Football

Ronaldo crowned UEFA Best Player in Europe
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26 August

Ronaldo crowned UEFA Best Player in Europe

Monaco: Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo won the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award after winning both last season's Champions League and Euro 2016 with Portugal. Ronaldo, 31, received the accolade for the second time in his career after finishing ahead of Real team-mate Gareth Bale and Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann. "I'm obviously delighted to receive this award, it's been an incredible season. But these two other players deserve it as well," said Ronaldo, who also won the prize in 2013-14. Ronaldo struck the winning spot-kick as Real claimed a record 11th European Cup title, beating city rivals Atletico on penalties in May, before leading his country to Euro 2016 glory. Ronaldo scored three goals en route to the final of the tournament to equal France's Michel Platini's record of nine goals in the European Championship finals. The award was voted for by journalists from each of UEFA's 55 member associations. Norway striker Ada Hegerberg won the women's award, ahead of France's Amandine Henry and Dzsenifer Marozsan of Germany, after helping Lyon lift the Women's Champions League trophy in addition to the French league and cup double.
0 0 6550 26 August, 2016 Football, Sports more
Eder’s extra-time goal helps Portugal win Euro 2016
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11 July

Eder’s extra-time goal helps Portugal win Euro 2016

Paris: Substitute Eder’s thunderous finish deep into extra time secured Portugal's first European Championship title after they overcame the early loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to snatch a 1-0 smash-and-grab victory over hosts France on Sunday. Eder picked the perfect moment to score his first competitive goal for his country, marauding forward before letting fly with a bullet shot from 25 metres in the 109th minute. It was a cruel blow for France, who had dominated the match and squandered a number of chances, in front of their devastated home support, who arrived at the Stade de France hoping to celebrate a third European crown. The trophy was lifted by Ronaldo, who broke down in tears at the final whistle but whose game had come to a frustrating end after 24 minutes when he was carried crying from the pitch on a stretcher with a knee injury. So much of the build-up had focused on Ronaldo and his hopes of crowning a glittering career with the only achievement missing from his CV, a piece of international silverware. The script had been written for him to produce a performance to match his status as one of the game's truly great talents, but he had to settle for a back-stage role after Dimitri Payet's challenge left him in a heap on the floor. Prior to his departure, it had been a fast-paced start with France's Moussa Sissoko a bullish presence in midfield, frequently charging through tackles and bursting into the box. His 34th-minute shot was well-parried by Patricio, but by that point the match had settled into a pattern of France probing and pushing but struggling to break down their more defensively-minded opponents. Without Ronaldo, Portugal seemed in no hurry to rush the ball forward, happy to see the game descend into a cagey, tactical battle. They had a scare, however, in the 67th minute when Kingsley Coman's cross found Antoine Griezmann unmarked six metres from goal, only for the tournament's top scorer to head a golden opportunity over. Minutes later, Olivier Giroud, fed by sprightly substitute Coman, forced a diving save from Patricio, who then parried away a pile-driver from Sissoko as France turned the screw. France's best chance of the night arrived in stoppage time when substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac turned his marker inside out before scuffing a shot past the keeper and against the post, with the ball bouncing across the face of goal and then out of harm's way. While Portugal continued to sit back in extra time, they had the better chances with Eder's header parried by Hugo Lloris and Raphael Guerreiro striking the crossbar with a free kick before Eder's moment of magic.
0 0 7965 11 July, 2016 Football, Sports more
Euro 2016: France sink Germany to reach final
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08 July

