Defending Champions Portugal Qualify For Euro 2020

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with team members after scoring a goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group B qualification football match between Luxembourg and Portugal at the Josy Barthel Stadium in Luxembourg on November 17, 2019.
JOHN THYS / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 99th international goal as reigning champions Portugal secured their place at the Euro 2020 finals on Sunday with a 2-0 victory away to Luxembourg.

Bruno Fernandes struck the opening goal on 39 minutes before Ronaldo tapped in a scrappy second late on to clinch second place in Group B behind winners Ukraine, who drew 2-2 in Serbia.

Portugal became the 17th nation to qualify for next year’s multi-host tournament, which kicks off in Rome on June 12, joining the likes of world champions France, Spain, Italy, and England.

“We can’t give the match-high marks for style,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who admitted the heavy pitch made life challenging for his team.

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“I’m very happy for my players because the qualifying campaign has been more difficult than we expected.

“We’re through to the finals of a major tournament for an 11th straight time. You’ve got to believe in these players.”

Portugal knew they would book their place at Euro 2020 with a win or by matching Serbia’s result from their game in Belgrade.

But they were made to work hard by a Luxembourg team ranked 96th in the world that notably held France to a 0-0 draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Fernandes broke the deadlock before half-time, controlling Bernardo Silva’s pinpoint pass expertly before lashing in from 20 yards.

Ronaldo, who smacked in a hat-trick in Thursday’s 6-0 thrashing of Lithuania, moved to the brink of his international century four minutes from time.

Silva’s far-post cross was forced towards goal by Diogo Jota, with Luxembourg goalkeeper Anthony Moris getting a hand to the ball before Ronaldo turned in from the goalline.

Iranian striker Ali Daei holds the world record with 109 international goals scored between 1993 and 2006.

AFP

Sweden Thrash Luxembourg To Pile Pressure On France

Sweden Thrash Luxembourg To Pile Pressure On France
Sweden’s forward Marcus Berg (R) vies with Luxembourg’s goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match on October 7, 2017.
Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

Sweden laid down the gauntlet to France in European World Cup qualifying as Marcus Berg scored four goals in an 8-0 thrashing of Luxembourg on Saturday.

The Swedes now lead France, who face Bulgaria later on Saturday, by two points in the race for top spot in Group A.

Al Ain forward Berg tore Luxembourg apart in Solna as the visitors were brought back down to earth after their 0-0 draw in France last month.

After Andreas Granqvist had broken the deadlock with a 10th-minute penalty, the 31-year-old Berg grabbed his first eight minutes later.

He wasn’t finished there and completed a hat-trick with goals either side of half-time by heading in a rebound after his initial shot was saved, and curling home an excellent individual effort.

Celtic defender Mikael Lustig made it five, before another Granqvist spot-kick and Berg’s fourth.

Berg was taken off with 16 minutes to play, but that didn’t spare Luxembourg more embarrassment, as Ola Toivonen completed the rout.

Elsewhere, Bosnia and Herzegovina saw their playoff hopes in Group H take a hit with a stunning 4-3 home defeat by already-qualified Belgium.

Goals from Haris Medunjanin and Edin Visca put the Bosnians ahead after Belgium full-back Thomas Muenier’s early strike, but Michy Batshuayi and Yannick Carrasco turned things around.

Dario Dumic’s 82nd-minute equaliser looked to have salvaged the hosts a priceless point, but Carrasco struck again to leave the race for second wide open, with Greece and Cyprus playing each other later in Nicosia hoping to take advantage.

Estonia thrashed Gibraltar 6-0 to give themselves a mathematical chance of taking second, but trail Bosnia by 15 goals on goal difference with only one match to go.

AFP

Super Eagles Defeat Luxembourg 3-1 In Friendly

Salisu Yusuf, Super Eagles
Super Eagles Coach, Salisu Yusuf.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles rounded off their two-game international friendlies with a comfortable 3-1 win over the Red Lions of Luxembourg on Tuesday.

Goals from Brown Ideye, Kelechi Iheanacho and Odion Ighalo ensured Nigeria won their second straight game in four days.

A sparse crowd at the Stade Josy Barthel in Luxembourg City watched the Super Eagles take on the Luxembourg side for the first time at full senior level with Nigeria doing the early running.

