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EURO 2024

Mbappe fit to face Netherlands

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Euro 2024 - France Training - Paderborn Arena, Paderborn, Germany - June 19, 2024 France's Kylian Mbappe is seen with nose plasters as he speaks to coach Didier Deschamps during training REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

France captain Kylian Mbappe should be available for their second European Championship group game against the Netherlands after breaking his nose in their opening 1-0 win over Austria, manager Didier Deschamps said on Thursday.

The striker was injured in a collision with Austria’s Kevin Danso, and the 25-year-old forward took to social media to ask for help in finding a protective mask so he could face the Dutch in Group D on Friday.

“Everything is going in the right direction after this major shock he had, with the consequences, of course,” Deschamps told reporters.

“Yesterday, as you could see, he was able to go out and do some activity. That will be the case tonight too.

“So it has evolved in the right direction to ensure that he can be available tomorrow.”

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Mbappe tried on the specially made mask on Thursday.

“Kylian Mbappe will be wearing a mask yes, you don’t really need to know the details about this mask,” Deschamps said.

“I think you’ve got enough moles to find out where these masks come from anyway.”

The French are willing to leave it as late as possible before deciding on whether Mbappe will start, just four days after his injury.

“Kylian is doing well. The swelling has come down on his nose,” France forward Antoine Griezmann said.

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“We’ll see the last minute, depending on how he’s feeling.

If Mbappe is unable to play, Griezmann is confident the French side can cope with his absence.

“I think the entire team would have to adapt. I really don’t know if he’s going to be playing. Having one of the best players in the world on the pitch or not definitely changes things,” he said.

“But you always have to adapt to each match. And that’s what I really love to do. So it doesn’t matter what the technical choices are for tomorrow.”

For Deschamps, whether Mbappe plays or not does not change the way he approaches the game.

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“I try to talk to the players who are going to start the game, and the players who are not going to start the game,” Deschamps said.

“We are a group. You need to manage the group. It was the same with the first match, the players who will start and those who will be on the bench.

“Everyone has to be ready. I don’t think it’s anything special.”

The Netherlands also won their opening game, coming from behind to beat Poland 2-1.

-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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EURO 2024

Gareth Southgate dares to dream as England eye end to long wait for Euros glory

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England manager Gareth Southgate said he does not believe that fate is guiding the Three Lions to Euro 2024 glory, but is dreaming of ending a 58-year wait to win a major tournament in Sunday’s final against Spain.

Three years on from losing the Euro 2020 final on home soil to Italy, Southgate’s men have another opportunity to become European champions for the first time in Berlin.

England have struggled on their road to the final, needing a series of late goals, fightbacks and a penalty shoot-out against Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Southgate said that did not mean they were destined to beat a Spanish side who have been a class apart in the competition so far.

However, it would a reward for England’s consistency in never failing to reach at least the quarter-finals in the four tournaments Southgate has taken charge of.

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“I’m not a believer in fairy tales but I am a believer in dreams,” Southgate said at his pre-match press conference on July 13.

“We’ve had big dreams, we’ve felt the need and the importance of that but then you have to make those things happen.

“Fate, the run that we’ve had, the late goals, the penalties, that doesn’t equate to it being our moment, we have to make it happen tomorrow and perform at the level that we need to perform.

“Of course it would be a lovely story but it’s in our hands and our performance is the most important thing.”

AFP

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EURO 2024

Spain to offer relentless pressing against England

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 Euro 2024 - Semi Final - Spain v France - Munich Football Arena, Munich, Germany - July 9, 2024 Spain's Fabian Ruiz and Alvaro Morata react REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo

Spain go into Sunday’s Euro 2024 final as slight favourites over England after not only being the most attractive team to watch at the tournament but having won every match they have played.

The Spaniards have emerged as a team that can quickly adapt their strategy to their opponents without giving up their direct attacking game in favour of a results-based performance.

They outsmarted France in the semi-finals despite falling a goal behind and it took them just five minutes to score twice to take the lead with their relentless pressing game and vertical passing that forced the French to resort to long balls.

With Rodri as their midfield dynamo, a strategist matching Germany’s Toni Kroos in impressive passing efficiency but with a more attack-minded approach, the battle in the centre of the pitch is expected to play a key role in the outcome.

England will have to wrestle possession from Spain, who also have the outstanding Fabian Ruiz in midfield, a player who for many is already the player of the tournament.

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With lightning wingers Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal, who turns 17 on Saturday and is the youngest scorer at a Euros or World Cup, ripping up defences and able to score and provide assists, England’s fullbacks will have their hands full.

Spain are the first team to win six games at a single Euros following their victory over France, up to that stage the team with the tournament’s best defence.

A second successive Euro final for England and coach Gareth Southgate is no mean feat even though they had to endure weeks of criticism, especially in the group phase, for lacklustre performances and with little punching power up front.

England’s defence, however, has remained solid and with the pace of John Stones and Kyle Walker, when they do get exposed, they have proved adept at scrambling recoveries.

SPANISH POSSESSION

Spain’s ball possession and movement will likely give England their biggest test so far and key to Southgate’s side being able to stay in shape is the incredible work of defensive midfield screen Declan Rice.

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His anticipation of danger areas plus his movement, strength and determination have made him arguably England’s best player in Germany as he patrols in front of the back four, firefighting wherever the danger pops up.

The rest of England’s midfield also stepped up against the Netherlands in the semi-finals in terms of regaining possession, with Kobbie Mainoo, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden all showing an appetite to spoil and stifle.

After their largely misfiring group stage, with two goals in three matches, Southgate will have been reassured by what he saw against the Dutch when his big names stepped up and started creating sustained danger from out wide and through the middle.

He will encourage Jude Bellingham to run hard at the same defenders the midfielder bullied en route to becoming LaLiga player of the year, while reminding Harry Kane how much more effective he was in the semi when he did his work in and around the box rather than going deep as he often did previously.

One area of concern is England’s failure to be dangerous at set piece situations. Defensively they looked vulnerable in the air against a very big Netherlands team but that is unlikely to be so much of a factor versus Spain.

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-Reuters

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EURO 2024

Euro finals facts and records

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Here are some facts and records of European Championship finals ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2024 showcase between Spain and England:

Most titles: Spain (3), Germany/West Germany (3)

If Spain win the title on Sunday they will be the only team to have won the title four times.

Most finals: Germany/West Germany (6), Spain (5, including Euro 2024)

Titles won by the Euro 2024 finalists

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Spain: 1964, 2008, 2012

England: –

Biggest win in final: Spain beat Italy 4-0 in 2012.

Finals decided in extra-time: 1960, 1996, 2000, 2016

Finals decided by penalties: 1976, 2020

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Final played twice: 1968. The final won by Italy was played twice after the first match against Yugoslavia ended 1-1 after extra-time. Penalties had not yet been introduced as deciders.

Defending champions winning the title: Spain 2012

Teams that won the title after reaching the final in the previous edition:

1980 West Germany (finalists in 1976)

1996 Germany

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England reached the 2020 final which they lost to Italy and are in the final once more.

Teams that won the title without requiring penalty shootouts during the tournament since their introduction:

France (2000), Greece (2004)

If England win they will be the seventh team in the last nine Euros to have triumphed after winning a shootout at some point in the tournament.

Third-placed team in group stage to win the title: Portugal (2016)

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Red cards in final: 1984 Yvon Le Roux (France)

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