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Ligue 1

Early observations after seeing every Euro 2020 contender in action

With the international break now (mercifully) over, let’s look back on each Euro 2020 contender and glean some early lessons from the opening qualifying matches.

France

If it ain’t broke…

In each of France’s two qualifiers, bench boss Didier Deschamps rolled out a nearly identical lineup to the one that romped to victory in the World Cup final less than a year ago. Only left-back Lucas Hernandez, currently out with injury, was replaced for the commanding wins over Moldova and Iceland.

TF-Images / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The sheer talent at Deschamps’ disposal is staggering, as Alexandre Lacazette, Ousmane Dembele, and Kingsley Coman either didn’t make the squad or had to pull out with injury. But it’s difficult to argue with the manager’s decision to keep calling upon those who served him so well in Russia.

That includes target man Olivier Giroud.

An outlier on a team largely built around pace and trickery, the Chelsea forward continues to prove his worth at the international level. His strike against Iceland moved him into sole possession of third on Les Bleus’ all-time scoring chart with 35 tallies. While he likely won’t catch Thierry Henry for the top spot, Michel Platini – who’s sitting on 41 goals – is well within reach.

England

The Czech Republic and Montenegro aren’t exactly the toughest competition. Nonetheless, there was something impressive about the way England blew both teams out of the water. Raheem Sterling continues to cement himself as an otherworldly force, highlighting the abundance of star power Gareth Southgate can call upon.

Shaun Brooks / Action Plus / Getty

More noteworthy, however, was the way Sterling, Southgate, and, in particular, Callum Hudson-Odoi responded to the vile racial abuse Danny Rose was allegedly subjected to from Montenegro fans. The Chelsea winger, still only 18, showed poise that belies his age during a post-match interview.

“I don’t think discrimination should be anywhere,” Hudson-Odoi said, via The Independent. “As I said, we’re equal, we have to play a fair game and enjoy the moment but when you’re hearing stuff like that from the fans it’s not right, it’s unacceptable and hopefully UEFA deal with it properly because when I went over there and heard it, they were saying monkey stuff.”

The Three Lions are in good hands.

Spain

Unlike the French and English, the goals didn’t flow for Spain. But the process was promising, at least.

The Spaniards fired a combined 49 shots during wins over Norway and Malta despite only finding the net four times (once from another Sergio Ramos Panenka).

Denis Doyle / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Some of those scoring struggles can simply be attributed to using an experimental XI against Malta. With manager Luis Enrique away while tending to a family matter, La Furia Roja rolled out a team featuring six players aged 24 or younger. A difficulty finding fluency in the final third with that lineup wasn’t surprising.

Enrique and his staff have plenty of time to figure out their best lineup going forward.

Belgium

As is often the case, Eden Hazard’s excellence has powered the top-ranked team in the world (seriously, take it up with FIFA).

The Chelsea magician scored three of Belgium’s combined five goals against Russia and Cyprus, marking his 100th international cap with an impressive strike against the latter. At 29 years old by the time next summer rolls around, Euro 2020 likely offers the final chance for Hazard to represent his country at a major tournament while still at his peak.

Time really flies.

– / AFP / Getty

The Red Devils field some promising youngsters, and Youri Tielemans is chief among them. But with the “golden generation” of Belgian football ending soon, it’s on Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to carry their perennially underachieving side to the promised land.

Germany

It’s difficult to glean too much from Germany’s early returns considering, unlike each of the nations already mentioned, Jogi Low’s side only played one competitive fixture during the international window.

But what a game it was.

TF-Images / Getty Images Sport / Getty

A five-goal thriller against the Netherlands saw Low rely on the next wave of German talent, with Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry scoring.

Low, the 2014 World Cup winner, has come under intense scrutiny – primarily from Bayern Munich – for his decision to axe stalwarts Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng from the squad. But Die Mannschaft are more than equipped to transition into their next generation with ease. Now all Low has to do is replace Manuel Neuer, who seems to be falling apart before our eyes, with the impregnable Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

There are kinks to work out, but the disastrous showing at last summer’s World Cup will likely be nothing more than a blip.