Luxembourg did have a sight at goal early in the game but did not make hay as Nigeria dominated for majority of the first half.

Aminu Umar was a live-wire down the right for Nigeria as they pressed forward to get a goal. Kelechi Iheanacho had a chance to get Nigeria ahead but was denied by a well-timed tackle as Luxembourg goalkeeper Moris Anthony was kept busy.

Nigeria eventually got the first goal in the 35th minute of the game. A mazy run by Aminu Umar created a chance for Ogenyi Onazi whose shot was parried by Anthony but Brown Ideye was on hand to tap home his first international goal in three years.

The Super Eagles continued their dominance in the second half and were rewarded when Moses Simon capitalised on a poor clearance by the Luxembourg goalkeeper to square the ball to Kelechi Iheanacho to score his second goal in two matches to put Nigeria 2-0 up in the 68th minute.

Luxembourg thought they had clawed their way back into the game when Kenneth Omeruo’s mistake in defence gifted youngster Vincent Thill the opportunity to reduce the deficit in the 89th minute.

Odion Ighalo though sealed the game for Nigeria in added time to make it 3-1 and earn the Super Eagles a comfortable win.

Mikel, Musa Confirmed For Joseph Yobo Testimonial

Joseph Yobo, Ahmed Musa, Mikel ObiSuper Eagles’ captain, John Mikel Obi and his assistant, Ahmed Musa have been allowed to be part of the Joseph Yobo testimonial game planned for May 27 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) ordered that the players should be excused from the two friendly matches in Europe so that they can honour Joseph Yobo, who is having his testimonial game on the same date as the friendlies.

Nigeria will play Mali in Rouen, France on May 27 and then take on Luxembourg in Luxembourg on June 1.

Meanwhile, Coach Salisu Yusuf has invited Morocco–based midfielder Babatunde Michael to join the squad for the two friendly matches.

African football stars like Samuel Eto’o, Yaya Toure, Alex Song and former Everton coach David Moyes have all reportedly agreed to be part of the testimonial game.

Joseph Yobo is a former Nigerian professional footballer who played as a centre back. He was the captain of the Nigerian Super Eagles until his international football retirement in June 2014, as Nigeria’s record appearance holder.

 

Yusuf Invites 26 Players For Super Eagles Friendlies

Super Eagles-Salisu Yusuf-Eagles FriendliesSuper Eagles Head Coach, Salisu Yusuf, has called up 26 players for the international friendlies against Mali and Luxembourg in Europe.

The three-time African champions would take on the Les Aiglons of Mali in France on May 27 before flying to Luxembourg to play the country’s national team on June 1.

Yusuf, who was installed as interim Head Coach by the Nigeria Football Federation last week, picked a relatively young squad that also includes former U-20 and former U-23 players.

All the invitees in the goalkeeper categories are: Carl Ikeme (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United, South Africa), and Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Sunshine Stars).

The defenders invited are: Abdullahi Shehu (Uniao da Madeira, Portugal), Musa Muhammed (Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey), Elderson Echiejile (AS Monaco, France), Kingsley Madu (AS Trencin, Slovakia), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa SK, Turkey), Leon Balogun (Mainz 05, Germany), Gbenga Arokoyo (Gaziantepspor, Turkey), William Troost Ekong (Haugesund FC, Norway), and Chidozie Awaziem (FC Porto, Portugal).

For the midfielders, players called up are: Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy), John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England), Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City, England), Wilfred Ndidi (KRC Genk, Belgium), Raheem Lawal (Osmanlispor FK, Turkey), and Etebo Oghenekaro (SC Farense, Portugal).

The players invited in the forward category are: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Moses Simon (KAA Gent, Belgium), Victor Moses (West Ham United, England), Odion Ighalo (Watford FC, England), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England), Aminu Umar (Osmanlispor FK, Turkey), Aaron Samuel (CSKA Moscow, Russia), and Brown Ideye (Olympiakos FC, Greece).

NFF To Appoint Super Eagles Coach In June

Super EaglesMeanwhile, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) have confirmed that a permanent head coach for the Super Eagles would be in place for the final round of qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The Eagles have been without a substantive coach since Sunday Oliseh resigned in February with the likes of Samson Siasia and Salisu Yusuf managing the team on temporary basis at different points.

