Ronaldo’s criticism of Iceland arrogant

Ronaldo’s criticism of Iceland arrogant and did him a disservice.

If only Cristiano Ronaldo had been so cutting on the actual pitch. After the Real Madrid star failed to score in Portugal’s frustrating 1-1 draw with Iceland, a match in which he put forward a very quiet and underwhelming individual performance, he at least succeeded in taking some attention away from the Nordic heroes with the following comments in the mixed zone.

“Iceland didn’t try anything,” Ronaldo said after Iceland had actually pulled off the greatest result in their history in their first ever tournament match. “It was a lucky night for them. We should have three points but we are OK. I thought they’d won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end. It was just unbelievable. When they don’t try to play and just defend, defend, defend this is in my opinion shows a small mentality and are not going to do anything in the competition.”

You could say it was surprising that Ronaldo would come out with disrespectful comments like this, as the Iceland story is so well-known by now, but they’re all too believable given what we have already heard on numerous occasions throughout his career. The sad reality is that, aside from being bitter and laughable, these words were also self-absorbed and a typically arrogant attempt to absolve himself of any criticism.

Put simply, these are the type of comments that fuel his critics, reiterate why he is greatly respected rather than adored and why he doesn’t have the widespread affection that his ability should afford him. Iceland’s Kari Arnason offered a bit more edge after the game, saying that Ronaldo is “not a gracious human being” and adding: “His comments are the reason why [Lionel] Messi is always going to be one step ahead of him… it shows we got under his skin. It was lovely to hear that.”
Given how deeply competitive Ronaldo is with Messi, Arnason’s words may have irked the Portuguese even further. Asked whether you would expect Messi to say things like that, the Iceland defender said “no.”

Arnason plays his club football with Malmo, and appeared in Real Madrid’s 8-0 humiliation of the Swedish side in the Champions League this season — when Ronaldo hit four — so that adds another level of hypocrisy to the star’s comments. It’s extremely rich for Ronaldo to complain about how Iceland celebrated such a meaningful result for them, given the ostentatious and often ludicrous in-your-face way he celebrates genuinely meaningless goals when Real are just adding another to a pummelling of vastly inferior-resourced sides like Malmo, Getafe or Levante. With the way he reacts to those — to use the player’s own phrase against him — you would think he had won the Spanish title. That is still something he has barely done, managing it just once in seven years.

Ronaldo surely can’t even claim ignorance of the Iceland story. His comments came after he was asked about whether he could see the romance of their result. He didn’t seem to care about that.

The comments are even worse when you consider the pattern of the game, let alone the context. Iceland kept him so quiet on the pitch, with crunching tackles and pressing, which may explain why Ronaldo was so unfairly vociferous on it. When Ronaldo did finally get a chance, a free header minutes from the end, he wasted it with a poor effort straight at the goalkeeper.

Indeed, as Arnason also said, Iceland “almost nicked the win so him saying we aren’t going for the win contradicts that.” It’s all the more impressive that they actually came from behind. Sides that are set up in the truly defensive way Ronaldo described tend to have no way back once they concede the opening goal.
There was just so much hypocrisy, and also self-indulgent wastefulness. Around the time that Iceland did get those chances to nick it, Portugal got a series of free kicks. Ronaldo, of course, insisted on taking them, only to add to his continuously poor set-piece record in recent times. His goal against Portsmouth for Manchester United in 2008 may be one of his most famous, but he has failed on what feel like endless attempts to repeat it.

The thing with Ronaldo is that, for all his preening and self-indulgence, many teammates do like him a lot. At one media dinner, one figure began criticising the Portuguese’s selfishness as a player, only for a former Manchester United teammate of Ronaldo’s to immediately interject that, in 2007-08, the player told Owen Hargreaves to take United’s free kicks as he was hitting them better.

But Ronaldo’s comments on Iceland are why he possibly doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a player. He should have known that, given the nature of the Iceland story, there is just no way to say those things and not look bad.

Despite all that, the fitting final word went to Iceland. “I mean, he can say whatever he wants,” Arnason said. “He didn’t really get a chance today, he got one and he couldn’t put it away. What can I say? Sore loser. Tough s—.”

Miguel Delaney is a London-based correspondent for ESPN FC and also writes for the Irish Examiner and others. Follow him on Twitter @MiguelDelaney.


Late Pique header delivers win for holders

The centre-back nodded past an impressive Petr Cech in the 87th minute as the holders’ dominance finally reaped rewards during a frustrating Group D encounter

Gerard Pique scored with three minutes remaining as holders Spain opened their Euro 2016 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Czech Republic in Toulouse.

Spain, winners of the Euros in both 2008 and 2012, dominated possession but had to wait until late on to make the breakthrough against Petr Cech and a resolute Czech backline, who came into the tournament with the worst defensive record of the teams who qualified.

