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France Knocks Lionel Messi and Argentina Out of World Cup

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Lionel Messi’s fourth World Cup ended in bitter, frustrating and all-too-familiar defeat on Saturday, with Argentina tumbling out of the tournament with a 4-3 loss to a suddenly impressive France in the round of 16.

Messi departs after a frustrating tournament in which Argentina only barely escaped a humiliating elimination in the group stage. But it ended as all his major tournaments with Argentina’s senior national team have: without a trophy, and while carrying the burden of a team defeat on his slight shoulders. At 31, he may choose to make this his last World Cup.

For a few minutes in the second half, it almost seemed as if Argentina’s troubled trip at this World Cup might be extended. Angel Di Maria scored a gorgeous long-range goal just before halftime, and then Gabriel Mercado turned in a low shot by Messi three minutes into the second half for a 2-1 lead.

But France was simply too good. The teenage forward Kylian Mbappé won a penalty in the first half with a three-quarter-field run, and then scored two goals of his own four minutes apart to stick in the knife on Argentina.

Antoine Griezmann scored France’s first goal, converting the penalty Mbappé had won, and right back Benjamin Pavard slashed in France’s second in the 57th minute — a volleyed goal that was the equal of Di Maria’s stunner — after some nervous moments early in the half.

After pulling even, France simply pulled away. Mbappé restored his team’s lead with the cool of a veteran in the 64th minute, calmly finding space in the area to rip home the go-ahead goal.

Then, four minutes later, he finished off a flowing move that began deep in France’s half by slotting his second goal of the day — and third of the tournament — past Argentina’s goalkeeper Franco Armani.

Argentina got a final lifeline deep into stoppage time, when the substitute Sergio Aguero headed in a Messi cross — Messi’s second assist of the game. But Argentina needed one more, and within two minutes, it, and Messi, were out of time.

France will play the winner of Saturday’s second game, Uruguay vs. Portugal, on Friday in Nizhny Novgorod.

The victory will embolden French hopes that this team might just be good enough to win the tournament. France, while it had not lost a game in Russia, had been unimpressive in the group stage. Its final group game, a listless 0-0 draw against Denmark, was played to a chorus of boos.

But the France that tore apart Argentina was a different team. And with its core — Mbappé and Griezmann up front, Paul Pogba and the tireless N’Golo Kanté dominant in midfield, and center backs Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) and Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona) forming an unusually harmonious alliance — it might have what it takes to repeat its only triumph at the World Cup, on home soil in 1998.

The 19-year-old Mbappé became only the second teenager to score two goals in a World Cup match — after Brazil’s Pelé in 1958. A star at Paris Saint-Germain, he immediately pushed back on any comparisons.

“Let’s put things in perspective,” he said when told of the achievement. “Pelé is another category.”

Born six months after France won the 1998 World Cup, he is seen as the country’s best hope for delivering a second this summer, and he has embraced the challenge with poise and skill.

“In a World Cup you have the top players, so it’s an opportunity to show your abilities and what you can do,” he said. “There’s no better place than a World Cup.”

New York Times

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SPORTS

Kaizer Chiefs fires coach Middendorp

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ernst middendorp fired

ABSA Premiership runners up Kaizer Chiefs on Wednesday parted ways with head coach Ernst Middendorp.

The German mentor, who had a year left on his contract, was shown the exit door four days after Amakhosi failed to clinch the league title despite being on top for most on the season.

In delivering the news, club founder and chairman Kaizer Motaung said: “We deliberated and considered many aspects related to the team, including our way of playing, our performances and the results before coming to the decision,” confirms Motaung.

“We truly believed and hoped that our 50th anniversary year would be better, and it indeed looked promising. The decision taken is part of a strategy to have the team win trophies again and to make our supporters happy because they deserve better.

“After giving the coach and the technical team the ammunition required to compete in the new season,” Motaung adds, “there were some improvements, and this was evident during the first seven months of this 2019/2020 season.

“However, when the league restarted post-lockdown, things changed, and we looked a totally different side in our last eight league matches.

We witnessed some heart-stopping performances and we were overtaken on the log in the last game of the season, which truly broke our hearts. We have to take responsibility – we can’t wait and allow this situation to continue.”

On the way forward, the chairman said: “The squad has been given time off after a grueling completion of the season and will return before the end of September to start preparing for the 2020/21 season.

“We will announce the new coach before the team returns for pre-season training.-Soccer 24

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Rampant Celtic spoil Billiat’s party

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Zimbabwe international forward, Khama Billiat, saw his 30th birthday anniversary spoiled by Kaizer Chiefs’ 1-3 defeat at the hands of a rampant Bloemfontein Celtic yesterday.

