Mbappe Takes Centre Stage For PSG In Absence Of Messi, Neymar

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts during the French L1 football match between Stade Brestois and Paris Saint-Germain at Francis-Le Ble Stadium in Brest on August 20, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi, Neymar and a host of other South American stars are missing for Paris Saint-Germain this weekend but Kylian Mbappe will take centre stage after starring for France in their successful UEFA Nations League campaign.

Messi, along with Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria, is with Argentina for their 2022 World Cup qualifier against Peru which was not due to kick off until early on Friday morning, French time.

Neymar and Marquinhos have been with Brazil, due to play Uruguay in a qualifier at the same time.

A third round of South American World Cup qualifiers in quick succession, so close to the weekend, has caused problems for clubs in Europe, where so many leading players are based.

PSG are one of many forced to prepare for matches this weekend without their South American stars, who will not be able to return in time.

“The different federations and FIFA all need to come together so that this type of situation doesn’t happen again,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino when asked about the manic schedule facing his players.

However, he added: “I am not looking for excuses. We have a big squad and it gives a chance to other players.”

Mbappe is available and on a high after scoring two goals and setting up two more as France won the Nations League in Italy.

Mbappe, who scored in the 2018 World Cup final as a teenager, got the decisive goal in last weekend’s final against Spain in Milan.

The 22-year-old’s future remains a subject of much debate with his contract up at the end of this season and Real Madrid waiting in the wings.

READ ALSO: Quicker Vaccinations Key to Pandemic Recovery, Says IMF

“The club will do everything to keep Kylian,” Pochettino told Spanish radio station Cope this week when inevitably pressed on the matter.

“As coach I would love him to stay here for many years to come.”

In Ligue 1 Mbappe has scored four goals this season with PSG already six points clear of Lens at the top of the table despite seeing their perfect start ended in a 2-0 defeat at Rennes two weeks ago.

After Friday’s game they play host to RB Leipzig in the Champions League in what will be their first European outing since beating Manchester City late last month.

Player to watch: Mohamed-Ali Cho

Cho was born in the Paris suburbs and spent time in PSG’s academy, so it will be a special occasion when he comes up against the capital side with Angers this weekend.

Still just 17, winger Cho is a prodigious talent who has already played in 30 top-flight games.

Cho actually spent much of his childhood in England and represented them as a youth international while on the books at Everton.

However, having signed professional terms with Angers, he has broken into the France Under-21 side at the start of this season and looks to have a very exciting future ahead of him.

Key stats

4 – Mbappe has gone four Ligue 1 games without scoring, his longest drought in France’s top flight since May 2018.

190 – The total number of minutes played in Ligue 1 by Messi since he joined PSG.

17 – The number of goals scored by Lille’s Jonathan David in Ligue 1 in 2021. He is fresh from scoring for Canada in a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Panama on Wednesday.

Fixtures (kick-offs GMT)

Friday

Paris Saint-Germain v Angers (1900)

Saturday

Clermont v Lille (1500), Lyon v Monaco (1900)

Sunday

Troyes v Nice (1100), Bordeaux v Nantes, Brest v Reims, Metz v Rennes, Strasbourg v Saint-Etienne (all 1300), Montpellier v Lens (1500), Marseille v Lorient (1845)

France Beat Spain To Win Nations League

French players celebrate with the trophy at the end of the Nations League final football match between Spain and France at San Siro stadium in Milan, on October 10, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

France won the Nations League on Sunday after coming from a goal down to beat Spain 2-1 in Milan.

Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe struck to claim the title for world champions France after Mikel Oyarzabal put Spain ahead midway through the second half.

The win will ease some of the pain created by an early exit from Euro 2020 at the hands of Switzerland and highlight just how powerful France are going forward.

Les Bleus came out on top of a match at the San Siro which came to life after Oyarzabal slid home the opener in the 64th minute.

READ ALSO: World Cup In 2022 ‘Will Be My Last’, Says Neymar

As well as the two goals from their superstar attackers, France had other opportunities to score through Mbappe before a frantic finish in which Spain launched an assault on the French goal.

Didier Deschamps can thank Hugo Lloris the match didn’t go into extra-time after the France captain pulled off a fine stoppage time save to deny Yeremi Pino a late leveller.

Earlier Italy took third place after beating Belgium 2-1 in Turin through goals from Nicolo Barella and Domenico Berardi.

AFP

Spain Ends Italy’s Unbeaten Run, Reach Nations League final


Sapin’s teammates celebrate after wining at the end of the UEFA Nations League semifinal football match between Italy and Spain at the San Siro (Giuseppe-Meazza) stadium in Milan, on October 6, 2021. Marco BERTORELLO / POOL / AFP

 

Spain brought Italy’s record 37-match unbeaten run to an end on Wednesday with a 2-1 win to reach the Nations League final.

Ferran Torres’ first-half brace won the Final Four clash for Spain at the San Siro, where Luis Enrique’s side will face either France or Belgium in Sunday’s final.

Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled a goal back with seven minutes left but the European champions failed to complete what would have been a memorable comeback.

Italy, who beat Spain in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, had to play over half the match with 10 men after Leonardo Bonucci was sent off in the 42nd minute for elbowing Sergio Busquets in the face during an aerial challenge.


Italy’s teammate react at the end of the UEFA Nations League semifinal football match between Italy and Spain at the San Siro (Giuseppe-Meazza) stadium in Milan, on October 6, 2021.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The match was played in a strange atmosphere as AC Milan fans in the stadium harangued Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma throughout his return to the San Siro following his move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Donnarumma, who is considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers and won the Player of the Tournament award at the Euro, left Milan as a free agent in the summer and his departure left a bad taste in the mouth of supporters who loudly booed and whistled his every touch of the ball.

World champions France take on Belgium at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium in Turin on Thursday night.

AFP

UEFA To allow Spectators Back Into Matches

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

 

UEFA will allow spectators back into matches in the Champions League and its other club and international competitions “at a maximum of 30 percent” of capacity, European football’s governing body announced on Thursday.

Up until now, all matches in the Champions League, Europa League and Nations League have been played behind closed doors because of Covid-19, but the decision follows a successful experiment at the Super Cup in Budapest last week, when around 15,500 spectators watched Bayern Munich beat Sevilla.

However, the loosening of restrictions is subject to national authorities giving the green light and UEFA acknowledged that certain games may still go ahead behind closed doors or with even more limited numbers of fans.

Away supporters will not be allowed in “until further notice”.

“Today’s decision is a sensible first step which puts fans’ health first and respects the laws in each country,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

“While we all face a common enemy in Covid, different countries have different approaches and different challenges at any given moment.

“This decision allows much more local flexibility to deal with admitting fans than was previously the case, always respecting the assessment of local authorities.”

According to UEFA, a total of 27 countries across Europe currently allow some fans to attend matches.

The decision will come into effect as of next week when a series of international friendly matches precedes the next two rounds of games in the Nations League.

The Champions League group stage begins on October 20, with the draw having taken place earlier on Thursday. The Europa League will also begin later this month.

AFP

UEFA Allows Five Substitutes In Champions League, International Matches

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

 

UEFA will allow up to five substitutions to be made by teams in all European club and international matches this season, it announced on Thursday, although a decision has yet to be reached for next year’s European Championship.

The decision, announced following UEFA’s Executive Committee meeting in Budapest, applies to this season’s Champions League, Europa League and women’s Champions League, as well as the remainder of the Nations League, the qualifying play-offs for Euro 2020 and qualifiers for the next women’s European Championship.

“Another decision” will be made for the finals of Euro 2020, which were postponed to June and July next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The change comes after several national team coaches called on UEFA to allow five substitutions in the Nations League, which started earlier this month with only three replacements permitted to come on during games.

The five substitutes regulation was brought in earlier this year to help teams cope with the extra demands caused by a packed match calendar as football returned after a long Covid-19 shutdown in the European spring.

European football’s governing body also permitted five substitutions to be made during games in the latter stages of last season’s Champions League and Europa League, played in August.

It has been maintained in many European leagues, although the English Premier League has notably opted to limit substitutions to three per team per game.

The announcement was hailed by global players’ union FIFPro, which said it would “help to better manage the unprecedented workload which players face in the coming months because of calendar disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“This is the right decision and a good first step to ease pressure on elite-level players. We will continue to push for further innovative ways to reduce their mounting workload and protect their health and performance,” said FIFPro’s general secretary, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.

Meanwhile, UEFA also announced that the finals of this edition of the Nations League will be played from October 6-10, 2021 and revealed that Italy, the Netherlands and Poland had all expressed interest in hosting the matches.

The inaugural Nations League finals in 2019 were held in Portugal, with the hosts beating the Netherlands in the final.

AFP

Nations League: France Face Croatia In World Cup Final Rematch

France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris fails to save Croatia’s forward Ivan Perisic’s equalizer during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

 

A little over two years after the World Cup final in Moscow, France and Croatia meet again, this time under very different circumstances, in the second round of Nations League matches in Paris on Tuesday.

What should have been a festive full house at the Stade de France, a chance to relive the excitement of Les Bleus’ 4-2 win that July afternoon in Moscow, will be more downbeat, thanks to coronavirus. European football body UEFA has directed that all the games be played behind closed doors.

The atmosphere in a stadium with no spectators will inevitably be flat and the teams on show will be markedly different as the coaches try to manage players who, because of the upheaval in the calendar over the last six months, are not fully fit.

Squad rotation is a necessity, not a choice.

“I’m going to make a lot of changes because it’s very difficult to keep going,” France coach Didier Deschamps said after Saturday’s scratchy 1-0 win over Sweden in his side’s Nations League Group 3 opener in Solna.

“Already, playing 90 minutes with this deficit at the start is taking risks with the players.

“It may go against cohesion and my instinct but I think I have no choice.”

