Sports

Suarez scores on Uruguay return

 Posted by at 4:13 PM
Mar 262016
 
Suarez has scored 43 goals for Barcelona this season

Luis Suarez scored a second-half equaliser for Uruguay in a 2-2 draw with Brazil, his first competitive international since he was banned for biting at the 2014 World Cup.

The Barcelona striker had not played competitively for Uruguay for 640 days before Friday’s World Cup qualifier.

Douglas Costa scored for Brazil after 39 seconds before Renato Augusto doubled their lead on 26 minutes.

Edinson Cavani pulled one back before Suarez struck just after half-time.

Suarez, who captained the side at the Itaipava Arena Pernambuco, bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s final group match of the World Cup on 24 June 2014.

He was given a nine-game ban from competitive internationals, as well as a four-month ban from all football-related activity.

The former Liverpool forward missed Uruguay’s subsequent World Cup defeat by Colombia, the entire 2015 Copa America and four games of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Uruguay are now second in South American qualifying, three points behind leaders Ecuador, while Brazil moved level with Argentina and Paraguay in third place with eight points.

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Alli & Kane start against Germany

 Posted by at 5:39 AM
Mar 262016
 
Dele Alli scored his first international goal in the friendly against France in November

BBC Coverage

How to follow:
Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website

Four Tottenham players will start for England in Saturday’s friendly against Germany in Berlin, a reward for their part in the club’s pursuit of a first league title in 55 years.

Danny Rose makes his England debut at left-back, while midfield duo Dele Alli and Eric Dier get the chance to press their claims for a place in manager Roy Hodgson’s plans for Euro 2016 this summer against the reigning World Cup holders in the Olympiastadion.

Harry Kane, the Premier League’s top scorer with 21 goals this season as Spurs lie five points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City with seven games left, leads England’s attack and has the opportunity to cement his place as a starter up front in France.

England’s starting XI for the game against Germany in Berlin on Saturday

The emergence of 19-year-old Alli, who wins his fifth cap, and the promise of his link with Kane that has been a highlight of Tottenham’s season, has prompted early comparisons with former England captain Bryan Robson.

Hodgson, who gives Stoke City’s Jack Butland the nod in goal ahead of Southampton’s Fraser Forster and will wait until Tuesday’s friendly with the Netherlands at Wembley to give Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater his first England start, said: “I’m impressed with the way Dele has been all season.

“Whenever you have a player who is that young, and you recognise the talent despite the fact he is only 19, it is a bold decision to put him in the squad and play him.

“But myself, Gary Neville and Ray Lewington are all convinced he has the capacity and ability to play so we took the chance and have been rewarded.”

Hodgson added: “He could do anything in that midfield position. He could be box-to-box, a number 10 or a number 6. He has genuine all-round ability.

“He can challenge, run, fight for the ball, see a pass and score a goal. You mention Bryan Robson and that’s the player I’d like to think he can become – but he is only 19 and it is dangerous to make these comparisons. We believe in him. He wouldn’t be in the team if we didn’t.”

On the inclusion of four Spurs players, Hodgson said they are picked on individual merit and the fact they play together at club level is an added bonus.

“If they carry on and play as well for England as they do for Spurs, that would be advantageous,” said Hodgson.

“But I don’t choose them as a block. If I was bothered about that I would play Kyle Walker at right-back not Nathaniel Clyne. I’ll continue to choose on ability, talent and what they can bring to our team.”

England’s starting line-up has only 161 caps between them as Hodgson looks at his options for Euro 2016, with the trusted Arsenal attacker Danny Welbeck making his return to the team for the first time since scoring in the 4-0 qualifier win against Lithuania at Wembley on 27 March last year.

England and Germany will wear black armbands in memory of Johan Cruyff, the Netherlands great who died of cancer aged 68 on Thursday.

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Republic of Ireland 1-0 Switzerland

 Posted by at 5:14 AM
Mar 262016
 
Switzerland’s Admir Mehmedi competes with Robbie Brady of the Republic of Ireland

Ciaran Clark’s early header was enough to give the Republic of Ireland victory in their friendly with Switzerland in Dublin.

Less than two minutes had been played when the Aston Villa man converted central defensive partner Shane Duffy’s flick-on from a Robbie Brady corner.

The Irish lost striker Kevin Doyle to what looked like a bad leg injury before the break.

Shane Long had a chance to make it 2-0 but saw his header strike the crossbar.

Switzerland almost grabbed a late equaliser when substitute Shani Tarashaj had a shot deflected inches wide.

Battle for Euro 2016 places

With players like Robbie Keane, Anthony Pilkington and Jonathan Walters out injured, Republic manager Martin O’Neill had the chance to give some fringe players an opportunity to shine.

