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World Cup: Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku Net A Brace Each As Potent Belgium Cruise Past Tunisia (Photos & Video):

June 23rd, 2018

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Belgium all but sealed their place in the last 16 after a thumping 5-2 victory over Tunisia, with both Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku netting braces.

Roberto Martinez’s side got off to the perfect start, with Hazard converting from the penalty spot after he had been felled in the box by Syam Ben Youssef.

10 minutes later, the Belgians doubled their advantage, this time courtesy of Lukaku who fired home after Dries Martens pinched the ball off Ali Maaloul.

However, Tunisia hit back soon after, with Dylan Bronn scoring from a Wahbi Khazri free-kick.

Just before the break, Lukaku nabbed his second of the game, this time via a cool dinked finish.

The Belgians were simply too good for their north African opponents and early in the second period, Hazard made it 4-1, latching on to a Toby Alderweireld pass before rounding ‘keeper Ben Mustapha and slotting home.

Hazard’s Chelsea team-mate, Michy Batshuayi, came off the bench on 68 minutes, and had an eventful afternoon, hitting the bar (courtesy of a dreadful miss) and seeing another effort cleared off the line before finally getting on the score-sheet in injury-time after a superb cross from Youri Tielemans.

There was still time for Tunisia to net again, with Sunderland playmaker Khazri scoring from a Hamdi Nagguez centre.

The game wound end in a deserved 5-2 victory for the potent Belgians, who are in pole position to top Group G, courtesy of their eight-goal haul across their first two games.

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Lukaku and co. face England in their final group game on Thursday, a clash which should decide first and second in the group.

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Tunisia, on the other hand, despite an overall decent showing in Russia, look highly unlikely going any further in the competition.



World Cup: Stunners From Granit Xhaka And Xherdan Shaqiri Give Switzerland Dramatic Comeback Win Over Serbia In Politically-Charged Clash (Photos & Video):

June 23rd, 2018

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Switzerland registered the first comeback win of the 2018 World Cup, with cracking goals from Premier League duo Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri firing their side to a 2-1 win over Serbia.

Serbia impressed in the first-half, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic heading his side into the lead after just five minutes.

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After the break, the Swiss rallied with Arsenal midfielder Xhaka scoring a belter to level the scores on 52 minutes.

Serbia were unlucky not to win a penalty when Mitrovic was wrestled by, not one, but two defenders in the Swiss box. However, even with VAR in operation, the Serbs’ justified protests were somehow ignored by the officials.

Then, at the death, Stoke winger Shaqiri scored a superb solo goal, dribbling from the half-way line before firing past goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

As with Xhaka, Shaqiri celebrated the goal by making the double eagle celebration, a nod to their Albanian origins, something which would incense the Serbs.

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The game would end 2-1 to Switzerland, who go level with Brazil on points at the top of Group E.

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A draw against Costa Rica will see them progress to the last 16.

Serbia are just one point behind Brazil and Switzerland, so are still in with a shout of qualification, despite a rather tricky final game against the South Americans.

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In the aftermath of the game, the Serbian press condemned Xhaka, whose father was imprisoned by Yugoslavia for pro-Kosovan protests, and Shaqiri for their ‘provocative’ gestures which put the still raw political tensions of the Balkans very much in the spotlight in Russia.

Aside from the political fallout, Switzerland look a decent outfit and one capable of giving anyone a game this summer.



World Cup: Ahmed Musa Scores Belting Brace As Nigeria Beat Iceland 2-0 In Volvograd (Photos & Video):

June 22nd, 2018

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Ahmed Musa netted a couple of absolute belters, as Nigeria beat Iceland 2-0 in Volgograd.

Arsenal attacker Alex Iwobi dropped to the bench for the Group D clash, as the Super Eagles looked to get their first points on the board.

The first half was a rather turgid affair, with Alfred Finnbogason the closest to opening the scoring from a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick.

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However, in the second-half, Nigeria sprung into life, taking the lead on 49 minutes, courtesy of a superb half-volley from Leicester City striker Musa after a speedy counter-attack.

Iceland looked for the equaliser but it was Nigeria were always a threat, with Musa hitting the crossbar on 74 minutes.

Just a minute later, Musa would get his second cracker of the game, this time latching onto a long ball before outpacing the Icelandic defence and rounding the goalkeeper.

Iceland had a great chance to get back into the contest when Finnbogason was fouled in the box by Tyronne Ebuehi.

A penalty was eventually awarded via VAR, only for Gylfi Sigurdsson to blast his spot-kick over the bar.

The game would end 2-0 to the Africans, who go second in the group with three points, three behind leaders Croatia, but two ahead of both Iceland and Argentina.

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While Croatia have already qualified from the group, Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina can all still join them in the last 16.

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The final round of games next Tuesday, with Nigeria facing Argentina and Iceland playing Croatia, should prove to be a dramatic finale.



World Cup: Neymar Robbed Of Super Soft Penalty After VAR Finally Used For Power Of Good During Brazil-Costa Rica (Video):

June 22nd, 2018

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VAR was finally implemented to catch out a diver at the World Cup today, specifically during Brazil’s Group E match against Costa Rica.

No prizes for guessing that Neymar was at the centre of the feeble penalty call in question, with the forward conning a spot-kick by simply screaming and sitting down in the penalty area (but only after striking a dramatic ‘Christ the Redeemer’ pose).

Initially, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers adjudged that Giancarlo Gonzalez’s minor grab at Neymar’s shirt as the two players brushed past one another was substantial enough to warrant a penalty.

However, a review was called for and sure enough, Kuipers overturned his decision after seeing it again on the pitchside screen – thus robbing Neymar of his ill-gotten gains…

Excellent stuff. Couldn’t have happened to a bigger pipsqueak.

After spending 90 minutes going round in circles, Brazil finally got their backsides in gear beyond the 90-minute mark, when a goal apiece from Philippe Coutinho and Neymar saw them snatch a barely-deserved 2-0 victory.



In Memoriam: Argentinian Television Hosts And Pundits Hold Minute’s Silence For Argentina After Loss To Croatia (Video):

June 22nd, 2018

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By Jack Beresford

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Argentina’s World Cup hopes lie pretty much dead and buried following their 3-0 defeat to Croatia – so much so, in fact, that one TV station decided to hold a mock funeral in the wake of the loss.

There was a sombre atmosphere to post-match proceedings in the studio of Argentinian broadcasters TyC Sports, with the channel’s presenter and pundits holding an actual proper minute’s silence to express their sadness.

For 60 painfully awkward seconds, the six mourners stood in silence, doing their level best to look respectful and maintain the super-serious nature of the situation.

It quickly became clear that several of the studio guests aren’t entirely serious about the absurd requiem, which it should be noted was being held before Argentina have even been knocked out of the competition.

The Albiceleste still have a mathematical chance of making it to the knockout phase of the competition going into their final group game with Nigeria.

They also reached the last final, but that was four years ago so obviously doesn’t count.



World Cup: Peter Shilton Mocks Old Adversary Diego Maradona Over Argentina Defeat On 32nd Anniversary Of ‘Hand Of God’:

June 22nd, 2018

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Over three decades on from that fateful afternoon at the Azteca, Peter Shilton refuses to even budge on his unrelenting loathing for Diego Maradona – the man who bested him by foul means at the 1986 World Cup.

