Police unveil hooligan-busting Euro 2020 hub

Fewer hooligans will travel to Euro 2020 amid Covid restrictions while European police Thursday unveiled a special operations hub in Netherlands where officers from 24 nations will monitor threats from Europol’s control room. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 June 2021

Police unveil hooligan-busting Euro 2020 hub

  • Officers from 24 participating nations across 11 countries will monitor threats from the Europol’s control room
  • A senior Dutch police officer, because of Covid rules, expect the number of hooligans to be limited

THE HAGUE: Fewer hooligans will travel to Euro 2020 because of Covid restrictions but they will be more difficult to trace, European police warned Thursday as they unveiled a special operations hub in the Netherlands.
Officers from each of the 24 nations playing in the tournament across 11 countries will spend the next month monitoring threats from the control room at the EU’s police agency Europol in The Hague.
Beneath giant screens, with desks arranged according to their countries’ Euro 2020 groups, the 40 or so officers will be able to quickly share information and prevent trouble.
“Until now it’s still quiet at the front, but we are alert,” Max Daniel, the senior Dutch police officer in charge of the operations center, told a press conference at Europol.
“Because of the Covid rules we expect not so high a number of supporters at all, so I think the number of hooligans will be limited as well,” he added.
“But still it’s very difficult for us because of the Covid rules. Most of them will travel by car, and there will be a lot more movements... because of the fact that we play in several countries.”
Europol chief Catherine De Bolle said this year’s tournament was a security challenge of “unprecedented complexity.”
“The operations center is prepared to react to any criminal threat which may endanger the smooth flow of the competition,” De Bolle added.
Europol said it would also be monitoring other types of threats and crime during the tournament, including cybercrime and match-fixing and even fake Covid travel certificates.
Enforcing local Covid regulations will remain the responsibility of host nations.
But if there was “special information about groups that are willing to organize parties around stadiums we will give them information,” said Dutch policeman Daniel.
Inside the control room, set up in a large auditorium inside Europol’s granite-grey HQ, officers from each country sit at desks monitoring and collating information.
A total of 40 officers will work in a shift system covering all the match days and also being on call during the night.
“Of course the focus is on the Covid-19 issues. But we mustn’t forget the fact that we still have to face the hooliganism,” said Romanian police officer Adrian Dinca, one of the coordinators.
“It has not disappeared, it is still there.”
Britain is one of the countries running the center along with Romania and the Netherlands, despite its departure from the EU and therefore from Europol.
The three UK home nations of England, Scotland and Wales are all taking part in the tournament, and the final is at London’s Wembley stadium on July 11.
“Brexit has no impact whatsoever on the really important business that we do with other countries,” said Adrian Roberts of the UK Football Policing Unit.
“If we were to lose that overnight because of the perception that Brexit means we can no longer share intelligence and information, we’d be taking a lot of steps backwards.”
To prevent trouble, the hub will work with police “spotters” in each of the countries who gain intelligence on hooligans, officials said.
If trouble kicks off, officers will set up a “crisis room” with the countries involved.
But which team do the police officers think will win the tournament?
“We don’t have intelligence on that yet!” said Dinca.

Dhani takes 4-5 to sink another Lahore run chase in Pakistan Super League

Updated 19 June 2021

Dhani takes 4-5 to sink another Lahore run chase in Pakistan Super League

  • Multan managed to put up a strong total of 169-8 despite fast bowler Shaheen Afridi’s brilliant performance for 3-23
  • Lahore’s four successive defeats have pushed the team in a tight corner in the race to the playoffs

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Multan Sultans fast bowler Shahnawaz Dhani grabbed 4-5 as Lahore Qalandars fumbled another run chase in losing by 80 runs in the Pakistan Super League on Friday.
The fourth successive defeat while chasing pushed last year’s finalist, Lahore, in a tight corner in the race to the playoffs.
Defending champion Karachi Kings could edge Lahore on better net run-rate if it beats bottom-placed Quetta Gladiators in its last league game on Saturday.
Despite fast bowler Shaheen Afridi’s brilliant performance for 3-23, Multan managed to put up a strong total of 169-8.
Lahore stumbled against Dhani’s pace to be bowled out for 89 in 15.1 overs, losing its last seven wickets for just 41 runs.
Sohaib Maqsood scored yet another brilliant 60 off 40 balls, but it was the little cameo by Twenty20 veteran Sohail Tanvir — 29 off 9 balls — that gave Multan’s total heft. Tanvir smacked Haris Rauf for three fours and two sixes in the last over.
In reply, Lahore lost its three key batsmen within the batting powerplay: Ben Dunk (5), Fakhar Zaman (13) and Mohammad Hafeez (14) all fell to pace.
When Imran Tahir had captain Sohail Akhtar (5) stumped in the 10th over, Dhani returned to take three more wickets and wrap up the innings quickly.
Islamabad United, which takes on Multan in its last league game on Saturday, and Peshawar Zalmi have already qualified for the playoffs. Peshawar is certain to finish among the top four as it has a better net run-rate than Lahore.