The remaining hopefuls

Netherlands: The Dutch resurgence hit a slight road bump this week, as the Oranje followed up an all-too-easy win over Belarus with a wild, back-and-forth loss to a new-look German squad. After fighting back from 2-0 down to level the proceedings, Ronald Koeman will be stressed about how easily Nico Schulz rolled home a 90th-minute winner. And yet, despite the result, all signs point to the Netherlands qualifying for their first major international tournament since 2014 without an issue.

Italy: Almost out of nowhere, the future looks bright for the Azzurri. After missing out on the 2018 World Cup in humbling fashion, Italy secured a pair of comfortable wins to kick off Euro 2020 qualifying, doing so with a host of burgeoning young stars at the forefront. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Nicolo Barella, and Nicolo Zaniolo are all 22 or younger, while teenage phenom Moise Kean – who scored twice over the past week – looks set to be the focal point of the Italian attack for the next decade.

Alessandro Sabattini / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Portugal: Drawing against Ukraine and Serbia isn’t how the reigning European champion expected to open its qualifying campaign, and the disappointing results have many Portuguese fans asking questions about manager Fernando Santos. The Selecao rode a rigid defensive setup and sturdy backline to glory three years ago in France. But with the team now boasting a legitimate crop of exciting attackers, is the defensive-minded Santos the right coach to get the best out of this squad?

Croatia: Slotted into arguably the most well-balanced and intriguing qualifying group, the 2018 World Cup finalist is off to a checkered start after a narrow 2-1 win over Azerbaijan and a surprising defeat in Hungary. Zlatko Dalic’s men mustered just one shot on target after Ante Rebic’s early goal against Hungary, conceding twice en route to the loss. Can this aging side, led by chief orchestrator Luka Modric, get back on track?

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Ligue 1

? Top 21 athletes of 2021: 11-7

Throughout a busy 2021 schedule, athletes treated fans to remarkable and awe-inspiring performances. With the year winding down, theScore looked back at an exciting 12 months and voted on its top 21 sportspeople.

21-17 I 16-12 I 11-7 I 6-2 (Dec. 30) I No. 1 (Dec. 31)

11. Tadej Pogacar, cycling

Tim de Waele / Velo / Getty

Cyclists aren’t supposed to dominate in their early 20s. It’s just not something that happens. But Pogacar clearly isn’t one for such conventions. In July, the Slovenian all-rounder became the youngest winner of successive Tour de France titles. Six days after the grueling 3,400-kilometre Euro trek, the 23-year-old captured bronze in the Olympic men’s road race. Add in victories at two of the sport’s most-prized one-day races – Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Giro di Lombardia – and Pogacar’s year is among the best in recent history.

10. Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain

Aurelien Meunier – PSG / PSG / Getty

Messi won the Ballon d’Or a record seventh time in 2021. The 34-year-old was effectively forced to leave Barcelona in the summer due to the club’s huge debts, but he still departed with a Copa del Rey triumph and a remarkable haul of 28 goals in 29 appearances over the 2020-21 campaign. However, his greatest feat was in the Copa America, where he inspired Argentina with four goals and five assists. At long last, victory over Brazil in the final earned Messi his first senior international trophy.

9. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Dan Istitene – Formula 1 / Formula 1 / Getty

For the first time since 2016, someone other than Lewis Hamilton won the Formula 1 drivers’ championship. Verstappen claimed the title on the final lap of the final race of the season. While his victory comes with some controversy, the Dutchman is a deserving champion. He won a season-best 10 races and stood on the podium 18 times, earning top-two finishes in the final eight races. Verstappen also became the fourth-youngest champion at 24 years and 73 days old.