Euro 2016: France sink Germany to reach final

Marseille: Two-goal Antoine Griezmann fired France into the Euro 2016 final on Thursday when a smash and grab 2-0 victory over a territorially dominant Germany ended 58 years of tournament suffering at the hands of their neighbours. Griezmann drove in a penalty at the end of the first half after a needless handball by German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and poked home in the 72nd minute following a blunder by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to set up a final against Portugal in Paris on Sunday. World champions Germany dominated the match in terms of possession but their lack of a deadly finisher cost them and razor-sharp Griezmann, whose double took his tournament-leading tally to six, was the difference. It was the first time France had beaten Germany in a competitive match since the 1958 World Cup, including defeats in the semi-finals of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and the quarter-finals two years ago. The hosts will go into the final as strong favourites to emulate the teams of 1984 and 1998, who won the European and world titles on home soil. Germany will wonder how they failed to score in a game they controlled for long periods but, after Jerome Boateng's handball gave Italy a lifeline in the quarter-finals, their captain's similarly inexplicable high hand swung the game France's way when they most needed it. France, roared on in a fantastic atmosphere, had torn forward in the opening exchanges and looked full of adventure. However, Germany calmly and methodically took control, totally swamping the midfield and with their full backs hugging the touchlines, constantly probing. Despite the overwhelming dominance of possession, however, clear chances were few and far between, with Hugo Lloris saving comfortably from Emre Can and Thomas Mueller and Schweinsteiger off target when well-placed. France showed glimpses of their sharpness in attack towards the end of the half but were gifted the opener when Schweinsteiger palmed the ball as he challenged Patrice Evra from a corner. Few in the stadium saw it but replays appeared to validate Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli's decision and Griezmann calmly sent Neuer the wrong way from the spot with the last kick of the half. It did not take long for the second half to settle into the same pattern with almost all the action taking place in French territory. Eventually, though, Germany's relentless pressing meant gaps opened at the back and France took deadly advantage when Neuer flapped a Paul Pogba cross straight to Griezmann, who poked it back past him into the net.
0 0 8080 08 July, 2016 Football, Sports more
Ronaldo, Nani send Portugal into Euro 2016 final
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07 July

Ronaldo, Nani send Portugal into Euro 2016 final

Lyon: Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal and inadvertently set up the other as Portugal ground out a 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday to march into the Euro 2016 final. The Portuguese superstar, who has had to soak up a lot of criticism for a lacklustre tournament by his high standards, majestically powered in a 50th-minute header to put his side in front. Ronaldo then saw his shot turned in by Nani for a second goal three minutes later, ending Wales' remarkable run at their first major finals since 1958. The Portuguese, who had not won a single game in the tournament over 90 minutes, next meet hosts France or Germany who play their semi-final on Thursday. "We've been dreaming about this from the start," Ronaldo told reporters. "We knew it would be a long way but we've fought all the way." Wales kept their opponents quiet in the first half but could not recover the two-goal deficit, ending a scintillating run that has captivated millions back home and turned their players into heroes. The Welsh, with midfielder Aaron Ramsey suspended and replaced by Leicester City's Premier League winner Andy King, had an early spell of possession but a tight Portugal defence kept them at bay. Portugal, bidding for their first Euro final since losing on home soil to Greece in 2004, had their first chance in the 16th minute, a low drive by Joao Mario after a clever flick from Ronaldo. Wales responded as Joe Ledley found Gareth Bale with a low corner and the forward fired over the bar. The Welsh, playing their first major tournament semi-final, did not suffer from stage fright with their back line, supported by midfielders Ledley and Joe Allen, remaining disciplined and compact. In a cagey first half Portugal struggled to find Ronaldo, opting for long crosses into the box that were easy pickings for central defender James Collins. Portugal injected some urgency after the break, pressing high up the field. It paid off instantly with a corner in the 50th minute that Raphael Guerreiro floated in towards the far post where Ronaldo climbed high above two defenders to power his third goal of the competition. They doubled their lead with Nani sliding into the box to connect with Ronaldo's mishit shot and claim his third goal of the tournament. Wales were then lucky not to concede more goals as Portugal, now unbeaten in 13 competitive matches, continued to dream of a maiden international trophy.  
0 0 8231 07 July, 2016 Football, Sports more
Euro 2016: France beat Iceland 5-2 to reach semi-finals
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04 July

