France beat Australia 4-1 in opener as Giroud equals scoring record
France started their World Cup title defence in style with a 4-1 comeback win against Australia on Tuesday, with Olivier Giroud scoring two goals to become Les Bleus’ joint all-time top scorer.
Giroud netted before and after the break to take his tally to 51 goals, matching Thierry Henry’s mark. He scored either side of a Kylian Mbappe goal after Adrien Rabiot had levelled for France following Craig Goodwin’s shock early opener.
Les Bleus are the first defending champions to win their opening match since Brazil in 2006, which has already put them in a good position to advance from the group phase, something Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018 failed to do.
France, whose defender Lucas Hernandez was ruled out of the World Cup after picking up a serious knee injury in the first half, have three points and lead Tunisia and Denmark by two after they played out a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.
Didier Deschamps’s side, who started the tournament on the back of the disappointment of striker Karim Benzema being ruled out injured last Saturday, next face Denmark on Saturday.
“We got a scare but reacted quickly afterwards. Even if we could have scored more goals, we found each other, we were efficient,” said 36-year-old Giroud, who is now France’s oldest scorer in the World Cup.
“It’s very good for our self-confidence to have turned things around. We’ll have to learn from these little mistakes however.”
|Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group D – France v Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah, Qatar – November 23, 2022 France fans celebrate after the match. Photo: Reuters|
Australia coach Graham Arnold said his team ran out of gas against a superior side.
“Look, at the end of the day, they’re are a quality side. They are world champions for a reason,” he added.
“I thought the first half, we did well. Second half, we ran out of legs a bit, but that’s the type of level of those players play at.”
It was not quite the start France were expecting at the Al Janoub stadium.
Australia’s Goodwin smacked the ball into the roof of the net from Mathew Leckie’s cross from the right, leaving Lucas Hernandez holding his right knee after being beaten to the ball after nine minutes.
Hernandez’s brother Theo came on as a substitute and France continued to struggle to create space, with only Mbappe threatening on his left flank.
Australia were much more direct, making the most of Les Bleus’s non-existent midfield.
It was Rabiot who levelled in the 27th, however, leaving his marker behind to head home from Hernandez’s cross.
|Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group D – France v Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah, Qatar – November 22, 2022 France’s Dayot Upamecano in action with Australia’s Mathew Leckie. Photo: Reuters|
With Mbappe moving more centrally, the Australia defence had another problem to deal with and that was clear when the Paris St Germain forward’s backheel inside the area was collected by Rabiot, who slid the ball across for Giroud to tap in.
France played more freely from then on, with Antoine Griezmann’s low shot going just wide and Mbappe skying his attempt over the bar as he raced to meet Griezmann’s cross from the right.
Australia kept France on their toes and came close shortly before halftime when Jackson Irvine’s header grazed Hugo Lloris’s right-hand post after a rebound.
Mbappe caused more chaos early in the second half but could not quite find the breakthrough, until he silenced the Australia fans, who in the first half were shouting ‘Who are you?’ at him, with a glancing header in the 68th minute.
Three minutes later, Giroud headed home from Mbappe’s cross before falling on his back in apparent disbelief and being surrounded by his team mates in a goal celebration that lasted longer than usual, giving an exhilarating feel to France’s win.
It took Giroud, who owed his place in the starting lineup to Benzema’s absence, 115 international appearances to score his 51 goals, while Henry needed 123 from 1997-2010.
There were more chances for France through Theo Hernandez and Ibrahima Konate but the result was already satisfying enough, bearing in mind that in 2002 their title defence started with a 1-0 loss to Senegal followed by a first-round exit.
Europa League kings Sevilla beat Roma on penalties to win seventh crown
BUDAPEST — Europa League thoroughbreds Sevilla worked their magic yet again to beat AS Roma 4-1 on penalties on Wednesday and lift the trophy for a record-extending seventh time, handing Roma boss Jose Mourinho his first defeat in six European finals.
After an unspectacular match ended 1-1 after extra time, Sevilla ruthlessly punished the Italians in the shootout, with Gonzalo Montiel firing home the winning spot kick, just as he did for Argentina in the World Cup final against France.
The defender had missed his first effort but was handed a reprieve when Roma keeper Rui Patricio was adjudged to have come off the line too early and he made no mistake with his second, sparking jubilant celebrations.
Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou was their hero in the shootout, saving penalties from Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibanez while the Spaniards were flawless in their own execution, scoring their first four.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 AS Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini looks dejected as he goes to collect his runner-up medal. Photo: Reuters|
Sevilla, the undisputed kings of the Europa League, have now won all seven of the finals they have played in the competition, and are well-versed in the drama of the occasion, having seen their opponents score first in the last four finals.
It was a tense and ill-tempered affair from the start on Wednesday, with Roma defending deep with a five-man backline against Sevilla, who had almost 65% possession but were kept mostly outside the Italian’s crowded box.
The match was tetchy with referee Anthony Taylor dishing out 14 yellow cards, the most ever in a Europa League game, and playing almost 30 minutes of stoppage time in total.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 AS Roma’s Rui Patricio in action during the penalty shoot-out. Photo: Reuters|
Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead from a counter-attack in the 35th minute but Sevilla then took control of the game and found the equaliser thanks to an own-goal by Mancini in the 55th minute.
