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France smash records in 14-0 win, Dutch, Swiss and Romania qualify for Euro 2024



Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick in France’s record-breaking 14-0 thrashing of 10-man Gibraltar as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Romania booked their places at Euro 2024 on Saturday.

Les Bleus set a new record margin of victory in European qualifying and a national record in Nice.

Ethan Santos’ own goal and Marcus Thuram had already opened the floodgates before 17-year-old Warren Zaire-Emery scored.

That was Zaire-Emery’s last contribution as the PSG midfielder was forced off with an ankle injury but a red card for Santos after just 18 minutes allowed the World Cup finalists to run amok.

Mbappe’s penalty made it 4-0 and Jonathan Clauss, Kingsley Coman and Youssouf Fofana all scored before half-time.

Adrien Rabiot, Coman again and Ousmane Dembele kept the score ticking over before Mbappe struck twice to seal his hat-trick in style.

The France captain lobbed Dayle Coleing from just inside the Gibraltar half to register his 300th career goal aged just 24.

Olivier Giroud then came off the bench to grab the final two goals and ensure the history books were re-written.

But the scoreline will raise fresh questions over the need for such clashes between giants and minnows in a congested fixture calendar.

“We did everything to make this score happen. That is the ambition that there is in this team,” said France boss Didier Deschamps.

Just one goal was enough to ensure the Dutch joined France in qualifying from Group B with a 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland.

Wout Weghorst’s powerful drive separated the sides in Amsterdam in what is likely to be Irish boss Stephen Kenny’s final competitive game in charge.

“In the end, it’s about winning the game. We knew we needed the three points to qualify directly today, at home with our own fans,” said Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo.

“We created a lot of chances, opportunities, but we have to score more goals and have more finesse in the final third.”

Romania, Switzerland qualify

Romania reached just a second major tournament since 2008 by ending Israel’s chances of automatic qualification with a 2-1 win.

Despite being forced to play what should have been a home fixture in Hungary due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel went in front after just two minutes through Eran Zahavi.

But Romania hit back quickly to level through George Puscas and secured their place in Germany thanks to Ianis Hagi, son of Gheorghe Hagi who inspired the Romanians famous run to the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals.

Switzerland also qualified despite being held 1-1 at home by Kosovo.

Romania are now in pole position to win Group I with a draw at home to the Swiss on Tuesday enough to secure top spot.

Wales’ hopes of reaching a third consecutive European Championship were dealt a huge blow by a 1-1 draw away to Armenia.

Rob Page’s men began the day with automatic qualification in their own hands.

But Wales fell behind early on to Lucas Zelarayan’s strike from outside the box in Yerevan.

Nair Tiknizyan’s own goal brought the visitors level before half-time, but Wales failed to find a winner that leaves them needing Croatia to slip up.

The 2022 World Cup semi-finalists moved into second place in Group D thanks to a 2-0 win in Latvia as Lovro Majer and Andrej Kramaric struck inside the first 16 minutes.

Wales must beat already-qualified Turkey in Cardiff on Tuesday and hope Croatia fail to beat Armenia at home.



Ho Chi Minh City proposes 18 big-ticket sports projects



The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee has proposed to the municipal People’s Council invest in 18 sports projects through the public-private partnership method, aiming to address deficiencies in sports facilities that the city has faced over the past decade.

Among these projects, up to 16 are earmarked for Thu Duc City. 

The remaining two sports initiatives include a new outdoor sports training and competition facility in District 11, requiring an investment of over VND465 billion (US$19.1 million), and a swimming pool within the Cultural and Sports Center of Binh Tan District with an investment surpassing VND199 billion ($8.2 million).

The flagship project is the construction of a new major stadium in Thu Duc City, featuring a roof, a seating capacity of 50,000, and an athletics track, requiring a staggering investment of VND7 trillion ($288.2 million). 

Following closely is the bicycle racing complex in Thu Duc City, comprising a 5,000-seat grandstand, a racing track, and an outdoor football field, with a total investment of VND4 trillion ($164.7 million).

Another general sports stadium project in Thu Duc City, with an investment of VND3 trillion ($123.5 million), comprises a main stadium with 10,000-seat stands and two auxiliary fields with 1,000-seat stands, covering an area of 3.63 hectares. 

An indoor stadium is designed for athletics such as javelin throwing, hammer throwing, discus throwing, high jump, and pole vaulting, with an investment of VND1.5 trillion ($61.7 million). 

A tennis arena project, featuring a 5,000-seat grandstand and an outdoor tennis court cluster, is set to receive an investment of VND1 trillion ($41.2 million).

A competition and practice swimming pool project are also in the works with an investment of VND1 trillion. 

Further projects include a new football academy and a cluster of six outdoor football practice fields, attracting an investment of VND1 trillion, and a futsal arena boasting a 3,000-seat grandstand with an investment of VND800 billion ($32.9 million). 

Notably, a medical and health rehabilitation center, aimed at promptly supporting the health of athletes and the general public involved in training and sports competitions, will receive an investment of VND500 billion ($20.6 million).

