Russia Banned From Euro 2024 Qualifying Draw

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Russia will not take part in the draw for qualifying for Euro 2024, UEFA and the country’s football federation confirmed on Tuesday.

The Russian national team and Russian clubs were banned from international competitions earlier this year by UEFA following the invasion of Ukraine.

“All Russian teams are currently suspended following the decision of the UEFA Executive Committee of 28 February 2022 which has further been confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on 15 July 2022,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

“Russia is therefore not included in the UEFA European Football Championship 2022-24 qualifying draw.”

READ ALSOFIFA Quash Appeal To Kick Ecuador Out Of World Cup

Russia saw an appeal against the ban rejected by CAS in July.

“The Union is currently awaiting for the full text of the CAS decision, following the study of which a decision will be made on further steps,” the Russian Football Union said.

Russia were also banned from the upcoming World Cup in Qatar by FIFA.

The team had originally qualified for the European qualifying play-offs.

The Russian women’s side were also kicked out of this year’s Euro in England, with their place taken by Portugal.

The 2024 European Championship will be hosted by Germany, with the qualifying draw set for October 9 in Frankfurt.

Germany’s interior minister has also asked for Belarus to be banned from the tournament due to the country’s backing of Russia.

AFP

European Markets, Euro Tumble As Russia Fans Energy Crisis

Euro notes and coins with an electricity bill are seen on an Electric hobs.  (Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto)
Euro notes and coins with an electricity bill are seen on an Electric hobs. (Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto)

 

European markets tumbled Monday and the euro hit a fresh 20-year low on growing fears about an energy crisis after Russia said it would not restart gas flows to the continent, while traders are also preparing for another interest rate hike this week.

The selling came after a mixed day in Asia, where the positive vibes from a US jobs report were offset by growing fears about the European outlook as well as Chinese Covid lockdowns and geopolitical tensions.

Paris, Frankfurt and London all sank sharply at the open after Russia’s Gazprom said it would not restart gas supplies to Europe, citing problems with a pipeline.

The announcement came the same day as the G7 nations said they would work to quickly implement a price cap on Russian oil exports, a move that would starve the Kremlin of critical revenue for its war effort.

The news ramped up an energy crisis in the continent caused by sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine in February.

It has sent shockwaves through the eurozone economy and fanned expectations it will sink into recession, while sending the euro tanking to a 20-year low against the dollar. The single currency hit a nadir of $0.9878 at one point.

“Russia’s ongoing weaponisation of energy supplies continues to increase downside risks for European economies and the euro,” said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at financial services group MUFG.

The issue has given the European Central Bank a huge headache. It is forced to lift interest rates as it struggles to contain runaway inflation.

Policymakers are due to announce a second straight lift at its meeting this week, with some observers betting on a 0.75 percentage point rise.

“The outlook is poor for Europe. It started to get choppy at the tail end of last week, and it is almost certainly going to get worse,” Gordon Shannon, of TwentyFour Asset Management, said.

“The ECB had only just started to catch up with the Fed in terms of hiking rates, but if we are going into a prolonged recession, I think this slows down their attempts.”

The move offset a broadly positive payrolls report showing US employment growth moderating and unemployment ticking higher, easing pressure on the Federal Reserve to sharply lift interest rates.

In response to the figures, traders lowered their expectations for a third successive three-quarter point hike this month, with many now predicting 50 basis points.

“The increase in the participation rate and a softening in average hourly earnings may be a tentative sign that intense labour market tightness is starting to ease slightly,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland.

He added that it “eases some of the fears stemming from other indicators such as job openings. Markets interpreted the print as lessening the chances of a 75 basis point hike”.

Still, the dollar continued to strengthen across the board, holding above 140 yen — a 24-year high — while the pound was on in on its way to hitting levels not seen since 1985.

However, all three main indexes in New York reversed their gains after the Gazprom announcement.

And in Asia on Monday, Hong Kong was the biggest loser, with tech firms hit by reports that the United States was considering imposing fresh limits on investments in Chinese firms.

Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok and Wellington also fell but there were gains in Shanghai, Sydney, Mumbai Singapore and Jakarta.

The Gazprom move helped lift oil prices Monday, with buying also supported by talk that OPEC and other major producers are considering cutting output at their meeting later Monday.

