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Karim Benzema retires from international football

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Karim Benzema has posted a message on social media intimating that he is retiring from international football.

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The striker, who turned 35 on Monday, was set to play at his first World Cup since 2014 this winter before a thigh injury effectively ruled him out just prior to the tournament.

However, with Les Bleus reaching the final once again and Benzema returning to training with Real Madrid, there was speculation that he could return to Qatar to take on Argentina as he was still officially on their squad list.

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Head coach Didier Deschamps insisted last week that Benzema would not be returning, while the striker turned down an invitation to attend the final in a non-playing capacity.

France would go on to lose via a penalty shootout, and taking to Instagram and Twitter, Benzema has seemingly closed the book on his international career.

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“I made the effort and mistakes it took to be where I am today and Iโ€™m proud of it! I wrote my story and ours ends,” he wrote, accompanied by a picture of him in a France shirt.

Benzema was left out of France squads between 2015 and 2021 in part due to a blackmail case against former teammate Mathieu Valbeuna. During this time, he also made disparaging remarks about Olivier Giroud.

After a near six-year absence, Benzema returned to the France setup in time to play at the delayed Euro 2020.

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Belgium beat Germany in thriller, Scotland stun Spain

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The European international window is in the books, folks. You don’t have to worry about your players getting injured for their countries again until June.

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Scott McTominay was the protagonist of Tuesday’s action as Scotland ousted Spain, while Romelu Lukaku continued his resurgence as Belgium beat Germany in a friendly.

Here’s the best of Tuesday’s games…

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Scotland 2-0 Spain

Scotland’s first win against Spain in 39 years saw them move top of Group A.

The Tartan Army didn’t stop singing at Hampden Park as the hosts willed their way to a deserved victory.

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Scott McTominay opened the scoring early on after Andy Robertson robbed Pedro Porro of possession, cutting the ball back for the Manchester United midfielder to fire home.

Just after half-time, McTominay found himself on the scoresheet again. Kieran Tierney galloped past Dani Carvajal and his cross was only half cleared by Rodri, allowing his rival from across Manchester to thunder into the box and slam the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

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Georgia 1-1 Norway

Norway continued to struggle in the absence of the injured Erling Haaland after drawing 1-1 in Georgia.

Real Sociedad’s Alexander Sorloth broke the deadlock after a quarter of an hour with a strike from distance, but they were pegged back by a goal from Georges Mikautadze midway through the second half.

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Turkey 0-2 Croatia

A double from Mateo Kovacic saw Croatia pick up their first win in qualifying.

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It was an emotional night in Bursa as Turkey played their first home game since the country was struck by earthquakes earlier this year.

The visitors took the lead when Kovacic arrived late in the Turkey box to sweep in at the end of a fine team move, before securing the points with a second strike on the stroke of half-time.

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Wales 1-0 Latvia

Wales continued their excellent start to qualifying with a 1-0 win at home to Latvia.

The retired Gareth Bale was honoured in a pre-match ceremony after he called time on a glittering playing career.

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On the pitch, Kieffer Moore soared high to score the game’s only goal, heading in the winner towards the end of the first half and maintaining the Dragons’ unbeaten start to 2023.

Kosovo 1-1 Andorra

Andorra earned a precious and shock point away at Kosovo.

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Lille youngster Edon Zhegrova gave the hosts a shock lead, but one that only lasted two minutes as Albert Rosas rescued a stunning point for the visitors.

Romania 2-1 Belarus

Romania managed to stave off a late comeback to claim three points against Belarus.

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A quick-fire double from Nicolae Stanciu and Andrei Burca saw Romania race into an early two-goal advantage.

Vladislav Morozov pulled one back for Belarus with minutes remaining but the visitors were unable to find another and left Bucharest with nothing.

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Switzerland managed to beef up their goal difference a little bit more with a 3-0 thumping of Israel.

Murat Yakin’s side ran out 5-0 winners in Belarus last week and kept their terrific 2023 form going back on home soil.