The Croats will be glad to welcome back their veteran midfield pair of Luka Modric and Ivan Ratikic who were rested for the 4-1 thrashing in Portugal on Saturday to be fresh for Paris.

That means Kylian Mbappe, who scored with France’s only shot on goal to beat the Swedes, is likely to be the highest profile absentee.

Part of that is his fitness — the 21-year-old took a nasty blow to his right ankle which had barely recovered from a major sprain — and part of it is club/country politics.

Mbappe is expected to be in Lens on Thursday as Paris Saint-Germain, who have lost six players including Neymar to positive Covid-19 tests, make a belated start to their Ligue 1 season.

– Rotation opportunities –

The promise and need for rotation may open some doors in Deschamps’ starting line-up.

Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, who returned in attack in Solna after more than two years out of the reckoning, may have a further opportunity to press his claims.

The same goes for Real Madrid midfielder Ferland Mendy if Lucas Digne is given a rest, and Lucas Hernandez who has been used sparingly at Bayern Munich.

But the name that is garnering much of the attention is that of Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga.

At 17 years and nine months, Camavinga missed out on a first cap on Saturday which would have made him France’s youngest player since World War II but there is every chance that will come in Paris on Tuesday.

To make the starting line-up Camavinga will need to dislodge either Adrien Rabiot, who played in Sweden for the first time since his refusal to be a reserve for the 2018 World Cup, or N’Golo Kante who put in a big performance in Scandinavia.

But Deschamps has all but promised Camavinga some game time, allowing the French to take a look at a young player who is likely to figure largely, alongside Mbappe, in the future.

AFP

USA Thump Cuba 7-0 In CONCACAF Nations League Opener

Weston Mckennie #8 of the United States scores a goal against Cuba during the first half at Audi Field on October 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. Scott Taetsch/Getty Images/AFP

 

Weston McKennie scored a hat trick as the United States opened their CONCACAF Nations League campaign in style, thrashing Cuba 7-0 on Friday.

Jordan Morris added a goal and contributed on three others, Josh Sargent scored and Christian Pulisic converted a penalty for the Americans, who also benefitted from an own goal by the Cubans.

McKennie put the hosts in front less than a minute into the contest off a low cross from Morris.

He added a second off an almost identical play in the fifth and after setting Morris up for the hosts’ third goal in the ninth, completed his hat trick in the 13th.

It was the fastest known hat trick ever for the USA.

It was a second big defeat in the competition for Cuba, who fell 6-0 to Canada in the previous round.

While Gregg Berhalter’s United States will need to show they can beat much higher quality opponents, the easy win was a welcome confidence builder for a team that lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup final in July, then lost to Mexico again in a friendly before playing to a 1-1 draw with Uruguay last month.

Modeled on UEFA’S tournament of the same name in Europe, the Nations League offers the United States and other CONCACAF teams a chance to boost their world rankings to earn automatic entry into the final round of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

The tournament is also the qualifying path for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The United States — still rebuilding after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup — are among 12 teams in the tournament’s A League.

In other A League action on Friday, Mexico beat Bermuda 5-1 in Hamilton.

Jose Macias scored twice and Uriel Antuna, Hirving Lozano and Hector Herrera scored for Mexico, with Nahki Wells grabbing the lone goal for the hosts.

AFP

Balotelli Dropped From Italy’s Squad For Portugal Clash

Italy’s forward Mario Balotelli walks around the Luz stadium with teammates on September 9, 2018, on the eve of the UEFA Nations League A group 3 football match between Portugal and Italy. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Forward Mario Balotelli has been dropped by Italy coach Roberto Mancini for Monday’s Nations League game against European champions Portugal in Lisbon.

Nice striker Balotelli came under fire for his performance in their Nations League opener against Poland on Friday, where the Azzurri were held 1-1.

The 28-year-old was substituted with a muscular problem, with Mancini conceding his fitness level was a problem.

It will be the first game which Balotelli has not played since Mancini took over last May after the four-time winners’ devastating failure to qualify for the World Cup.

But Balotelli has made the trip to Portugal with the squad as Mancini considers him to be a central figure in the team he is trying to rebuild.

Balotelli had played in all four games so far under Mancini, scoring in a 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia.

Mancini’s other two friendlies were a 3-1 defeat to World Cup winners France and a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands.

Lorenzo Pellegrini has also been left out along with Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, Juventus defender Daniele Rugani, and Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo.

Mancini confirmed that Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa would start after the 20-year-old proved pivotal when he came on last Friday, along with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Balotelli’s place could be taken by either Andrea Belotti or Ciro Immobile.

Mancini defended Balotelli from criticism.

“A player knows when he has played well or badly,” he said.

“I think Mario knows full well what his performance against Poland was like. Criticism is part of the game.

“We are only at the beginning of this journey and will change several players from the Poland game, also to look after the lads.

“We are ready and know it can be a very important match. I won’t say it’s decisive, as there are another two to go, but we are facing the reigning European champions.”

Italy’s have won six games to four for Portugal in previous meetings, but the Azzurri have not won a game in Lisbon in 31 years.

AFP