Sevilla dominated the match after that but Roma had the better chances from counter-attacks and set-pieces, including a Chris Smalling header that hit the crossbar in the 10th minute of added time in extra time.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 Sevilla players celebrate after winning the Europa League. Photo: Reuters|
Sevilla maintained their incredible record in the competition after an otherwise difficult season.
Languishing in the bottom half of LaLiga for a large part of a campaign in which they fired two managers, Sevilla only rediscovered their form after exiting the Champions League.
Their run to the final saw them beat PSV Eindhoven, Fenerbahce and Manchester United before downing Juventus in the semis.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 Sevilla’s Gonzalo Montiel scores a penalty during the shoot-out to win the Europa League. Photo: Reuters|
“It was a Sevilla-style match. We have to suffer to win,” Lucas Ocampos told Spanish TV channel Movistar Plus.
“This is not easy. What we have with this competition is something that cannot be explained.”
It was the third consecutive Europa League final that ended in a penalty shootout.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 AS Roma’s Andrea Belotti and teammates look dejected after the match. Photo: Reuters|
The win means Sevilla will compete in next season’s Champions League despite finishing outside the top four in the LaLiga.
Mourinho had never lost a European final before Wednesday, having last year led Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title, becoming the first coach to win all the European trophies.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 Sevilla players throw coach Jose Mendilibar in the air as they celebrate winning the Europa League. Photo: Reuters|
Losing was clearly a painful experience for the Portuguese who handed his runners-up medal to a fan in the stand after the presentation.
“That’s what I did, I don’t want silver medals. I don’t keep silver medals, so I gave it away,” he told Movistar.
Bolt desperate for impactful role in track and field
Usain Bolt said he is desperate to play a role in reviving the sport that made him a global superstar but has experienced something of a decline since his retirement six years ago.
The Jamaican, who dominated men’s sprinting for nearly a decade after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said he had found plenty to do to keep himself busy but was really keen to remain involved in sport.
“I spend my time doing a lot of family things, when it comes to track and field, not as much as I would want to but I still try and stay in touch with what is going on,” the 36-year-old told Reuters.
“I’m still waiting on a position from (World Athletics), I’ve reached out to them and let them know I would love to make a bigger impact in sports, as long as they want me to.
“We’ve been in talks but we’ll have to wait and see what comes around.”
Bolt added that he was aware his personality was a vital ingredient in the success of track and field during his era but thought he could see signs that athletes like U.S. sprinter Noah Lyles might be starting to fill the charisma gap.
“It’s going to be a process. After me, it kind of went down because of who I was as a person, and how big my personality was,” added the eight-times Olympic gold medallist.
“But I think over time it will be better. I think young athletes are coming up and I see a few personalities that are needed in sport, hopefully in the upcoming years it will change.
“Hopefully I can play a part and help the sport to grow.”
There was disappointment at the crowds for last year’s World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, but Bolt thought that next year’s Paris Olympics could be a special moment for the sport.
“Sometimes it’s all about where it is, America is not the biggest track and field place,” he said.
“I think Paris will be big, because it’s accessible and I know Paris always has a good team and good athletes over the years. So I look forward to that.”
After a decade of Bolt-inspired global dominance, Jamaica’s men have failed to win a single track gold medal at the last two World Championships.
At this year’s championships in Budapest, however, Bolt sees some promise of success in young sprinters Oblique Seville and Ackeem Blake.
“Last year, Seville came fourth (in the 100m) so I was very impressed. Also now there’s a young kid, Ackeem Blake, who is also stepping up. So I think that’s a good start,” the 11-times world champion said.
“Hopefully these two will motivate other youngsters to want to step up, and want to train harder and dedicate themselves.”
Jamaica are still dominant in the women’s sprints and Bolt said he would be keeping a close eye on compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the World Championships in August.
Fraser-Pryce, also 36, will be seeking a record-extending sixth world 100m title in Hungary, 14 years after making her debut in the global showpiece of track and field.
“I follow Shelly a lot because we came through the same era so to see her continue sprinting and coming back from having a child, that’s impressive,” said Bolt.
Vietnam to play int’l football friendly against Syria next month
Vietnam will face Syria in an international friendly next month in preparation for their 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualification campaigns, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) announced on its website on Monday evening.
The Vietnamese national football team, ranked 95th in the FIFA world ranking, will host Syria, in the 90th position, at Thien Truong Stadium in northern Nam Dinh Province on June 20.
They see this as a valuable opportunity to sharpen their skills, considering Syria’s slightly higher global ranking.
The presence of renowned coach Hector Cuper leading the Syrian team also adds to the significance of the occasion.
The seasoned 65-year-old coach previously managed well-known European football clubs such as Valencia, Inter Milan, Real Betis, and Parma.
Prior to taking charge of the Syrian national team, he had coaching stints with national teams such as Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Congo.
Five days before the Syria match, Vietnam will play Hong Kong in another international friendly game, which will also be their first since the appointment of new head coach Philippe Troussier in February, at Lach Tray Stadium in northern Hai Phong City on June 15.
In anticipation of the games in June, the Vietnamese national football team players are scheduled to regroup on June 7.
Previously, the VFF announced that Vietnam will play two more international friendlies in September and October this year before two matches in the 2026 World Cup and 2027 Asian Cup qualifiers, taking place on November 13 and 21, respectively.
Vietnam’s opponents for these matches will be determined following a draw in July.
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