Investors were also dealing with more bad news out of China, where tens of millions of people across several cities have been thrown into lockdown as part of officials’ zero-Covid strategy.

The measures follow an extended shutdown in Shanghai earlier in the year that battered the world’s number two economy.

Observers said Chinese authorities were unlikely to budge ahead of a key Communist Party meeting in October, where Xi Jinping is expected to be handed a third five-year term as president.

“Following this, it is unclear whether China will start to pivot away from its zero-Covid policy,” said NAB’s Strickland.

“For as long as the policy exists, any stimulus measures are unlikely to gain traction, amid a challenging time for the Chinese property market and the economy in general.”

Key figures at around 0810 GMT

Frankfurt – DAX: DOWN 2.9 percent at 12,674.36

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 2.0 percent at 6,046.66

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 2.3 percent at 3,463.47

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 7,221.53

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 27,619.61 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.2 percent at 19,225.70 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,199.91 (close)

Dollar/yen: UP at 140.57 yen from 140.16 yen on Friday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $0.9911 from $0.9957

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1479 from $1.1515

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.34 pence from 86.45 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.4 percent at $88.91 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.5 percent at $95.35 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 1.1 percent at 31,318.44 (close)

The Consequences Of The Euro’s Fall To Dollar Parity

Euro Against Dollar
File photo

 

The euro on Tuesday fell to parity with the dollar for the first time in nearly 20 years. Here are the concrete consequences of the decline in the value of the single European currency.

– On inflation, purchasing power –

Nearly half of all goods imported into the eurozone are invoiced in dollars, compared to less than 40 percent in euros, according to the European statistics authority, Eurostat.

Oil and gas, for example, are traditionally paid for in dollars, and the price of these two commodities has soared in recent months as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

That means more euros are needed to pay for an equivalent amount of goods in dollars.

“Imported goods become less competitive, compete against each other and therefore become more expensive,” which fuels inflation and erodes households’ purchasing power, said Isabelle Mejean, professor at Sciences Po university.

One specific effect of the euro’s fall against the dollar is that it will “dampen European tourism to the United States in particular,” said BNP Paribas economist, William De Vijlder.

READ ALSO: British PM: Kemi Badenoch Of Nigerian Heritage Joins Race, Gets Endorsements 

Because European visitors will need to spend more euros to buy the equivalent amount in dollars, substantially pushing up the overall cost of their trip to the United States, but also to other countries whose currencies are pegged to the dollar, such as Qatar or Jordan.

By contrast, visitors to Europe from the United States, Qatar and Jordan benefit from the exchange rate, as their dollars buy them a lot more in the eurozone than before.

– On businesses –

The effect of the decline in the value of the euro varies, depending on how reliant a business is on foreign trade and energy.

“Companies that export outside the euro area benefit from the euro’s fall because their prices become more competitive” when converted into dollars, said Philippe Mutricy, research director at the public-sector bank Bpifrance.

“By contrast, import-orientated businesses are at a disadvantage.”

In the case of local craftsmen, who are dependent on raw materials and energy, but export little, the weaker euro can lead to a veritable explosion in costs.

The biggest winner from the euro’s falling exchange rate are export-orientated manufacturing sectors such as the aerospace, automobile, luxury goods and chemicals industries.

And major players are “better prepared for shocks” as they can hedge against exchange fluctuations, said Mutricy.

“They purchase foreign currency in advance at advantageous rates to cushion them against sharp swings in the exchange rate.”

– On growth and debt –

The fall in the value of the euro makes prices outside the single currency area more competitive, theoretically providing a boost to the export of European goods and services abroad.

But the positive effect can be mitigated by the rising prices of commodities in the wake of the war in Ukraine, particularly in export-orientated economies such as Germany.

The effect on debt repayment is less clear cut.

The higher the pace of economic growth, the faster a country can repay its debt, said Mejean of Sciences Po Paris. But only on the proviso that the financial markets consider European debt to be sufficiently safe and interest rates remain low.

For countries that issue dollar-denominated debt, the decline in the value of the euro against the dollar pushes up the cost of debt repayment.

– For central banks –

By fuelling inflation, the euro’s fall could push the European Central Bank to raise interest rates more rapidly. It is preparing to tighten borrowing costs for the first time in 11 years in July.