8. Elaine Thompson-Herah, track

Tim Clayton – Corbis / Corbis Sport / Getty

Jamaica’s Thompson-Herah won gold at the women’s 4x100m relay in Tokyo, and she became the first woman to capture the sprint double at back-to-back Olympics. She joined Usain Bolt as the only two who’ve achieved that feat – decent company. Thompson-Herah is also the second-fastest woman ever at both distances – an outstanding accomplishment considering dual record holder Florence Griffith-Joyner’s implausible standards. And, at the Prefontaine Classic in August, the 29-year-old Thompson-Herah ran a personal-best 10.54 in the 100m, just 0.05 seconds back of FloJo’s mark. Blink and you’ll miss her.

7. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

Lewandowski’s resume speaks for itself. After establishing himself as one of the world’s most prolific strikers in the last decade, the Bayern Munich star elevated his game to another level in 2021. He cemented his place as a Bundesliga legend last season with 41 league goals – breaking Gerd Muller’s 49-year single-season scoring record – on his way to winning the European Golden Boot. Although Lewandowski controversially didn’t get his hands on the elusive Ballon d’Or, 2021 will go down as the year he emerged from the shadows of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to be recognized as one of soccer’s brightest stars.

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Ligue 1

Emiliano Sala flight organizer convicted of endangering safety of aircraft

The man who organized the fatal flight of footballer Emiliano Sala was convicted Thursday.

Businessman David Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft at a trial at Cardiff Crown Court, according to BBC News.

The 67-year-old will be sentenced Nov. 12. He previously pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to organize a flight without permission or authorization.

Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died when the single-engine Piper Malibu they were traveling in crashed into the English Channel in January 2019.

The Argentine forward was flying to Wales to link up with his new club, Cardiff City, and complete his £15-million transfer from French side Nantes – the city from which the flight departed.

LOIC VENANCE / AFP / Getty

The jury took seven-and-a-half hours to make its decision.

Henderson, who was on holiday in France at the time of the flight, asked Ibbotson to fly the plane. However, Ibbotson did not hold a commercial pilot’s license, which is required to fly at night, and the 59-year-old’s qualifications to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired months before the trip. The Piper Malibu’s owner had also told Henderson not to let Ibbotson fly the plane again because the pilot had committed airspace infringements.

A carbon monoxide leak occurred during the flight, an August 2019 report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch revealed. The plane crashed after Ibbotson’s attempt to pull it up caused the aircraft to break up in midair.

The jury was told that Henderson texted multiple people moments after the plane crashed, telling them to stay silent about the matter out of fear they would “open a can of worms.”

The prosecutor described Henderson as “reckless or negligent” for prioritizing his business interests over the safety of travelers.

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Ligue 1

Emiliano Sala flight organizer convicted of endangering safety of aircraft

The man who organized the fatal flight of footballer Emiliano Sala was convicted Thursday.

Businessman David Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft at a trial at Cardiff Crown Court, according to BBC News.

The 67-year-old will be sentenced Nov. 12. He previously pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to organize a flight without permission or authorization.

Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died when the single-engine Piper Malibu they were traveling in crashed into the English Channel in January 2019.

The Argentine forward was flying to Wales to link up with his new club, Cardiff City, and complete his £15-million transfer from French side Nantes – the city from which the flight departed.

LOIC VENANCE / AFP / Getty

The jury took seven-and-a-half hours to make its decision.

Henderson, who was on holiday in France at the time of the flight, asked Ibbotson to fly the plane. However, Ibbotson did not hold a commercial pilot’s license, which is required to fly at night, and the 59-year-old’s qualifications to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired months before the trip. The Piper Malibu’s owner had also told Henderson not to let Ibbotson fly the plane again because the pilot had committed airspace infringements.

A carbon monoxide leak occurred during the flight, an August 2019 report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch revealed. The plane crashed after Ibbotson’s attempt to pull it up caused the aircraft to break up in midair.

The jury was told that Henderson texted multiple people moments after the plane crashed, telling them to stay silent about the matter out of fear they would “open a can of worms.”

The prosecutor described Henderson as “reckless or negligent” for prioritizing his business interests over the safety of travelers.

Continue Reading

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