On 22nd June of that year, Maradona infamously used his divine appendage to beat Shilton to a high ball and put Argentina 1-0 up over England, eventually sending the Three Lions out at the quarter-final stage on a wave of blood, sweat, tears and righteous indignation.

Funny then, that on the 32nd anniversary of the Hand of God, Maradona should find himself distraught and despondent over Argentina’s embarrassing performance in their 3-0 defeat against Croatia at the 2018 World Cup.

Of course, Shilton, the man who has harboured a deep personal vendetta against Maradona since they crossed flight paths in Mexico City, couldn’t resist the urge to weigh in with some heavy karmic chide…

It’s hardly cosmic retribution as far as Shilts is concerned, but it’ll definitely do for now.



World Cup Photo Essay: Argentina’s Capitulation Against Croatia As Charted By Diego Maradona’s Erratic Emotions:

June 22nd, 2018

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Argentina’s mass capitulation against Croatia in the World Cup was tough on a nation, but nobody felt the juice coursing through him like Diego Maradona.

The Albiceleste legend attended the match in person and, as the following photos attest, was put through the emotional wringer as he watched his compatriots wilt before his very eyes.

We’ve attempted to capture the various ups and downs (mostly downs) in a short series of photos – a blow-by-blow account of Maradona’s excitable mood swings, if you will.

El Diego began by greeting his adoring public on the balcony at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Eva Peron-style…

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…before getting straight into it.

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And… scene.

The (head in the) Hand(s) of God.



‘Lionel Messi Is Very Good, But Only In An Extraordinary Team’ – Diego Simeone Admits He’s A Cristiano Ronaldo Type Of Guy In Leaked Audio Tape Conversation:

June 22nd, 2018

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The interminable ‘Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo’ debate is one of modern football’s most tedious, with both players’ respective greatness now defined, revised and redefined/denounced every passing 90 minutes.

While it’s perfectly acceptable to prefer one to the other, true pilgrims know and accept that both players are exceptional; different, but exceptional nonetheless.

Spanish radio station Partidazo de COPE have happened across a snippet of leaked audio which they assert to be a conversation between Simeone and Mono Burgos, his right-hand man at Atleti, conducted in which the former firmly nails his colours to the Ronaldo mast.

Audio del Cholo Simeone to ‘ Mono ‘ Burgos: ➡ “Messi is good but because it is accompanied by extraordinary footballers. For a normal team, think Germán… Messi or Christian? Who would you choose? ”

The audio was supposedly captured after Simeone and Burgos – both former Argentina players – had just watched Messi and the rest of their national side succumb to a pallid 3-0 defeat against Croatia.

During the clip, Simeone is heard saying:

Messi is very good, but he is very good because he plays alongside extraordinary players (at Barcelona).

If you had to choose between Messi and Ronaldo for a normal team, who would you choose?

According to Football Espana, the Atleti boss also comments on the “anarchy” within the Argentina squad and the role coach Jorge Sampaoli is playing, or not playing, therein.

I do not see anyone leading, it is anarchy and not leadership. I see a team who is lost.

It is clear that in the dressing room players are holding on to fists but in these situations, you need someone to fight.

We all say the players are the most important part of the game and the coach usually plays it down when players mess it up, but the coach is also participating in this.

Well, he’s not wrong, is he? Still, the manager of Atletico siding with Real Madrid’s top boy may well caused a few ructions in the Spanish capital.

Pies can only imagine Simeone would make a decent fist of leading a Messi-centric Argentina team into a World Cup, if only the fates would’ve allowed it.



Reports: Argentina Players Want Jorge Sampaoli To Stand Down Before Final World Cup Group Match:

June 22nd, 2018

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It was never going to be pretty, but rumours emanating from the local press paints a picture of full-scale mutiny in the Argentina World Cup camp.

The Albiceleste find themselves on the very verge of elimination after capitulating against Croatia in their second group game, slumping to a wretched 3-0 defeat in Nizhny Novgorod.

It would appear that the blame is being squarely laid at the feet of coach Jorge Sampaoli, who even resorted to the unedifying spectacle of begging fans to forgive him in the direct aftermath of the match.

I would beg for their forgiveness, especially those who made such a great effort to be here. And I repeat what I said, I’m responsible. I was just as dreamy-eyed as any fan before.

So I’m hurt. I did the best job I could and I quite simply did not find a way to give them what they wanted.

Sampaoli also claimed that Argentina were “mentally broken” by the result and that his talisman, Lionel Messi, had his brilliance “clouded by the reality” of the rest of the team.

Later on Thursday evening, Argentinian television channel Todo Noticias claimed that the squad banded together and asked that Sampaoli step aside for the third and final group match against Nigeria.

According to the station’s anonymous source, Sampaoli may have even accepted the request with Jorge Burruchaga set to take the reigns, though rival broadcasters TyC Sports seem a little less certain…

Either way, this looks like a clear case of horse; stable door; bolted; etc.



World Cup: Modric Dominates As Croatia Thump Sorry Argentina 3-0 In Nizhny Novgorod To Leave Messi And Co. On The Brink (Photos & Video):

June 22nd, 2018

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Argentina found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat to Croatia on Thursday, a result which leaves their World Cup survival in the balance.

Both sides had chances to score in the first half, with Mario Mandzukic  heading wide from close range and Enzo Perez firing wide when presented with an (almost) open goal.

After the break, the shaky Argentinians eventually conceded after a dreadful error from Willy Caballero, with the Chelsea reserve ‘keeper misjudging a unnecessarily deft pass that set up  Ante Rebic to volley home.

In the second half,  Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli sent on Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristian Pavón to get his side back into the game.

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However, it was Croatia who would score next, with the outstanding Luka Modric producing a superb curling effort from 20 yards which evaded the diving arms of Caballero.

With his team utterly reliant on him, Lionel Messi struggled to make the requisite impact as Argentina failed to match as effervescent Croatian side in almost every regard.

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In injury time, Messi’s Barcelona teammate, Ivan Rakitic, would score from close-range to seal a deserved 3-0 win which puts the Croatian into the last 16.

The Albiceleste now face the possibility of missing out on a last 16 berth, if Iceland beat Nigeria on Friday and then draw with Croatia in their final game – and it’s nothing that they don’t deserve.

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As things are shaping up, 2018 could prove to be a serious low point in both Messi and Argentina’s recent World Cup history.



Official: RB Leipzig Confirm Julian Nagelsmann Will Take Over As Head Coach After 2018/19 Season:

June 21st, 2018

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RB Leipzing have confirmed that Julian Nagelsmann will be their new head coach, but only after the culmination of the 2018/19 season.

Nagelsmann will remain in charge at Hoffenheim for one last season, where he famously became youngest manager in Bundesliga history (largely out of necessity) when he assumed control of the first team in February 2016, aged just 28.

1899 were wallowing down in 17th on that day, but went on to deliver themselves from relegation thanks to the fresh impetus afforded to them by their budding coach.

Since then, the club have finished 4th and 3rd under his inspired, progressive tutelage.

