Host Germany give Euro 2024 liftoff by outclassing 10-man Scotland 5-1

Pre-tournament title expectations of the Germans were underwhelming after they crashed out of their last three major tournaments. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2024
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Host Germany give Euro 2024 liftoff by outclassing 10-man Scotland 5-1

  • Pre-tournament title expectations of the Germans were underwhelming after they crashed out of their last three major tournaments
  • They’ve opened with their biggest victory in Euros history

MUNICH: Host Germany could hardly have wished for a better start to the European Championship.
Goals from Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala in an imperious first half set Germany on the way to a confidence-boosting 5-1 win over 10-man Scotland in the Euro 2024 curtainraiser on Friday.
While Germany didn’t really have to break sweat against a sub-par Scotland at Allianz Arena, it was the ideal result to launch their tournament and ramp up excitement in the country.
“Yes, that’s exactly the way we wanted to start and, to be honest, we needed a start just like that,” Germany captain İlkay Gündoğan told German broadcaster ZDF. “I had a good feeling before the game already, to be honest, and it came true, thank God.
“But exactly this atmosphere, the euphoria in the stadium now with our own fans, that’s exactly what we need in order to go far.”
Pre-tournament title expectations of the Germans were underwhelming after they crashed out of their last three major tournaments. But they’ve opened with their biggest victory in Euros history.
They dominated the first half, which ended in the worst possible way for Scotland when defender Ryan Porteous was sent off and Kai Havertz converted the resulting penalty kick. Substitutes Niclas Füllkrug and Emre Can piled on to Scotland’s misery after the break.
“The first 20 minutes were very impressive. The first goals were very good,” Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said. “It’s very valuable that many players performed well early on.
“It was only the first step but a very good one and we can build on this one. We’re very happy.”
Scotland, which hadn’t had a shot on goal all match, managed to give their raucous fans something to celebrate late on when the ball was bundled into the back of the net off Germany defender Antonio Rüdiger for an own goal.
Steve Clarke’s side will have to do better against Hungary and Switzerland if they are to get out of Group A and reach the knockout stage for the first time.
“Difficult night. We didn’t play to our standard. The German team were excellent,” Clarke said.
“We feel as though we’ve let ourselves down. We’re better than that. Hopefully we can show that the next two games.”
Scotland’s Tartan Army of supporters started the match in fine voice, but they were swiftly quietened when Wirtz scored in the 10th.
Toni Kroos picked out Joshua Kimmich with a brilliant crossfield lob and he rolled it across for Wirtz to fire in.
Wirtz became Germany’s youngest Euros goal-scorer at 21. Musiala, 67 days older than Wirtz, doubled Germany’s tally nine minutes later after combining well with Havertz.
Right on halftime, Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn only parried a header from Gündoğan, but just when the captain appeared set to tuck home the rebound he was upended by a thunderous challenge from Porteous.
Referee Clément Turpin showed Porteous a straight red card and awarded Germany a penalty, which Havertz converted.
Scotland managed to hold out in the second half until an attempted exchange between Musiala and Gündoğan fell kindly for Füllkrug. The substitute, who came on only five minutes earlier, unleashed a thunderbolt into the top right corner.
Scotland’s late consolation came when Kieran McKenna’s header from a free kick went in off Rüdiger.
Still, Scotland conceded five goals for the first time in 12 years when Can, who was brought into the squad only two days ago as a late replacement for the ill Aleksandar Pavlovic, curled in in stoppage time.
“A great feeling and a crazy story ... I was on vacation two days ago” Can told ZDF. “Then the call came on Wednesday, and on Wednesday evening I met up with the team, trained once yesterday, came in today (off the bench), scored a goal. I’m thankful to Julian (Nagelsmann) and the whole coaching staff that they put their trust in me.”
Late German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer was honored before the match, and the capacity crowd included German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Scotland First Minister John Swinney, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Hungary are next in Germany’s sights on Wednesday, when Scotland play Switzerland.