Alvaro Morata had Spain’s best first-half chance, forcing Cech into action from close-range in the first half, while Roman Hubnik turned the ball against his own post after the break.

It looked like Del Bosque’s men would be held to a frustrating draw, but Pique nodded in his first goal at a major international tournament to ensure they began with a victory two years to the day since their humbling 5-1 defeat to Netherlands at the World Cup.

Spain now play Turkey on Friday as they continue their bid for an unprecedented third consecutive continental title.

A trio of saves from Cech ensured there were no goals in a relatively quiet first period.

Spain came closest to scoring when Juanfran released David Silva on his 100th cap and his cross allowed Morata to stab towards goal from close-range, with the Arsenal goalkeeper making a key stop.

Cech was also on hand to get an important touch to Morata’s left-footed effort after the striker had been set up by Iniesta and then pushed away a Jordi Alba strike.

Czech Republic offered little threat going forward, with David de Gea called into action for the first time just before the break, comfortably saving from Tomas Necid.

The post prevented Hubnik from scoring turning Morata’s cut-back into his own goal early in the second half, before Nolito had a goal-bound effort blocked.

Hubnik then threatened at the other end, with De Gea getting down sharply to keep out his effort from Ladislav Krejci’s delivery, while Cesc Fabregas made a crucial clearance from Theodor Gebre Selassie’s goal-bound header.

Del Bosque changed his striker just after the hour mark, with 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz on to replace Morata, becoming the oldest Spain player to appear in the Euros.

Silva lashed a shot wide, while Aduriz was off-target with an overhead kick and a header in the closing stages, and it looked like the Czechs would hold on for a valuable point until Pique struck.

Iniesta floated in a cross from the left and Pique rose to direct a low header beyond Cech from six yards.

That was not the end of the drama, with De Gea making a pivotal stop from Vladimir Darida in stoppage-time as Spain breathed a huge sigh of relief.  ~ via


Man U Goalie denies sex charge allegations

The Manchester United goalkeeper appears in a police report alongside Iker Muniain, but has rejected the accusations and pledged to keep fighting in the tournament

 David de Gea has strongly denied any involvement in an alleged sex case, while insisting that he will stay with the Spain team at Euro 2016.


The accusations were published by El Diario on Friday, just three days before the Roja kick off their campaign against Czech Republic.

A copy of the purported police report shows the testimony of a protected witness, who alleges she was forced to perform sexual acts against her will in a Madrid hotel suite rented by jailed pornography baron ‘Torbe’.

According to the testimony, Iker Muniain and another, unidentified player from Spain’s Under-21 team were involved in the alleged events, which took place in 2012.

While De Gea is not accused of being present at the scene, the witness stated that the current Manchester United keeper organised the evening with Torbe – whose real name is Ignacio Allende Fernandez.

“I am the first to be surprised by this story, it is complete lies and falsehoods,” he responded in a press conference.

“This gives me more strength to be with this team, it is now in my lawyers’ hands.”

De Gea rejected any notion that he would be dropping out of Spain’s Euro 2016 challenge.

“I am going to stay with the national team, I have the strength and my team-mates’ support and I want to fight for the Euros,” he affirmed.

De Gea later trained as normal with the Spain team at their La Rochelle base with their Group D opener coming on Monday afternoon when they tackle Czech Republic in Toulouse.



France Lines Up For Euro 2016 Win

They have the home soil advantage and they intend to work it!! Stats have pros and cons in football but this one is pretty striking: In the last 18 World Cups and Euros, the hosts have won the tournament only twice. It was France both times, in 1984 and 1998.

When it comes to winning the competitions you organise, the French are really good at it. See it as a good omen or not, it’s another argument in Les Bleus’favour. They are one of the favourites to win this European Championship, even after all the withdrawals and players missing [Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane, Lassana Diarra, Mathieu Valbuena, Mathieu Debuchy, Mamadou Sakho], even after all the controversies, and even with the current atmosphere in the country, which has seen strikes and protests, as well as flooding.


It would be better, of course, if all those players were in the squad, if the preparation had been smooth and without issues and if the country was a bit more excited and ready for the tournament.

However, France are always better in adversity. In 1998, before the start of the World Cup, there were also strikes, the media was critical of head coach Aime Jacquet and the team, and the atmosphere was morose.

They stayed strong, believed in themselves and they did it. Like in 1998, this is an extremely gifted squad with players at the top of their game at the biggest European clubs, and we are not just talking about Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba or Anthony Martial.

There is a lot of experience in the side, both at the domestic and international level. There is character, too. A lot of Didier Deschamps’ players had to work hard to make the squad: Olivier Giroud, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Koscielny, N’Golo Kante, Morgan Schneiderlin, Patrice Evra, Adil Rami and Christophe Jallet all started their careers in the French lower leagues.