Having already been linked heavily with Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund, it’s been announced this afternoon that Nagelsmann will continue his prolific progression with cash-rich Leipzig, who, for the record, finished sixth in the German top flight last season.

Nagelsmann has agreed a four-year contract at Leipzig, which will begin after he has led Hoffenheim into the Champions League for the very first time.

The 30-year-old is under contract at his current club until June 2021, but facilitated the move to Leipzig by triggering a release clause that lies therein.

Speaking to the Hoffenheim website, Nagelsmann explained the situation:

It was important to me to ensure clear conditions.

I owe it to Hoffenheim and all of its employees, as well as to the team and the fans, in a historic season in which we are competing in the Champions League for the first time, not to have constant assumptions about me and my future.

Now everyone knows and we can focus professionally on the upcoming, difficult tasks.

Everyone knows that I will be burning and doing everything I can to reach our ambitious goals until the last hour of my commitment to Hoffenheim.

Say what you like about Leipzig and their swollen corporate bankrolling, but By ‘Eck is this a smart piece of business on their part.



Landmark: Kylian Mbappe Scores First Ever World Cup Goal To Pass Thoroughly Depressing Milestone As France Go Ahead Against Peru (Photo & Video):

June 21st, 2018

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Prodigious PSG striker Kylian Mbappe passed a significant footballing milestone by opening the scoring for France against Peru in the 34th minute of their Group C game.

Mbappe was Johnny-sur-le-spot to tap home at the far post when Olivier Giroud’s deflected shot looped over the stranded Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese…

In converting the chance, 19-year-old Mbappe became the first ever player to score at a World Cup to be born after his fellow countrymen muscled out Brazil in the final of the 1998 World Cup.

Of course, this is super depressing for fans of a certain advanced vintage, but Pies must nevertheless extend a begrudging ‘well done’ to Mbappe.

The little git.



World Cup: Benjamin Mendy Wears Custom ‘Shark Teeth’ Boots For France’s Game Against Peru (Photos):

June 21st, 2018

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Photo: Adidas Football

Benjamin Mendy has scored some serious World Cup style points today by taking to the pitch for France while sporting his new custom-made Adidas boots.

Ahead of the Group C game against Peru, Adidas have furnished the left-back with his very own pair of unique ‘Shark Team’ themed Glitch boots.

Sure enough, Mendy was spotted wearing the toothsome pumps while warming up for Les Bleus at the Ekaterinburg Arena.

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At time of writing, France are a goal ahead of Peru at half-time, with Mendy’s fearsome foot-sharks still feeding on scraps in the shallows dugout as he waits for his chance to enter the fray.

Here’s hoping he gets a run out. It’d be a crying shame to waste those booties.



World Cup: Germany Midfielder Sami Khedira Politely And Efficiently Side-Steps ‘Plane Ticket’ Prank Attempt From Swedish Journalist (Video):

June 21st, 2018

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Speaking to the press at Germany’s World Cup training camp, Sami Khedira showed some fleet mental footwork (should such a thing exist) to evade a cheeky ruse from a Swedish journalist.

During a media session in Vatutinki on Thursday afternoon, Expressen reporter Ludvig Holmberg attempted to lure Khedira in by offering both him and his Mannschaft teammates early plane tickets home from the World Cup.

Germany suffered a shock defeat against Mexico in their opening Group F tie, with the reigning champions now set to face Sweden in a make-or-break second outing.

“When you lose against Sweden on Saturday, you’re already on your way home so I have some boarding passes for you and your teammates,” came Holmberg’s opening gambit.

However, Khedira was more than prepared for battle and sure enough the Juventus midfielder quickly snuffed out the danger with devastating politeness…

“Thank you, but we won’t need them. We think we can win this game,” came Khedira’s response.

“Maybe you’ll need them after the game instead?” said Holmberg, once again trying to slot the joke home on the rebound.

However, Khedira refused to let the punchline cross the line, replying “I think we’ll need them on the 16th July (the day after the World Cup final),” before walking off.

Bit of a painful outcome for the boy Ludvig, but we’re sure he’ll be able to run it off eventually.



Fred’s Officially Red: Man Utd Splurge £52m To Sign Brazilian Midfielder From Shakhtar Donetsk:

June 21st, 2018

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He may sound more like an old basset hound, but Manchester United have blown the best part of £50million to sign Brazilian midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The initial fee involved is said to be around £47million, rising to £52-ish-million thereafter, with the 25-year-old agreeing a five-year contract at Old Trafford.

Fred is currently at the World Cup with Brazil but missed the opening match against Switzerland with an ankle injury.

However, he was still able to come through his United medical without a hitch, so it shouldn’t be long before he’s unleashed in Russia.



Newly-Promoted FC Yenisey Krasnoyarsk Produce Two Absolutely Amazing Kits For First Ever Season In Russian Premier League (Photo):

June 21st, 2018

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After forcing their way up through the play-offs last year, Siberian side FC Yenisey Krasnoyarsk are gearing up for their first ever season in the Russian top flight.

Speaking of gear, treat yourself to an eyeful of the new home (left) and away (right) kits Yenisey will be wearing for their maiden Russian Premier League adventure…

Photo: FCEnisey/Twitter

As you can well see, the home shirt features a charming lion motif while the away is entirely dedicated to the city’s architecture, including the cathedral and the railway bridge across the  Yenisei – a UNESCO heritage site, no less.

As per the club’s official website, the two shirts are described thus:

(HOME) Lions are dangerous and single-handed, but when there are many, no force can resist their pressure. A lion never allows himself to be fed up with old successes.

Every day for him – a new challenge, a new pursuit of a dream. We are not going to be content with former victories, and we: the first season in the Premier League awakens new aspirations in us.

(AWAY) We cherish in our hearts the memory of what city we represent. The new form is not only an opportunity to share our pride in Krasnoyarsk with fans and rivals, but also an additional responsibility for everyone who will at least once come out on the field.

One looks like a child’s bedspread and the other looks like a souvenir tea-towel and we’re totally okay with both.

In fact, we’re even tempted to submit a bulk pre-order.



World Cup Competition: WIN! Your Choice Of T-Shirt From Superb Art Of Football World Cup Collection:

June 21st, 2018

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Hey you! Yeah, you! Fancy winning a bloody lovely little piece of World Cup goodness? Well, step this way please.

To help mark the launch of their insanely good World Cup collection, the Art of Football chaps are offering the chance for one lucky Pies ultra to win a t-shirt of their choice.

All you have to do to be in with a shot of winning is to answer the following question correctly…

Q: Other than ‘Ronaldo’, by what Brazilian nickname is Mr Luis Nazario de Lima commonly known?

A: Baixinho
B: O Rei
C: O Fenomeno

Please email your answer (a simple A, B or C will suffice) to us at waatpies@gmail.com with “AOF WORLD CUP COMP” in the subject field.

We’ll then pick the winner at random when the competition closes at midnight (BST) on Friday 29th June, 2018.

The winner will then receive their choice of t-shirt from the Art of Football World Cup collection.

Best of luck, folks!

* * * * *

Terms and Conditions:

1. The competition is open to all Pies readers worldwide.
2. The competition closes at midnight (BST) on Friday 29th June, 2018.
3. Only one entry per household and/or email address is allowed. Any duplicates will be ignored. Entries sent in through agents or third parties will be disqualified. Late, incomplete or otherwise ineligible entries will be disqualified.
4. The winner will be selected at random from all correct answers and notified by email as soon as possible.



