Portugal’s record collector Ronaldo ‘thinking big’ at Euro 2024

Portugal’s record collector Ronaldo ‘thinking big’ at Euro 2024
Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo during a training session at the team base in Harsewinkel, western Germany on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2024
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Portugal’s record collector Ronaldo ‘thinking big’ at Euro 2024

Portugal’s record collector Ronaldo ‘thinking big’ at Euro 2024
  • Portugal kick off their tournament against Czech Republic in Leipzig on Tuesday with Ronaldo set to start and appear at a record-extending sixth Euros

LEIPZIG: Superstar Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo is determined to make more European Championship history this summer.

The veteran forward, 39, says his team “deserve” to win another major international trophy to add to their singular triumph, at Euro 2016.

Portugal kick off their tournament against Czech Republic in Leipzig on Tuesday with Ronaldo set to start and appear at a record-extending sixth Euros.

Roberto Martinez’s side qualified with a 100 percent record and should progress with ease from Group F, which also contains Turkiye and Georgia.

“I believe this generation deserves to win a competition of this magnitude,” Ronaldo told reporters upon arrival in Germany, setting his sights on the Henri Delaunay trophy.

The former Real Madrid hitman triumphed with Portugal in 2016 but limped off injured against France in the final, with Eder firing the team to glory in extra time.

Now plying his trade in Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr, Ronaldo netted twice against the Republic of Ireland in a tuneup friendly last week to extend his international goals record to 130.

Thus far, 14 of those have come at European Championships, making him the competition’s all-time top scorer ahead of France great Michel Platini on nine.

Ronaldo first appeared at the tournament in 2004 on home soil, scoring against eventual winners Greece on his Euros debut, and he has also struck in every edition since.

The forward has 25 appearances at the finals, missing only one game at the tournament on the five occasions he has been selected as part of Portugal’s squad.

If Ronaldo nets in Germany he will become the oldest-ever Euros goalscorer, with the current record set by Austria’s Ivica Vastic in 2008, scoring at 38 years and 257 days old.

“I enjoy football; records are a consequence, so for me it’s not a target, because I think they come naturally,” said Ronaldo.

“I’m happy to have a sixth European Championship and it’s about enjoying it in the best way, playing well, making sure the team can win, trying to give my all and enjoying it.”

Many believed Ronaldo’s time was finally up on the international stage when he was dropped for the last two matches of Portugal’s 2022 World Cup campaign after failing to score from open play in the three group games.

However, Martinez has stuck by the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. Ronaldo started every qualifier he was available for, scoring eight goals in the process.

Despite his long and storied international career, Ronaldo said he still suffers with nerves after a men’s record 207 caps for his country.

“There’s always that tingling in the stomach, especially the day before the game, but that’s normal, that’s part of it and I’m glad I feel it, because when I don’t feel it, it’s better to give up and stop,” said the forward.

“I still feel quite motivated, it’s a different competition and we’re all prepared.”

Ronaldo’s ambition is fuel for his teammates to thrive on.

“Knowing Cristiano, he’ll always think big, and we’ll keep up with him,” Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot told a news conference Saturday.

“He’s the one who’s won the most among us... if we all realize that we have to go step by step, we can go far and I’m confident of that.”

While Portugal are among the favorites to lift the trophy, the Czech Republic have not gone beyond the quarterfinals for 20 years.

Like their opponents the Czechs have lifted the trophy on one occasion — in 1976 as Czechoslovakia.

A three-man defense with two wing-backs led by Slavia Prague’s Tomas Holes must find a way to stop Ronaldo if they are to start strongly.

However, few sides have managed that since Portugal’s talisman took the stage two decades ago.

One of the few challenges left for Ronaldo at the tournament is to score a hat trick, last achieved by Spain’s David Villa in 2008.


SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list

SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list
Updated 15 July 2024
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SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list

SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list
  • Opening round of games takes place from Aug. 22, with champions Al-Hilal starting title defence at Al-Okhdood
  • New ‘Magic Rounds’ will feature derbies across Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province in weeks 9 and 26

Riyadh: The Saudi Pro League’s competitions department has officially announced the fixtures for the upcoming 2024-25 Roshn Saudi League season, which is set to kick off from Aug. 22-24.

The opening weekend will see reigning champions Al-Hilal beginning their title defense away against Al-Okhdood.

This season will feature 306 matches, meticulously scheduled to accommodate international breaks, continental competitions, and Saudi Arabian Football Federation tournaments. Notably, no fixtures will be held during the last 10 days of Ramadan, ensuring respect for the holy month.

The league has also prioritized player welfare by ensuring a minimum two-day rest between matches.

One of the highlights of this season is the introduction of “Magic Rounds.” Scheduled for Matchweeks 9 and 26, these special weekends will host thrilling derbies across Riyadh, Jeddah, and the Eastern Province, showcasing rivalries such as Al-Ahli versus Al-Ittihad and Al-Hilal against Al-Nassr.

The league’s fixture list is designed to ensure a balanced competition. Each team will play nine home matches and eight away matches in the first half, mirroring the same structure in the second half. Teams will avoid playing more than two consecutive matches at home or away, with a maximum of two such occurrences permitted per half of the season.

Clubs from the same city will be paired to guarantee that when one team is at home, the other is away, promoting exciting local derbies. Additionally, the season’s start and end are synchronized; a team playing at home in Matchweek 1 will play away in Matchweek 34, and vice versa. The final four rounds will feature each team playing two home and two away matches, ensuring an electrifying conclusion to the season.

The season opens with a series of compelling matchups.

Al-Shabab will host Al-Ettifaq, while 2023-24 runners-up Al-Nassr will face Al-Raed at home. Newly promoted Al-Orobah will travel to Jeddah to challenge Al-Ahli, and Al-Taawoun will welcome Al-Fayha. In Ar Rass, Al-Ittihad will take on newcomers Al-Kholood. The 2023-24 First Division League champions, Al-Qadsiah, will host Al-Fateh, and Damac will begin their campaign at home against Al-Khaleej, with Al-Riyadh traveling to Makkah to meet Al-Wehda.

The Roshn Saudi League fixtures list. photo credit: @SPL_EN

The SPL will announce match dates and kick-off times in a phased manner:
July 18: breakdown for Matchweeks 1 and 2.
Aug. 18: (Subject to AFC draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 3 to 8.
Sept. 30: (Subject to King’s Cup Round of 16 draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 9 to 13.
Oct. 31: (Subject to King’s Cup quarter-final draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 14 to 22.
Feb. 22: (Subject to AFC Round of 16 draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 23 to 34.

These announcements will depend on confirmation from the AFC and SAFF regarding their respective competition draw dates.

As the league prepares for another thrilling season, fans can look forward to a calendar packed with drama, excitement, and unforgettable moments in Saudi football.


Thomas Mueller ends Germany career following Euro 2024

Thomas Mueller ends Germany career following Euro 2024
Updated 15 July 2024
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Thomas Mueller ends Germany career following Euro 2024

Thomas Mueller ends Germany career following Euro 2024
  • Mueller, who turns 35 in September, was a key member of the German team that won the 2014 World Cup