World Cup holders Spain win women’s Olympic football opener

Updated 25 July 2024
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World Cup holders Spain win women’s Olympic football opener

  • Spain are making their Olympic women’s football debut at the Paris Games but are leading contenders to win the gold medal
  • It is the perfect start for Spain in Group C, in which rivals Nigeria and Brazil meet later

PARIS: Reigning Ballon d’Or Aitana Bonmati scored one goal and helped create another as World Cup holders Spain came from behind to beat Japan 2-1 in their first game of the women’s Olympic football tournament on Thursday.
Spain are making their Olympic women’s football debut at the Paris Games but are leading contenders to win the gold medal after their World Cup triumph in Australia and New Zealand last year.
They fell behind against Japan in the western French city of Nantes to Aoba Fujino’s early free-kick, but Bonmati soon equalized before Mariona Caldentey netted the winner in the 74th minute.
It is the perfect start for Spain in Group C, in which rivals Nigeria and Brazil meet later.
With 12 teams split into three groups of four, there is margin for error as the two best third-placed teams will advance to the quarter-finals.
That will provide some comfort for Japan, who won the silver medal at London 2012.
Spain’s starting XI featured seven players who were in the line-up for last year’s World Cup final win over England in Sydney, plus Alexia Putellas, the two-time former Ballon d’Or winner.
Japan’s side included Hinata Miyazawa, the top scorer at the World Cup, but it was Fujino who opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a fine strike from a dead ball which proved too powerful for goalkeeper Cata Coll.
However, Spain bossed possession and drew level midway through the first half when Bonmati was played in by Athenea del Castillo and rounded the goalkeeper to score.
They then grabbed what proved to be the winner when Caldentey came in from the left and played a quick exchange of passes with Bonmati before firing in.
Meanwhile, reigning Olympic champions Canada shrugged off a spying scandal to come from behind and start their campaign with a 2-1 win over New Zealand in Saint-Etienne.
Mackenzie Barry gave New Zealand the lead before an embarrassingly sparse crowd at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, the same venue where the men’s game between Argentina and Morocco was affected by crowd trouble on Wednesday.
However, Arsenal’s Cloe Lacasse levelled in first-half stoppage time for Canada, who beat Sweden on penalties in the final in Tokyo three years ago.
Evelyne Viens then latched onto a long ball forward to fire in the winner 11 minutes from the end.
Canada’s build-up had been overshadowed after an assistant coach and an analyst were sent home from the Olympics on the eve of their opening game.
The analyst, 43-year-old Joey Lombardi, was also given a suspended eight-month prison sentence for flying a drone over a New Zealand training session this week in Saint-Etienne.
Lombardi pleaded guilty when he appeared in court in Saint-Etienne on Wednesday.
The assistant coach was Jasmine Mander, to whom Lombardi reported.
Head coach Bev Priestman apologized and decided to take no part in the game against New Zealand as a result because she felt it would not be appropriate.
Canada and New Zealand are in Group A along with hosts France and Colombia, who meet later in Lyon.
Record four-time gold medallists the United States meet Zambia later in Group B, which also sees Germany take on Australia.


Argentina coach slams chaotic ‘scandal’ at Olympic soccer match vs Morocco

Updated 25 July 2024
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Argentina coach slams chaotic ‘scandal’ at Olympic soccer match vs Morocco

  • Paris organizers said they were trying to “understand the causes and identify appropriate actions“
  • Argentina’s soccer federation said it issued a formal protest Wednesday to world governing body FIFA and would do “what is necessary” to guarantee the safety of players