Burger King Russia Apologise For Crass Promotion Offering Free Burgers To Women ‘Impregnated By World Cup Stars’:

June 21st, 2018

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Burger King have apologised and rescinded a promotion in which the fast food chain offered free burgers to Russian women who successfully manage to get pregnant by World Cup footballers.

The scarcely believable offer saw Burger King willing to hand over a “lifetime supply of Whoppers” to any woman who became impregnanted by anybody playing at the World Cup during the tournament.

Of course, the promo was panned from the moment it was announced, with critics branding it “sexist” and “demeaning” – as well as being utterly, utterly lecherous and insanely immoral.

Image: Burger King Russia

The offer promised to reward women who managed to acquire “the best football genes” that would “ensure the success of the Russia team for generations to come” with as many Whopper burgers as they could eat in their lifetime.

All trace of the offer was removed from Burger King’s social media accounts earlier this week, with the company issuing an apology via the VKontakte television network.

We offer apologies for the announcement we made. It was too offensive.

Unbelievable.



‘I Should Have Ripped His Head Off’ – Roy Keane Reveals One Major Regret From Time Working With Carlos Queiroz (Video):

June 20th, 2018

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Roy Keane has once again been speaking his bleak, hostile mind, this time fondly recalling the time he spent with Carlos Queiroz, his former assistant manager at Manchester United.

While watching Queiroz’s Iran side lose out to Spain as a pundit for ITV, Keane was asked for insight into the Portuguese’s coaching style.

The former responded with a terse and predictably violent anecdote in which he entailed the biggest regret he holds from the pair’s two spells working together – not ripping Queiroz’s head off when he had the chance…

Good coach though.

Pies’ can only speculate as to how many people from Keane’s past he feels the specific regret of not injuring them fatally applies to. Most? All?

Some may be amused by the curmudgeon act on the pundit sofa, but good grief does the permanent sullen demeanour start to grate after a while.



World Cup: Gareth Southgate Doubt For England’s Next Game After Dislocating Shoulder While Out Jogging:

June 20th, 2018

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One things for sure, Gareth Southgate will be celebrating a little less vehemently assuming England manage to find the net against Panama on Sunday.

This is because the Three Lions boss had the misfortune to do himself a bit of a discourtesy while out jogging, stumbling and dislocating one of his shoulders.

Having given his players the day off, Southgate ventured outside England’s training base in Repino for a bit of a run.

To cut a long story short, he appeared in front of the press on Wednesday afternoon sporting a sling on his right arm.

The doc has made it clear punching the air is not an option. I might not be celebrating any goals as athletically in future.

It is better this is me than one of the players.

We have got such a great support team and they were there very quickly.

I had brilliant help from them, and I am just sorry I managed to ruin their day off.

Southgate was taken to be fixed up at a nearby hospital, aided by team doctor Rob Chakraverty.

It would appear that England staffers accidentally knackering themselves is fast becoming a World Cup tradition – just ask Gary Lewin.



World Cup: Iran’s Milad Mohammadi Provides Undoubted Highlight Of Match Against Spain By Aborting ‘Flip Throw-In’ At Very Last Second (Video):

June 20th, 2018

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Spain may have (just) emerged victorious come the final whistle, but it was Iran who provided the true highlight of the Group B tie between the two sides, and maybe of the entire World Cup to date.

With time sapping away and Iran advancing up the left flank, Milad Mohammadi lined up the old Steve Howey special: a front-flip throw-in into the Spain box, complete with a little kiss for the ball.

However, a split second before launch, the left-back was suddenly hit by the realisation that this probably wasn’t the right time for such outlandishness and aborted the manoeuvre altogether, leading to a wonderful sheepish backtrack…

Man, if you can’t enjoy that on repeat for a good solid few hours, then apologies but you’re not a proper football fan.

As for the match, a single ricochet off Diego Costa’s inadvertent knee was enough to snare his side the win, though it was about as unconvincing as it gets.

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Iran employed a staggering amount of spoiler tactics for the entire duration of the evening and even had a goal disallowed by VAR, but just fell short against a Spain team that once again looked a long way off being potential tournament winners.



World Cup: Luis Suarez Marks 100th Cap With Winning Goal As Uruguay Squeeze Past Saudi Arabia (Photos & Video):

June 20th, 2018

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A goal from Luis Suarez fired Uruguay into the last 16 of the World Cup, with the Barcelona striker nabbing the only goal of an uninspiring clash with Saudi Arabia.

Suarez, making his 100th senior appearance for Uruguay, found the back of the net on 23 minutes, scoring from close-range after Saudi ‘keeper Mohammed Al Owais flapped at a corner.

Despite conceding the goal, the Saudis impressed throughout, courtesy of a much-improved performance from their 5-0 drubbing by Russia.

As for Uruguary, they failed to sparkle, but with Suarez and Edinson Cavani in attack, they had the cutting edge their opponents lacked.

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Oscar Tabarez’s side face Russia in their final group game on Monday, with both sides already through.

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The Green Falcons, on the other hand, will be looking to sign off from their campaign with a win against Egypt.

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World Cup: Portugal Hardman Pepe Goes Down Like Sack Of Spuds After Being Tapped On Shoulder By Medhi Benatia (Video):

June 20th, 2018

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A single Cristiano Ronaldo goal after four minutes was enough to oust Morocco from the World Cup, with the North African side trying hard but ultimately failing to make their dominant display at the Luzhniki Stadium count for anything.

As the game drew on and Herve Renard’s team turned the screw in an increasingly desperate search of an equaliser, it should come as little surprise that good old Pepe resorted to his usual loathsome tactics to counteract the pressure and siphon away the time.

Amid a crowded box, the Portuguese defender tangled with opposite number Medhi Benatia, leading to the former hitting the deck in spectacular fashion after being tapped on the shoulder…

Despicable, reprehensible, embarrassing, anti-football – call it what you will and rest assured that Pepe does not care one little bit.



World Cup: Cristiano Ronaldo Scores 85th Portugal Goal To Surpass Ferenc Puskas As Record European International Goalscorer:

June 20th, 2018

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Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for Portugal against Morocco to score his fourth goal of the World Cup and send yet another goal-scoring milestone tumbling in the process.

With just four minutes played, the 33-year-old went stooping through the six-yard box to head home Bernardo Silva’s corner…

In scoring, Ronaldo bagged his 85th goal for Portugal and moved past Ferenc Puskas (84) to become the highest European goal-scorer in the history of international football.

The world record is still held by the legendary Ali Daei, who amassed 109 goals for Iran over the course of his career.

You can bet your life that Ronaldo has one eye on that one, too.

Indeed, the way he’s been banging them in at the World Cup, we’d have a shilling on him at least bringing up his ton before the tournament is over.



Flat Out: Try Not To Panic, But The World Cup Might Be On The Brink Of A Major Beer Shortage:

June 20th, 2018

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By Jack Beresford

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The sun is shining, the World Cup is in full swing and the beer is flowing – but that might not be the case for long.