This proposal comes in response to the deterioration of Thong Nhat Stadium in District 10, one of the city’s largest, with its current capacity of nearly 14,400 seats. 

Despite ongoing renovations, the stadium’s limitations, including a degraded athletics track and insufficient capacity, hinder the growth of sports in Ho Chi Minh City. 

As a result, international matches featuring the Vietnamese national football teams predominantly took place in Hanoi and northern provinces like Phu Tho, Quang Ninh, and Ha Nam – each boasting commendable stadiums – for several years.

Football enthusiasts in Ho Chi Minh City rarely had the opportunity to spectate these matches live in the city.

Moreover, the absence of stadiums dedicated for young athletes poses a challenge for the city’s football. 

Young players must rotate between two fields at Phu Tho Indoor Sports Stadium, where rain and flooding further complicates training sessions.

The proposal thus aims to address these challenges and provide better facilities for the city’s sports development, a move welcomed by sports expert Doan Minh Xuong.

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Ten Hag admits he was warned off ‘impossible’ Man Utd job



LONDON — Erik ten Hag said he was warned off taking on the “impossible job” of Manchester United manager but admitted he could not resist the challenge at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman, who left Ajax to take over at United in 2022, ended the club’s six-year trophy drought last season but has been under intense pressure in his second campaign.

United beat Chelsea 2-1 at home on Wednesday, easing the pressure on their beleaguered boss, but have lost 10 out of their 22 games this season in all competitions.

Ten Hag told fanzine “United We Stand” that he was advised how tough it would be to revive the fortunes of the 20-time English champions, who have been in the shadow of Manchester City for a decade.

“Everyone was telling me ‘You can’t succeed in that job’,” said the 53-year-old. “They said it was impossible. Me? I wanted the challenge.”

United beat Newcastle in the League Cup final in February and finished third in the Premier League in 2022/23.

But this season they are already out of the League Cup, trail Premier League leaders Arsenal by nine points and face an embarrassing group-stage exit from the Champions League.

Since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, six managers have tried and failed to take United back to the top of English football — David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.

“I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was such a great club with such a great fanbase,” said Ten Hag.

“People love Man Utd, or they are against Man Utd. I like clubs like this. Ajax was like this.”

The Dutchman said earlier this week he was confident that he retains the backing of the United players after reports of rifts within the dressing room.

United are expected to announce that British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is buying a 25 percent stake in the club in the coming days but the deal may not make a major impact on spending in the January transfer window.

“I don’t think we will spend a lot,” said Ten Hag.

“As a club, you have to look for improvements, so if you can find better and it’s realistic financially and with financial fair play, the club has to go with it.

“But most of the time you don’t attract the best players in the winter.”


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Final berth in VBA 2023 semifinals a two-horse race



The final berth in the semifinals will come down to a face-off between the Nha Trang Dolphins and the Ho Chi Minh City Wings. 

The defending champions, Saigon Heat, clinched a thrilling 80-78 victory against city counterparts Ho Chi Minh City Wings in the 50th match of the 2023 VBA season, securing a spot in the semifinals with an 11-2 record.

The Saigon Heat’s triumph inadvertently propelled the Thang Long Warriors into the semifinals, with coach Chris Daleo expressing delight over the team’s nine victories this season, a major improvement against last year’s group-stage knockout.

VBA announces the Saigon Heat as one of the semifinalists. Photo: VBA

VBA announces the Saigon Heat as one of the semifinalists. Photo: VBA

With guaranteed spots for the Saigon Heat and Thang Long Warriors, the race for the last semifinal berth came down to a matchup between the fourth-ranked Nha Trang Dolphins and the fifth-ranked Ho Chi Minh City Wings.

The Nha Trang Dolphins maintain an 8-6 record for the current season with four matches yet to be played, while the Ho Chi Minh City Wings possess a 6-8 record and have three matches remaining in their schedule.

Thang Long Warriors’ coach Chris Daleo. Photo: VBA

Thang Long Warriors’ coach Chris Daleo. Photo: VBA

Despite posting a worse record, the Ho Chi Minh City Wings have a higher head-to-head score against the Nha Trang Dolphins.

The Nha Trang Dolphins and Ho Chi Minh City Wings are gearing up for a pivotal matchup that will determine which team reigns supreme.

With both teams vying for the top spot, this final encounter promises intense competition and thrilling basketball.

Kentrell Barkley (white jersey) helps the Saigon Heat win against the Ho Chi Minh City Wings. Photo: VBA

Kentrell Barkley (white jersey) helps the Saigon Heat win against the Ho Chi Minh City Wings. Photo: VBA

“The Ho Chi Minh City Wings have been in good form in the second half of the season,” commented Hong Gia Lan, an experienced defender for the Nha Trang Dolphins.

“The impending match presents a considerable challenge for our team.

“Nevertheless, we are actively engaged in preparations, implementing strategic changes to ensure readiness for this demanding encounter.”

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