The Warriors talisman turned 30 yesterday.

But, his Amakhosi were humbled by the impressive Celtic at Tuks Stadium.

In the fourth minute, Celtic midfielder Wandisile Letlabika tried to catch Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi off his line with a cheeky long-range lob, forcing the Nigerian to backpedal and tip the ball over his bar.

With 10 minutes gone, Victor Letsoalo got in to a pocket of space between the Chiefs defence and midfield before firing away a shot which was tipped around the post by a diving Akpeyi.

Nine minutes later, Celtic switched play well as Andile Fikizolo found Letsoalo, who in turn found Ndumiso Mabena and the talismanic striker turned well before firing away a shot which Erick Mathoho did well to block.

Chiefs were showing their aerial prowess, putting plenty of balls into the Celtic box.

A Billiat corner on the hour mark found Leonardo Castro at the back post, whose powerful header forced Chaine into a good save.

Shortly afterwards, Mathoho broke the deadlock with his fifth goal of the season when he towered above the Celtic defence and headed home powerfully from a Parker corner.

However, Phunya Sele Sele equalised on the stroke of half-time. Lantshene Phalane’s slide-rule pass released Sifiso Ngobeni, whose left-footed cross-cum-shot from the left-hand byline was tapped home by Sera Motebang.

Celtic took the lead slightly fortuitously shortly after the interval when Lantshene Phalane’s deflected shot found its way to an unmarked Motebang Sera in the box, who stroked the ball past Akpeyi and into the back of the net with ease.

Soon after, Nurkovic hit the crossbar with a shot that caught Chaine off his line as Celtic survived a scare to see their lead remain intact while Willard Katsande’s attempted long-range piledriver was straight at Chaine in the 53rd minute.

There was no goalmouth action until the 75th minute when Celtic scored their third.

Letsoalo did brilliantly to run onto the second ball and control it at at pace before firing past Akpeyi into the bottom right-hand corner.

Billiat had a golden opportunity to pull a goal back for the Glamour Boys in the 89th minute.

Cardoso dinked the ball into the box and the Zimbabwean was unmarked in the box but couldn’t control the header as it sailed over the bar, with the Soweto giants failing to extend their lead over second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns. — Kick-Off.

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Former Cheetahs player to lead Real Betis Academy in Zim

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TO many sporting fans in Zimbabwe, Gerald Sibanda is a rugby person, who has represented the country in the 15s as well as sevens version of the game at international level.

Sibanda is better known for his side steps, burst of pace and scoring magnificent tries for the Cheetahs from 2007 to 2012 and the Sables (2006-2016).

His rugby skills saw him playing for clubs in South Africa, Scotland and Romania.

It, therefore, came as a surprise when Sibanda’s sporting agency, Athletes Sphere Management secured a deal to open the first ever Real Betis Academy on the African continent in Zimbabwe. The Spanish club announced last Thursday that it had got into a partnership with ASM, whose founder and chief executive officer is the former rugby star.

The 34-year-old said football has always been a part of his life since he played the sport from a young age and feels he was one of the most gifted footballers of his generation until rugby took over his life. Sibanda did his secondary education at Milton High School in Bulawayo and Churchill High in Harare, which are traditional rugby playing schools and that is where he fell in love with the game.

“Football is my other life, I was born into football, I played football from a young age, all I knew was playing football up until I reached Form 1. When I went to Milton High School in 1999, I remember going for my first football session, I think I was one of the most talented football players in my time,” said Sibanda.

“Milton being a traditional rugby school I was convinced that for me to become a successful student I needed to try rugby after that I fell in love with rugby. It became a part of my life, but I never lost my touch with football.”

He is delighted that ASM has given him an opportunity to get involved in football, something he had always wanted to do.

“I am so happy that with Athletes Sphere Management, I am able to take up that great role to lead the Betis academy. To me this is something that is unbelievable, but something I envisaged since I was born into football.”

According to documents availed by Sibanda, the Betis Academy Zimbabwe project, which is meant to take off in Harare in October, is a nationwide grassroots football development initiative and a unique experience for Zimbabwean and African talented youth players to develop their football careers.

Exceptionally talented youth players have an opportunity to be scouted and use the Betis academy as a gateway to the world of professional football.

A group of at least 15 players will travel from Zimbabwe to Spain every season. During that week the players will have five training sessions, two friendly matches with local teams and Real Betis school teams, a stadium and city tour-training facilities tour and nutritional classes.

 

The Chronicle

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