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Osimhen’s former coach urges Italy to forget World Cup heartbreak…he is the new messiah

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Luciano Spalletti faces the media ahead of his debut as Italy coach. AFP

Luciano Spalletti  under who Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen speaheaded Napoli’s historic winning of the Serie A title inMay has urged Italy to forget the pain of failing to qualify for the past two World Cups as he takes charge of the Azzurri’s Euro 2024 bid following the departure of Roberto Mancini..

Italy face North Macedonia and Ukraine in two matches crucial for their chances of qualifying from Group C for next summer’s tournament in Germany.

Spalletti took charge of the European champions last month after the shock resignation of Mancini, who was then hired as Saudi Arabia coach in a mega-money deal.

Mancini won Euro 2020 but also presided over play-off defeat to North Macedonia which kept them out of last year’s World Cup in Qatar.

“We need to forget the bitterness of two results which left scars on us and play a style of football that people like, a style of play that brings together an important footballing nation,” Spalletti told reporters at Italy’s Coverciano training centre.

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“To be here as the national team coach is a special feeling, a long-held dream of mine. I was 11 years old for the 1970 Mexico World Cup, when I asked my mother to make me flag as big as possible after the 4-3 (semi-final) win over Germany.”

Italy lost that final 4-1 to Brazil.

Italy are third in Group C with three points after a 2-0 win over Malta and a 2-1 loss to England, who are top with 12 points from four games.

Spalletti has omitted some big names for his first squad, with Mancini’s captain Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Verratti and Jorginho all left out of the 29-man group announced on Friday evening.

Veteran Bonucci has represented his country 121 times and was key to Italy’s triumph at the last Euro, played in 2021.

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The 36-year-old signed for Union Berlin on Friday after being frozen out by Juventus.

Midfielders Jorginho and Verratti were also stars of the team which became national heroes by beating England in the Euro final at Wembley, but Spalletti says they have been left out due to lack of playing time.

“We need players who have international experience, but it was unthinkable to pick Marco Verratti and Jorginho given the amount of playing and preparation time they’ve had,” said Spalletti.

“The players have to be happy to wear the jersey, it’s a very important jersey which has a great history. I want to see pride.”

Spalletti is still under contract with Napoli until June next year after deciding to take a season-long sabbatical following his Serie A title triumph with the club last term.

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Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, who allowed Spalletti to step aside, is demanding compensation of three million euros ($3.3 million) to release his former coach from his contract.

“Lawyers are working on it,” said Spalletti.

“I hope that we will find a solution which satisfies both parties.”

-AFP

 

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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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