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Who could France face in the World Cup knockout stages?

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France became the first nation at the 2022 World Cup to clinch a spot in the tournament’s knockout stages when they beat Denmark 2-1 on matchday two in Group D.

A strong showing against somewhat of a bogey team meant Les Bleus became the first reigning champions from Europe to advance past the group stage since Germany in 1994.

So, with a sigh of relief and a subtle boost of optimism behind them, who could Didier Deschamps’ men line up against in the round of 16?

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France’s World Cup campaign kicked off with a gargantuan scare; Craig Goodwin’s ninth-minute strike put Australia 1-0 up against the world champions to remind us all of their seemingly incurable defensive frailties.

Luckily, however, the rest of the squad reminded us of their blisteringly potent creative and attacking quality as Adrien Rabiot, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud all struck to earn Deschamps’ side a 4-1 thrashing of the Socceroos – Giroud’s brace put him on 51 international goals, levelling him up with the great Thierry Henry as France’s all-time highest goal-scorer.

Having starred in that game, Mbappe put in another talismanic showing on matchday two as his nation secured their last-16 spot with the aforementioned victory over Denmark.

Against a side that beat them home and away in the Nations League this year, Les Bleus put in a professional performance stacked with a strength of character that few would have associated with the squad.

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A brace from Mbappe, either side of Andreas Christensen’s headed equaliser in the second half, was enough for a 2-1 win and a guaranteed round-of-16 fixture for a third World Cup in succession.

It still isn’t certain who France could come up against in the knockout stages of this tournament. Indeed, not even their title as Group D winners is wrapped up, with a matchday-three encounter with Tunisia still to be played out.

In the unlikely event that Tunisia get a win against the French and Australia beat Denmark (with a six-goal swing), Les Bleus could advance as runners-up, potentially pitting them against Argentina – who themselves require a win over Poland to top Group C.

With Group C so tight heading into the final round of group games, likely table-toppers France’s opponents are very uncertain, however.

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If Argentina get that probable victory against Poland and Mexico, as expected, beat Saudi Arabia, a four-goal swing would see the Mexicans jump to second to face the French. However, sitting on three points, Saudi Arabia are just as able to get a result and overtake either Argentina or Poland depending on the latter two’s result.

The most likely scenario would probably see Poland head into a last-16 bout with France on goal difference – but as you see, it’s all very complicated.

Following a potential victory at the final-16 stage, the likely route would then see Deschamps’ men face up against England in the quarter-finals – now that’s a delicious prospect.



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EPL

Nottingham Forest announce signing of Andre Ayew

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Nottingham Forest have confirmed the signing of free agent Andre Ayew despite interest from Everton.

The forward has been heavily linked with a move to the Toffees in recent days, but Forest have swooped in to sign the Ghanian.

Speaking to the club’s official website after finalising the move, the forward said:  “It’s a great feeling to sign for Nottingham Forest.

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“I know how big the club is and I know how much the club means to the city and the fanbase. It’s always been difficult whenever I’ve played against Forest and at The City Ground and I love the stadium.

“Steve Cooper is someone who knows me very well and knows how to work with me both on and off the pitch. We have a strong relationship, he’s a special coach and a special human being and someone who I really look up to.”

“I know what I can bring to the team, I’m ready to give my all and make sure that we are able to stay in the Premier League.”



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Wolves vs Liverpool – Premier League: TV channel, team news, lineups & prediction

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Liverpool will be looking to make a statement with a Premier League trip to Wolves this weekend, having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Brighton last Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are without a league win in their last three attempts and have slipped as low as ninth in the table. Depending on what Chelsea do against Fulham on Friday night, the Reds could be 10th by the time they kick-off at Wolves.

Wolves are still yet to really find their groove under Julen Lopetegui, although at least remain out of the relegation zone on goal difference for the time being.

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Wolves team news

Wolves have no new injury concerns ahead of this one, with Pedro Neto, Boubacar Traore, Sasa Kalajdzic and Chiquinho all still sidelined.

Wolves predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Sa; Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Bueno; Neves, Nunes; Traore, Sarabia, Hwang; Jimenez.

Liverpool team news

Centre-back Ibrahima Konate is the latest Liverpool player to join the injury list, ruled out until at least mid-February with a hamstring problem.

Virgil van Dijk is also still out, as are Roberto Firmino, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota. Arthur Melo is making progress but is a couple of weeks away from resuming training.

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Liverpool predicted lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Nunez, Gakpo.

It’s certainly feasible that Wolves could continue to pile the misery on Liverpool.

The Reds had beaten Wolves in seven consecutive meetings until a recent FA Cup tie ended in 2-2 draw at Anfield. It was then only a single goal that decided the replay in the Merseysiders’ favour.

Prediction: Wolves 1-1 Liverpool

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Mason Greenwood releases statement after Greater Manchester Police drop all charges

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Mason Greenwood has released a short statement stating that he is ‘relieved’ after the Greater Manchester Police dropped all charges against the Man Utd forward.

Greenwood was charged with attempted rape, engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour and assault, allegations relating to the same woman last year and, following an investigation, GMP have confirmed that all charges have been dropped.

The GMP confirmed the news in a statement earlier on Thursday: “Given the significant media coverage of this case, it is only fair that we share the news that the 21-year-old man, who had been arrested and charged in connection with an investigation opened in January 2022, no longer faces criminal proceedings in relation to this.

“The investigation team has remained in regular contact with the legal team, providing any updates of note, and so understand the rationale for the discontinuation of proceedings at this stage, and that this decision has not been taken lightly.

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“Despite the media and public’s interest in this case, we have decided not to comment on it in any further detail.

“I would, however, like to use this opportunity to reiterate GMP’s commitment to investigating allegations of violence against women and girls and supporting those affected, regardless of their circumstances, throughout what can be a hard and upsetting time for them. An ever increasing number of officers are receiving specialist training and the force is more consistently utilising tools, available via the criminal justice system, to keep people safe and care for victims.”

Greenwood has now responded with a statement of his own, writing: “I am relieved that this matter is now over and I would like to thank my family, loved ones and friends for their support. There will be no further comment at this time.”

Manchester United are due to conducted their own internal investigation on the matter.

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