Kane struggles as England held 0-0 by Scotland at Euro 2020

Updated 19 June 2021

Kane struggles as England held 0-0 by Scotland at Euro 2020

LONDON: Not even with the Premier League’s top scorer could England find a way past Scotland.
Maybe Harry Kane was as much as the problem as the solution.
On his good days, Kane is one of the game’s ultimate goal threats for both Tottenham and England. But the sluggish striker never came close to scoring in the 0-0 draw between the two teams Friday at the European Championship.
The England captain barely even touched the ball, and yet coach Gareth Southgate persisted with him for 74 draining minutes at Wembley Stadium in his 60th game this season for his club and his country.
“It was a tough game,” Kane said. “Scotland defended really well, made great blocks at the right times when we did have chances.”
England defender John Stones had one of those chances when hit the post with a header in the 11th minute, and Mason Mount had another when his shot was deflected wide at the start of the second half.
Scotland’s best opportunity to get the winning goal came when forward Lyndon Dykes had a shot cleared off the line by defender Reece James in the 63rd.
“We have got to look at the whole performance, the use of the ball and review where we can be better,” Southgate said. “So it’s not just about one person. Scotland, I thought, marked him extremely well. With the back five there wasn’t a lot of space.”
There was a shot from Kane in the 59th, but it was tame and was blocked by the defense.
Kane looked as exhausted as England looked devoid of ideas against the dogged and well-marshalled Scots, who lost their Group D opener to the Czech Republic but still have a chance to advance to the round of 16.
“I thought we were unfairly criticized after the game on Monday,” Scotland coach Steve Clarke said. “We worked ever so hard when England had the ball but the great thing is we played when we had the ball and had some chances.”
The English will advance as group winners with a victory on Tuesday against the Czech Republic, which also has four points from two games. Scotland and Croatia, who also meet on Tuesday, have one point each.
The heatwave in London when England opened Euro 2020 by beating Croatia was replaced by a chilly downpour for the 115th meeting with Scotland — and a first 0-0 draw between the neighbors at Wembley.
What also changed from Sunday was the stadium speakers blaring out the Euro 2020 official song, “We Are the People,” to drown out the smattering of boos that again greeted players taking a knee in their anti-racism gesture before kickoff.
For the renewal of soccer’s oldest rivalry there was something of a throwback with Scotland playing two strikers: Dykes and Che Adams.
England’s only changes from the 1-0 win over Croatia were in defense with Kieran Trippier dropped and Kyle Walker not even making the bench. Southgate decided to bring back a specialist left back in Luke Shaw, with James on the right for the technical ability and to rotate the squad.
The back line allowed the opposition far more space, and Stephen O’Donnell found a way through to force a one-handed save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 30th minute.
“At times we kept the ball superbly well and frustrated them,” Scotland captain Andrew Robertson said, “and on another night we could have come away with more.”
The pandemic-restricted crowd of 22,000, most of them England fans, roared when Jack Grealish was shown on the big screens on the England bench. The clamor was for an injection of his creativity.
Grealish came on for Phil Foden in 63rd, but Scotland wouldn’t buckle. And by the time Southgate made his second and final change — despite being able to make five — Marcus Rashford lacked the time to make an impact as Kane’s replacement.
“We needed a few more runs behind,” Southgate said. “I felt Marcus would give us that energy and had to try to get the win at that point.”
The goal never came, with England managing only one shot on target. No wonder the fourth-ranked team was booed off by its own fans after being held by a team 40 places lower in the FIFA rankings.
“I totally understand their reaction,” Southgate said. “We are expected to beat Scotland. They will be frustrated by that.”