“You can say that the ECB wouldn’t react to the rise in commodity prices, but the challenge of regaining control over inflation increases as the exchange rate pushes up the price of imports,” said De Vijlder.

The Banque de France also said at the end of May that the euro’s weakness could complicate the ECB’s efforts to tame inflation.

AFP

Euro Strikes Dollar Parity As Eurozone Recession Fears Mount

Euro Against Dollar
File photo

 

The euro struck parity with the dollar for the first time in nearly 20 years on Tuesday as a cut in Russian gas supplies to Europe heightened fears of a recession in the eurozone.

The European single currency hit exactly one dollar — its lowest level since December 2002 — before bouncing back to $1.0069.

Oil prices plunged on concerns of a wider recession as central banks hike interest rates to fight decades-high inflation.

European stock markets followed Asian exchanges lower, while Wall Street opened mixed.

“Rising inflation, stalling economic growth and more recently fears that Russia could cut gas supplies have pulled the euro lower,” said Fiona Cincotta at City Index.

“The nail in the coffin today was dire data showing that economic confidence in Germany fell to a decade low,” she added.

Russian energy giant Gazprom on Monday began 10 days of maintenance on its Nord Stream 1 pipeline — with Germany and other European countries watching anxiously to see if the gas comes back on.

“The gas crisis has really spooked markets over the eurozone economy,” Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson told AFP.

With relations between Russia and the West at their lowest in years because of the invasion of Ukraine, Gazprom may not reopen the valves, according to analysts.

“The next few weeks could be challenging for Europe, with possibly maximum uncertainty stretching into August,” said SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes.

“Investors increasingly believe that gas may not start to flow through Nord Stream 1 again following the scheduled maintenance on July 11-21, with further ‘temporary’ interruptions seen as likely.”

Worries about a Covid flare-up in China — fuelling fears of more lockdowns — added to the downbeat mood, just as investors prepared for a week of economic data and corporate earnings that could have huge implications for markets.

A forecast-beating US jobs report last week suggested the world’s top economy was coping with higher Federal Reserve rates, but it also gave the central bank more room to continue tightening — leading to concerns it could go too far and cause a contraction.

The European single currency is also under pressure from the Federal Reserve hiking US interest rates more aggressively than the European Central Bank.

The dollar has jumped 14 percent against the euro since the start of the year.

US inflation data due out Wednesday could also solidify the case for the Fed to continue raising interest rates aggressively.

“In anticipation of that, investors have retreated to the safety of the US dollar once more, steering clear of risky assets in favour of haven” assets, said market analyst Craig Erlam at trading platform OANDA.

Central banks have been increasing borrowing costs in a bid to tame inflation, which has been fuelled by soaring energy prices.

Oil and gas prices have rocketed this year after economies reopened from Covid lockdowns and following the invasion of Ukraine by major energy producer Russia.

– Key figures at around 1330 GMT –

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0043 from $1.0041 Monday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1874 from $1.1892

Euro/pound: UP at 84.57 pence from 84.38 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 136.65 yen from 137.41 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 4.8 percent at $99.15 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 4.5 percent at $102.33 per barrel

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,177.62 points

Frankfurt – DAX: DOWN 0.3 percent at 12,795.84

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 5,995.36

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,464.48

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 31,098.44

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.8 percent at 26,336.66 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.3 percent at 20,844.74 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.0 percent at 3,281.47 (close).

AFP

From Euro Glory To World Cup Disaster — What Happened To Italy?

North Macedonia’s defender Ezgjan Alioski (L) challenges Italy’s forward Domenico Berardi (C) during the 2022 World Cup qualifying play-off football match between Italy and North Macedonia, on March 24, 2022, at the Renzo-Barbera stadium in Palermo. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Italy is once again reeling after failing to reach a second straight World Cup, throwing away automatic qualification before falling to a devastating defeat in the play-offs to North Macedonia.

AFP looks at what has happened to the Azzurri since their triumph at Euro 2020, which seemed to announce their return as a world power after missing out in 2018.

Swaggering Style Vanishes

One of the hallmarks of the early stages of Roberto Mancini’s reign as coach was that he gave the players freedom to enjoy their football and insisted on an expansive style of play that engaged supporters and created real momentum heading into the Euro.