According to the NFF Technical Committee, a technical crew led by either a local or foreign coach would be appointed after the upcoming friendlies against Mali and Luxembourg in June.

Meanwhile, Salisu Yusuf is the man to lead the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the upcoming friendlies against Mali and Luxembourg.

The former Kano Pillars boss will be assisted by Enugu Rangers Coach, Imama Amapakabor, Kennedy Boboye of Abia Warriors while Alloy Agu would serve as goalkeeper trainer.

Nigeria plays Mali on May 27, before going on to face Luxembourg on June 1.

Both matches will serve as tune ups for the final round of qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Dutch Town Riots Over Asylum Centre Plan

AsylumDutch police on Wednesday fired warning shots in an effort to disperse a crowd, as a protest against plans to house asylum-seekers in a small town turned into a riot.

Protesters in Geldermalsen tore down fences and threw fireworks at police who responded with warning shots but no serious injuries were reported.

Chanting slogans against the proposed centre for asylum-seekers, around 2,000 people joined the protest in a town of 27,000, according to national broadcaster, NOS.

The Police in Geldermalsen, near Utrecht, said via their official Twitter account that they had “so far made numerous arrests, it’s is not clear yet how many”.

A meeting in the Dutch town to discuss whether to build the new centre for migrants had to be abandoned. It was evacuated by policemen as rioters sought to force their way into the building.

The incident was the biggest display of anti-migrant sentiment in the Netherlands since hooligans attacked a Syrian refugee centre in October.

Deputy Justice Minister Klaas Dijkhoff, who oversees immigration and asylum policy, called the incident in Geldermalsen “un-Dutch.”

He said that the protesters had crossed a line. “Finding shelter for asylum seekers poses difficult questions but there is a limit when it comes to expressing your opinion,” he said on Dutch TV.

“The line is crossed when you barge in yelling and rioting. That’s not appropriate in a discussion and, thankfully, we have seen that it went much quieter in other places and a solution was found. This is not ok.”

European countries are struggling to cope with the largest movement of migrants since World War Two, many of them Syrians who have come via Turkey, Greece and the Balkans.

The migration crisis is expected to dominate a meeting of EU leaders on Thursday.

Migrant Crisis Dominates EU Summit

EU SummitGermany and several other nations are to discuss with Turkey ways of settling thousands of Syrian refugees ahead of the final EU summit of the year.

The mass influx of migrants will feature prominently on the agenda of a full European Union summit later on Thursday, after the executive European Commission proposed this week new measures to stem the tide, including a common coastguard.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will explore new possible ways to admit Syrian refugees to Europe as she struggles to control a migrant crisis that has split the 28-nation bloc.

The German Chancellor, has been the driving force behind the voluntary resettlement idea, saying it would help Turkey, as well as EU member states to have more control over who gets to Europe but she faces resistance from other EU states.

The resettlement proposal would see EU countries accept Syrian refugees directly from Turkey under a voluntary scheme.

It is hoped the plan will stop people making the dangerous sea journey to Greece and will be more palatable for EU members than obligatory quotas.

The idea for voluntary resettlement is linked to a wider deal with Turkey under which Ankara would prevent migrants leaving for Greece in return for financial aid from the bloc, accelerated visa-free travel for Turks to the EU and reviving long-stalled membership talks.

The EU is at loggerheads over two distinct issues – relocation of migrants who have already arrived in Europe through Greece and Italy, and resettlement of a limited number directly from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

The proposal, however, does not set a minimum number of refugees EU states would take from Turkey in the next five years and no formal decisions are expected when leaders of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, Greece and the Netherlands meet Davutoglu.

Merkel may also try to enlist the help of other leaders individually during the main summit, diplomats said. France and others could still decide to join the prior meeting, they added.

A draft final statement prepared by diplomats for the full EU summit said only that member states should “rapidly examine” proposals for a “voluntary humanitarian admission scheme”.

Migrants Crisis: Central European States Set To Hold Meeting

migrants7Central European States, Germany and Luxembourg are due to meet and discuss ways to tackle the migrants crisis.

Germany is pushing a quota system that would oblige EU States to take fixed numbers of new arrivals.

