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Serbia qualifies for Euro 2024 with draw over Bulgaria, Belgium and Spain finish in style

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BERLIN, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) — Srdjan Babic’s dramatic late 2-2 equalizer against Bulgaria secured Serbia a berth in the European Championship in Germany following the 10th matchday of the qualifying round on Sunday.

In front of a home crowd, the hosts started strongly as Bulgaria’s Daniel Naumov tipped Nemanja Gudelj’s shot onto the bar before Milos Veljkovic headed in the rebound to score his first goal for Serbia, 17 minutes into the game.

Aleksandar Mitrovic had a chance to double the lead four minutes later, but the striker missed the target.

With a comfortable lead, Serbia reduced offensive efforts while Bulgaria gained momentum, with Kiril Despodov’s shot from the edge of the box hitting the woodwork at the half-hour mark.

After halftime, Bulgaria remained assertive, with Ilia Gruev testing Serbia’s goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic 53 minutes into the match.

Bulgaria’s persistence paid off at the hour mark when Serbia’s defence failed to clear the ball, allowing Georgi Rusev to find the back of the net, bringing the score to 1-1.

The Serbian side was visibly shaken, and Bulgaria capitalized, taking the lead nine minutes later as Filip Krastev intercepted a pass and set up Kiril Despodov, who outplayed Milinkovic-Savic in a one-on-one, making it 2-1.

Needing only a draw to qualify, Serbia responded in the 82nd minute when Babic headed in a corner from Dusan Tadic, securing its spot in Euro 2024.

Following these results in Group G, Serbia maintained second place, while Bulgaria remained fifth. Group leader Hungary concluded the qualifying round unbeaten after a 3-1 victory over Montenegro.

In Group F, Belgium took the top spot with a dominant 5-0 win over Azerbaijan, while Sweden secured a 2-0 victory against Estonia.

Spain continued to lead Group A after a 3-1 win over Georgia, with runner-up Scotland ending in a draw with Norway in a six-goal thriller.

In Group J, Portugal defeated Iceland 2-0, Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered a 2-1 loss to Slovakia, and ten-man Luxembourg overcame Liechtenstein 1-0.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino part ways after just one season

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LONDON, May 21 (Xinhua) — Chelsea have parted with coach Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff after just one season, the club announced on Tuesday.

Chelsea announced the news with a brief statement on their official website saying: “Chelsea FC can confirm that the club and Mauricio Pochettino have mutually agreed to part ways”, while Pochettino thanked the club for “the opportunity to be part of this football club’s history”, adding that Chelsea was now “well positioned to keep moving forward in the Premier League and Europe in the years to come.”

The former Tottenham, Southampton and Paris Saint Germain coach arrived at Stamford Bridge last May, after a disastrous campaign that saw the club sacked Thomas Tuchel in September 2022, before then showing his replacement, Graham Potter the door in April 2023 and appointing Frank Lampard as an interim coach until the end of the disastrous campaign which Chelsea finished 12th in the Premier League.

The club spent heavily over the summer, mainly on young players, while losing several veterans such as Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.

An important turnover in playing staff and as young squad saw Chelsea struggle for performances and results for much of the season, although a strong finish to the campaign saw Chelsea win their last five matches and finish sixth in the Premier League to qualify for next season’s Europa League.

Pochettino also led Chelsea to the Carabao Cup final, which they lost 1-0 to Liverpool, while they also lost the FA Cup semifinal 1-0 to Manchester City.

The south London club has now had seven coaches since Antonio Conte left the job in the summer of 2018.

Source(s): Xinhua

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No Rashford as Southgate names 33 man preliminary England squad

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LONDON, May 21 (Xinhua) — England coach Gareth Southgate produced a surprise on Tuesday when he named his preliminary squad for the forthcoming European Championships when he left out Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford.

The absence of Rashford, who has 17 goals in 60 appearances for England, is the biggest surprise in the 33-man squad (which has to be reduced to 26 by June 7), which is also without veteran midfielder Jordan Henderson and central defender Eric Dier, who has been in excellent form for Bayern Munich.

Southgate has included Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw, despite him not playing since February, but with no Ben Chilwell in the squad, if Shaw isn’t fit enough to make the final cut, England will go into the tournament without a specialist left-back.

“I just feel other players in other areas of the pitch have had better seasons,” said Southgate when asked about Rashford’s absence.

Everton’s exciting young defender Jarrad Branthwaite and Liverpool defender Jarell Quansah are both in the squad, along with Joe Gomez, who could be an option at left-back if Shaw isn’t fit.

20-year-old midfielder Adam Wharton is also given a chance after impressing following his move from Blackburn Rovers to Crystal Palace in January.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins and Brentford forward Ivan Toney have been given a call up, with Toney perhaps lucky to be preferred to Bournemouth forward Dominic Solanke, who ended the season with 19 goals in the Premier League.

“There’s definitely much more attacking options than compared to other squads,” commented Southgate, who was also happy his players had more “tournament experience.”

“We’re really happy with where the squad is at. But everything starts from zero. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past,” he added.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, James Trafford.

Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite, Lewis Dunk, Joe Gomez, Marc Guehi, Ezri Konsa, Harry Maguire, Jarell Quansah, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher, Curtis Jones, Kobbie Mainoo, Declan Rice, Adam Wharton.

Forwards: Jude Bellingham, Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Anthony Gordon, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Liverpool confirm Feyenoord boss Arne Slot as new head coach

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LONDON, May 20 (Xinhua) — Liverpool have confirmed Feyenoord coach Arne Slot as their new head coach with an announcement on their official website.

“Liverpool Football Club can announce Arne Slot has agreed a deal to become the club’s new head coach, formally taking up the position on June 1, 2024, subject to a work permit.”

“The 45-year-old will join the Reds from Feyenoord ahead of the 2024-25 season after a deal was reached with the Eredivisie club for his services,” explained Liverpool.

Slot’s arrival to replace Klopp has been an open secret in recent days and Jurgen Klopp even lead the supporters at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium in chanting his name as he said ‘goodbye’ after a Sunday’s 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, which ended the season.

Slot joins Liverpool after three years at Feyenoord in which he led them to the 2023 Eredivisie title which was their first title in six years, and this year he followed that success by leading them to the Dutch Cup in April.

Source(s): Xinhua

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