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England Dare To Dream After Setting Up Euro 2020 Final Against Italy

England’s forward Harry Kane (R) shoots and scores a penalty kick past Denmark’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (Back) during the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final football match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium in London on July 7, 2021. (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP)

 

England fans can at last look forward to a first major tournament final in 55 years after a momentous win against Denmark set up a Euro 2020 showdown with Italy.

Three years on from their defeat to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final, Gareth Southgate’s men overcame the Danes 2-1 in extra time at a rocking Wembley on Wednesday to reach their first European Championship final.

They now stand just one game away from ending their long and painful trophy drought, which dates all the way back to the 1966 World Cup.

Standing in their way are an Italy side who are on a 33-match unbeaten run, reviving their reputation on the global stage after an embarrassing failure to even reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A Wembley crowd of almost 65,000 whipped themselves into a frenzy before kick-off on Wednesday with rousing renditions of “Sweet Caroline” and “Football’s Coming Home”.

Simon Kjaer’s own goal cancelled out a superb Mikkel Damsgaard free-kick and Kasper Schmeichel kept England at bay with some stunning saves to take the tie to extra time.

The decisive moment came late in the first period of extra time when Dutch referee Danny Makkelie awarded a spot-kick for Joakim Maehle’s challenge on Raheem Sterling which survived a VAR check, and England held out to seal the win.

The final whistle sparked scenes of pandemonium inside Wembley — hosting the biggest crowd in the UK since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — as the players partied on the pitch.

Flag-waving fans in London’s Trafalgar Square abandoned their seating to merge into a huge, swaying crowd after the final whistle. One group of supporters climbed on top of a double-decker bus.

For Denmark, defeat spelt the end of a fairytale run to the last four after the trauma of witnessing star Christian Eriksen collapse in their opening group game against Finland following a cardiac arrest.

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Vibrant England 

England’s forward Harry Kane celebrates in front of England’s supporters after winning the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final football match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium in London on July 7, 2021. (Photo by Andy Rain / POOL / AFP)

 

England have suffered semi-final heartbreak at major tournaments four times since 1966 and those agonising defeats have been etched in the psyche of English football.



But Southgate has overseen the emergence of a vibrant young team unconcerned by the failings of their predecessors.

“They’ve responded to what was always going to be a really challenging night,” Southgate said of his players, who had not conceded a goal until the Denmark game.

“We were so smooth through the quarter-final and relatively unscathed through the second round. We knew that at some point we were going to concede and we would have to respond.”

He added: “For our country, I’ve not heard this new Wembley like that ever and to be able to share that with everybody and share it with everybody at home is very special.”

The semi-final was attended by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William, who is president of the English Football Association.

Johnson has refused to rule out the prospect of an emergency bank holiday should England triumph on Sunday.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of Sunday’s match. Clearly we want England to go all the way and win the final, and then we will set out our plans in due course.”

Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick when England beat West Germany 4-2 to win the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley, tweeted: “Wow! We’re in the final. Brilliant game. Well done England. Fantastic.”

But Kane was determined to stress that nothing was won yet.

“It’s the first time in our history as a nation, getting through to the European final at Wembley, and it’s one of the proudest moments in my life, for sure,” said the forward. “But we haven’t won it yet, we’ve got one more to go.”

Italy reached the final with a win on penalties against Spain at Wembley the previous night.

Midfielder Marco Verratti said the Azzurri were “climbing back to where they belong” ahead of Sunday’s final, also at England’s home ground after the pan-European tournament.

“It’s the dream you have as a kid as a footballer,” he said. “I think it will be an epic final, history-making either way.”

Away from the mounting fervour, UEFA has charged England over their fans’ behaviour after a laser pointer was aimed at Denmark’s Schmeichel.

Photographs in the British press showed the green light of a laser being pointed at Schmeichel’s face just before Kane’s extra-time penalty.

AFP

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1,130 Looted Nigerian Artefacts Would Be Returned In 2022, Says Germany

The German Minister of State for Culture, Prof. Moniker Grutters (right), presenting a gift to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, during a meeting on the repatriation of looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday, July 8, 2021.

 

German Minister of State for Culture, Monika Grutters has disclosed that 1,130 artefacts would be returned to Nigeria from the beginning of 2022.