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Ruben Vargas notched Switzerland ahead just before the break, while two goals in the space of seven minutes following the restart from Zeki Amdouni and Silvan Widmer helped the hosts to a comfortable win.

Germany 2-3 Belgium

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku’s back / Lars Baron/GettyImages

Belgium’s flying start to life under Domenico Tedesco saw them claim a dramatic win in his home country of Germany.

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Yannick Carrasco broke the deadlock for the Red Devils with only six minutes on the clock, with Kevin De Bruyne teeing up the winger after a sweeping move from the back.

Just three minutes later, Romelu Lukaku added a second, racing in behind a sleeping German backline and slotting past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

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Lukaku gave away a penalty for handball just before the interval, with newfound hero Niclas Fullkrug converting from the spot.

With time running out, Belgium managed to add a third. De Bruyne released Leandro Trossard down the left, cutting it back for the Manchester City midfielder to convert.

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Brentford’s Kevin Schade raced away down the wing and cut the ball back for Serge Gnabry to finish with three minutes remaining, but Belgium held on to claim the win.





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Player ratings as McTominay double earns Scots shock win

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Scotland claimed their first win against Spain in 39 years with a famous 2-0 victory at Hampden Park on Tuesday night.

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A brace from Scott McTominay helped Steve Clarke’s men go top of their Euro 2024 qualifying group, securing two wins from their opening two games.

Spain did not look cohesive in Luis de la Fuente’s second game in charge and have real work to do if they’re to reach the finals in Germany next summer, let alone compete for the championship.

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With seven minutes on the clock, Scotland took a shock lead with the game’s first chance. Pedro Porro slipped while in possession and gave away the ball to Andy Robetson, who pulled it back for McTominay to fire home.

The hosts went close to adding a second soon after. John McGinn managed to swivel and set Ryan Christie racing away through midfield, poking a shot just wide of the near post.

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Spain nearly equalised when a Jose Gaya cross was headed goalwards by Joselu, but it was straight down the throat of Angus Gunn and Scotland survived.

Joselu again rose highest to reach a teasing cross and this time he was only denied by the crossbar, while Rodri headed just over the top from a corner as Spain’s aerial bombardment continued.

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Gunn was forced into a save when Porro let fly from 25 yards, pushing his swerving effort over the top, and Yeremy Pino’s half-volley sailed high into the stands from the resulting corner.

La Roja were furious that they weren’t awarded a penalty when Joselu went down under a challenge from Grant Hanley – a decision which was reaffirmed following a VAR check.

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With the final opportunity of the first half Lyndon Dykes should have doubled the Scots’ lead. Andy Robertson hoofed the ball upfield for the QPR striker to chase on the counter, but having raced away from the Spanish defence was unable to keep his eventual strike down.

Just after the break, Scotland added a second. Kieran Tierney skipped away from Dani Carvajal and Spain were unable to deal with his cross, allowing McTominay to lash in the loose ball.

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A free-kick from McGinn smashed against the crossbar as Scotland looked to put the game out of sight.

Substitutes Nico Williams and Iago Aspas combined with Spain looking to mount a comeback – the Athletic Club winger pulled the ball back for the Celta Vigo forward, directing it narrowly over the top.

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Spain failed to carve out a chance in the game’s closing stages as Scotland held on to take three huge points.

Scott McTominay

McTominay dominated the game / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

GK: Angus Gunn – 7/10 – Made some key saves at crucial times for Scotland.

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CB: Ryan Porteous – 7/10 – Shut down Spain’s left side no matter who was there.

CB: Grant Hanley – 7/10 – After Joselu made an early impression, Hanley did well to ease him out of the game.

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CB: Kieran Tierney – 8/10 – Outstanding in that centre-back/full-back hybrid role. Won’t get the assist for the second goal but he definitely should receive credit for his responsibility in the move.

RM: Aaron Hickey – 7/10 – Worked well with Porteous in clamping Spain’s left flank down.

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CM: Scott McTominay – 9/10 – The man of the moment. Thundered his way into the opposition box and made them pay.