Even Griezmann could not find any academies in France that wanted to take him, so he had to go to Real Sociedad in Spain to start his career in the second division. Many of Deschamps’ men began at the bottom and now they are here, ready to win the Euros. They never gave up at the start of their career, even when the odds were against them to make it. In terms of experience, this is priceless. It means that when goings get tough, they work even harder.

Giroud was recently booed by some of his own fans before a friendly against Cameroon. He responded with three goals in two games. He now has seven in his last eight appearances for Les Bleus. No one is booing him anymore.

The last time a French squad seemed so happy together was back in 2006 when they reached the World Cup final. There is camaraderie. They are all friends, brothers even and, thought you don’t need to all love each other to win football matches, it’s better when the mood is as such. In 2008, 2010 or 2012, all the problems France had came down to egos, individualism and selfishness. This time, it is different. They are a proper team.

Evra, who has been part of problem-ridden squads in the past, said recentlythat he was ready to be pelted with stones to protect his teammates. There is competition too, more in certain positions than others but still. “I get on great with Olivier [Giroud] and I want him to win us matches but I am there behind him, pushing him to take his place too,” said Gignac on Tuesday.

They have a lucky charm as well in Deschamps. Everywhere he has been, as a player or as a manager, he has won trophies and plaudits. He is associated with winning and he has brought a winning mentality to this team. France have won 13 of their last 14 games now, with the lone defeat coming last November against England, days after the Paris terror attacks.

The French players can’t wait. We all know now, unless someone picks up an injury, what the starting XI will look like on Friday against Romania. Dimitri Payet will start up front with Giroud and Griezmann, ahead of Martial. Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Kante will compose the midfield and the back five will be goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, along with Bacary Sagna, Rami, Laurent Koscielny and Evra.

With Varane, Kurt Zouma, Sakho, Mathieu, Aymeric Laporte and Debuchy out, Deschamps had to build a new defence and chose Rami to partner with Koscielny. It could be considered a surprise considering his last cap was three years ago, but the 30-year-old had a good season with Sevilla and starting him ahead of Eliquim Mangala means that Koscielny can stay on the left side of central defence. Rami was dreadful against Cameroon, but better in a 3-0 win against Scotland.

“Against Cameroon, it was his first cap in a very long time, he was a bit stressed,” Koscienly said about his teammate on Tuesday. “I told [Rami] to stay calm. He is capable of great things, he just needs to stay calm. I have faith in him, we all do. We are all united.”

France look strong everywhere — everything is united for success — and they are going to win Euro 2016 on July 10. You can bet on it. It is the sense of history. As we say in France, things always come in threes.

Julian Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter @LaurensJulien.



10 facts about Man U new recruit Eric Bailly

Jose Mourinho has completed his first signing as Manchester United manager with the acquisition of Eric Bailly from Villarreal.

But who is the 22-year-old? Here are 10 facts you might not know about United’s latest recruit…

  1. Bailly was spotted by Espanyol scout Emilio Montagut at a youth tournament organised by Spanish company Promoesport which was held in Burkina Faso.
  2. Bailly joined Espanyol at the age of 17 in December 2011 and didn’t make his first-team debut until October 2014.
  3. Bailly is an aggressive centre-back who likes to carry the ball forward – he’s even made the odd appearance on the left flank for Ivory Coast
  4. Bailly was the youngest player in the Ivory Coast team that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015
  5. Bailly is the first Ivory Coast international to play for Manchester United.

  6. Bailly has played only 35 games in La Liga in his entire career.
  7. Bailly is the first Ivory Coast international to play for Manchester United.
  8. Bailly was born in Bingerville – the same town as Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony.
  9. At £30 million, Bailly is Manchester United’s most expensive defender of all time. Rio Ferdinand, a £29.1m signing from Leeds United in 2002, moves down to second spot. Jaap Stam is in third after joining from PSV in a £10.75m deal in 1998.
  10. Bailly is the eighth player born in Africa to play for Manchester United after Quinton Fortune, Patrice Evra, Nani, Wilfried Zaha, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Mame Biram Diouf and Manucho.
Image credit: Getty Images


Pele deeply grieved over Ali’s Death

The Brazil legend says the sporting universe has been hit after passing of his friend, his idol and his hero at the age of 74 was announced

 Brazilian soccer great Pele has paid tribute to Muhammad Ali after the boxing icon’s passing aged 74.

Arguably the two greatest sportsmen of all time, Pele and Ali dominated the sporting landscape throught the 1960s and 70s, while their legends remain intact.

Pele said of Ali last year: “He was a completely different character – more fun, making jokes all the time. We used to get together for dinner and he would tease me, saying he was more famous than me.”

