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Player ratings as Los Blancos extend perfect group stage start

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Real Madrid extended their perfect start to the Champions League group stage with a 2-1 victory which belied their superiority at home to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night.

Shakhtar’s coach Igor Jovicevic – a former player in Real Madrid’s B team – pledged that his side “are going to enjoy the game tomorrow”. Aside from Oleksandr Zubkov’s successful scissor kick in the first half, the nomadic visitors had precious little success to revel in during a dominant – but wasteful – display from Los Blancos.

The Ukrainian champions took the bold approach of attempting to lure Madrid onto them, insisting on playing short, intricate passes within their own defensive third. Unable to weave their way through the forest of white shirts, the majority of the contest was played within earshot of Anatolii Trubin’s goal.

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By the time Rodrygo rifled a low shot through Trubin’s weak wrist in the 13th minute, Shakhtar had completed just six passes outside of their own half. The Brazilian was fortunate to see the ball kindly ricochet off Taras Stepanenko back into his path on the edge of the box, but Madrid’s lead was thoroughly deserved.

Trubin kept his side in the contest as Madrid treated the visiting goal like a shooting range, though the hosts were constantly reloaded by Shakhtar’s scattergun passing.

Vinicius Junior doubled Real’s lead inside the opening half-hour, crisply concluding a devastatingly swift team move which saw Karim Benzema and Rodrygo dovetail devilishly beforehand.

As Shakhtar tentatively began to creep out of their half, it provided Madrid with more space to surge into. On multiple occasions either side of the interval, Ancelotti’s side left their guests bewitched and befuddled by a burst of slick interplay – though their final effort often lacked the same precision.

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However, on the cusp of half-time, Zubkov acrobatically volleyed Shakhtar back into the game, utterly against the run of play. Bogdan Mykhaylychenko had ample room down the left to arc in a delivery which picked out Zubkov enjoying similar isolation inside Madrid’s box.

Benzema was hardly alone in peppering Trubin’s goal – Los Blancos forced the so-called Ukrainian Gianluigi Donnarumma into a double-digit save tally – but Madrid’s lead remained misleadingly slender.

Shakhtar’s highly-rated Mykhaylo Mudryk was stymied for much of the contest but squandered a rare opportunity to open his legs in the second half, delaying long enough for Ferland Mendy to pinch the ball off his twinkle toes.

By the end of a one-sided 90 minutes, the reigning European champions had rattled off an avalanche of 35 shots, the last of which was deflected onto the post – much to Marco Asensio’s chagrin.

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Nevertheless, Madrid moved five points clear at the top of Group F, though Shakhtar remain second halfway through the campaign with RB Leipzig and a winless Celtic rounding out the quartet.

GK: Andriy Lunin – 5/10 – Given precious little to do and hardly at fault when up against Zubkov’s body contortion.

RB: Dani Carvajal – 4/10 – Hung back when Madrid went forward but afforded Mykhaylychenko far too much space in his own half.

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CB: Eder Militao – 7/10 – Exploited his explosive pace and precise timing to emphatically snuff out multiple Shakhtar attacks while they were still in their infancy.

CB: David Alaba – 4/10 – Left Zubkov criminally unmarked despite being the only bright orange shirt in Madrid’s penalty area.

LB: Ferland Mendy – 7/10 – Made a potentially goal-saving challenge on Mudryk after a burst of speed to keep up with the jet-heeled winger.

CM: Fede Valverde – 6/10 – Glided across the pitch, breaking into his loping stride at any hint of open space ahead of him. Faded in the second half.

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CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 7/10 – Subtly sweeping in front of Madrid’s backline.

CM: Toni Kroos – 7/10 – Invariably involved the first phase of Madrid’s buildup, playing the first rather than the final pass – though both are crucial.

RW: Rodrygo – 8/10 – Tiptoed infield, leaving Valverde to provide the width while he linked with Benzema and Vinicius with lashings of glitz and guile.