Grutters said this on Wednesday during a meeting with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Berlin, Germany.

This was contained in a statement issued on Thursday by the Special Assistant to the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi.

Mohammed at the meeting earlier demanded a full and unconditional return of the 1,130 Benin Bronzes that were looted from the African nation in the 19th century and domiciled in German museums.

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Grutters at the meeting said “the way we deal with the issue of Benin Bronzes is important to addressing our colonial past.”

She assured that the artefacts “would be returned to Nigeria from the beginning of 2022”.

Gutters noted that the fact that Germany has twice sent delegations to Nigeria for talks over the planned repatriation is an indication that both sides have moved beyond mere talks, saying all the Museums in Germany that are holding Benin Bronzes have agreed to cooperate.



Mohammed, later at a meeting with the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said there should be ”absolutely no conditions attached” to the return of the artefacts, which he described as an idea whose time has come..

He said the ongoing discussion between Nigeria and Germany on the return of the art works is not just the end of an era but the beginning of a new vista of stronger relations, pivoted by cultural diplomacy, between both countries.

Alhaji Mohammed thanked the Government of Germany for taking the lead in the global efforts to repatriate all artefacts that were looted from Nigeria and indeed from the African continent.

The Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who is also a member of the Nigerian delegation, said a ”transformational” museum is being built in Benin city to house the artefacts upon their return, as part of a new cultural district in the city.

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Sergio Ramos Signs Two-Year Contract With Paris Saint-Germain

Photo Credit: PSG

 

Sergio Ramos, the former Real Madrid stalwart considered one of the best defenders in the world,  has signed a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain, the French club said Thursday.

Ramos, 35, won the Champions League four times with Real and is a World Cup winner and a two-time champion of Europe with Spain.

The veteran, who has won 180 caps and scored 23 goals for his country, arrives with PSG desperate to add experience to their squad for another assault on an elusive first Champions League title.

PSG sporting director Leonardo has also brought in Dutch midfield star Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi from Italian champions Inter Milan as the Parisians seek the right blend to conquer Europe and persuade France striker Kylian Mbappe to sign a new deal beyond 2022.



“It’s a big change in my life, a new challenge and a day I shall never forget,” Ramos said in a PSG statement.

Ramos, who cut his teeth with Sevilla before joining Real in 2005, played almost 500 games for Los Blancos, marshalling their defence for 16 seasons and winning La Liga five times.

He also scored some notable goals — not least his injury-time equaliser in the 2014 Champions League final against city rivals Atletico.

Real went on to win 4-1 to claim their tenth win in the competition and Ramos remained a mainstay of the side as they made it four continental titles in five seasons between 2016 and 2018 under French coach Zinedine Zidane.

-AFP

 

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Global COVID-19 Deaths Cross 4mn As Outbreaks Surge In Asia

This aerial picture shows family members visit their relative’s grave at the Pedurenan Covid-19 coronavirus public cemetery in Bekasi, West Java, on July 7, 2021.
BAGUS SARAGIH / AFP

 

The global Covid-19 death toll has crossed four million, with the worst of the pandemic only just starting to hit some parts of the Asia-Pacific and cases rising again in the United States.

The more infectious Delta virus variant is accelerating outbreaks, and while some nations have started easing restrictions, the World Health Organization warned the world was at a “perilous point”.

With fears growing about the spread of the virus, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Thursday that the capital Tokyo will be under a state of emergency throughout the Olympics.

“The more infectious Delta variant now accounts for around 30 percent of cases,” Japan’s virus response minister Yasutoshi Nishimura had said before the emergency announcement.

The emergency will run until August 22, but it will be far looser than the lockdowns seen in other parts of the world such as Australia.

The government there said Thursday it will rush 300,000 vaccine doses to Sydney as Australia’s largest city — in its third week of lockdown — struggled to bring a Delta outbreak under control.

South Korea, once considered a coronavirus response model, reported nearly 1,300 new infections on Thursday, the highest since the pandemic began.

The surge has forced South Korean authorities to consider imposing the tightest restrictions, under which all public events would be banned.

Elsewhere in Asia, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City has gone into lockdown. The virus threat also forced organisers Thursday to postpone the Southeast Asian Games were due to be held in Vietnam.

But the worst of the Asian outbreaks is in Indonesia, which has become a global hotspot with death rates rising tenfold in a month to more than 1,000 on Wednesday.