Pubs and bars across the UK and Europe are bracing themselves for a major beer crisis that could mess up proceedings in Russia even worse than VAR.

Worse still, the crisis could end up impacting the availability of certain meat products, meaning burgers could be off the menu at the World Cup too!

It’s all because of a shortage of CO2, the gas that carbonates the beer. Supplies are dwindling at a rapid rate in the wake of the World Cup and summertime weather.

Some breweries are even predicting production could grind to a halt as early as next week, in a development that could prompt crazed supermarket beer runs across the continent.

The problems began two months ago, after a planned shutdown of ammonia plants for maintenance work. C02 is a by-product of ammonia production, with plants like these serving as the primary source for the gas.

It got worse when further plants were closed as a result of “technical issues”.

CO2 plays a crucial role in the canning and bottling of beer and is also used in draft beer taps too.

The gas is also commonly used in slaughterhouses to stun and kill animals. So, no gas means no quarter-pounders or steaks.

Football fans probably won’t be too worried though.

As Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park: “life finds a way” – even if that “way” involves drinking paint thinner to stay buzzed.



Arsenal: €30m Deal For Lucas Torreira Is ‘Finalised’ According To Sampdoria President:

June 20th, 2018

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Bloody heck on toast, Arsenal really aren’t hanging about this summer.

With Bernd Leno signed up and on board, and Jack Wilshere released back into the wild, the Gunners’ have also completed a deal to sign Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria.

That’s according to Samp’s club president Massimo Ferrera, who was interviewed live on Italian television station TMW and duly confirmed that Torreira’s move to the Emirates has now been “finalised”.

Sampdoria do not sell unless there are excellent offers. We do not look for buyers. We have natural talents whose values increase exponentially.

Torreira has left for €30million. I bought him from Pescara when no one believed. We bet and we won, paying just €3million.

The money that comes in is used to keep the club going.

So that’s roughly £26million in old money for a combative, tenacious, energetic, ball-winning-and-playing midfielder in the Marco Verratti (a fellow Pescara alumnus) mould.

A fine replacement for Wilshere, and no mistakin’.



World Cup: Lord Alan Sugar Tweets Then Hastily Deletes Dreadful, Racist ‘Joke’ About Senegal Players:

June 20th, 2018

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Alan Sugar, a member of the House of Lords, has brought yet another wave of consternation and hostility his way by sharing a truly awful, racist ‘joke’ about the Senegal World Cup team.

The following tweet was posted and then hastily deleted on Sugar’s account on Wednesday morning, the day after Senegal beat Poland in their opening match.

Sugar felt that spark of inspiration, opened Twitter, prodded at the screen with his grubby thumbs and committed this utter abomination unto the world. A truly astounding thought process.

Obviously, swathes of folk began admonishing Sugar within an instant, leading the 71-year-old to inexplicably defend the ‘joke’, explaining he thought it to be simply a bit of “fun” but that he’d removed it if people found it offensive.

Lo and behold, a few minutes later, the original Tweet was deleted, with Sugar doubtlessly still unable to see what he did wrong. He was only having a laugh, after all.

Good grief. The man is an imbecile. Once a dim spiv, always a dim spiv.

While we’re on the subject of Senegal and racism, we heartily recommend Zito Madu’s (@_Zeets) rather excellent article for SB Nation examining the weighted language repeatedly used to describe black and African football teams and players.

It goes a long way toward explaining precisely what the problem (still) is.



Official: West Ham Complete £7m Deal To Sign Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski From Swansea:

June 20th, 2018

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West Ham have completed the signing of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski from Swansea for a fee reported to be around £7million.

The Polish international, who is currently out in Russia with his national team, has agreed a three-year contract with the Hammers and will join them as soon as he’s done at the World Cup…

Good deal for a serially underrated ‘keeper. Not a lot more to say about the matter, really.

While we’re on the subject of West Ham, this week they’ve also spent £25million to bring in France Under-21 centre-back Issa Diop from Toulouse – thus making him the club’s record signing.



Football Songs: Goldie Lookin Chain Release ‘Official’ 2018 World Cup Rap Anthem For Wales (Video):

June 20th, 2018

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Just as they did four years ago, Welsh rap collective Goldie Lookin’ Chain have knocked out a World Cup anthem.

Ahead of the 2014 tournament in Brazil, the band weighed in with a diss track about Andy Townsend.

Now they’re back with an “official” anthem to support their beloved Wales at the 2018 World Cup.

Are you going to tell them Wales didn’t qualify, or shall we?

“We’ve got leeks, sheep and devolution, so we’ll beat any team on Pro-Evolution.”

Tidy.

More GLC nuggets on Pies…

Goldie Lookin Chain – The Tony Pulis Rap
Shit Kits: When Goldie Lookin’ Chain Sponsored Newport County AFC, 04/05



World Cup: Senegal Fans Stay Behind After Final Whistle To Help Pick Up Litter And Tidy Section Of Stadium (Video):

June 20th, 2018

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After watching their side get off to a winning start against Poland, Senegal fans put a temporary halt to the celebrations by staying behind after the final whistle to help tidy up their section of the terrace at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow.

Several diligent supporters were seen collecting the debris and organising it all into neat little piles for the stadium staff to dispose of…

How thoroughly nice of them.

Indeed, it brings back memories of Japan fans doing likewise at the 2014 World Cup.



World Cup Snapshot: England Players Prepare For Panama Match With Lively Inflatable Unicorn Race…:

June 20th, 2018



‘I Was Left With Little Choice’ – Jack Wilshere Confirms Arsenal Exit After Talks With New Manager Unai Emery:

June 19th, 2018

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Jack Wilshere has confirmed that he will leave Arsenal when his contract finishes at the end of June.

After holding talks with new Arsenal boss Unai Emery, the 26-year-old has decided to leave the club he joined back in 2001 at the tender age of nine.

Wilshere made the announcement on Instagram, saying:

Following a number of extensive conversations with those at the club, and in particular a recent meeting with the new manager, Unai Emery, I felt that I was ultimately left with little choice but to make the decision that I have due to purely footballing reasons.

My intention throughout these discussions has always been to remain an Arsenal player.

I have been on the books at Arsenal for 17 years and have always felt part of the fabric of the club.

Such was my desire to stay that I had in fact agreed to sign a financially reduced contract in order to commit my future to the club.

Here’s the statement in full…

Thanks for the memories 💙

A post shared by Jack Wilshere (@jackwilshere) on

Presumably Emery failed to assure Wilshere of a regular starting berth, something the player will have wanted in order to get himself back into the running for a place in the England set up.

However, with Arsenal closing in on a deal for Uruguayan Lucas Torreira, Wilshere was always going to struggle for a regular starting place.

Following his Instagram post, an obviously emotional Wilshere popped up this rather touching clip on Twitter which fittingly includes that wonder-goal against Norwich…

Ah, the memories!

Overall, Wilshere made 197 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions, scoring 14 goals, providing 27 assists and becoming the youngest player ever to play for the north Londoners in league football.

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Last season, Wilshere made 29 starts under Arsene Wenger and looked to be finally rediscovering his form and fitness after a number of injury-strewn years.

However, the Stevenage-born schemer will now start the new season in someone else’s colours, with the likes of West Ham, Crystal Palace and Southampton all thought to be keen on the gifted player.