ST: Karim Benzema – 8/10 – Every pass he seemed to play was devilishly spun around the corner, tantalisingly out of his opponent’s reach but perfectly into the path of another white shirt.

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LW: Vinicius Junior – 8/10 – Took every opportunity he had in possession to take on however many orange shirts were in his way.

SUB: Eduardo Camavinga (75′ for Tchouameni) – 5/10

SUB: Marco Asensio (80′ for Rodrygo) – N/A

Manager: Carlo Ancelotti – 7/10 – Furious at his side’s cheap concession before the break, the only nagging negative for the Italian was the reluctance of his wingers to track back.

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Player of the Match – Rodrygo (Real Madrid)





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Poland vs Argentina: Confirmed lineups

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Poland vs Argentina

France, who have already secured a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup 2022, play Tunisia on Wednesday in their final Group D matchup.

In the meantime, the African nation is last in the standings and must defeat the current champions to advance to the knockout stages.

Line-up

Poland XI (4-4-1-1): Szczesny; Bereszynski, Glik, Kiwior, Cash; Frankowski, Bielik, Krychowiak, Zielinski; Swiderski; Lewandowski

Argentina XI (4-3-3): Martínez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuña; De Paul, Enzo Fernández, Mac Allister; Messi, Álvarez, Di María

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Mauricio Pochettino discusses next managerial job

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Ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he’d be open to taking a national team job.

Pochettino has been without a job since being sacked by PSG in the summer, despite winning his first silverware as a coach at the club – lifting the Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France.

The former PSG boss has been linked with a number of clubs since then, but speaking to Sky Sports, Poch insisted that he is also open to a move into international management, stating: “It wasn’t under my consideration to go [into international management] but now, yes I am open. Why not?

Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

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If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“Yes, of course we are still young, full of energy, and day-by-day I like the adrenaline to train, to be involved. Maybe the national team is a different job, but why not? If it’s not the next job, then maybe in the future. It’s not specific that all I want is Argentina. If another country, why not? For sure, that would be good also.”

Pochettino also took the time to discuss England’s World Cup credentials, stating that he sees them as one of the favourites to win the tournament in Qatar.

“England have the quality to be one of the teams with an opportunity to win the World Cup,” he said. “I saw a very good performance against Wales, and I believe the quality is there. It’s all about believing and performing in a way which can grant you the possibility to be there.

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“But I really, really believe this year England can fight to try to lift the World Cup. [Gareth] Southgate is doing a fantastic job. He was a little bit unlucky in the final of the Euros against Italy, but he’s doing a fantastic job and deserves a lot of credit.”



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Player ratings as Eagles of Carthage knocked out of World Cup despite shock win

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Tunisia stunned France with a shock 1-0 win, but their hopes of reaching the last 16 of the World Cup were ended by Australia’s own unlikely victory against Denmark elsewhere in Group D.

The Eagles of Carthage fought tooth and nail to keep their hopes of advancing alive and put in a solid display against the rotated reigning champions, but their 2022 journey has come to an end at the benefit of the Socceroos.

Tunisia thought they took an eighth-minute lead when a Wahbi Khazri free-kick was flicked on and in by Nader Ghandri, but the linesman had his flag raised for a marginal offside and the goal was chalked off.

France looked very disjointed after making so many changes, though created a decent chance on the break with Youssouf Fofana slipping through Kingsley Coman, but his first touch took him away from goal and his off-balance strike sailed wide.

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Steve Mandanda was forced into a save when Aissa Laidouni’s second-time cross was nodded on by Anis Ben Slimane, before Eduardo Camavinga – filling in at left-back – had to retreat and prevent a similarly deep ball from reaching the free Nader Ghandri.

Just after the break, Laidouni robbed Fofana of possession in his own box and curled one narrowly over the top of Mandanda’s crossbar as Tunisia went closer to finding a crucial opener.

And Tunisia took a deserved lead when Fofana lost possession too easily again, and Laidouni found Khazri to weave his way past the French backline and poke a shot past the flailing Mandanda.

