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Uruguay beat Ghana but go out of World Cup

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DOHA, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) — Uruguay went out of the World Cup on fewer goals scored despite a 2-0 win over Ghana in the final Group H match on Friday.

It was meant to be all about Luis Suarez and in the end it was, as the image of the veteran striker’s desperate face, half-covered by his shirt, flashed onto the big screen in the Al Janoub Stadium.

It had looked as if Giorgian de Arrascaeta would be the hero for Uruguay with two goals, and Suarez playing a secondary role with two assists, but this World Cup has already produced its share of drama and Friday night produced another big portion.

We will never know if Andre Ayew’s tame 19th-minute penalty, which was comfortably saved by Sergio Rochet, would have been as decisive as the one Asamoah Gyan smashed against Uruguay’s crossbar 12 years ago, following Suarez’s well-documented handball, but it clearly affected Ghana, who trailed 2-0 just 13 minutes later.

Suarez was here at the heart of everything, finding space and firing in a low shot in the 25th minute after some comedy defending from Ghana, who allowed a cross to reach him at the far post.

Ati Zigi saved Suarez’s effort, but De Arrascaeta, brought in to inject some pace by Diego Alonso, was on hand to nod the loose ball into an empty net.

It was 2-0 in the 32nd minute, when De Arrascaeta finished with an angled first time shot after a neat flick from Suarez and Uruguay were in complete control.

The 1-1 draw between South Korea and Portugal at halftime in the other group game meant Uruguay couldn’t relax. Meanwhile Ghana had to recover after losing focus after the penalty miss and coach Otto Addo bravely took off the Ayew brothers.

Despite the risk of a second South Korean goal that could have knocked them out, Uruguay seemed content to soak up Ghana’s pressure at the start of the second half.

They had a good appeal for a penalty rejected just before the hour when Darwin Nunez went down in a tangle of legs with Daniel Amartey, but this time the referee said ‘no’ after a long VAR check.

Suarez was booked for time wasting a few moments later, finally giving Ghanaian fans to cheer before he was replaced by Edinson Cavani.

Fede Valverde forced a save from Zigi with a vicious bouncing volley, while at the other end, Antoine Semenyo sent a shot wide and with nine minutes to play Rochet was at full stretch to parry Mohammed Kudus’ shot.

Uruguay had been marking time in the second half, but with five minutes left everything changed with news of South Korea’s second goal came through. Suarez had his head in his hands, coach Alonso began pacing like a madman urging his men forward and pointing at his watch.

Zigi denied Sebastian Coates at full stretch and the defender fired just wide as the big screen flashed another image of Suarez, with his shirt half over his head in despair.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Preview: Much at stake for Barca, Xavi in Napoli trip

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MADRID, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) — FC Barcelona travel for one of the most important games of their season when they face Napoli in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday night.

The game is vital for the club’s economy, as well as for the credibility of coach Xavi Hernandez, who has already said he will be stepping down at the end of the season, but who could find himself leaving earlier (despite assurances to the contrary) in the case of a defeat.

Barcelona’s budget for the 2023-2024 was partly based on their reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League, with the extra 10 million the club would receive from UEFA for reaching the last eight, making a difference to an institution with debts of over 1,000 million euros.

With so much at stake, if Barca lose the first leg in Naples, it would be no big shock to see Barca president Joan Laporta and sporting director Deco decide to pull the trigger prematurely on a coach, who at times seems to be watching a different game to the rest of the world.

Xavi’s comments after Barca needed a twice-taken 97th minute penalty to beat fourth from bottom Celta Vigo, that according to Big Date his side should be top of La Liga, caused a few raised eyebrows – especially among people who have watched their games this season.

The fact is Barca are third in the table, eight points behind Real Madrid and still have several difficult games to play, including a visit to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, and most of their football has not been that of a team that should be topping the table.

The good news for Barca and Xavi is that Napoli are in an even worse state, with the team currently sitting ninth in Serie A taking drastic action on Monday to sack Walter Mazzarri as coach and replace him with Francesco Calzona, who has just 48 hours to prepare for the tie.

Barca had some positive injury news on Monday with Joao Felix and Sergi Roberto passed fit, and both will be on the subs’ bench on Wednesday.

