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Football: Colombia ‘not favorite’ for match against England

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KAZAN (Russia): Colombia defender Carlos Sanchez has insisted the South American side are not favourites against England, “the country that invented football”, when they meet in the World Cup last-16 on Tuesday.

England coach Gareth Southgate rested eight first-choice players in the last group match against Belgium, which they lost 1-0, setting up a meeting with the South Americans rather than the lower-ranked Japan. The result also meant England avoided the tougher top half of the draw, which features heavyweights including Brazil and France. The winner of the match between England and Colombia in Moscow will play whoever comes out on top in the clash between Switzerland and Sweden — but first England have to overcome the quarter-finalists from the last World Cup.

“We’re not the favourites, we’re playing against the country that invented football,” said 32-year-old Espanyol midfielder Sanchez. “But we have our own weapons and once the game starts the only thing that matters is on the pitch. Matches like this are won by small details. Colombia fear no one now.” The Colombia camp are crossing their fingers over the fitness of James Rodriguez, the top-scorer at the World Cup four years ago, who limped off in their last group match against Senegal with what appeared to be a recurrence of a groin injury. Sanchez gave no update on his readiness for the match.

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Zidane the boss as Bale set for final game at Real Madrid

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MADRID: Zinedine Zidane hinted on Saturday that Gareth Bale could make his last appearance for Real Madrid on Sunday after saying he would make changes this summer ahead of the final match of their miserable La Liga season.

Bale fell out with Zidane towards the end of the Frenchman’s first spell in charge and their relationship has quickly soured again, with the Wales attacker starting just five times since the coach’s return in March and left out completely for Real’s last two matches against Villarreal and Real Sociedad.

Zidane said Bale would be in the squad against Real Betis on Sunday but, asked by reporters if it would be his last game for Madrid, he said: “I don’t know, I can’t tell you. It’s the season finale and next year there are going to be changes. But I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Madrid face Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu in their final match of a campaign that will see them finish third, behind both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and trophyless after being knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Barca and the Champions League by Ajax.

Zidane has pledged to make changes once the campaign is over, with several players including Bale expected to be sold, and defended his right to make the big calls.

“It’s my decision,” Zidane told reporters. “That is clear as water. I’m the coach and I will always do what I want to do. If not, I’ll leave.

“For signings and those sorts of things we have people who work on them but we work together.”

Zidane took charge with Madrid’s season all-but over and their performances have fizzled out in recent weeks.

Their defeat by Real Sociedad last weekend means they have lost two of their last three matches and won only three of their last eight.

“The message is clear, it is the last game and we want to say goodbye to the fans with a good game and a victory,” said Zidane.

“It has been a complicated year and I want to convey that we are looking ahead to next season and to show the fans that we will return with enthusiasm to make them proud of the team again.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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History made as women to referee men’s AFC Cup clash

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Asian Football Confederation announced Tuesday that for the first time an all-female referee team will take charge of a men’s continental club cup clash.

Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita and assistants Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi will officiate the AFC Cup match between Myanmar’s Yangon United and Cambodia’s Naga World at the Thuwunna Stadium on Wednesday.

“This will be the first time three female referees preside in the Asian Football Confederation’s club competitions, marking a new milestone in Asian refereeing,” the AFC said in a statement.

The AFC Cup is the second-string Asian club competition, a rung below the AFC Champions League.

Women officials have only previously been employed as assistant referees in AFC Cup matches, with Australians Sarah Ho and Alysson Flynn becoming the first in 2014.

“This is one of my dreams,” said the experienced Yamashita, who officiated in the 2016 and 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and 2018 Women’s Asian Cup.

“We’ve worked very hard and this is the result.”

Assistant referee Teshirogi said her appointment will inspire female referees in Asia while Bozono said the experience will help in her preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June, where the trio will be among 12 officials from the AFC.

“It is exciting to work with Yoshimi and Naomi. They are very experienced and have been very supportive. I will learn a lot from them,” Bozono said.

 

 

 

 

 

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Klopp backs Liverpool for Premier League miracle

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LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool’s astonishing European fightback proves his side will not give up hope of winning the Premier League until Manchester City have the trophy in their hands on Sunday.

Klopp’s team staged arguably the greatest comeback in Champions League history on Tuesday when they thrashed Barcelona 4-0 to overturn a 3-0 semi-final first-leg deficit.

With an all-English Champions League final against Tottenham set for June 1, Liverpool can pour all their energy into one last push to win their first English title since 1990.

The Reds are one point behind leaders Manchester City heading into their final game of the season against Wolves at Anfield.

City will retain the title if they win at Brighton but a draw or loss for Pep Guardiola’s men would open the door for Liverpool to be crowned champions if they defeat Wolves.

Given Brighton’s lowly position, the odds are firmly on a City coronation, but Liverpool boss Klopp says this week’s astonishing Champions League drama showed anything can happen when the pressure mounts.

Not only did Liverpool author a fightback for the ages, but Tottenham scored three times in their semi-final against Ajax to go through on away goals after trailing 3-0 on aggregate with just 35 minutes left.

 

 

 

 

 

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