After bringing in new faces throughout the team Italy won every match in Euro qualification and their first three World Cup qualifiers, often with a more relaxed style than traditionally associated with the discipline-focused Italians.

However, once Leonardo Spinazzola injured his Achilles tendon in their 2-1 quarter-final win over Belgium, Italy lost a key outlet and regressed to a more traditional, solid style which bled into their performances post-Wembley.

READ ALSO: Italy Miss Second Straight World Cup After Shock Defeat To North Macedonia

On Thursday Italy dominated as expected but there was a huge feeling of tension on the pitch which had increased with each underwhelming performance.

Goals drying upThe win over Belgium in Munich in the Euro quarter-final was their 13th in a row stretching back to the previous November, during which time they had scored 36 times and conceded just twice.

Between then and Thursday’s disaster they drew six times in nine matches with five of their 13 goals coming in one of their two wins, against Lithuania.

Up front is where Italy are weakest but Ciro Immobile’s inability to replicate his superb Lazio form for the national team is the most striking example of how stale Italy’s football has become.

Chances have been hard to come by in recent matches and their final two regular qualifiers, against Switzerland and Northern Ireland in November, were particularly lacking in the invention which would give someone like former European Golden Shoe winner Immobile the opportunities he needs to score.

And again on Thursday, he was almost invisible, his back permanently to goal and crowded out both by a packed defence and two wingers cutting inside to shoot rather than create width.

Good Old-Fashioned Luck

Mancini said that “the good luck we had in our favour changed into total bad luck”, and while good fortune doesn’t explain why he persisted with off-form players like Lorenzo Insigne and Nicolo Barella, it is a factor.

Had Jorginho scored his stoppage-time penalty in Italy’s penultimate qualifier against Switzerland Italy would almost certainly already have their ticket to Qatar.

However the Chelsea midfielder smashed his spot-kick onto the Stadio Olimpico running track, the match finished one apiece and that allowed the Swiss to steal first place in Group C on the final day.

The story would also probably have been different had Yann Sommer, the hero of a famous Euro shoot-out win over France, not saved another Jorginho penalty in September’s goalless draw in Basel.

Penalties may not be a complete lottery but to win two shoot-outs after being the worse side in the Euro semi-final and final requires some good fortune which has simply run out since.

AFP

Euro Dips Below $1.10 For First Time Since 2020

A woman leaves a currency exchange office displaying the US dollar and the euro signs in Saint Petersburg on March, 2, 2022.  (Photo by Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)

 

 

The euro sank close to a two-year low under $1.10 on Friday as the Ukraine conflict continues to cloud the eurozone’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The European single currency slid in late morning deals to $1.0992, the lowest level since May 2020, as the greenback benefited also from its status as a haven investment.

 

Details soon…

EU Chief Unveils 150bn Euro Investment Plan For Africa

A logo for the European Union

 

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday unveiled plans to muster investment of more than 150 billion euros for Africa, proclaiming Europe to be the continent’s biggest and “most reliable” partner.

The scheme is the first regional plan of the European Union’s Global Gateway — an investment blueprint that seeks to mobilise up to 300 billion euros ($340 billion) for public and private infrastructure around the world by 2027.

Seen as a response to China’s Belt and Road initiative, the strategy will use funding from EU institutions and member countries to leverage private-sector investment.

The EU has set a target date of 2030 for the African funds under the plan, according to a document from the European Commission.

The money will go towards renewable energy, reducing the risk of natural disasters, internet access, transport, vaccine production and education in Africa, the document said.

Speaking at a press conference in the Senegalese capital Dakar, von der Leyen told reporters she was “proud” to announce plans for Africa, where the aim was to amass at least 150 billion euros in investment.

She did not offer details about how the funds would be raised or spent.

The EU’s website says money under the Global Gateway will be earmarked for “smart, lean and secure links” in communications and transport and for boosting health, education and research.

Von der Leyen, who is president of the powerful executive European Commission, arrived on Wednesday to prepare for a summit between the EU and the African Union on February 17-18.

“At the summit, investments will be at the heart of the discussions because they are the means of our shared ambition,” von der Leyen said.

