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Nigerian-born Eberechi Eze is England’s only uncapped player in 25-man Euro qualifier squad

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Crystal Palace v West Ham United - Selhurst Park, London, Britain - April 29, 2023 Crystal Palace's Eberechi Eze celebrates scoring their fourth goal REUTERS/Tony Obrien

Even as he is set to face Taiwo Awoniyi-inspired Nothingham Forest,  In-form Nigerian born Crystal Palace midfielder Eberechi Eze has earned his first senior call-up for England as coach Gareth Southgate named his squad for next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old was the only uncapped player in the 25-man selection for the two games in Group C, away to Malta and at home to North Macedonia.

There was also a call-up for Brighton & Hove Albion defender Lewis Dunk whose one England cap came in 2018 and a recall for Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings.

But there was no place for the second squad in succession for Chelsea forward Raheem Sterling.

England are top of Group C after winning away in Italy and then at home to Ukraine.

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Former Queens Park Rangers player Eze has been in startling form for Palace, scoring six goals in his last eight games and Southgate said he would have been in his previous squad but for an injury setback.

“We have liked him for a long time,” Southgate told a press conference. “He has finished the season really strongly and plays in a couple of positions across the attacking line and has a burst of speed to go past people and take people out of the game with his dribbling skills.”

Southgate said Dunk and Mings had both earned their calls after strong showing for their clubs, both of whom have finished the season in style with Brighton qualifying for Europe and Villa likely to join them.

Explaining the absence of 82-cap forward Sterling, Southgate said it had been an easy decision.

“I spoke with him a week or so ago. A general catch-up. He is not happy with his condition physically, carrying a hamstring problem. He wasn’t really in consideration because he doesn’t think he is operating at the level he needs,” the coach said.

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Southgate also had some words of comfort for Brentford forward Ivan Toney who made his debut as a substitute against Ukraine but has since been banned for eight months after more than 100 breaches of the FA’s betting rules.

“When he comes back, if he plays well, then we’ll pick him,” Southgate said. “I think he’ll have additional motivation through what he’s experiencing and he’s a resilient guy with great character and we are here to support him.”

Southgate said he had not considered resting a few of his senior players for what look like two comfortable fixtures. Five Manchester City players in the squad will be playing in the Champions League final days before the Malta game on June 16.

“I don’t think the rest of the world will be (resting players) and we’ve played North Macedonia at home twice and never beaten them,” Southgate said.

“I think we could easily fall into the trap — to be a top team, to be European champions we need to nail the fixtures, like we did in March.”

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Squad: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Sam Johnstone. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Lewis Dunk, Marc Guehi, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker. Jude Bellingham, Eberechi Eze, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, James Maddison, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice. Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Callum Wilson.

-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.

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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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