Xavi is expected to bring Inigo Martinez into central defense alongside Ronald Araujo, with Andreas Christensen moving into central midfield, alongside Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gundogan, with Robert Lewandowski and 16-year-old Yamine Lamal leading the attack and Raphinha dropping to the subs’ bench.

The extra man in midfield implies caution from Xavi, who knows how important it is to avoid a first leg defeat – both for the club’s future and his own.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Mbappe reported to have penned five-year deal with Real Madrid

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MADRID, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — The uncertainty over the future of French international striker Kylian Mbappe is coming to an end after the Spanish sports paper ‘Marca’ reported on Monday that he has already signed a contract with Real Madrid.

Mbappe’s future was already headline news long before last week’s announcement that he would be leaving Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season, and although Real Madrid always seemed the most likely destination for the 25-year-old, Monday’s news appears to be the confirmation.

The newspaper, which is close to Real Madrid, assures that Mbappe signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid in February, which means he will earn a basic salary of between 15-20 million euros (16-21.5 million U.S. dollars) after tax every year, with bonuses in relation to his individual performances and titles.

The player will also receive a 50 million euros bonus for joining the Spanish giants, without the club having to pay a transfer fee.

Although the contract won’t be confirmed by the club until the end of the current season, Marca reports that Mbappe will officially be presented to the fans and the press early in July.

The news appears to end Real Madrid’s efforts to sign a player they have been attempting to tempt to Spain since 2017. It looked in 2022 as if Mbappe was en route to play in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, but the forward opted to sign a new deal to stay in Paris.

Premier League clubs, such as Liverpool and Arsenal, are also interested in signing Mbappe, but it now looks as if their efforts are in vain.

The Frenchman will not be the only new arrival at Real Madrid this summer, with 17-year-old Brazilian international Endrick also set to join after the club confirmed his signing just over a year ago.

With every other club in Spain limited by financial fair play restrictions, it already looks as if Real Madrid’s squad will be stronger than ever next season.

Source(s): Xinhua

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La Liga: Real Madrid drop points, Barca and Atletico win

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MADRID, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — Real Madrid dropped two points in the race for the La Liga title on Sunday, being held to a 1-1 draw away to Rayo Vallecano.

The draw lifts Carlo Ancelotti’s team six points clear of second-placed Girona, who have a difficult game away to Athletic Bilbao on Monday night, but means they miss the chance to go eight clear and increase the pressure on their nearest rivals in the title race.

Real Madrid got off to a perfect start when Mato Joselu slid them ahead from a low Fede Valverde cross after just two minutes.

Inigo Perez was making his debut as Rayo coach, and his players responded with an impressive display, getting their reward in the 27th minute when Eduardo Camavinga was penalized for handball and Raul de Tomas leveled from the spot.

In injury time, Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in two minutes, and he will miss next weekend’s home game against Sevilla.

On Saturday, Robert Lewandowski scored a twice-taken 97th-minute penalty to give FC Barcelona a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo.

Lewandowski had put Barca ahead in the 44th minute, before Iago Aspas’ 200th goal for Celta leveled the score in the 46th minute.

Atletico Madrid impressed with a 5-0 win at home to Las Palmas, with forwards Marcos Llorente and Angel Correa each scoring twice.

Mikel Merino’s injury-time header gave Real Sociedad a 2-1 win away to Mallorca after Antonio Sanchez had given the home side a fourth minute lead.

Real Betis and Alaves drew Sunday’s final game 0-0, with the visitors frustrating Betis, who have had a poor week after losing at home in the UEFA Conference League on Thursday night to Dinamo Zagreb.

Sunday’s game between second-bottom Granada and bottom side Almeria ended in a 1-1 draw, which helps neither club’s aim to avoid relegation.

Valencia dominated at home to Sevilla, but were unable to beat visiting keeper Orjan Nyland, who made several important saves to help his side continue to edge away from the relegation zone.

Ante Budimir scored two second-half goals as Osasuna beat Cadiz 2-0 to stretch the visitors’ winless run to 21 games. Cadiz have gone five games without scoring.

The round of matches began on Friday night with a 1-1 draw between Villarreal and Getafe.

Source(s): Xinhua

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