Brentford midfielder Alan Judge worked hard on his international debut and Blackburn defender Duffy, in his second international, was involved in the goal and went on to give an assured performance.

Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane and Aberdeen player Jonny Hayes came on for their international bows, getting half an hour to catch the eye.

O’Kane, a former Irish League player with Coleraine, almost grabbed a goal near the end. He pounced on a loose pass but curled his shot just wide.

Doyle injury setback for Irish

Colorado Rapids striker Kevin Doyle’s match ended early as he was carried off injured in the first half

The one disappointment for the Republic was the first-half injury to striker Doyle, who was getting a rare start and an opportunity to stake a claim to be one of the 23 picked by Martin O’Neill for the Euros.

The 32-year-old, now playing Major League Soccer with Colorado Rapids and making his 62nd international appearance, went in for a block tackle and was left writhing on the ground with a leg injury.

Doyle immediately signalled to the bench that his game was over. Sadly, it could also be the end of his Republic career.

It was a sad sight as Doyle, who has been a great servant for the Irish, was taken off on a stretcher before going to hospital for an X-ray.

Man of the match – Shane Duffy (Republic of Ireland)

Shane Duffy’s display suggests Martin O’Neill has central defensive options

A composed and commanding display from the Blackburn Rovers central defender in only his second international appearance.

What they said

Republic manager Martin O’Neill: “I know it was a friendly but it is nice to get the win because it keeps the momentum going.

“I think we can be more confident on the ball.

“I know all about Ciaran Clark because I had him as a youngster at Aston Villa.

“Young Shane Duffy did well, he was commanding and solid all evening.”

Goalscorer Ciaran Clark: “It was important to keep a clean sheet and to get the goal was brilliant for me.

“We had worked on corners like that. It was an easy finish.

“There is a lot of competition in the squad – everyone is fighting for their place.”

Defender Shane Duffy: “I enjoyed the night. We are all trying to impress the manager am I am going to keep my head down.

“We got the goal early, defended well in the second half and ground out the win.”

What’s next?

The Republic have another home friendly on Tuesday night when Slovakia come to the Aviva Stadium. Manager O’Neill says there will be changes in the Irish team.

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Netherlands 2-3 France

 Posted by at 4:49 AM
Mar 262016
 
Netherlands fans unfurled a giant banner of an iconic Cruyff image during the minute’s applause

The Netherlands’ home friendly against France was stopped after 14 minutes for a minute’s applause to remember Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

Former Ajax and Barcelona star Cruyff, who famously wore the number 14 shirt, died of cancer aged 68 on Thursday.

A minute’s silence for the former Dutch captain and coach was planned, but the tribute turned into a standing ovation from fans at the Amsterdam Arena.

Blaise Matuidi, France’s number 14, hit a late winner in the 3-2 away win.

The Netherlands, who play England at Wembley on Tuesday, fought back from 2-0 down at half-time to level, only for the French captain to dampen the mood on an emotional night in the Dutch capital.

Cruyff, who was named European footballer of the year three times, helped the Dutch reach the 1974 World Cup final, where they lost 2-1 to West Germany.

Flowers and a number 14 shirt were left on an empty seat in the VIP area.

Each Dutch shirt had Cruyff’s iconic number printed on the right sleeve, but none of the home players wore the number 14 jersey itself.

An image of Cruyff appeared on the stadium’s big screen during the minute’s applause, with all 22 players pausing to join in the tribute.

“It was special,” said France coach Didier Deschamps. “A great man like Johan Cruyff deserved such a tribute and the stadium responded to him.”

Earlier on Friday, Dutch football association (KNVB) president Michael van Praag suggested the 53,000-capacity Amsterdam Arena could be renamed in honour of one of the city’s most famous sons.

“I can’t wait for the moment when we rename our stadium the Johan Cruyff Arena. It’s the best tribute we can pay him,” said Van Praag.

Amsterdam officials said they were discussing the suggestion, but also had to consult Cruyff’s family in the matter, as well as other major sponsors.

Cruyff’s son Jordi, the former Manchester United player, posted this emotional message on Twitter midway through the match
An image of Cruyff appeared on the Amsterdam Arena’s big screen in the 14th minute
Another banner inside the stadium simply read ‘Johan, thanks’
Dutch skipper Wesley Sneijder joined in the minute’s applause
Both sets of players wore black armbands throughout the game
Each Dutch shirt had ’14’ printed on the right sleeve – the number Cruyff wore with such distinction
There was also a minute’s silence before kick-off in memory of the 34 victims of the Brussels bomb attacks in Belgium on Tuesday
France striker Olivier Giroud pointed to the heavens after scoring his side’s second goal
Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante made his France debut when he was introduced as a half-time substitute
West Ham forward Dimitri Payet made his first international appearance since June, impressing throughout for the French and hitting the Dutch post with a second-half shot

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