Euro 2016: France beat Iceland 5-2 to reach semi-finals

Paris: France swept emphatically into the Euro 2016 semi-finals and brought Iceland's fairytale run to a crushing halt as Olivier Giroud scored twice in a 5-2 win on Sunday to set up a mouth-watering last-four clash with Germany. Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann were also on target in a one-sided romp at the Stade de France that proved a nightmare end to Iceland's improbable dreams of success. Having fairly comfortably eased past England into the quarter-finals, Iceland, the smallest nation ever to have qualified for the European Championship, with a population of 330,000, were 4-0 down inside the first half. They tried to rally after the break with a goal from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, and added a late consolation through Birkir Bjarnason, but the damage had already been done. France, who had not been past the quarter-finals since they won the tournament in 2000, eased off and cruised home. Coming into the game, Iceland were praised for a rigidly well-organised defence while France had found first-half goals hard to come by, with their previous six coming after the break. It was a matter of minutes, however, before both of those traits to be swept aside, as France set about picking their way through gaping holes in Iceland's previously solid rearguard. Having defended so admirably against England, Iceland were 2-0 down inside 20 minutes through two of the oldest and simplest tricks in the football playbook. The opener came after 12 minutes from a hopeful long ball which found Giroud with acres of space to run through and he drive a low finish beneath keeper Hannes Halldorsson. The second goal was a simple corner to the far post that the soaring Pogba headed emphatically home. It seemed as though the contest was already effectively over when Payet turned the screw two minutes before halftime, sweeping home a low left-foot strike from the edge of the area for his third goal of the tournament. Yet worse was to come for Iceland as Griezmann twisted the knife on the stroke of halftime, latching onto a through ball after Giroud's dummy to race clear and chip the advancing Halldorsson to become tournament top scorer with four goals. There was a brief respite for Iceland as they clawed a goal back 11 minutes after the break when Kolbeinn Sigthorsson slid in at the near post to convert Gylfi Sigurdsson's low cross, but their raised spirits were swiftly doused. A simple lofted free kick from Payet three minutes later allowed Giroud to dart in front of the keeper and flick his header into the unguarded net. With six minutes remaining, Bjarnason pulled another goal back for Iceland with a header but the tie, and Iceland's hopes of extending their dream run, were over as France looked forward to facing old rivals Germany in Marseille on Thursday.
0 0 8350 04 July, 2016 Football, Sports more
Euro 2016: Germany beat Italy 6-5 in shootout to reach semis
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03 July

Euro 2016: Germany beat Italy 6-5 in shootout to reach semis

Bordeaux: Germany defeated Italy 6-5 in a marathon shootout featuring 18 penalties to finally end their jinx against their old rivals in major tournaments and reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals on Saturday. They will now face the winners of the other quarter-final between hosts France and Iceland, who play on Sunday. After a tense, tactical battle ended 1-1 after extra time, the usually clinical Germans missed three spot kicks but still progressed courtesy of even more wayward shooting by their opponents who failed to convert four of their penalties. Jonas Hector had the honour of sending Germany through by putting away their ninth kick but even his effort only just made it under Gianluigi Buffon’s dive. Mesut Ozil had given Germany the lead midway through the second half before Leonardo Bonucci replied with a penalty following a bizarre handball by Jerome Boateng. Germany, who reached their sixth successive semi-final in a major tournament, had never previously beaten Italy at a major finals - a run stretching back to the 1962 World Cup. Italy's four wins included a World Cup final and two semi-finals and the Euro 2012 semis. The other four games were drawn. The first half was as tense, tactical and cagey as expected between two teams who had only conceded one goal between them so far in the tournament. Both sides began with three-man defences, although Italy also pulled wing backs Alessandro Florenzi and Mattia De Sciglio into the back line every time they sensed danger. It took 42 minutes for either side to produce a genuine chance but Germany forward Thomas Mueller, usually deadly in front of goal, scuffed his shot and Buffon saved easily. Germany's passing was slicker and they broke through in the 65th minute when Hector's pass into the area was deflected off Bonucci and fell perfectly for Ozil to guide into the net. It seemed that might be enough to win the game but Italy equalised out of the blue 13 minutes later. Florenzi curled the ball into the area, Boateng went up for a challenge with Chiellini with his arms raised like a basketball player and the ball hit the German's arm. Bonucci fired a superb penalty low into the bottom right hand corner, beyond   Manuel Neuer’s reach. Italy suddenly found a new lease of life as Graziano Pelle had a shot deflected wide following a quick break and De Sciglio fired into the side-netting. Little happened in extra time but the shootout was eventful. Simone Zaza, Pelle, Bonucci and Matteo Darmian missed for Italy, while Mueller, Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger fluffed their lines for Germany but Hector stepped up to seal the win.
0 0 8250 03 July, 2016 Football, Sports more
Euro 2016: Wales beat Belgium to reach historic semi-final
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02 July