The European Commission wants 120,000 additional asylum seekers to be shared out between 28 members; a sharp increase from the previous proposal of 40,000.

But the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have rejected the proposals.

Meanwhile, an Austrian woman revealed that migrants are being treated like animals with bags of food thrown at them at the Hungarian camp near the Serbia border.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of migrants have been desperately trying to flee conflicts in countries such as Syria and Libya.

The Emergency Director of Human Rights Watch said the migrants were being held like “cattle in pens”.

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was sending 300 pre-fabricated housing units to Hungary.

There is also a bottleneck at Hungary’s border with Austria. Officials said about 8,000 people had crossed into Austria at Nickelsdorf on Thursday and a similar number were expected on Friday.

Euro Zone Economy Falls Deeper Into Recession

The euro zone slipped deeper into recession in the last three months of 2012 after its largest economies, Germany and France, shrank markedly at the end of the year.

It marked the currency bloc’s first full year in which no quarter produced growth, extending back to 1995.

Economic output in the 17-country region fell by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday, following a 0.1 percent drop in output in the third quarter.

The drop was the steepest since the first quarter of 2009 and more severe than the average forecast of a 0.4 percent drop in a Reuters poll of 61 economists.

For the year as a whole, gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.5 percent.

Within the zone, only Estonia and Slovakia grew in the last quarter of the year, although there are no figures available yet for Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.

The big economies set the tone.

Germany contracted by 0.6 percent on the quarter, official data showed, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis was raging in 2009.

France’s 0.3 percent fall was also slightly worse than expectations.

Worryingly for Berlin, it was export performance – the motor of its economy – that did most of the damage although economists expect it to bounce back quickly.

“In the final quarter of 2012 exports of goods declined significantly more than imports of goods,” the German Statistics Office said in a statement.

The euro hit a session low against the dollar after the weaker than forecast German reading and dropped again after the release of full euro zone figures.

Back revisions to the French figures showed its output fell by 0.1 percent in each of the first and second quarters of 2012, meaning the country has already experienced one bout of recession in the last twelve months.

While the European Central Bank’s pledge to do whatever it takes to save the euro has taken the heat out of the bloc’s debt crisis, even its stronger members are gripped by an economic malaise that could push debt-cutting drives off track.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that weak growth was putting his government’s deficit goal for 2013 out of reach.

Economists say the euro zone may also shrink in the first quarter of 2013 although more resilient Germany is expected to rebound.

“The chances that the (German) economy will return to growth at the beginning of this year are very good. The early indicators are all pointing upwards,” said Andrea Rees, chief German economist at UniCredit.

“The question is how strong the first quarter will be. We expect growth of 0.3 percent but it could be more.”

Dutch GDP dropped 0.2 percent over the quarter, keeping it in recession, while the Austrian economy shrank at the same rate.

WEAK PERIPHERY

For the more embattled members of the currency bloc, matters are of course worse.

Italy suffered its sixth successive quarterly fall in GDP – this time by a sharp 0.9 percent – putting it into a longer slump than it suffered in 2008/2009.

Its recession has been deepened by austerity measures that outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti introduced to stave off a debt crisis.

With an election due on February 24/25, all sides in a three-way race between Monti’s centrist bloc, Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left coalition and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right are pledging to cut taxes to try to kickstart economic growth.

Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, released figures two weeks ago which showed it remained deep in recession after a 0.7 percent contraction in the fourth quarter.

Madrid is also pressing on with harsh austerity measures to cut its debt but may be given more time to meet its deficit targets by the European Commission if its economy worsens further.

There are signs that countries like Spain are starting to benefit from harsh internal devaluations – marked by wage falls and job losses aimed at making companies leaner and more productive.

The ECB predicts the euro zone will pick up later in the year although its currency, if it keeps strengthening, could quickly snuff out any of those hard-won competitive advantages for its high debt members.

More recent data for January have already suggested some upturn in the first months of 2013, in the bloc’s stronger members at least, and if improvement comes it is likely to be seen in Germany first.

“The debt crisis has ebbed significantly and the global economy has turned up,” said Joerg Kraemer at Commerzbank. “Therefore all the important early indicators for Germany are pointing upwards. I expect noticeable economic growth again in the first quarter.”