With the clock running down, France finally showed signs of life with substitute Kylian Mbappe forcing a save from Aymen Dahmen and Randal Kolo Muani blasting wide at the end of Les Bleus’ only real sweeping move of the afternoon.

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Tunisia nearly clung on through eight minutes of stoppage time before Antoine Griezmann’s deflected volley found the back of Dahmen’s net with essentially the last kick of the game, only for it to be ruled out by a lengthy VAR check.

However, Australia’s win had already been confirmed by this point and the Eagles of Carthage’s fate was already sealed.

GK: Aymen Dahmen – 5/10 – Didn’t inspire a lot of confidence but France barely attacked so it hardly mattered.

CB: Yassine Meriah – 7/10 – Got forward down the wing to support Kechidra. Helped by the fact France played without wingers.

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CB: Nader Ghandri – 7/10 – Got his head on most high balls and defended with authority.

CB: Montassar Talbi – 7/10 – Just as Meriah did down the right, Talbi was of great use down Tunisia’s left.

RM: Wajdi Kechidra – 7/10 – Gave Camavinga plenty of problems in tandem with Ben Slimane.

CM: Ellyes Skhiri – 8/10 – After a poor showing against Australia, Skhiri came roaring back with a monster midfield performance.

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CM: Aissa Laidouni – 8/10 – Took control of the midfield battle and teed up Tunisia’s opener.

LM: Ali Maaloul – 6/10 – Found it hard at times to get by Disasi but worked hard for the cause.

RF: Anis Ben Slimane – 6/10 – Brought a good mix of work ethic and quality in possession.

LF: Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane – 6/10 – Similarly covered every blade of grass down his flank.

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CF: Wahbi Khazri – 9/10 – Gave France all sorts of problems in his hour on the pitch, eventually scoring the opening goal.

SUB: Issam Jebali (60′ for Khazri) – 5/10

SUB: Ghaylen Chaaleli (74′ for Ben Romdhane) – 5/10

SUB: Ali Abdi (84′ for Ben Slimane) – N/A

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Manager: Jalel Kadri – 7/10 – Tunisia produced an authoritative performance despite the obvious gap in quality.

GK: Steve Mandanda – 4/10 – Looked every bit of his 37 years of age, slow to react to danger and made a hash of saves.

RB: Axel Disasi – 5/10 – Played out of position on his senior debut for Les Bleus but handled himself well.

CB: Raphael Varane – 4/10 – Made captain in Hugo Lloris’ absence. Didn’t defend with much seniority.

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CB: Ibrahima Konate – 6/10 – Put in a few recovery challenges but always looked awkward.

LB: Eduardo Camavinga – 3/10 – Hung out to dry in his first real outing as a left-back.

DM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 6/10 – Tried his best to hold the fort but needed more help.

CM: Jordan Veretout – 3/10 – Way out of his depth. Hid at times and just shouldn’t be starting a World Cup match.

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CM: Youssouf Fofana – 3/10 – Looked bright early on but continually dribbled his way into trouble, culminating in Tunisia’s opener.

AM: Matteo Guendouzi – 3/10 – Failed to link midfield and attack. Gave the ball away loosely.

CF: Kingsley Coman – 5/10 – Progressed the ball well when coming deep to receive it but didn’t threaten Tunisia where it mattered.

CF: Randal Kolo Muani – 5/10 – Likewise helped out in deeper areas but not enough in the final third.

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SUB: William Saliba (63′ for Varane) – 4/10

SUB: Adrien Rabiot (63′ for Veretout) – 4/10

SUB: Kylian Mbappe (63′ for Coman) – 3/10

SUB: Antoine Griezmann (73′ for Fofana) – 5/10

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SUB: Ousmane Dembele (79′ for Guendouzi) – 4/10

Manager: Didier Deschamps – 3/10 – Sure, it was a dead rubber for France and Deschamps was right to rest his key men, but the XI he picked seriously lacked cohesion.

Player of the Match – Wahbi Khazri



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