Euro 2016: Wales beat Belgium to reach historic semi-final

Lille: Wales and unsung hero Hal Robson-Kanu completed a stunning fightback to beat Belgium 3-1 in Euro 2016 on Friday and reach their first major tournament semi-final. The victory in Wales' first ever participation in a European Championship finals sets up a mouthwatering duel between their talisman Gareth Bale and his Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo when the tournament's last British representatives face Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday. Radja Nainggolan gave Belgium the lead in the quarter-final in Lille, but Ashley Williams brought Wales level before a dazzling strike from Robson-Kanu, whose contract with English second-tier club Reading expired on Thursday. A late header by substitute Sam Vokes wrapped up a historic victory for Wales. Wales manager Chris Coleman’s men surpassed the Wales greats of 1958, whose quarter-final showing at that year's World Cup in Sweden had been the country's greatest previous footballing achievement. Belgium coach Marc Wilmots will face tough questions about his failure to achieve more with one of his nation's finest collections of players, who also fell in the last eight at the 2014 World Cup. Inside the first 10 minutes, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard had all gone close for Belgium, while Romelu Lukaku failed to make telling contact with a deep Kevin De Bruyne corner. Robson-Kanu headed over for Wales and Bale hit the side-netting, but in the 13th minute Belgium went ahead when Nainggolan met Hazard's lay-off with a blistering 30-yard shot that whistled into the top-left corner.
0 0 8331 02 July, 2016 Football, Sports more
Euro 2016: Portugal beat Poland to reach semi final 
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01 July

Euro 2016: Portugal beat Poland to reach semi final 

Marseille: Portugal substitute Ricardo Quaresma, keeper Rui Patricio and 18-year-old midfield sensation Renato Sanches were the heroes as Portugal beat Poland 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals on Thursday. Patricio dived full length to block Jakub Blaszczykowski's penalty, Poland's fourth, allowing substitute Quaresma, whose goal late in extra-time beat Croatia in the round of 16, to bang in Portugal's fifth in the shootout. Two hours earlier Robert Lewandowski put Poland ahead with a second minute strike only for teenager Sanches to equalise with a superb shot 33 minutes into his first international start. Cristiano Ronaldo, who four years ago did not get to take his planned spot kick when he was fifth in line as Portugal lost to eventual winners Spain, went first this time. Joao Moutinho and Nani also scored confidently from the spot before Patricio swung things Portugal's way with his fine save and Quaresma applied the coup de grace. It was a somewhat strange encounter, with an all-action first half followed by 75 minutes of inaction. Poland went ahead when Portugal defender Cedric's misjudgement allowed a long ball to bounce over his head to Kamil Grosicki. He drove on down the left and squared for Lewandowski to guide the ball in. It was the striker's first goal of the tournament and, at one minute 40 seconds, the second-fastest in European Championship history after Dmitri Kirichenko's for Russia against Greece after 65 seconds in 2004. Poland looked the more confident team for the next 20 minutes but failed to press home their advantage as Portugal settled and began to make inroads. The Portuguese levelled when Sanches, due to join Lewandowski at Bayern Munich after the Euros, played a neat 1-2 with Nani and found time to shift the ball onto his left foot at the edge of the box and smash it past Lukasz Fabianski. Portugal have failed to win any of their five games here in 90 minutes, having drawn three group matches and beaten Croatia in extra time.  
0 0 8390 01 July, 2016 Football, Sports more
Euro 2016: Modric stunner sees Croatia past Turkey
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13 June

