PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game

PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game
Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) lifts the trophy as he celebrates with teammates on the podium after winning the French Cup final against Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, northern France on May 25, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 26 May 2024
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PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game

PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game
  • Mbappe: Now, I have nothing left with PSG. But I’m very happy to have been able to finish with a trophy
  • PSG won the league and cup for the first time since 2020 when they achieved a domestic treble by also lifting the now defunct League Cup

VILLENEUVE D’ASCQ, France: Paris Saint-Germain beat Lyon 2-1 in the French Cup final and completed the domestic double in Kylian Mbappé’s last game for the club on Saturday.

France winger Ousmane Dembele and Spain midfielder Fabian Ruiz scored for PSG in the first half.

Lyon defender Jake O’Brien got a consolation goal in the second half.

PSG won the league and cup for the first time since 2020 when they achieved a domestic treble by also lifting the now defunct League Cup.

Mbappe celebrated with a big roar after the final whistle. With an equally big smile on his face, he hugged and high-fived his teammates. The ecstatic PSG staff lifted Mbappe and threw him in the air.

“You feel a bit more the weight of things because you realize that it’s really over,” Mbappe told broadcaster beIN Sports. “When I said goodbye to the Parc des Princes, there were still some games left, so you are still focused on what awaits you. Now, I have nothing left with PSG. But I’m very happy to have been able to finish with a trophy.”

Despite losing in the final, Lyon still qualified for the Europa League by finishing sixth in the league.

Dembélé opened the scoring in the 22nd minute by heading home a cross from Nuno Mendes.

Ruiz doubled the lead by converting a rebound in the 34th after his header was blocked by O’Brien.

Lyon goalkeeper Lucas Perri pulled off some outstanding saves in the opening minutes, denying Bradley Barcola and Warren Zaire-Emery, but misjudged the flight of the ball when Mendes made the cross for the opener.

O’Brien cut the deficit to 2-1 by heading in a corner in the 55th.

PSG has struggled in the air this season and nearly conceded from another corner in the 64th, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma tipped a header from Lyon left back Nicolas Tagliafico over the bar.

“The players are disappointed but let’s not forget that we must also be proud of what we have done,” Lyon coach Pierre Sage told broadcaster beIN Sports.

Lyon was bottom of the league in December but racked up more points than any other club in the second half of the season to finish sixth.

Mbappe tried hard to find the net in his last outing for PSG. A curling shot from the edge of the box didn’t trouble Perri in the 20th and he volleyed over the bar in the 41st.

In seven seasons with PSG, Mbappe has won 15 trophies, including four French Cups.

Although Mbappe did not add to his tally, he leaves as PSG’s all-time top scorer in all competitions with 256 in 308 appearances.

“I’m happy to have been part of its history and to have made it a bit,” Mbappe said.

The French Cup final was marred by violence as Lyon and PSG supporters clashed on a highway leading to the venue a few hours before kickoff.

Supporters threw flares and windows were smashed on buses full of supporters. Some buses were set on fire.

The match was relocated to Stade Pierre Mauroy in the north of France because of preparations for the Olympic Games.

Villeneuve d’Ascq became the first city outside the Greater Paris area to host the French Cup final since the competition’s inception in 1917.


Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener

Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener
Updated 16 June 2024
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Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener

Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener
  • Italy are in some ways an unknown quantity coming into this tournament, with the reigning champions having also missed the last two World Cups and failed to fully convince during qualifying