PARIS: The head of Argentina’s soccer federation said the chaotic ending to their Olympic soccer match against Morocco on Wednesday “makes no sense,” and Argentina’s coach called the scene “a scandal.”
The opening match of the men’s soccer tournament was suspended for nearly two hours during added time after Morocco fans invaded the field and threw bottles in protest of a late goal by Argentina. The goal was later overturned by the video assistant referee, and Argentina lost 2-1.
“What happened on the field was a scandal. This isn’t a neighborhood tournament, these are the Olympic Games,” Argentina coach Javier Mascherano said.
Paris organizers said they were trying to “understand the causes and identify appropriate actions” after the match in Saint-Etienne. Argentina’s soccer federation said it issued a formal protest Wednesday to world governing body FIFA and would do “what is necessary” to guarantee the safety of players.
“Having to wait almost two hours in the dressing room, after Morocco fans entering the pitch, the violence that the Argentina delegation suffered, our players having to warm up again and continue to play a match that should have been suspended by the main referee, is really something that makes no sense and that goes against the competition rules,” Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia said.
The Argentina team also said their training base was robbed before the game, with midfielder Thiago Almada’s watch among the items taken.
Meanwhile, Argentine President Javier Milei arrived Thursday in Paris, his office said, and is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron after tensions escalated between their countries over the Argentine soccer team’s derogatory postmatch chants about French players at Copa America.
Morocco fans rushed the field to protest Cristian Medina’s goal in the 16th minute of added time at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, which appeared to tie the game 2-2. Bottles were also thrown from the crowd and, in frenzied scenes, security tackled pitch invaders.
“Some of the fans thought it was the end of the match and decided to invade the pitch,” Thomas Collomb, the deputy director of security for Paris organizers, said Thursday. “The atmosphere was festive. At no time was there any security risk for players or spectators. Within minutes of the final whistle, a security bubble formed around the athletes.”
There were images of Argentina players flinching when what appeared to be a flare was thrown onto the field.
“I can understand why this might have been worrying for Argentine athletes,” said Bruno Le Ray, the organizing committee’s security director. “Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is known for having no barriers between the stands and the pitch. To our knowledge, no firecrackers were fired at any time. It’s definitely an incident, but not in the security sense.”
Morocco defender Achraf Hakimi wrote on X: “I deplore the attitude of certain supporters during the match, which tarnished the image of our loyal fans. Such behavior has no place in football.”
In the confusion, it was believed the final whistle had been blown when players headed to the locker room and fans were told to leave the stadium. FIFA’s official website declared the final score 2-2.
But it later emerged the game had been suspended with just minutes of play remaining and that Medina’s goal was being reviewed.
The players re-emerged to warm up in an empty stadium after about two hours and referee Glenn Nyberg confirmed he was reviewing video of the goal on the touchline monitor. He then confirmed it would be overturned for offside.
Morocco held on for the win as the teams played out the final three minutes.
“The game was suspended because of security. At no moment did they talk to us about any revision (of the play),” Mascherano said.
“Obviously it’s confusing, but we have to move forward. It’s already happened, it’s over. We have to focus on the two games (remaining). Save up the anger and let it all out in the coming games.”
Two-time gold medalist Argentina were one of the pretournament favorites and were aiming for more hardware after winning the World Cup in 2022 and back-to-back Copa Americas.
On Saturday, Morocco are scheduled to face Ukraine at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
“We’ll make sure we reinforce security by adding barriers or private security,” Le Ray said.


Flick impressed by Yamal, Ansu and Barcelona’s youth as German coach settles in at new club

Updated 25 July 2024
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Flick impressed by Yamal, Ansu and Barcelona’s youth as German coach settles in at new club

  • “Now it is important for him to stay with both legs on the Earth,” Flick said
  • Flick took over from the fired Xavi Hernández on a two-year contract after Barcelona finished last season finished without a title

BARCELONA, Spain: Hansi Flick says he will be counting on Lamine Yamal and Barcelona’s batch of talented youngsters to help the German coach make a positive start at his new club.
Yamal was the breakout player at the European Championship. He turned 17 a day before Spain beat England in the final two weeks ago.
“What (Yamal) did in the Euros is unbelievable,” Flick said at his official presentation Thursday, two months after the former Germany and Bayern Munich manager signed up with Barcelona.
Yamal’s performances included upstaging new Real Madrid star Kylian Mbappé in the semifinals against France, when the Barcelona teenager became the youngest scorer in tournament history aged 16 after curling home the goal of the tournament.
That came after Yamal had already scooped up several “youngest ever” records for his club.
“Now it is important for him to stay with both legs on the Earth,” Flick said. “He gives us great moments and also can improve and make things better, but he is on a really fantastic way.”
Flick took over from the fired Xavi Hernández on a two-year contract after Barcelona finished last season finished without a title.
The club have been struggling financially to keep up with Madrid, but they have been boosted once again by the talent that their famed La Masia training academy continues to produce.
Flick has only had two weeks to train with some of his team, as the players that participated in Euro 2024 and the Copa America have some time off. Others, like 17-year-old center back Pau Cubarsí, are playing at the Paris Olympics.
But he said he was pleased with what he had seen so far, especially the youths from Barcelona’s reserve team.
PRAISE FOR ANSU
The only player Flick wanted to name was forward Ansu Fati, who is back after a loan spell with Brighton. He was considered Barcelona’s rising star a few years ago before he suffered serious leg injuries.
Unfortunately, the 21-year-old hurt his right foot in practice Thursday. That will rule him out of the team’s preseason tour of the United States, Flick said.
“Ansu on the first days was unbelievable. He was very fit, and he showed it on the pitch and in training,” Flick said. “And now it is not good, and we don’t have him here and in America, but we will help him come back stronger.”
Flick added that 19-year-old midfielder Gavi Paéz, who tore his right ACL while playing for Spain in November, must take his time coming back.
Barcelona will likewise start the season without defender Ronald Araújo after he injured his right hamstring while playing for Uruguay at the Copa America. Frenkie de Jong is also recovering from an injury that caused him to miss the Euros with the Netherlands.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said he was convinced Flick would bring back “renewed energies” to a team that has not won the Champions League since 2015, Lionel Messi’s heyday at the club.
Flick had a direct part in bringing down that great Barcelona side. He was in charge of Bayern when their historic 8-2 demolition of the Catalan club in 2020 marked a definitive end to their status as one of Europe’s supreme teams.
Flick did not mention that most painful moment for Barcelona fans during his press conference at the auditorium next to their Camp Nou stadium. Instead, he said he will respect the club’s sacred playing style of ball possession and high pressure.
“The thing I want to see is that we are playing great football, technical football, so everyone at home on TV can see that this team gives its heart for the club,” he said. “It is crucial that you can see that on the pitch.”
NICO TOO?
Perhaps it is wishful thinking given the club’s recent financial troubles, but the Barcelona sports press speculates they could make a bid for Athletic Bilbao’s Nico Williams after the winger starred at the Euros alongside Yamal.
Laporta would only say Barcelona is in position to make any signings they needed.
When asked about Williams, Flick said he would not speak about players at other clubs.


