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International Football

North Korean soccer players clash with referee after losing to Japan

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North Korea soccer coach Sin Yong Nam defended his players after several clashed with match officials on the pitch after their 2-1 defeat to Japan in the Asian Games quarter-finals in Hangzhou on Sunday.

North Korea captain Jang Kuk Chol and team mate Kim Kyong Sok remonstrated heatedly with referee Rustam Lutfullin after the final whistle, pursuing the Uzbek in the middle of the pitch as he tried to back away.

With the confrontation drawing in the assistant referees and several security staff, the North Korean coach also ran to his players to try to defuse the situation.

The North Korean players were earlier furious when Lutfullin awarded a penalty to Japan after goalkeeper Kang Juh Yok charged out and clipped the feet of Jun Nishikawa with an outstretched arm.

Waving his arms and shaking his head, an angry Kang argued with the referee before Yuta Matsumura slotted home from the spot in the 80th minute to see Japan through at the Xiaoshan Sports Centre Stadium.

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“I admit that our players were a little bit over-excited in the match but it is football,” Sin said at the post-match press conference.

“But there are confrontations in football matches… I think our behaviour is acceptable.”

Japan coach Go Oiwa declined to comment on the incident when asked.

“This match was as we expected,” he said through a translator.

“There are some things (we are) not happy about in the match but basically we can accept that.”

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Kotaro Uchino scored the first goal for Japan with a helpful deflection off a North Korea player in the 50th minute before Kim Kuk Bom levelled the match with a stunning, long-range strike.

Japan moved into a semi-final with Hong Kong who pulled off a 1-0 upset of former winners Iran.

Defending champions South Korea cruised into the last four with a comfortable 2-0 victory over hosts China. They will face Uzbekistan following the Central Asians’ 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia earlier in the day.

-Reuters

 

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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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International Football

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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