Sweden beat Slovakia 1-0, close in on last 16 at Euro 2020

Updated 19 June 2021

Sweden beat Slovakia 1-0, close in on last 16 at Euro 2020

  • Sweden have four points in Group E, and that could be enough to advance to the round of 16

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia: It always felt like a set piece would settle a tough-to-watch European Championship match between Sweden and Slovakia, and Emil Forsberg duly delivered.

The Sweden midfielder converted a 77th-minute penalty Friday to give his team a 1-0 victory at Saint Petersburg Stadium, putting the Swedes on the brink of the knockout stage.

Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka brought down substitute Robin Quaison as the striker ran in on goal from Alexander Isak’s deft flick. Dubravka dived the correct way on Forsberg’s penalty but couldn’t keep it out.

Sweden have four points in Group E, and that could be enough to advance to the round of 16. Slovakia has three points after opening with a 2-1 victory over Poland.

There was only one shot on target in the first half and the referee blew the whistle for halftime without any stoppage time.

Sweden, perhaps having sized up Slovakia’s limited threat, exerted more pressure in the second half and left back Ludwig Augustinsson’s header forced Dubravka to make a flying, one-handed save.

Isak, Sweden’s most dangerous attacker, grew into the game. After heading just over, he embarked on a mazy dribble to the left and then back inside before his powerful shot was turned away by Dubravka.

The goalkeeper spoiled his performance by coming off his line too slowly to challenge Quaison, who went down under the slightest contact.

Forsberg, quiet up to the that point, made no mistake with the best chance of the match.


Scoring becomes key as Spain and Poland clash

Spain and Poland will have a common challenge when they meet Saturday at the European Championship.

Spain created chance after chance against Sweden but was still held to a 0-0 draw in their opening match at Euro 2020. Poland lost to Slovakia 2-1 as Robert Lewandowski was held scoreless in yet another lackluster performance at a major soccer tournament.

The focus on Spain at La Cartuja Stadium will be on Álvaro Morata, the striker singled out by fans and Spanish media for his misses against Sweden. He had also been ineffective in Spain’s warm-up match against Portugal, which also ended in a scoreless draw.

Spain coach Luis Enrique said Friday he will keep Morata in the team despite all the criticism.

“I’ll tell Álvaro to keep being himself, to keep contributing with what he contributes in attack and with what he contributes in defense,” Luis Enrique said in Madrid. “Tomorrow (Saturday) we start with Morata and 10 more.”

Luis Enrique’s other choices in attack include Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres, who started alongside Morata against Sweden, and Gerard Moreno, Mikel Oyarzabal, Adama Traoré and Pablo Sarabia.

“We have some players with a lot of quality in attack,” Sarabia said. “It’s up to our coach to decide who will play. I’ve been working hard every day to earn minutes, whether it’s as a starter or coming off the bench. I’m staying very motivated and keeping the desire to help the team reach our common goal, which is to win on Saturday.”

Spain got some good news on Friday with the return of captain Sergio Busquets, who rejoined the squad after a period of isolation following a positive test result for the coronavirus.

Luis Enrique said Busquets showed no symptoms of the virus while in isolation and was able to practice at home. He said the veteran midfielder, the only player left from Spain’s World Cup-winning squad in 2010, is in condition to play on Saturday.

“He was away but it was as if he had been here,” Luis Enrique said. “You can tell that he is our captain.”

Poland’s path to victory will likely have to go through Lewandowski, who hasn’t fared well with his national team at major tournaments despite undisputed success throughout his career at club level. He is coming off a record-breaking season with Bayern Munich, but again failed to impress with Poland in the opener against Slovakia. He has only two goals in 12 matches with the national team at either a World Cup or a European Championship.

“We spoke about (the) game against Slovakia. Every player said what he should have done better. We don’t want to come back to this,” Poland defender Jan Bednarek said. “The matter is closed. We won’t have a game like that again. I am sure about that.”

Neymar scores again to edge closer to Pele’s Brazil record

Updated 19 June 2021

Neymar scores again to edge closer to Pele’s Brazil record

  • Neymar reached the 68 goals mark in 107 games, nine behind Pele, who scored 77 goals in 92 games

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil: Neymar scored his 68th goal for Brazil in the 4-0 victory over Peru on Thursday and with it surpassed former Real Madrid and Internazionale striker Ronaldo as Brazil’s second top goalscorer behind Pele.