Emery certainly means business!



World Cup: Mohamed Salah Scores But Egypt Downed By Russia As Hosts Close In On Last 16 (Photos & Video):

June 19th, 2018

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Russia all but booked their place in the last 16 of their own World Cup after the hosts beat Egypt 3-1 in St. Petersburg.

After thrashing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the tournament, the Russians played with confidence against an Egyptian side that welcomed Mohamed Salah back into the starting XI.

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However, Salah, back in action for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the Champions League final with Liverpool, was clearly not 100% fit.

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The first half was a disappointing affair, but soon after the break, the hosts took the lead, via a fluke own-goal from Ahmed Fathi, with the unlucky full-back losing his balance and diverting Roman Zobnin’s shot into his own net.

Russia were the better side throughout, and just before the hour-mark, the went 2-0 up with Denis Cheryshev netting his third goal of the competition after a slick team move.

Towering striker Artem Dzyuba made it 3-0 soon after, courtesy of a superbly deft solo effort that draws him level with Cristiano Ronaldo (three goals) in the Golden Boot stakes.

Egypt did their best to get back into the game and, on 73 minutes, Salah scored from the penalty spot after a VAR review rightly judged that he had been fouled in the box by Zobnin.

Unfortunately for Salah and co, they couldn’t build on that goal, with the hosts securing a deserved 3-1 victory.

That win all but sees the Russians qualify for the last 16, with their haul of eight goals scored the joint-most by a host nation in the opening two games of a World Cup finals.

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The lowest ranked side in the competition face Uruguay in their final Group A game on Monday.

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As for Egypt, they will be knocked out if Saudi Arabia don’t win against Uruguay on Thursday.



World Cup: Senegal Heroes Celebrate Beating Poland By Having A Little Dance Or Two (Video):

June 19th, 2018

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In beating Poland in their Group H opener, Senegal afforded themselves the chance to celebrate Africa’s first win at the World Cup in customary fashion.

Indeed, led by Ismaila Sarr and goalscorer M’Baye Niang, the Lions enjoyed a bit of a shimmy in front of their fans down in the corner of the Otkrytiye Arena…

The Senegal lads also broke out a few choice moves in the aftermath of Niang’s goal, which put them 2-0 up on the hour mark.

Slick.



World Cup: Grzegorz Krychowiak Drops Sizeable Clanger As Senegal Stuff Toothless Poland In Moscow (Photos & Video):

June 19th, 2018

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Senegal weathered a late uprising to secure Africa’s first win at the 2018 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over an oddly listless Poland.

Marshalled by ex-captain Aliou Cisse, the only black coach at the tournament, Senegal took the lead mere minutes before half-time when Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye drove a deflected shot in off Thiago Cionek’s legs.

Poland then proceeded to let the match pass by them as Adam Nawalka’s disjointed, lacklustre side idled along without imposing on Senegal in the slightest.

Robert Lewandowski, quiet and frustrated all game, did have a freekick repelled by Khadim N’Diaye, though the ‘keeper wasn’t really close to being beaten…

Sure enough, the Poles then sunk themselves even further into the mire on the hour when Grzegorz Krychowiak dropped a clanger in midfield that ultimately presented The Lions of Teranga (now that’s a fine nickname) with a gift of a second goal.

Indeed, Krychowiak let loose a sloppy back-pass that was gobbled up by Mbaye Niang, who dodged past the charging Wojciech Szczesny and walked the ball into the gaping maw of the Polish net.

In fairness to Krychowiak, he had been unaware of Niang’s loitering as the forward had only just been waved back onto the pitch by the referee.

Speaking of Niang, he’s now had one shot at a World Cup and used it to score his first ever international goal. Not a bad ratio.

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Still… and let’s not let Szczesny off the hook either. Another goalkeeper who cannot resist the urge to come haring out upfield at a moment’s notice. Surely staying put in his goalmouth and forcing Niang to beat him properly would have been the correct decision in the circumstances?

Anyway, Poland and Krychowiak did manage to salvage a shred of dignity at the death when the PSG man met a deep freekick with a smart header to pull one back for the Poles in the 86th minute…

Sensing a shift in psychology, Poland then continued to push for an equaliser, showing the kind of zeal and creativity that had previously eluded them.

Ultimately, however, they were beaten by the whistle, thus beginning their World Cup campaign with a rather underwhelming result and performance.

Much more gumption will be required against Colombia and Japan if they hope to get out of the group.

As for Senegal, we think this GIF sums it all up quite nicely…

Many thanks to the wonderful Kelly Welles for that little belter!



Arsenal: Jens Lehmann Sacked As Assistant Coach, Departs With Ever-So-Slightly Bitchy Statement:

June 19th, 2018

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With Unai Emery gearing up for his maiden season in charge, Arsenal have rejigged their first team coaching staff and announced the various choppages and changes today.

The biggest news is that Steve Bould has been retained as assistant head coach (a job he will share with Juan Carlos Carcedo), while Jens Lehmann has been bumped as goalkeeping coach after just one year in the role.

After learning of his fate, the German, who made over 150 appearances for the Gunners between 2003 and 2008, broadcast the news via Twitter with a very slightly vinegary message…

Image: @jenslehmann/Twitter

Oooooooh. Get you, bitch!

Best not tell Jens that fellow ’04 alumni Freddie Ljungberg has just been hired as head coach of the Arsenal Under-23 side, eh?



World Cup: Japan Outlast And Overcome 10-Man Colombia To Register Historic Victory In Group H Opener (Photos & Video):

June 19th, 2018

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Japan became the very first Asian side to defeat South American opponents at a World Cup (in 18 games betwixt the two) by seeing off Colombia in Group H.

Truth be told, Los Cafeteros were derailed with less than three minutes on the clock, when Carlos Sanchez was shown the first red card of the tournament for heroically sacrificing himself to deny a clear goal-scoring opportunity with his hand.

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According to Opta, Sanchez’s sending-off (02:56) has entered the record books as the second fastest in World Cup history, the first being Jose Alberto Batista’s ultra-quick dismissal for Uruguay against Scotland in 1986 (54 seconds).

Shinji Kagawa scored the resulting penalty to nudge the Blue Samarai into an early lead – a lead which lasted until the 39th minute, when Juan Quintero fooled everybody by rolling a deliciously cheeky freekick underneath the wall…

Rather amusingly, Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima spent the next couple of minutes wagging his finger and protesting that he’d kept Quintero’s effort out, despite the referee and the goal line technology having already confirmed otherwise.

The second half was a more pedestrian affair, as Colombia contended with their numerical disadvantage and left Radamel Falcao hopelessly isolated up front on his own.

Despite an odd lack of intensity, Japan kept the pressure on as their opponents began flagging and finally forced themselves a historic winning goal in the 73rd minute when Yuya Osaka got his head on Keisuke Honda’s corner…

So that puts Japan, who only changed their manager 70 days ago, in pole position in the group standings with Poland and Senegal yet to play.

Given their solidarity at the back and fair goal-scoring threat going forward, it looks, at least for the time being, like they might just be able to scrape through.



