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Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties in London to win European Championship

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Italy inflicted more penalty heartache on England to win Sunday’s Euro 2020 final 3-2 in a shoot-out, Bukayo Saka missing the decisive kick to deny the hosts after the game at Wembley had ended in a draining 1-1 draw through extra time.

Saka’s kick was repelled by Gianluigi Donnarumma to give Italy the Henri Delaunay trophy for the second time at the end of a shoot-out in which England scored their first two penalties but then saw Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho also fail.

Jorginho could have won it for Italy only for his penalty to be saved by Jordan Pickford, giving renewed hope to the England support who had earlier created a febrile atmosphere with their team looking set to run away with this final.

The nerve-shredding climax seemed unlikely given the way the match began, with Luke Shaw scoring for Gareth Southgate’s England after just one minute and 57 seconds, the fastest goal ever in a European Championship final stunning a team who arrived here on a record 33-match unbeaten run.

Italy were shell-shocked and struggled to recover in a stadium where the official attendance was 67,173 but more England fans clearly managed to enter after disgraceful scenes when supporters without tickets stormed the gates.

Serious questions will be asked about security — the game was also briefly held up by a pitch invader late on — but English fans were obviously desperate to see their team finally win a major tournament for the first time since the 1966 World Cup.

Italy, though, had most of the possession after falling behind and ultimately deserved their equaliser when it came midway through the second half through Leonardo Bonucci.

With no further scoring, this was the first European Championship final to be decided on penalties since 1976.

It is more penalty agony for England, whose list of previous shoot-out exits included losing to Italy at Euro 2012 as well as in the Euro 96 semi-finals against Germany when Southgate missed the crucial kick.

While their 55-year wait to win another major international title goes on, Italy’s own particular half-century of hurt is over.

The Azzurri have won four World Cups but their sole European Championship triumph before this dated back to 1968.

They had lost two European Championship finals in little over two decades, with the agony of losing to France via a golden goal in Rotterdam in 2000 and then being torn apart by Spain in 2012, going down 4-0 in Kiev.

– Baying crowd –

Roberto Mancini’s team had an extra day’s rest in between the semi-finals and this final but they appeared completely unprepared for the experience that awaited them in London.

England’s baying supporters created a hostile atmosphere, and that combined with Southgate’s tactical choices seemed to catch the Italians off guard.

England brought back Kieran Trippier in place of Saka in the only change from their semi-final, reverting to a five-man defence.

Within two minutes the choice of system paid dividends as England broke forward, Harry Kane opening the play up to Trippier, who crossed from the right to the far post where the arriving Shaw scored on the half-volley.

Italy, who had not been behind all tournament, were stunned and the only surprise was that England did not try to press home their obvious superiority.

Instead they allowed Mancini’s side to have the ball, confident they could withstand whatever was thrown at them.

– Italian fightback –

England were rarely seriously troubled in the first half even if Federico Chiesa remained a danger.

It was a rather different story in the second half once Mancini had turned to his bench, notably replacing hapless striker Ciro Immobile and sending on Domenico Berardi.

As the game opened up, Chiesa probed again and forced a save from Pickford, before a John Stones header from Trippier’s corner was tipped over by Donnarumma.

The equaliser arrived in the 67th minute. Marco Verratti stooped to meet a corner with a header that Pickford tipped onto the post, but Bonucci was on hand to score the rebound and celebrated with the Italy fans massed at that end of Wembley.

Italy then lost the outstanding Chiesa to injury. Lorenzo Insigne did not last into extra time either, and Verratti came off too.

England, meanwhile, sent on Jack Grealish in the hope of a bit of magic, but it would come down to penalties, and more gut-wrenching disappointment for them.

AFP

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Nigeria Edge Cape Verde in Qatar World Cup Qualifier

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The Super Eagles continued their 100 per cent record against Cape Verde in their second match of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

The Nigerian team won the game 2-1 after staging a comeback.

A 75th-minute own goal by Cape Verde earned Nigeria a 2-1 win in their qualifying clash in Mindelo on Tuesday, a result that stabilized the Super Eagles’ leadership of the pool as they await a home-and-away fixture against Central African Republic next month.

Dylan dos Santos steered the home team in front after 19 minutes of an intense back-and-forth by both sides, when he slipped behind the Eagles’ rearguard and slammed a rocket of a shot past goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

The three-time African champions refused to be brow-beaten, and launched series of attacks, with Chidera Ejuke forcing the opposing goalkeeper to an acrobatic save in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, an alert Victor Osimhen would pull Nigeria level, stabbing home from close range after the goalkeeper punched following a defensive blunder.

In the 41st minute, the lively Ejuke again rattled the Cape Verde number one, before Osimhen came close to adding another one from a corner with a minute to recess.

Kelechi Iheanacho and six other UK-based players were absent when the Super Eagles played the Blue Sharks in Mindelo.

The players were forced out from the tie after the UK government insisted individuals who travel to “red zones” — which Cape Verde falls into — must quarantine for 10 days upon return.

Aside from the seven UK-based players, Serie A defender, Ola Aina, also did not travel with the squad to Mindelo, and returned to Italy instead.

In the second half, Ahmed Musa latched onto a centre by Osimhen as the Eagles pushed forward, but his tame shot was easily collected. Substitute Onyekuru was also guilty of putting too low a purchase on his shot in the 73rd minute as Nigeria streamed to the opposition area.

Two minutes later, in a spectacular backpass to his goalkeeper, Kenny Santos scored an own goal as the ball floated above the goaltender and landed in the net. The goal put Nigeria in front and eventually gave the Super Eagles the three points on the night.

Victory took the Eagles to maximum six points from two matches, three points ahead of second –placed Liberia, ahead of the Day 3 and 4 games scheduled for October.

 

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WC Qualifier: Nigeria to face Cape Verde without UK-based Stars

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The Super Eagles will tackle the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde this afternoon in Match Day 2 of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier without the services of UK-based players.

The Super Eagles contingent landed on the island of Mindelo yesterday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special Air Peace jet.

There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players, who returned to their base as a result of UK authorities COVID-19 protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to Britain after visiting a country with COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one.

Today’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capacity Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigerian squad.

The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong, and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal, and Spain–based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks this evening.

The departures of two-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to enlist entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.

Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK.

Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia–based Chidera Ejuke, Italy–based former junior international Kingsley Michael, and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are available.

Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar if he takes any part in today’s encounter.

Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum of three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star is victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.

A win will also brighten the path of the three–time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.

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Conte breaks silence, says pre-deal with Arsenal not true

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Antonio Conte’s agent, Federico Pastorello has revealed that the coach has not agreed to a pre-deal with Arsenal FC.

There have been speculations that Conte is in line to replace Mikel Arteta at the Emirates after the later failed to win a single game this season in the Premier League.

The Gunners have also not recorded any goal in their defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Although Conte is out of work since leaving Inter Milan, he is not close to returning to the dugout.

Transfer specialist, Fabrizio Romano, tweeted: “There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre-agreement with any club and he’s free.

“Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre agreement with any club and he’s free.

Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 5, 2021

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