euro 2024 by showing citizenry and accountability through correct behavior and by respecting the rules and the opponents,” said a statement.
Albania have impressed at Euro 2024 in an opening 2-1 loss against Italy and then the 2-2 draw with Croatia. The team likely need to beat Spain to advance.


Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica
Updated 23 June 2024
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Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica
  • Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game
  • Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas

SANTA CLARA, California: Goals from substitutes Jhonder Cadiz and Eduard Bello gave Venezuela a 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador in their Copa America Group B match on Saturday.

In the group’s other game, Mexico made a winning start to their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in Houston but lost their captain Edson Alvarez to injury.

Ecuador were forced to play with 10 men from the 22nd minute of the game at Levi Stadium when striker Enner Valencia was sent off for dangerous play.

The 34-year-old forward struck the chest of Venezuela defender Jose Martinez with his boot while challenging for a high, bouncing ball in the box and was initially awarded a yellow card but after a VAR review he was shown a straight red.

Ecuador, which had been in control of the game before the dismissal, responded well and went ahead in the 40th minute when Venezuela failed to clear a free-kick into the box and Jeremy Sarmiento pounced on the loose ball to drill home.

Venezuela head coach Fernando Batista made two changes at the break, bringing on Cadiz and Bello and both were to make a decisive impact.

“Vinotinto” striker Salomon Rondon laid the ball off to Cadiz, whose low side-footed shot from the edge of the box took a slight deflection as it flashed past Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez.

Then, in the 74th minute, Alexander Gonzalez whipped in a cross from the right, met with a diving header from Rondon which was parried by Dominguez but Bello reacted to fire home the loose ball.

“To be able to score a goal, which helped in the victory, and to have contributed to the first goal, is a joy. These three points are very important for what’s to come,” said a delighted Bello.

Ecuador’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said the red card for Valencia had forced him to change the team’s approach.

“We had to change the plan, wait a bit behind the opposition. It’s clear that when you play with 10 men you are at the mercy of the opposition for many minutes, even if you don’t want to play that way,” he said.

“Obviously it’s not the dream start, but there are two more games left and we have the team to compete. The most important thing is that the team recovers its spirit for what is to come.”

Mexico labored for long stretches against Jamaica before a superbly struck 69th minute goal from Gerardo Arteaga earned them the three points.

Jaime Lozano’s team suffered a major blow when their skipper, West Ham midfielder Alvarez had to go off in the 29th minute after going down without contact.

’El Tri’ struggled to create opportunities in the opening half with their best effort, a curling shot just wide from Luis Romo, just before the break.

Jamaica thought they had the lead in the 50th minute but Michail Antonio’s diving header was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

That letoff woke up the Mexicans who pushed forward with greater purpose. Luis Chavez forced a good save out of Jamaica keeper Jahmali Waite and Julian Quinones fired over the bar after cutting in from the left.

Waite was alert again to keep out a Santiago Gimenez near post blast as the pressure built and finally Mexico got the breakthrough when the ball fell to Arteaga on the edge of the box and he blasted a perfectly struck half-volley into the far corner.

Jamaica had one last opportunity to salvage a point but Dexter Lembikisa’s low shot was turned round the post by Mexico keeper Julio Gonzalez.

Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game.

“A goal, whether for or against, changes your mood a lot. And seeing that it had been disallowed, that also lifted us a little bit more to keep insisting and looking for the goal ourselves,” the left-back told TUDN.

Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas.

“We know there’s not going to be an easy opponent. Thank God we won against Jamaica and now we want to go for another win,” said Arteaga.


De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track

De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track
Updated 23 June 2024
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De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track

De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track
  • All four teams in Group E have three points, meaning there is all to play for in the final round of games on Wednesday

COLOGNE, Germany: Kevin De Bruyne scored and Belgium got its European Championship campaign up and running after beating Romania 2-0 on Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked Belgians shook off the shock of losing to Slovakia in their opening game by responding with a dominant performance in front of the Belgium royal family at Cologne Stadium.
Youri Tielemans gave them a flying start with a goal from the edge of the area in the second minute.
De Bruyne effectively killed the game off in the 80th after converting direct from Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels’ long kick.
All four teams in Group E have three points, meaning there is all to play for in the final round of games on Wednesday.
While Belgium won, there was more frustration for Romelu Lukaku, who had a third goal ruled out by VAR at these Euros.
Still, he was at the center of his team’s great start when laying the ball off for Tielemans to score with a low drive from the edge of the box.
It was just what Belgium needed after the Slovakia stunner, which raised the prospect of another early exit from a major tournament after being eliminated at the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.
The format of the Euros, in which the four best third-place teams advance, leaves more room for error. But with memories of Qatar still fresh, another defeat would have broken the confidence of a team criticized for failing to live up to expectations in the past.
Tielemans’ goal seemed to lift the pressure, and Belgium ruled the rest of the half with 67 percent of possession.
Lukaku thought he scored after the break, but VAR said he strayed offside before firing past Romania keeper Florin Nita.
The longer the game went on without Belgium scoring a second, the more the tension rose.
Dennis Man could have evened the score when running through on goal, but was denied by Casteels.
The keeper then turned provider with a long punt upfield, which De Bruyne raced on to and fired home.
Under former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Portugal advanced to the knockout phase after a 3-0 win against Turkiye in Group F. Georgia picked up its first ever point at a major tournament after a drawing the Czech Republic 1-1 and still has hopes of advancing.