“In this area Europe is the most reliable partner for Africa and by far the most important,” she added.

Global Gateway is rooted in “the values to which Europe and Africa are committed, such as transparency, sustainability, good governance and concern for the well-being of the people,” von der Leyen said.

China and Russia

Speaking to AFP before arriving in Senegal, von der Leyen warned that foreign investment in Africa too often came with “hidden costs” attached.

Critics often accuse other large investors in Africa, such as China or Russia, as being less stringent on environmental protection or human rights.

China in particular is accused of luring African countries into debt traps, offering huge unaffordable loans. Beijing disputes the charge, arguing that its loans are designed to alleviate poverty.

For his part, Senegalese President Macky Sall told reporters on Thursday that he expected the EU-AU summit to produce a “renewed, modernised and more action-oriented partnership.”

“Europe and Africa have an interest in working together”, he said, referencing the geographical proximity of the two continents and common security concerns, among other things.

Sall added that he was committed fighting global warming, but stressed the need to finance natural-gas projects in order to boost industry and provide greater access to electricity.

He has opposed plans announced by a small group of countries at last year’s COP26 climate summit, including the US and France, to end financing for overseas unabated fossil fuels — those without associated carbon capture technology — by the end of 2022.

The final declaration at COP26 also said countries would “accelerate efforts towards phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

Senegal, a poor nation of 17 million people, has high hopes for gas fields off its Atlantic coast.

The government has said it plans to start production by late next year or in 2024.

AFP

Denmark’s Eriksen Part Ways With Inter Milan ‘By Mutual Consent’

File photo: Inter Milan’s Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen looks on during the Italian Cup (Coppa Italia) round of 8 football match Inter Milan vs Fiorentina on January 29, 2020, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Christian Eriksen has terminated his contract with Inter Milan by mutual consent six months after suffering a heart incident playing for Denmark at the European Championships.

The 29-year-old has been fitted with a pacemaker. That means he is not allowed to play in Italian football, but other championships do not have the same rules.

“Internazionale Milano can confirm that an agreement has been reached to terminate Christian Eriksen’s contract by mutual consent,” the Italian club said.

“Although Inter and Christian are now parting ways, the bond shall never be broken. The good times, the goals, the victories, those Scudetto celebrations with fans outside San Siro – all this will remain forever in Nerazzurri history.”

Eriksen will now be free to consider his options with other potential clubs, and has recently been in training with his boyhood club Odense.

According to the Danish daily B.T, Eriksen mainly focused on physical exercises, but also trained with a ball, although this is not currently with a view to playing for them.

“Christian Eriksen is using the pitch for his rehabilitation” but “he is not training with our team”, Odense’s communications officer Rasmus Nejstgaardhad told AFP.

RELATED: Eriksen Visits Inter Training Ground Nearly Two Months After Euro Collapse

Resuscitated

File photo:  Finland’s midfielder Robin Lod (R) gestures at paramedics as Denmark’s defender Simon Kjaer (L) runs towards Denmark’s midfielder Christian Eriksen after he collapsed on the pitch during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Denmark and Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 12, 2021. (Photo by WOLFGANG RATTAY / POOL / AFP)

 

The former Tottenham man suffered a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening game at Euro 2020 against Finland in Copenhagen on June 12 and had to be resuscitated on the pitch.

Denmark then rode a wave of emotion at the tournament, reaching the semi-finals.

The playmaker spent several days in hospital and had a pacemaker implanted to regulate his heartbeat, which would rule him out of even going to a gym in Italy.

Eriksen’s departure from Inter comes just days after Argentina striker Sergio Aguero announced the end of his professional career at the age of 33 following heart problems.

The former Manchester City striker signed a two-year deal with Barcelona but had made just five appearances, scoring one goal against Real Madrid, before being taken to hospital with “chest pains” after a match at home to Alaves in October.

Financially, Inter Milan, who are deep in the red, will make some savings by parting company with their biggest earner, although Eriksen’s salary, estimated at 7.5 million euros by the Italian press, was covered for a year under a FIFA insurance system.

Eriksen was a key member of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side that were runners-up in the Premier League in 2016/17 and then reached the Champions League final in 2019.