DORTMUND, Germany: Italy recovered from conceding the fastest goal in the competition’s history to get their defense of the European Championship title off to a winning start on Saturday as they came back to beat Albania 2-1 in front of a partisan crowd.
Nedim Bajrami stunned the Italians and delighted a huge Albanian support in Dortmund as he smashed in the opener after just 23 seconds, his strike pulverising the previous record for the quickest goal at the Euros of 67 seconds by Dmitri Kirichenko of Russia in 2004.
Yet Italy’s response to falling behind was quick too, as Alessandro Bastoni headed the Azzurri level on 11 minutes and Nicolo Barella’s glorious effort put them ahead just past the quarter-hour mark.
From then on Luciano Spalletti’s team looked much more assured, although they really should have won by a greater margin rather than face an anxious finale as Albania pushed for an equalizer.
Their performance — the first 23 seconds apart — was largely encouraging before an enticing showdown with fellow heavyweights Spain in nearby Gelsenkirchen next Thursday.
Whatever happens in that match, Italy are already well-placed to advance to the knockout phase of Euro 2024 from Group B, in which Spain defeated Croatia 3-0 earlier on Saturday in Berlin.
Italy are in some ways an unknown quantity coming into this tournament, with the reigning champions having also missed the last two World Cups and failed to fully convince during qualifying.
Only five of Italy’s line-up at kick-off here started the final of the last Euros three years ago, with a new-look team featuring Bologna center-back Riccardo Calafiori winning just his third cap.
Albania, though, are appearing at just their second major tournament having also gone to Euro 2016.
The novelty of the experience for them helps explain why the home of Borussia Dortmund was a sea of excitable Albanian fans decked in red and black who made up the vast majority of the crowd.
They could hardly believe it when their team, coached by the Brazilian former Arsenal and Barcelona left-back Sylvinho, opened the scoring almost straight from kick-off.
Italy’s Federico Dimarco took a throw from the left-back position but played it loosely back into his own box. Bastoni was caught on the back foot, and Bajrami — who plays in Italy for Sassuolo — pounced to control and fire past Gianluigi Donnarumma at the goalkeeper’s near post.
It was a similar start to Italy’s last European Championship match, when Luke Shaw put England ahead inside two minutes in the final at Wembley in 2021 before the Azzurri came back to win on penalties.
This time they drew level when Dimarco and Lorenzo Pellegrini played a short corner routine on the left before the latter crossed for Inter Milan center-back Bastoni to head in at the back post.
Italy had regained their composure and soon went in front on 16 minutes, a Jasir Asani clearance dropping straight to another Inter player in Barella, who made the cleanest of contacts at the edge of the area to send a first-time shot past goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha.
They should have added to their lead before the interval, with Davide Frattesi hitting the post after meeting a lovely reverse pass by Gianluca Scamacca in the box.
Scamacca was then denied by Strakosha, while Fedrico Chiesa curled a shot just wide on the hour mark.
Italy then sat back, but Albania did not manage another attempt on target and the second-lowest ranked nation in the competition could not find an equalizer despite their best efforts late on.
Substitute Rey Manaj came closest after getting in behind in the 90th minute, but he could not beat Donnarumma.


Netherlands and Poland denied training on new Hamburg stadium field ahead of Euro 2024 game

Netherlands and Poland denied training on new Hamburg stadium field ahead of Euro 2024 game
Updated 15 June 2024
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Netherlands and Poland denied training on new Hamburg stadium field ahead of Euro 2024 game

Netherlands and Poland denied training on new Hamburg stadium field ahead of Euro 2024 game
  • “We are not allowed to train here either, because of the bad quality of the pitch,” Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman said
  • UEFA insisted in a statement the surface “is in good condition and in order to preserve its quality the official (training) will take place at the respective team base camp”

HAMBURG: The newly laid field in the Hamburg stadium was off limits to the Netherlands and Poland on Saturday, one day before their opening game at the European Championship.
A new grass surface was ordered at Volksparkstadion after host club Hamburger completed their home fixtures on May 19 in the Bundesliga second tier.
Four weeks later, UEFA wanted to protect it from the teams’ traditional eve-of-game practice before the stadium hosts its first game at Euro 2024. Hamburg is due to stage five games including one quarterfinal.
“We are not allowed to train here either, because of the bad quality of the pitch,” Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman said at the venue where the teams kick off on Sunday at 3 p.m. local time (1300 GMT).
UEFA insisted in a statement the surface “is in good condition and in order to preserve its quality the official (training) will take place at the respective team base camp.”
Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk suggested the field was similar to the one in Frankfurt where the Oranje lost to Germany 2-1 in a March friendly.
“It’s not very good but both teams have to face it,” said Van Dijk, a couple of hours after Poland captain Piotr Zieliński suggested, “It doesn’t look that bad.”
UEFA seeks to give national teams the best possible playing surfaces at its showpiece tournament and often installs new fields at stadiums and training camps. It has replacements on standby if an entire playing field needs to be relaid during the monthlong tournament.
Switzerland made a formal complaint to UEFA this week about the training camp surface it was given near Stuttgart, though on Saturday it did not seem to have harmed the team’s preparation. The slick Swiss beat Hungary 3-1 in their opening game.