Iraq defeat Ukraine 2-1 in football opener at Olympics

Iraq's Aymen Hussein celebrates after scoring against Ukraine during the 2024 Summer Olympics. AP
Updated 25 July 2024
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Iraq defeat Ukraine 2-1 in football opener at Olympics

  • The Lions of Mesopotamia snatched three valuable points

Riyadh: Iraq defeated Ukraine 2-1 in Group B of the Paris Olympic Games’ football competition on Wednesday.

Ukraine could not maintain their lead after Valentyn Rubchynskyi scored in the 53rd minute.

Iraq’s captain and veteran striker Aymen Hussein equalized in the 57th minute from a penalty kick.

In the 75th minute, Ali Jasim added the second goal, allowing the Lions of Mesopotamia to snatch three valuable points.

Iraq face a tough challenge in the second round on Saturday against Argentina, who fell to Morocco 1-2 on Wednesday.


Messi-less MLS fall 4-1 to Mexican league in All-Star Game

Updated 25 July 2024
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Messi-less MLS fall 4-1 to Mexican league in All-Star Game

  • Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi did not play for MLS due to a right ankle injury suffered in Argentina’s victory over Colombia in the Copa America final
  • Argentine striker German Berterame and Moroccan winger Oussama Idrissi also scored for the Mexican league’s elite squad in the triumph at Columbus, Ohio

WASHINGTON: Second-half goals by Argentine strikers Juan Brunetta and Maximiliano Meza gave Mexico’s Liga MX a 4-1 victory over Major League Soccer in Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game.

Argentine striker German Berterame and Moroccan winger Oussama Idrissi also scored for the Mexican league’s elite squad in the triumph at Columbus, Ohio.

MLS had won both prior All-Star meetings with Mexican league rivals, playing to a 1-1 draw and winning 3-2 on penalty kicks in 2021 and taking a 2-1 triumph in 2022.

Berterame, a 25-year-old forward for Mexico’s CF Monterrey, opened the scoring in the 16th minute.

Cucho Hernandez, a Colombian winger for the Columbus Crew, equalized for MLS in the 17th minute.

Idrissi answered for Liga MX in the 41st minute to give his squad a 2-1 lead at halftime.

Reserve Brunetta, a striker for Tigres UANL, boosted Liga MX’s lead in the 68th minute and Meza, a winger for Monterrey who also came off the bench to start the second half, added another goal in the 69th for the final margin.

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi did not play for MLS due to a right ankle injury suffered in Argentina’s victory over Colombia in the Copa America final.

Messi, who also missed two MLS games last week, is uncertain for Miami’s home game Saturday against Puebla as Inter begin defending the Leagues Cup, a second-year tournament involving MLS and Liga MX clubs that begins on Friday.