‘Plain White Chicken, Salad And Water’ – Patrice Evra Reveals Precisely What An Invitation To Eat Lunch At Cristiano Ronaldo’s House Entails:

June 19th, 2018

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By Jack Beresford

Photo: Splash News

If Cristiano Ronaldo ever extends an invite to drop round for a bit of lunch, just politely pass on the opportunity.

That’s the considered advice of Patrice Evra, Ronaldo’s former teammate at Manchester United, who made the mistake of accepting the Portuguese forwards’s kind offer back in the day and very soon came to regret his decision.

Speaking on ITV Sport’s World Cup podcast, Evra opened up about what ended up being the worst lunch break in the world.

When Cristiano invites you for lunch at his house, just say no.

He [Ronaldo] said, ‘Patrice, come over after training.’ I went, you know I was really tired, [and] at the table there was only salad and plain white chicken so I was like, ‘Okay’, and water, not any juice and we started eating and I was thinking some big meat would be coming after that but there was nothing.

He just finished and he stood up and he started playing with a ball, doing some skills and he said, ‘Let’s do some two-touch.’

Plain chicken and foliage? Hast thou not got anything moist?

Anyway, the French left-back continued his anecdote with a subtle note of indignation in his voice:

I was like, ‘can I just finish eating?’

‘No, no let’s play two-touch,’ we start playing two-touch. After that he said let’s go to the pool to swim, I was like okay… after going in the jacuzzi, the sauna, I’m done.

I say, ‘Cristiano why have we come here, have we come here because we have a game tomorrow, or just for lunch?’

So that’s why I would recommend to anyone when Cristiano invite you to his house, don’t go – just say no because this guy, he’s a machine, he doesn’t want to stop training.

Evra also shed a little light on Ronaldo’s infamous competitive streak, centred around a seismic shifting of power within the table tennis hierarchy at United:

With Rio Ferdinand, they were playing table tennis and Rio beat him [Ronaldo], and we were all screaming and Ronaldo was so upset.

Then he sent his cousin to buy a tennis table, he trained for two weeks at home and he came back and he beat Rio in front of everyone.

So that’s Cristiano Ronaldo, so that’s why I’m not surprised today why he wants to win another golden ball, why he wants to win the World Cup.

Because he’s an angry man.

‘Angry’ is one way of putting it, we suppose…



‘He Was So Shit!’ – Rafael Van Der Vaart Fondly Reminisces About The First Time He Saw Harry Kane Play (Video):

June 19th, 2018

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He may be an unstoppable goal-scoring juggernaut of a striker these days, but it wasn’t very long ago that Harry Kane was struggling to convince anybody that he was going to be able to cut it at the tippy top level.

To that end, Rafael van der Vaart has shared his first impressions of Kane upon seeing the youngster training at Tottenham for the first time way back when.

Spoken with genuine fondness and admiration, the Dutchman freely admits he thought Kane was a bit… well, a bit shit.

Less than a decade on and Kane has scored no less than 150 goals since the start of the 2014/15 season, 15 for England and 135 for Spurs.

As anyone who saw him on loan at Leicester or Norwich early in his career will duly attest, it’s still a source of slight but constant surprise.



Reports: Arsenal Strike €22m Deal To Sign Goalkeeper Bernd Leno From Bayer Leverkusen:

June 19th, 2018

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Arsenal are on the cusp of clinching themselves a new goalkeeper after reportedly striking a deal to sign Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen.

As per BBC Sport‘s righteous Gunners oracle David Ornstein, the Premier League side have agreed to pay €22million (around £19.3million) to acquire Leno’s services.

A routine medical is now due to take place, with personal terms currently being negotiated (The Guardian have it that Leno will sign a five-year contract).

Basically, Arsenal have a foot in the door.

That said, uncertainty remains as to whether Leno is being brought in as a direct replacement for Petr Cech or David Ospina, but seeing as Cech has been handed the No.1 shirt for next season, we’d suggest the smart money is on Ospina getting moved along.

Ornstein also adds that Arsenal are “optimistic” about closing a deal to sign combative Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria too.

Unai Emery and Sven Mislintat are overhauling that squad like it’s going out of fashion.



‘They Were In My Eyes, In My Mouth’ – Harry Kane Reveals England Players Enjoyed Impromptu Feast Of Midges And Mosquitoes In Volgograd:

June 19th, 2018

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We had giant locusts in 2014 and tear-supping moths in 2016 so, in-keeping with latter day big tournament tradition, England’s opening Group G encounter with Tunisia saw the official launch of the 2018 World Cup insect mascot – or, more accurately, a cloud of about eight million of them.

Thanks to a combination of warming summer temperatures and its proximity of the vast Volga River and the marshland thereabouts, the Volgograd Arena was descended upon pre-match by an infuriating swarm of nibbling midges and mosquitoes.

The local authorities used helicopters to spray industrial amounts of pesticide over the stadium the day before the match to help clear up the problem, but the impact was negligible as both England and Tunisia players were seen being driven slowly insane during the warm-up.

The FA instructed the England team to apply swathes of high-strength insect repellent throughout the night, with several players seen re-coating themselves with spray during stoppages in play.

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However, despite the precautions, it would appear that the Three Lions digested their fair share of mosquito matter over the course of the night, with two-goal hero Harry Kane detailing the extent of the irritation.

We got told before that there was going to be quite a lot of flies and when we went out for the warm-up it was a lot more than we all kind of thought.

We had a lot of bug spray on before the game, halftime, which was important because there was some of them in your eyes, some of them in your mouth,

But I guess that’s part of just dealing whatever comes your way and the team coped with it well.

Erm… yuck.

That said, one man who wasn’t phased by the insect plague at all was Tunisian head coach Nabil Maaloul, who was too gosh-darned preoccupied to notice it.

I did not feel the midges because I was so focused on the team, on the game.

Maaloul sounds like the kind of fellow who happily lets flies buzz around in the window all day without actively seeking to smash their brains through their backsides with a rolled-up copy of the TV Times.

Nutcase.



World Cup: Two-Goal Harry Kane Saves England’s Blushes As Late Winner Gives Three Lions Victory Over Tunisia (Photos & Video):

June 18th, 2018



World Cup: Dries Mertens Scores Sensational Volley As Belgium Ease Past New-Boys Panama (Photos & Video):

June 18th, 2018

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Belgium cruised to a 3-0 victory over World Cup new-boys Panama on Monday, with Napoli striker Dries Mertens scoring an absolute peach.

The first-half was a dull affair, with Belgium’s star-studded side failing to click.

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However, just after the break, Mertens got the ball rolling for Roberto Martinez’s side, courtesy of a sensational dipping volley.

An early contender for goal of the tournament, no doubt.

Just over 20 minutes later, Belgium doubled their advantage, with Kevin De Bruyne deftly setting up Romelu Lukaku, who headed past Jaime Penedo in the Panama goal.

The Manchester United hitman would bag his second of the game soon after, via a cool dink over the ‘keeper after he was set up by Eden Hazard.

The game would end in a deserved 3-0 win for the much-fancied Belgians, who play Tunisia next on Saturday and then England on the 28th.

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As for Panama, they can take some comfort from an impressive first-half defensive display, ahead of their next match-up against Gareth Southgate’s charges on Sunday.