Neymar reached the 68 goals mark in 107 games after scoring the second in the Copa America clash in Rio de Janeiro.

He is now just nine behind Pele, who scored 77 goals in 92 games.

“It’s obviously a great honor for me to be part of the Brazil team’s history,” a tearful Neymar said.

“To be completely honest, my dream was always to play for Brazil, to wear this shirt. I never imagined I would reach these numbers.”

Goal tallies by Brazilian players are a source of debate among statisticians, with some counting only competitive goals and others including friendlies and unofficial matches.


Goal tallies by Brazilian players are a source of debate among statisticians, with some counting only competitive goals and others including friendlies and unofficial matches.

Even the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has produced contradictory numbers but after Thursday’s game it said Neymar had surpassed Ronaldo once Ronaldo’s unofficial goals were included.

FIFA said on Twitter that Neymar’s goal put him joint 20th on the list of all-time international scorers but it did not give a tally or say who was above him.

Pele, though, gave his backing to a player who like him began his career at Santos.

“Today, he took another step towards my goalscoring record for the (national team),” Pele wrote on Instagram. “And I’m rooting for him to get there, with the same joy I’ve had since I saw him play for the first time.”

Whatever the specifics of the count, the fact is that Neymar is on a rich run of international form, scoring four in his last four games and seven in his last five.

His superb performances come in spite of his continuing problems off the pitch.

He was accused of rape in May 2019 but later absolved and last month Nike said it had ended its commercial partnership with the player after he refused to cooperate in an investigation into sexual assault allegations levelled against him by a Nike employee.

“For me it’s very emotional, I’ve gone through a lot of things these last two years, difficult and complicated things, and these numbers are nothing compared to the happiness that I get from representing my country and my family,” Neymar said.

“Today we’re going through an unusual time, a very difficult time for the whole world, not just here, and to be an example to anyone, to make anyone happy is a tremendous pleasure.”

Schick scores, Czechs draw 1-1 with Croatia at Euro 2020

Updated 18 June 2021

Schick scores, Czechs draw 1-1 with Croatia at Euro 2020

  • Both teams have chance to advance to the round of 16 from their final Group D matches on Tuesday
  • Schick was awarded the penalty after being elbowed in the face by Croatia defender Dejan Lovren

GLASGOW: With blood still dripping from his nose, Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick stepped up to the penalty spot and scored his tournament-leading third goal.
Ivan Perišić then made sure to keep Croatia alive at the European Championship.
The two sides ended up drawing 1-1 on Friday, giving both teams a chance to advance to the round of 16 from their final Group D matches on Tuesday.
Schick was awarded the penalty after being elbowed in the face by Croatia defender Dejan Lovren while both challenged for the ball in the air. The referee awarded the spot kick after a video review and gave a yellow card to Lovren. The Croatians argued that it was accidental contact.
Schick wasn’t bothered by the blood or the arguments, slamming the ball into the left corner in the 37th minute.
But he said the knock left him “quite shaken.”
“I thought I was hit by an elbow, but was not sure about it,” Schick said. “It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.”
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić, who had promised a much more attacking team after the loss to England, made a double substitution at the start of the second half.
It worked for a few moments anyway.
Andrej Kramarić won the ball in midfield and released Perišić, who skipped past right back Vladimír Coufal and volleyed past Czech Republic goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík.
Coufal had stumbled, allowing Perišić a clear sight of goal.
“It’s a pity,” Coufal said. “I think that if I hadn’t slipped I would have blocked Perišić. I took the wrong boots for the second half.”
The Czech Republic now has four points in the group, while Croatia has one from its two matches after losing to England 1-0 on Sunday.
Croatia played better against the Czechs than they did against England, but the team still lacks the spark that took it to the 2018 World Cup final.
The Croats will next face Scotland on Tuesday at Hampden Park, needing a win. The Czechs will play England at Wembley Stadium.
“There is a bitter taste after this match, as we didn’t win,” Croatia captain Luka Modrić said. “We entered the match really disorganized, but then we looked better in the second half.
“We scored that goal and we could have scored even more, but unfortunately we didn’t win,” he said. “Now, we have to defeat Scotland to go through.”