MILAN: Portugal coach Fernando Santos insisted Saturday that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo remains a key part of his national team despite being left out of his Nations League squad after the European champions became the first team to advance to the semi-finals of the competition.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner spent much of last month vehemently denying allegations of rape and was dropped by Santos for the Nations League internationals amid accusations by former model Kathryn Mayorga that Ronaldo raped her in 2009, just before he joined Real Madrid from Manchester United. “There are no questions to ask. Ronaldo is part of this team, just read the post he wrote today,” said Santos, referring to the message the Juventus player sent to wish his teammates good luck via Twitter. Portugal booked their ticket to the semi-finals next June after holding Italy to a 0-0 draw at the San Siro on Saturday.
They progressed top of Group A3 with one match to play, dashing Italy’s hopes in the process. “The qualification confirms the quality of our football,” said Santos. “I thought it would be a great match and instead especially in the first half, we had a lot of difficulties. “After the break, I explained to them what was happening, and the game became more balanced.” Portugal host relegated Poland in three days in Guimaraes, in a match that has no significance for either side. But Santos insisted: “The final match against Poland will be important because it will be in front of our public, who are always with us. “We have to play well and to win.”
China has over 24,000 football-featured schools
BEIJING: As of November 2018, China has over 24,000 primary and secondary schools with football education as their main feature, covering 20 million students, according to a China Education Daily report.
Also, the country has launched pilot programs of school football education in more than 130 county-level regions, the report said.
The report said the building of ranks of football teachers has been strengthened, with over 8,800 teachers and 6,800 headmasters receiving relevant training.
In 2018, a total of 25,000 people took part in national high school football league games, and 37,000 participated in national college league games, it said.
Messi and Bale benched for Copa Clasico at Camp Nou
BARCELONA: Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale were both left on the bench for the Copa del Rey semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Messi had felt pain in his thigh during Barca’s draw against Valencia on Sunday and, despite training on Tuesday evening, was not deemed fit enough to start the first leg at the Camp Nou.
Bale is still regaining fitness too following three weeks out with a calf injury although the Welshman might have been more confident of making Madrid’s line-up, having faced Alaves in La Liga on Sunday.
It is the second consecutive Clasico in which Messi has not played from the start, after the Argentinian sat out Barcelona’s 5-1 thrashing of Madrid in October with a broken arm.
Malcom came into the attacking three alongside Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho while for Madrid, Lucas Vazquez was preferred to Bale, joining the in-form Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior up front.
Barca’s slip at home to Valencia ended their eight-match winning run in the league. Madrid have found some form in recent weeks by registering five consecutive victories in all competitions.
Body recovered from wreckage of plane carrying footballer Sala: UK investigator
CARDIFF CITY: A body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane that was carrying Argentina-born professional soccer player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Britain said late on Wednesday.
The agency did not disclose the identity of the body.
Sala, 28, had been en route from Nantes in western France on Jan. 21 to make his debut for Premier League team Cardiff City when the plane disappeared over the English Channel.
The wreckage was found on Sunday following a privately-funded underwater search. Two seat cushions were discovered on the French coast that likely belonged to the aircraft.
A body was visible inside when the wreckage was on the seabed near Guernsey, air accident investigators had said on Monday.
The body was “successfully recovered” but attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful, the AAIB said in a statement on Wednesday. The overall operation was brought to an end due to “poor weather conditions,” the agency said.
Sala had agreed to join Welsh club Cardiff for a club-record fee of 15 million pounds ($19.63 million) from French Ligue 1 club Nantes. He and the pilot are believed to have died as the single-engined Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea.
On Saturday at Cardiff’s home Premier League match against Bournemouth, the Cardiff players held up a T-shirt bearing the image of Sala, who never played a game for the club, after the team scored in the fifth minute.
Fans were handed daffodils as they entered the Cardiff City Stadium. In the 28th minute, a round of applause swelled around the stadium as fans sang Sala’s name.
On Jan. 30, Nantes payed tribute to their former player. Referee Frank Schneider stopped play in the Ligue 1 match against St Etienne for a minute of applause during which Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic was in tears.