Euro 2016: Modric stunner sees Croatia past Turkey

Paris: Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric scored a brilliant volley as Croatia defeated Turkey 1-0 in their Euro 2016 Group D on Sunday. Ante Cacic's Croatia dominated throughout, twice hitting the bar in the second half. But only Modric's 41st-minute strike -- his 11th international goal -- that separated the teams at the final whistle. Victory gave Croatia revenge for their elimination on penalties by Turkey in the quarter-finals at Euro 2008, although they had previously beaten them in a qualifying play-off prior to Euro 2012. Fatih Terim's Turkey now have it all to do ahead of their meeting with defending champions Spain in Nice on Friday. Croatia can already go into their game against the Czech Republic with one eye on the last 16. Modric illuminated the game with his deft flicks and surefooted touches, and with half-time approaching he provided the breakthrough. Selcuk Inan appeared to have cleared the danger by hooking the ball high to the edge of the Turkey box, but Modric watched it drop before spearing an emphatic, dipping volley past Babacan from 25 yards. The replays did not make kind viewing for Babacan. There was embarrassment, too, for the tournament organisers as a fan ran on the pitch to embrace Modric and flares were let off in the Croatia end. Turkey coach Terim made a change at half-time, sending on Volkan Sen for Oguzhan Ozyakup and moving captain Arda Turan infield to a number 10 position in a 4-2-3-1 system. But Croatia continued to boss proceedings and Srna twice went close, first clipping the crossbar with a free-kick and then lashing wide left-footed after Babacan could only parry Ivan Perisic's cross. The introduction of 18-year-old Emre Mor, the Denmark-born forward dubbed 'The Turkish Messi', drew roars of approval from Turkey's fans. Yet it was Croatia who came closest to scoring in the closing stages as Babacan tipped a header from Brozovic over the bar and then rushed out to thwart Perisic.
0 0 9014 13 June, 2016 Football, Sports more
Bale, Robson-Kanu give Wales winning return
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12 June

Bale, Robson-Kanu give Wales winning return

Bordeaux: Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu scored a joyously celebrated 81st-minute winner as Wales marked their major tournament return by edging Slovakia 2-1 in Saturday's Euro 2016 opener at elegant Stadium Bordeaux. Playing their first game at a major championship since the 1958 World Cup, Wales took a 10th-minute lead courtesy of Gareth Bale’s fine free-kick, only for Slovakia substitute Ondrej Duda to equalise. But with nine minutes remaining, Robson-Kanu, released by Reading at the end of the season, scuffed a shot past Matus Kozacik to send Chris Coleman's side striding towards the last 16. His strike ended Wales's four-game winless run and tees the European Championship debutants up perfectly for Thursday's hotly anticipated second Group B fixture against neighbours England in Lens. Jan Kozak's Slovakia, previously unbeaten in eight games, tackle Russia in Lille on Wednesday knowing that a second defeat could be fatal. Bale's moment arrived 10 minutes in as he was presented with a free-kick 30 yards from goal and he slammed the ball over the wall and as Kozacik moved to his left, it darted in the other direction and plunged low into the net. Bale tore down the touchline in celebration of his 20th Wales goal, which came almost 10 years after he opened his international account with a free-kick against the same opposition. Slovakia coach Kozak sent on Adam Nemec and Duda, with Michal Duris and Patrik Hrovosky giving way, and within a minute Duda had scored, arrowing a shot past Ward's left hand from Mak's right-wing cut-back. It made him the first player to score past Wales at a major tournament since a 17-year-old Pele at the 1958 World Cup. Hamsik and Mak threatened before Coleman made a double change of his own, sending on Joe Ledley, 35 days after he fractured a fibula, and Robson-Kanu, who was to make a major impact. After crossing for Aaron Ramsey to head over, the roles were reversed to decisive effect, the Arsenal man skipping past Skrtel and Robson-Kanu steering the ball home.
0 0 9125 12 June, 2016 Football, Sports more