The Dane joined Inter in January 2020 and after initial problems settling into Antonio Conte’s system, was a driving force in their charge to a 19th Scudetto earlier this year.

Eriksen was unveiled at the Scala opera house in Milan when he joined Inter. Italian media reported on Friday that the club planned a tribute at their San Siro stadium before a game in early 2022.

The club posted a letter to Eriksen on their website praising his role in bringing the Scudetto back to the club last season.

“Christian was a key figure in our march to the Scudetto -– a team effort to which Eriksen contributed with his vision, intuition, passing, assists and goals, including some big ones. Against Napoli. Against Crotone, in what ultimately clinched the title. Then another delightful free-kick to celebrate the title at San Siro on the last day of the season,” the note said.

“That is our final, happy, wistful memory of Christian.”

AFP

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.

READ ALSOEx-Nigerian Captain Mikel Joins Kuwaiti Club

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

Southgate And Squad To Prepare For Potential Racist Abuse In Bulgaria

England’s midfielder Jordan Henderson (L) and England manager Gareth Southgate (R) attend a press conference at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on September 9, 2019, ahead of their Euro 2020 football qualification match against Kosovo. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

 

England manager Gareth Southgate is to meet with his squad ahead of their Euro 2020 match in Bulgaria next month and discuss what measures they might take if they are subjected to racist abuse.

One Bulgarian fan was arrested for “discriminatory abuse” directed at Raheem Sterling during the 4-0 win over Bulgaria last Saturday at Wembley, although he was subsequently released without charge.

A previous England team have already experienced racist abuse in Bulgaria in 2011 — Southgate’s team also were showered with abuse in a Euro qualifier in Montenegro last year.

READ ALSO: British Police Arrest Fan For Abusing Sterling

Bulgaria’s Stadion Vasil Levski will be partially closed for the matches with England on October 14 and Czech Republic in November because of the racist behaviour of fans in June.

A total of 5,000 seats of the 46,000 capacity stadium will be closed off for the England visit and 3,000 for the Czech Republic match — and a banner with the wording “#EqualGame”, with the UEFA logo on it will be displayed over the seats.

“It is a concern, we’re not confident that we’ll go there and nothing will happen,” Southgate said, adding that the meeting to address the issue was “already planned.”

“We’ve already planned what our schedule looks like and we’re going to discuss it with the players before we go, because we’re aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we’re all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.”

UEFA ordered the partial closure of Bulgaria’s national stadium following racist behaviour by their fans in Euro 2020 qualifying games against Czech Republic and Kosovo in June.

Last month, Bulgarian club sides PFC Levski Sofia and PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv were punished by UEFA for racism during Europa League games.

FG Signs Seventy Million Euro EU Support For Health

Nigerian Government Launches Action Plan Against PneumoniaThe Federal Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Union (EU) on 70 million Euro support to Revamp Nigeria’s health sector.

According to the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, the fund will be used to strengthen the nation’s already weak health system and eradicate polio.

The Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria, Michel Arrion emphasised the need to concentrate on reducing the nation’s burden of maternal child mortality.

Nigeria’s health sector has been grappled with inadequate financing as the National budgetary allocation fluctuates between 4.6 and 5.4 percent since 2011.

However, the Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar spoke on behalf of benefiting states, advocating for the building of internal capacity in the states rather than waste the money on consultants.

Besides strengthening the already weak health care system in the country, 2.7 million children under five years of age and 850 pregnant women are expected to benefit from this funding in Adamawa, Bauchi, and Kebbi states.

Naira Depreciates Against Three Currencies At Interbank Market

Naira, dollar, Market FX marketThe Naira depreciated against three currencies at the interbank market on Wednesday.

The local unit depreciated by 0.23 percent to 314 Naira 92 kobo to the Dollar, 3.13 percent to 422 Naira 64 kobo to the Pound and by 0.33 percent 352 Naira 46 kobo to the Euro.

At the parallel market, the Naira firmed by 0.47 percent to 423 against the Dollar, but fell 0.56 percent to 540 against the British Pound, and traded flat at 465 against the Euro.

Traders are optimistic that the Naira may appreciate this week, following the re-reinstatement of the eight banks previously banned by the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) from the Forex market, and the licensing of 11 new international money transfer operators, to address the Dollar supply.