England have earned right to be Euro 2024 favorites: Kane

England have earned right to be Euro 2024 favorites: Kane
Updated 15 June 2024
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England have earned right to be Euro 2024 favorites: Kane

England have earned right to be Euro 2024 favorites: Kane
  • “Every tournament poses different expectations but we’ve earned the right to be classed as one of the favorites,” Kane said
  • “We’re here to win ultimately and there will be nothing better than to do that for the nation”

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: England captain Harry Kane said the Three Lions “are here to win” Euro 2024 in Germany as they aim to live up to the tag of pre-tournament favorites in their opening game against Serbia on Sunday.
Under manager Gareth Southgate, England have come close to ending a 58-year drought to win a major tournament on three occasions without getting over the line.
Kane won the Golden Boot as Southgate’s men bowed out to Croatia at the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and then missed a crucial late penalty in a quarter-final exit to France four years later.
But it was on home soil at the last European Championship that England came closest to glory under Southgate as they lost the final on penalties to Italy at Wembley.
Since then, the development of Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka has helped form a fearsome attacking arsenal alongside Bayern Munich striker Kane.
Between them the quartet scored 114 goals for their club sides this season.
“Every tournament poses different expectations but we’ve earned the right to be classed as one of the favorites,” Kane told a pre-match press conference in Gelsenkirchen.
“We’re here to win ultimately and there will be nothing better than to do that for the nation.
“There’s a lot of top teams and tomorrow night is our focus. We know how tough it was to get to the final last time.
“We’re going to have to do that again and even more if we want to do that again and hopefully one step further.”
Southgate, though, warned his side will have to be “exceptional” to beat Europe’s best.
Germany crushed Scotland 5-1 to open the tournament in style on Friday, while Spain swept aside Croatia 3-0 on Saturday with three first-half goals.
England are expected to cruise through a group also containing Denmark and Slovenia.
But Southgate has stressed the importance of taking one step at a time on what he has speculated could well be his final tournament in charge.
“You’ve seen Germany play the way they did last night, Spain in the first half today. There are a lot of good teams in this tournament. We have to be exceptional to progress through the group and have the opportunity to go further,” said Southgate.
“Our focus is to qualify from the group. When you’re trying to achieve exceptional things you have to break it down into chunks. Our first priority is to get through the group and work from there.”
A heartbreaking defeat to Italy in the final three years ago compounded a damaging night for English football.
Thousands of ticketless fans stormed the turnstiles and disabled entrances of Wembley in ugly scenes that marred the final.
German police have labelled Sunday’s fixture “high risk,” with only reduced-strength beer available to fans at Schalke’s home stadium.
Southgate called on the tens of thousands that will travel from England for the match to enjoy themselves responsibly.
“I expect everyone to enjoy the football,” he added.
“I’ve been fortunate to travel to a lot of football tournaments and they’re great carnivals and great chances to meet people from different parts of the world.
“The whole of Europe can come together and support their team and get behind their team.”


Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma

Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma
Updated 15 June 2024
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Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma

Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma
  • He eventually resumed his career after being fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, making his return to international duty nine months later
  • “For me personally, everything more than one game is improvement, but it’s been a goal since the beginning to come back to this level,” Eriksen said

STUTTGART, Germany: Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen said his traumatic collapse in his team’s opening game of Euro 2020 is not a moment he regularly thinks about as he prepares to make his first appearance at the tournament since.
Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest three years ago and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator in front of a stunned Copenhagen crowd during a 1-0 loss to Finland.
He eventually resumed his career after being fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, making his return to international duty nine months later.
The Manchester United midfielder played for Denmark at the 2022 World Cup and is in line to start their Euro 2024 opener against Slovenia in Stuttgart on Sunday.
“For me personally, everything more than one game is improvement, but it’s been a goal since the beginning to come back to this level,” the 32-year-old Eriksen told reporters on Saturday.
“It’s been three years; a lot of things have happened in the meantime and so honestly I don’t think about it on a daily basis.
“It’s not something I overthink. I’m just looking forward to playing football and I think about the positives.”
The shocking incident further united a close group as the Danes reached the semifinals of Euro 2020 before losing 2-1 to England after extra time at Wembley.
Denmark will face England again in Group C this time along with Serbia.
“I think those are great memories and of course it started very negative and very pessimistic but later on everything got more optimistic and we got more free,” said Eriksen, capped 130 times by Denmark.
“But it’s been a lot of years since then and we’re just going to focus on the games now.”
Rasmus Hojlund’s seven goals in qualifying helped Denmark top their section above Slovenia on head-to-head record, but the Manchester United striker has scored only once in his past eight internationals.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand played down any concerns over the youngster’s lack of recent goals for his country.
“It comes in phases. Sometimes you have this period where you score a lot of goals,” said Hjulmand.
“But thankfully Rasmus always makes a big impression in every game. He’s dangerous and he’s fully motivated but he always makes a difference, which is the most important thing.
“The goals will come and sometimes you’re gonna have to fight more for the goals and other times they’re just gonna go in every time you kick.”
Benjamin Sesko, who earlier this week extended his RB Leipzig contract until 2029, will be the main threat Denmark must try to neutralize.
The highly-rated 21-year-old led Slovenia with five goals in qualifying and finished his first Bundesliga season with 14 goals in 31 games.
“Sesko is very fast and he has a great left foot. It’s a player we know and it’s a player we’ve analyzed a lot because he is significant for Slovenia,” said Hjulmand.
“Sesko is a big star and a young attacker. We are ready for him.”


Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history

Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history
Updated 15 June 2024
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Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history

Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history
  • The three-time European champions have often been accused of being toothless in attack during recent major tournaments
  • Morata broke the deadlock in the 29th minute with his seventh Euros goal

BERLIN: Spain made a dream start to Euro 2024 as Alvaro Morata scored in a statement 3-0 victory over Croatia in Berlin on Saturday, with Lamine Yamal becoming the youngest player in the competition’s history.
The three-time European champions have often been accused of being toothless in attack during recent major tournaments, but produced an eye-catching display at the Olympiastadion to cut apart a disappointing Croatia.
Morata broke the deadlock in the 29th minute with his seventh Euros goal, moving joint-third on the all-time list alongside Alan Shearer and Antoine Griezmann.
Fabian Ruiz added a second shortly afterwards with a wonderful individual strike.
Yamal made his mark with the assist for Dani Carvajal to effectively kill the game as a contest on the stroke of half-time, while Croatia striker Bruno Petkovic missed a late penalty.
This repeat of last year’s Nations League final, won by Spain on penalties after a 0-0 draw, suggests La Roja are capable of contending for a record-breaking fourth European Championship title.
World Cup semifinalists Croatia, though, have it all to do if they are to reach the knockout phase for a fifth consecutive major tournament, with games against Albania and holders Italy to come in a difficult Group B.
Luka Modric, so often their inspiration, was substituted midway through the second half by coach Zlatko Dalic.
Spain boss Luis de la Fuente named an exciting starting XI, including wingers Nico Williams and Yamal.
The Barcelona starlet, 16 years and 338 days old, beat the previous record for youngest player at a Euros held by Polish international Kacper Kozlowski, who played at Euro 2020 at 17 years and 246 days old.
Croatia enjoyed the vast majority of support from the stands, with their fans holding up one huge banner during their national anthem, reading “When we get going, heaven and earth will burn.”
But Croatia started slowly, as Spain dominated possession in trademark fashion.
Spain also showed their increasing versatility under De la Fuente with their first goal, as one excellent through ball from inside his own half by Ruiz sent Morata clean through and the captain made no mistake with a cool finish past a stranded Dominik Livakovic.
Ruiz put Spain in total control just three minutes later, jinking past two Croatia defenders inside the box before shooting through the legs of Josip Sutalo and into the bottom corner.
Croatia almost pulled one back immediately as the game started to echo the end-to-end nature of the two teams’ thrilling last-16 clash at Euro 2020, won 5-3 by Spain after extra time.
Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon got down quickly to keep out Marcelo Brozovic’s shot and Lovro Majer could only find the side-netting from the rebound.
Croatia continued to create chances, as Josko Gvardiol’s cross-cum-shot narrowly avoided both Ante Budimir in the center and the far post.
But full-back Carvajal, who scored the opening goal in Real Madrid’s Champions League final triumph over Borussia Dortmund earlier this month, put the game to bed in first-half added time.
Yamal collected the ball after a corner was cleared and curled a delicious cross into the middle for Carvajal to stretch and stab home on the volley.
Croatia tried to press forward early in the second period but left spaces for Spain to exploit and Yamal was denied another record for youngest Euros scorer when Livakovic produced a fine save to turn away his low effort.
Marc Cucurella, a controversial selection by De la Fuente at left-back, made a goal-saving block to prevent Josip Stanisic giving Croatia hope.
Substitute Petkovic thought he had pulled one back late on when he tapped in after his penalty was saved by Simon.
But the goal was ruled out by VAR for encroachment by Ivan Perisic as Spain added a clean sheet to an almost perfect outing.