BERLIN: Germany striker Thomas Mueller said Monday he was retiring from international football after a disappointing Euro 2024 in which the host nation were eliminated in the quarter-finals.
“After 131 national team games and 45 goals, I am saying goodbye,” Mueller said in a video statement announcing his decision.
Mueller, who turns 35 in September, was a key member of the German team that won the 2014 World Cup.
The charismatic forward also scored the opening goal in Germany’s unforgettable 7-1 win over the hosts Brazil in the semi final.
“When I played my first international match for the German national team over 14 years ago, I could never have dreamed of all this,” Mueller said in the video.
“It always made me very proud to play for my country. We celebrated together and sometimes shed a tear together,” he said.
A tearful Mueller had hinted at retirement following Germany’s exit from Euro 2024.
The tournament hosts lost 2-1 in the quarter-final to Spain, who went on to lift the trophy on Sunday against England.
After the Spain game, Mueller said he would hold talks with national team coach Julian Nagelsmann and decide whether it was the “sensible option” to step aside in favor of younger players.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the only member of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side still involved in the national team set up.
Germany and Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos announced before Euro 2024 that he would retire from football after the tournament.
Unlike Kroos, Mueller will continue to play for his club Bayern Munich, where he is under contract until 2025.
Only Lothar Matthaeus and Miroslav Klose have played more games for Germany than Mueller, who is also Germany’s sixth highest goalscorer of all time.


Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America

Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America
Updated 15 July 2024
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Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America

Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America
  • The win was the third straight major tournament title for Argentine following their 2021 Copa victory
  • Messi appeared to suffer a noncontact injury while running full speed on the pitch

MIAMI: Lautaro Martinez scored an extra-time winner as Argentina beat Colombia 1-0 to win a record 16th Copa America title at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.

A poor game which had been marred by security and crowd issues, forcing a 82-minute delay, was decided by a quality finish from Martinez — his fifth goal of the tournament.

The win was the third straight major tournament title for Argentine following their 2021 Copa victory and their triumph in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

There were tears before the celebrations though with Argentina captain Lionel Messi going off injured in the 66th minute watching the rest of the game distraught on the bench, while there was an emotional farewell for Angel Di Maria in his final game for the national team.

For Colombia, whose only title came in the 2001 Copa America, it was a disappointing night when little seemed to work for Nestor Lorenzo’s team.

There was chaos around entry to the stadium for fans, with organizers blaming supporters for trying to enter without tickets while fans blamed the lack of an efficient entry system to the venue.

The scenes were alarming with some fans needing medical attention for heat exhaustion but after the decision to suddenly throw open the gates, with no checks on those entering, the situation was largely resolved and the game finally went ahead.

Colombia’s Jhon Corboba hit the bottom of the post with a speculative shot in the seventh minute but neither side were able to find their flow in the early stages.

Di Maria found Messi in the 20th minute with a low ball into the box and Messi’s left-foot shot was saved by Colombia keeper Camilo Vargas.

Colombia had looked the more lively in the opening period and they went close in the 33rd minute when Jefferson Lerma tried his luck from 25 yards out and his low drive forced Emiliano Martinez into a diving save.

There was concern for Messi in the 36th minute when he dribbled to the byline but was halted by a sliding challenge from Santiago Arias which was ruled fair left the Argentine captain needing treatment.

Messi, who now plays his club football in Miami, then curled a free-kick in from the left flank but Nicolas Tagliafico’s header was just off target.

It had been a disappointing first half and it didn’t improve much after the break, when the fans had at least received some entertainment from Colombian singer Shakira.

Argentina failed to deal with a James Rodriguez corner and the ball looped to Davinson Sanchez but he was unable to keep down his header which floated over the bar.

There was finally some of the expected quality when Di Maria produced one of his trademark runs in from the left and forced Vargas into action, the Colombia keeper turning the ball wide of the post.

Then came a major blow for Argentine hopes when Messi went down, without contact, as he ran in midfield, and clearly in pain he went off to be replaced by Nicolas Gonzalez in the 66th minute.

It was too much for Messi, in what may have been his last major tournament, as he sat in tears on the bench, unable to hold back his emotions.

The Argentine fans thought they had grabbed a winner in the 75th minute when Tagliafico found Gonzalez in the box, who beat Vargas with a low drive but the effort was ruled out for offside.

Little changed in extra-time with a half-chance from Miguel Borja after a flick from Jorge Carrascal but the game was settled by a worthy winner.