Hospitals in the vast archipelago of 270 million have been pushed to the brink by the flood of coronavirus cases.

 

Health workers transfer a COVID-19 coronavirus patient at Husada Utama hospital in Surabaya, East Java, on July 8, 2021. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP)

 

‘Perilous point’

The WHO announced Wednesday that more than four million people have died from Covid-19, but cautioned that the figure was an underestimate of the true toll.

And while many wealthy nations, spurred by rapid vaccination programmes, have started easing and even entirely eliminating restrictions, the WHO urged “extreme caution”.

“The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic,” said the UN body’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accusing rich countries of hoarding vaccines and of acting “as though the pandemic is already over”.



The Covid-19 challenge has been further complicated in recent weeks by the rise of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India.

In Brazil, which has the world’s second-highest known Covid-19 death toll, authorities said Wednesday that the variant has started spreading rapidly in the country’s most populous state Sao Paulo.

“It is already circulating in our midst in people who has no travel history or who have no contact with someone who has been, for example, in India,” said Sao Paulo health secretary Jean Gorinchteyn.

“We have to pay special attention.”

 

A woman (R) receives nucleic acid testing for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a hotel in the city of Ruili which borders Myanmar, in China’s southwestern Yunnan province on July 8, 2021.
STR / AFP

‘We’ve made it’

The Delta variant has also caused a spike in Covid-19 cases in the United States, which has the world’s highest availability of vaccines.

But its once-rapid immunisation campaign has dropped off steeply since April.

The seven-day average of new cases rose 21 percent compared with two weeks ago, Centers for Disease Control data showed Wednesday.

Regions in the Midwest and South with lower vaccination rates are experiencing higher case rates than regions with high vaccination rates such as the Northeast.

Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told AFP that the likely trend now is that Covid-19 will be more of a problem in areas where vaccinations are low.

“In other parts of the country, the pandemic is largely going to be something that’s managed as more of an ordinary respiratory virus.”

One such area is New York City, where on Wednesday a ticker-tape parade honoured the everyday “heroes” who kept the city running through the pandemic.

Between marching bands and under confetti, groups of doctors, caregivers, delivery men, public transport workers, and food bank employees and others marched as onlookers cheered.

“It’s a trauma we’ve all kind of gone through,” said New York resident Sara Cavolo.

“It really hits home the fact that now we’re coming back out of this and reemerging, we’ve made it. It feels just very good to celebrate.”

-AFP

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Rumour Mongering: Klopp “Closed the Door” On Coutinho Return

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Premier League

Coutinho was hoping to reunite with Klopp, but the Liverpool manager isn’t interested.

Philippe Coutinho’s 2018 transfer to FC Barcelona was a financial windfall for Liverpool that helped add the final few pieces to the roster that would go on to win the 2019 Champions League Final and the 2020-21 Premier League title. For Barcelona and Coutinho, the move has largely been a disaster.

The Brazilian midfielder has struggled to find the form that led Barcelona to believe he was worth the nine-figure transfer fee they paid, and he spent much of this past season on the sidelines with a knee injury. Both the club and the player seem to have accepted that it’s time for Coutinho to move on.

Barcelona is especially interested in finding a buyer thanks to the severe financial issues they are facing. Not only are they strapped for cash, but their wage bill is bloated to the point of absurdity. They are currently so far over what they are allowed to spend that La Liga rules prevent them from registering new signings like Sergio Agüero and Memphis Depay until they have dramatically reduced their overall wage bill.

Oh, and on top of all of that, they still want to try and find a way to re-sign Lionel Messi.

So, they are looking to move some of the bloated contracts they have on their books, and Coutinho is one of the more obvious options. According to Spanish outlet Sport, the 29-year-old was hoping he could return to Merseyside and reunite with Jürgen Klopp, but Klopp, who apparently has no interest in bringing Coutinho back for an Anfield encore, has “closed the door.”

Even with Barca likely willing to accept a fraction of Coutinho’s value to try and dump his contract, it’s hard to imagine Klopp or Michael Edwards entertaining the idea of bringing him back. Coutinho will likely be loosely linked with a Liverpool return until Barcelona can actually find a club willing to take on his wages, but it’s incredibly unlikely it would ever happen.

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