It was confirmed that three-time world heavyweight champion Ali had passed away on Friday, having battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years.

In response, Pele posted a moving tribute on Instagram, sharing an iconic meeting between the pair when the former striker played in the United States with the New York Cosmos.

“The sporting universe has just suffered a big loss,” he said. “Muhammad Ali was my friend, my idol, my hero.

“We spent many moments together and always kept a good connection throughout the years. The sadness is overwhelming. I wish him peace with God. And I send love and strength to his family.”

Zinedine Zidane and Didier Drogba were among the footballing luminaries also paying tribute to the the sporting icon widely considered as the greatest heavyweight boxing has even seen.   Via Goal


Justin Beiber and Neymar play ball

The Brazil international was invited to the Canadian singer’s home recently, with the pop star impressing as the pair kept the ball in the air for over 30 seconds.

With two months to go until the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil star Neymar can be forgiven for unwinding after a hectic club campaign.
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The Barcelona man’s not completely stopped playing soccer, though, with Justin Bieber inviting him for a kick-about in his backyard.

The Canadian singer surprisingly held his own as the pair kept the ball in the air for as long as possible, with Bieber using his feet, head and shoulder to continue the sequence.

Neymar, meanwhile, looks effortless as he brings every pass under instant control.  Everyone knows about the 24-year-old Brazilian’s talents by now, but Bieber’s touch will come as something of a surprise to many. MLS clubs: sign him up!

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Ronaldo wants to play for Real Madrid beyond his 40th birthday

Real Madrid fans could be seeing Cristiano Ronaldo on the Bernabeu pitch for another nine years if the Portuguese gets his wish.

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to remain at Real Madrid for the rest of the career and hopes to continue playing for the club beyond his 40th birthday.

Ronaldo signed for Madrid in a record-breaking transfer from Manchester United in 2009 and this season overtook Raul as the leading scorer in the club’s history, cementing his place as one of the all-time greats.

The 31-year-old has regularly been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain in recent years, but he is not planning on leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

“I am going to retire at Real Madrid when I’m older than 40,” Ronaldo told AS. “I am very happy here and will work hard to achieve that.”
Ronaldo scored the winning penalty as Madrid overcame Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final last weekend.

It was the second time the forward lifted the trophy with the team from the Spanish capital – which has been crowned champion of Europe 11 times – but his focus has already switched to the upcoming Euro 2016 campaign with Portugal.

“I am super happy to have won ‘la Undecima’ and now I’m already thinking about the Euro,” added Ronaldo. “We want to give a great joy to Portugal by winning it, which is something the Portuguese people deserve.”


Football drills and workout

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Relative Implicated and arrested in Pulido kidnapping

Relative arrested in kidnapping of Mexican soccer star.

Police investigating the weekend kidnapping of Mexican soccer star Alan Pulido arrested a relative of Pulido’s who is believed to have masterminded the striker’s capture.

Osvaldo Velazquez was arrested Tuesday following a gun battle at a house in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the northern border state of Tamaulipas. State Attorney General Ismael Quintanilla said that when police approached, Velazquez opened fire and was wounded in the shoulder and neck when the officers shot back.

Velazquez is married to a cousin of Pulido’s and may belong to a drug and kidnap gang, Quintanilla said. None of the police were injured, and Velazquez’s wounds were not life-threatening.

Alan Pulido, a 25-year-old forward with Olympiakos in the Greek league, was abducted late Saturday by gunmen after leaving a party with his girlfriend near Ciudad Victoria.

The kidnappers had demanded 6 million pesos ($325,000) from Pulido’s family for his safe return, but the athlete overpowered and beat one of his captors so badly that he had to be hospitalized. That suspect, identified as Daniel Morales, gave police enough information to find Velazquez.

In an interview Tuesday on Imagen Radio, Alan Pulido’s brother, Armando, said that minutes before he learned his brother had escaped, a kidnapper had warned that Alan Pulido would be dead by the following day if the family did not come up with the money.

“We’ve always gone around very relaxed, without security, without anything, and for that reason, the truth is we could never imagine, we never imagined something of this magnitude,” Armando Pulido said.

He said his brother was in good shape and resting.

Armando Pulido, who was at the same party his brother had attended, found out within minutes of Alan’s departure that he had been kidnapped.

The first ransom demand came early Sunday afternoon to a relative. From then on Armando Pulido handled the negotiations. When the kidnappers demanded 6 million pesos, “I responded that it was impossible,” he said.

He received a number of calls as the kidnappers grew more desperate. He kept telling them he could not get that kind of money.

On the last call around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Armando Pulido told the kidnapper to call him back the next day and he would see how much money he could gather by then.

“No, in the morning you’re going to find him dead,” he said he was told.

Minutes later someone from the anti-kidnapping unit called to say that his brother had escaped.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.