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Kane breaks record as England enjoy rare win over Italy

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UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers – Group C – Italy v England – Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy – March 23, 2023 England’s Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal and breaking the England goalscoring record REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

Harry Kane became England’s record international goalscorer as his side began their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign by defeating reigning champions Italy 2-1 in Group C on Thursday.

England’s skipper struck a penalty past Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma shortly before halftime to make it 2-0 and take his tally to 54, one more than Wayne Rooney.

Midfielder Declan Rice had opened the scoring after 13 minutes as Gareth Southgate’s side dominated the first half.

Debutant striker Mateo Retegui halved the deficit in the 56th minute as Italy responded in impressive fashion but England weathered a storm to secure a first win over Italy on Italian soil for 62 years despite having Luke Shaw sent off.

Although there will be concern at how England lost their way in the second half, it proved the perfect response after the heartache of losing to France in the World Cup quarter-finals in December when Kane missed a crucial penalty.

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This time he made no mistake after Giovanni Di Lorenzo was harshly penalised for handball in the 42nd minute, finding the corner to claim another scoring record.

Kane was also involved in England’s opener as his blocked shot fell for Rice to convert to silence the majority of fans inside the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Italy, who beat England on penalties to win Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium but failed to qualify for the World Cup, were far more dangerous in the second half after Argentina-born Retegui smashed a low shot past Jordan Pickford.

England sank deeper and deeper as they appeared to run out of legs but Italy struggled to create clear chances and suffered a first Euro qualifying defeat in 41 games.

It was England’s first competitive victory over Italy since 1977 and meant Gareth Southgate has racked up 50 wins as the national coach since taking the job in 2016.

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But the night belonged to Kane. “This means everything,” Kane said. “So excited to get back out there and put the England shirt back on. And it had to be a penalty of course. Once it hit the back of the net there was so much emotion. Just huge thanks to the players, staff and fans.”

Rooney, whose goals came in 120 games compared with the 81 it has taken Kane to move ahead of him, was quick to congratulate his former international team mate.

“I knew it wouldn’t take long but that was quick. Great man, unbelievable goalscorer and an England legend. Congrats Harry!” Rooney said on Twitter.

It was the first time Naples had hosted the Azzurri for a decade but it all went flat for Roberto Mancini’s team as they were outplayed in the first half.

Young midfielder Jude Bellingham ran the show in the early stages for England and he forced a superb save from Donnarumma when he let fly with a ferocious shot from distance.

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From the resulting corner, the ball fell to Kane and when his shot was blocked by Leonardo Spinazzola it fell kindly for Rice to shoot past Donnarumma.

England looked dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line and Kane flashed a low ball across the face of the goal.

Kalvin Phillips, surprisingly given a start despite hardly any minutes for Manchester City this season, went close with a low show as Kane screamed for a pass.

Kane’s history-making moment was a touch harsh on Italy as referee Srdjan Jovanovic decided after checking a monitor that Di Lorenzo had used his arm as a cross came into the box.

Kane dispatched the penalty to put England in cruise control and Jack Grealish missed a glorious chance to make it 3-0 on the stroke of halftime.

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Italy were a different proposition after the break and Retegui marked his debut with a clinical finish.

Mancini sent on Wilfrid Gnonto midway through the half and he caused all sorts of problems as Italy piled forward.

Shaw was booked for time wasting and a minute later received another yellow for a mistimed tackle and a flagging England had to dig deep to get over the line.

-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

International Football

Two Moroccan football players lost at sea, says club official

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Abdellatif Akhrif, IRT player reported missing off the coast of M'diq this Saturday, July 6, 2024. © COPYRIGHT: IRT

Two Moroccan players from top-flight soccer side Ittihad Tanger have been missing at sea since Saturday after strong currents drifted their small yacht, a club official said on Sunday.

They were in a group of five players from the club who went cruising off the northern city of Tangier when strong currents and heavy winds drifted their yacht away as they were swimming in deep waters, club deputy president Anass Mrabet told Reuters.

“Three players have already been rescued on Saturday, while research is still ongoing for the missing Salman Harraq and Abdellatif Akhrif,” he said.

The players did not have buoys on them when they jumped from the small yacht to swim, he said citing recounts by rescued players.

While Akhrif, 24, is already a full member of the squad, Harraq, 18, was about to move up to the senior team this year, Mrabet added.

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Ittihad Tanger have been in the Moroccan top flight since 2015 and won the league title for the first and only time in their history in the 2017-18 season. However, they have struggled in the lower half of the standings in recent years.

-Reuters

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FIFA launches ‘Football Manager’ World Cup with $100,000 in prize money

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FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development and former soccer manager Arsene Wenger speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

FIFA will host its first ever FIFAe World Cup of Football Manager this year to crown the best virtual manager on the highly-popular video game, world soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

FIFA is partnering with Sports Interactive, the developers of the game that has sold millions of copies and has also been used by several football clubs to scout players and opponents thanks to its extensive database.

Players will compete for $100,000 in prize money in the final event from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

“This competition requires participants to demonstrate a profound understanding of football strategy and tactics,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is the ambassador for the esports event.

“Success demands not only mastery of game mechanics but also in-depth football knowledge, making this format a fascinating blend.”

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FIFA said in the inaugural year of the event, selected member associations will be invited to be represented at the final event.

Member associations from all six confederations are expected to be invited while players can sign up on FIFA’s website.

-Reuters

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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