CM: Callum McGregor – 7/10 – Held his own in what could have been a tricky midfield battle.

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CM: John McGinn – 8/10 – Like McTominay was able to use his physicality to fluster and overwhelm Spain.

LM: Andy Robertson – 8/10 – A leader in every sense of the word. Won the battle of the dark arts with Porro.

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AM: Ryan Christie – 6/10 – More of a contributor off the ball with his pressing and movement than on it.

CF: Lyndon Dykes – 5/10 – A sloppy passer and missed a great chance at the end of the first half.

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Substitutes

Kenny McLean (75′ for Christie) – N/A

Liam Cooper (75′ for Tierney) – N/A

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Nathan Patterson (82′ for Hickey) – N/A

Lewis Ferguson (83′ for McGinn) – N/A

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Lawrence Shankland (90′ for Dykes) – N/A

Manager

Steve Clarke – 9/10 – Such a result required some monster performances and Clarke got just that out of his men. Another outstanding display from Scotland.

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Rodri, Andrew Robertson

A disappointing night for Spain / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 4/10 – Didn’t exactly radiate confidence and his kicking was a little wayward.

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RB: Pedro Porro – 4/10 – At fault for the opener. Tried his best to get a foothold in the game after but was withdrawn at the break.

CB: David Garcia – 5/10 – Made a few key interceptions but to little avail.

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CB: Inigo Martinez – 5/10 – Similarly fine for the most part but this wasn’t enough to save Spain.

LB: Jose Gaya – 5/10 – Provided very little down the left wing. The left-back spot should be Alejandro Balde’s to lose.

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CM: Mikel Merino – 4/10 – Technically gifted of course, but sunk in the midfield battle against Scotland’s powerhouses.

CM: Rodri – 5/10 – As calm as usual but was unable to elevate those around him.

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RM: Yeremy Pino – 4/10 – Played on the fringes of the game whether coming in from the right or the left.

AM: Dani Ceballos – 4/10 – Started brightly with his usual enthusiasm but this was quickly nullified by Scotland’s own dogged pressing.

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LM: Mikel Oyarzabal – 4/10 – Found it hard to break Scotland down and was hooked at the interval.

CF: Joselu – 5/10 – A menace in the first half but didn’t get his own way when the going got tough.

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Substitutes

Dani Carvajal (46′ for Porro) – 4/10 – Roasted by Tierney for Scotland’s second, so not really an upgrade on the haphazard Porro.

Nico Williams (46′ for Oyarzabal) – 6/10 – Spain’s most dangerous player by far after coming on, showcasing his pace and electricity in possession. Needed more help to break down a stubborn defence.

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Iago Aspas (57′ for Merino) – 5/10

Borja Iglesias (67′ for Joselu) – 5/10

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Gavi (79′ for Ceballos) – N/A

Manager

Luis de la Fuente – 2/10 – Spain were essentially put in a spin dryer by a pumped up Scotland side. The new manager’s team selection reeked of arrogance after making nine changes.

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Player of the match – Scott McTominay (Scotland)





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Twitter reacts to Scott McTominay’s brace against Spain

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Yep, you read that correctly – Scott McTominay has scored for Scotland against Spain. Twice.

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It comes just days after he netted a late brace for his country against Cyprus on Saturday having come on as a late substitute.

As a reward, Steve Clarke awarded the Manchester United midfielder with a start in their next Euro 2024 qualifier, and he didn’t take long to make good of this decision, opening the scoring against Spain on Tuesday after just seven minutes.

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It’s becoming more and more known that McTominay came through Manchester United’s youth system while playing as a striker. He’s certainly got those goal scoring instincts.

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Scotland managed to hold off Spain’s advances for the rest of the first half, and just after the break, McTominay added a second, lashing home after the visitors were unable to clear a cross from Kieran Tierney.

So the real question now is should United sell him to Newcastle this summer? What should the asking price be?

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On this edition ofย Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network,ย Scott Saunders,ย Graeme Baileyย &ย Toby Cudworthย discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

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If you can’t see this embed, clickย hereย to listen to the podcast!





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