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World Cup: South Korea Goalkeeper Cho Hyun-Woo Denies Sweden With Big Point-Blank Face Save (Video):

June 18th, 2018

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By Jack Beresford

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Cho Hyun-Woo may have ended up on the losing end of one of the World Cup’s more forgettable games, but his point-blank range save from Marcus Berg will live long in the memory.

Not least because the Daegu FC stopper denied his Swedish counterpart using nothing but his instincts, his quick reactions and his face…

Firmly abiding by the age-old goalkeeping adage: It doesn’t matter how you keep them out, as long as you keep them out.

Once considered something of a liability for the national team, thanks to a reputation for misjudging high balls, Cho found himself thrust into the limelight after earning a starting spot against the Swedes.

The 26-year-old has only been capped seven times by South Korea but looked calm and experienced beyond his years in the first half.

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Ultimately a bit of shoddy defending in front of Cho, coupled with a little help from VAR, gave Sweden the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot after the break.

Grizzled centre-half Andreas Granqvist duly obliged, with the Scandinavians going on to win 1-0.

Cho’s save may have been in vain but it’s well worth a re-watch. Bravo sir!



World Cup: Eric Cantona Mocks Neymar’s Silly Noodle Hair On Instagram (Photo):

June 18th, 2018

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Yep, we’re as surprised as you to learn that Eric Cantona has an Instagram account but, at least he’s using it for all the right reasons.

Like mercilessly mocking Neymar for his silly ‘noodle’ hair, for example…

Terrific work from The King, to whom we offer our humble fealty once again.

Fancy spending a few more minutes laughing at Neymar? This way please, my friend.



World Cup: Ryan Giggs Dons Milk Maid Costume To Watch Sweden In Action Against South Korea (Photo):

June 18th, 2018

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We’ve no idea how he made it into the stadium so quickly, but no sooner had Ryan Giggs finished up plying us with his riveting pre-match punditry for ITV was he spotted in the crowd at Sweden’s FGroup F opener against South Korea.

Even more curious was the ex-Manchester United winger’s decision to don full Swedish milk maid regalia for the occasion…

Each to their own.



World Cup: National Broadcasters Confirm Nearly 100% Of People Watching TV In Iceland Watched Opening Match Against Argentina:

June 18th, 2018

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While it’s no secret that Iceland are one of the most fervently-supported teams at major tournaments, it would appear that the entire country is making a special effort for the World Cup.

According to data compiled by Iceland’s national broadcasting service RUV, they came within a mere fraction of absolutely every last person watching television in Iceland being tuned into their side’s hard-earned opening Group D draw against Argentina.

As per the RUV numbers, the highest viewership was measured at 14:54, which was the last minute of injury time, with the station’s share of the overall television national audience topping out at a whopping 99.6%.

This, in short, shows that almost everyone who was watching the TV in Iceland at this time was watching the game.

The remaining 0.4% presumably opting for whatever the Icelandic equivalent of ‘Homes Under Under The Hammer’ on the other channel.

RUV also confirmed that 60% of the overall population watched the match, up from the 58.8% that watched Iceland knock England out of the Euro 2016.

Not a bad effort. Not a bad effort at all.



Gone Bust: Madeira Airport ‘Quietly Replace’ Cristiano Ronaldo Bronze Statue With Altogether Less Wonky Version (Photos):

June 18th, 2018

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Bad news for lovers of truly exquisite public art: The horrendous bronze bust of Cristiano Ronaldo outside Madeira International Airport has been removed and replaced.

Oddly, however, nobody seems to know exactly who is responsible for removing the cross-eyed, cross-faced Mk.1 version.

According to Madeira Island News, the Aveiro (Ronaldo’s) family requested through the CR7 Musuem that the original, squinty bust be replaced.

Photo: Miguel Silva (via Madeira Island News)

A new, less massively insulting statue is now in situ outside the building – as can be seen above.

However, Duarte Ferreira, director of Madeira Airport, claims he has no clue who is actually responsible for making the swap.

The change happened on Thursday night to Friday. The (CR7) museum asked us to replace this bust in honour of the athlete and we agreed we should change it.

In any case, we have the old one saved, but I do not know what will happen with it.

It should go straight into the CR7 Museum, surely?

Give it the pride of place it so richly deserves.



‘Time To Live Your Childhood Dreams’ – The Times Roar England On By Splashing Players’ Baby Photos On Magazine Cover Ahead Of World Cup Opener:

June 18th, 2018

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England are due to come wading into the World Cup today with a big opener against Tunisia on the cards in Volgograd.

To send the Three Lions on their way with a motivational message, The Times knocked up a special front cover for their ‘The Game’ magazine.

Indeed, what could possibly be more inspirational on the cusp of a big game than having the nation shown embarrassing baby photos of you and your teammates…

Photo: @AlexKJTimes/Twitter

An astonishing glimpse into who some of these England stars were as infants – Jordan Pickford was Maxine Peake, Kyle Walker was Moira Stewart, Ashley Young was Phil Lynott, Dele Alli was clearly Gary Wilmot, Jordan Henderson was a different human being altogether and Jesse Lingard was… well, a slightly more mature-looking Jesse Lingard.

As for Harry Maguire, that photo just raises more questions than it answers.



Reports: Croatia To Send Niko Kalinic Home From World Cup After Striker Refused To Come On As Substitute Against Nigeria:

June 18th, 2018

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Word on the World Cup win is that Nikola Kalinic’s tournament might be over before it’s even begun as Croatia are preparing to send the striker home.

According to Croatian newspaper 24sata, Kalinic refused to come on as a substitute for the last five minutes in the opening game against Nigeria.

Instead, Marko Pjaca replaced Mario Mandzukic in the 86th minute as Croatia comfortably saw out the 2-0 victory.

Head coach Zlatko Dalic subsequently confirmed that there were no injuries within his squad, only a “problem”.

Dalic is now set to call a press conference at 16:15 this afternoon, where it’s highly likely he will confirm that Kalinic will be on the first plane back to the motherland.

Imagine getting to your first World Cup and then reneging on the chance to take part because of a supposed minor twinge (as speculated in the Croatian press) in your back.

Some real wimps populating the game these days. Real wimps.

It’s a World Cup, mate. Play through it.



World Cup Gallery: 20 Photos Of Neymar Squirming In Pretend Pain While Being Savaged By Switzerland:

June 18th, 2018

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You’ve simply got to feel for Neymar whenever you watch him play football – a beautiful tropical fish merely trying to survive amid an ocean of ravenous predators.

To be born positively dripping in technique and talent, but also saddled with one of the most delicate pain thresholds known to mankind is a cruel and ironic twist of fate.

Case in point being his performance against Switzerland last night. The poor lamb was sent out to the slaughter, kicked from pillar to post by beastly Swiss thugs while the so-called referees once again proved too cowardly to put an end to the clear and obvious abuse.

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Pies don’t have the precise stats to hand, but we’d estimate that Neymar spent somewhere approaching 75% of the Switzerland game screaming, contorting and squirming on the ground in sheer agony.

It would seem that never a match goes by where he isn’t subjected to these brutal and targeted beatings. How he manages to pick himself up and mentally steel himself to go again is nothing short of wondrous.

That’s the price of being so celestially gifted, we suppose.



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