Leandro Paredes won the ball in midfield for Argentina with a perfectly timed tackle, found Giovani Lo Celso whose first time pass was perfect for the on-running Martinez who confidently fired home the winner.


Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title
Updated 15 July 2024
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Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title
  • Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time

BERLIN: Spain won a record fourth European Championship title on Sunday after Mikel Oyarzabal’s 86th-minute goal clinched a 2-1 victory over England, whose painful decades-long wait for a major trophy goes on.
Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time after the latest show of resilience by England at the tournament.
Substitute Cole Palmer equalized for England in the 73rd minute to cancel out Nico Williams’ opener in the 47th from 17-year-old prodigy Lamine Yamal’s pass.
Spain also won the title in 1964, 2008 and 2012.
“I did my job and what I had to and was lucky enough to score the goal for the win,” said Oyarzabal, who came on as a substitute for captain Alvaro Morata. “When you are among the 26 names to be picked, that is special enough, but then to get to help the team like I did, that is the most important part.”
England men’s team has now lost back-to-back Euro finals and is still without a major title since winning the 1966 World Cup.
It is another agonizing loss for one of the world’s most underperforming national teams, this one coming in front of Prince William and Spain’s King Felipe at the venue built for the 1936 Olympics.
“This time it just wasn’t meant to be,” the prince wrote on social media. “We’re all still so proud of you.” 


There were joyous scenes after the final whistle among the Spanish players, with Williams putting his hands to his face before he was embraced by his teammates. Dani Carvajal slumped to the field and was piled on by jubilant teammates.
Yamal, Marc Cucurella and Dani Olmo were among the first to jump over the advertising hoardings to reach the Spanish fans in the stadium’s east end of the stadium.
It was fitting that Yamal and Williams combined for the crucial first goal as they are the poster boys of this exciting, multicultural team that mirrors the new reality in Spain.
Yamal’s mother is from Equatorial Guinea and his father is from Morocco, while fellow winger Williams has Ghanaian parents who made the long journey to Europe looking for a better life. To make it to Spain, they had to ride on the back of a crowded truck and walk barefoot through the Sahara desert.
“Euphoria! We are so happy. We deserved this,” said Williams, the player of the match. “This is for our fans and our parents, who have supported us throughout.”
Unlike his brother Inaki, who is a Ghana international, Nico chose to play for Spain and will now be regarded as a national hero there.
As, indeed, will Oyarzabal and the rest of the Spain team, who have won all seven of their matches at this tournament — an unprecedented feat — and beaten heavyweights Germany, France and England, back-to-back in the knockout stage.
Spain is back as a major player in senior soccer after winning both the Women’s World Cup and the men’s UEFA Nations League in 2023.
Since 2001, Spanish men’s teams have won 23 consecutive major finals in club and international soccer.


Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe
Updated 14 July 2024
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Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe
  • Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time and for the first time since 2012
  • England lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer and hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup

BERLIN: Spain and England will meet in the European Championship final on Sunday, with much of the focus on a teenage wonderkid and whether one of the world’s most underachieving teams can end its decades-long wait for a title.
The match is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) in Berlin and is expected to be attended by Prince William, Spain’s King Felipe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Keir Starmer, Britain’s new prime minister.
Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time, breaking a tie with Germany/West Germany, and for the first time since 2012. The team’s new superstar is winger Lamine Yamal, a prodigy who turned 17 on Saturday.
England, who lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer, hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup and that was on home soil. This is the team’s second straight European Championship final, having lost in a penalty shootout in the final to Italy three years ago.
The teams have taken different paths to the final, which will take place at Berlin’s Olympiastadion — the 71,000-seat venue built for the 1936 Olympic Games and which hosted the 2006 World Cup final that featured Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt.
Spain has won all six of its matches and is widely regarded as the best team at Euro 2024, having seen off Germany and France in the knockout stage. England was unimpressive in the group stage and has shown resilience in coming from behind in all three of its knockout-stage games.