Barca’s Qatar friendly match postponed

Spanish champions Barcelona’s scheduled friendly against Saudi Arabian side Al-Ahli Saudi in Doha, Qatar, has been cancelled by the club’s Qatari sponsors just six days before the game was due to take place.

“Qatar Airways, the host and sponsor of the friendly match between FC Barcelona and Al-Ahli Saudi FC, which was scheduled to be played on May 24 in Doha, has opted to postpone the game,” Barcelona said in a statement on Wednesday. Naijabet.com

“That same week, the region is also hosting the prestigious Emir Cup Final, as well as games being played in the AFC League.

“The coincidence of the match with these major sporting events means that the game will now be postponed to a later date (to be announced shortly) in order to encourage the best possible attendance.”

The news comes as talks over extending Qatar Airways’ shirt sponsorship of the five-time European champions continues to stall.

Barca signed a 150 million euro ($170 million) five-year deal with the Qatar Foundation in 2010 which runs out at the end of this season.

Europa League Final Feature: Liverpool vs Sevilla Preview

Liverpool will look to match Sevilla’s four successes in this competition as the sides come together in the Europa League final in Basel.

The sides are meeting for the first time in Uefa competition.

Liverpool’s 34 Uefa games against Spanish opposition have ended W14 D10 L10 (W5 D6 L5 at Anfield – W7 D4 L5 in Spain). Those matches include two final victories on neutral territory: 1-0 against Real Madrid in the 1981 European Champion Clubs’ Cup in Paris and 5-4 after extra time against Deportivo Alavés in the 2001 Uefa Cup in Dortmund.

Sevilla’s eight Uefa meetings with English sides have ended W3 D2 L3 (W2 D0 L1 at home –W0 D2 L2 in England). These games include a 4-0 success against Middlesbrough FC in the 2006 Uefa Cup final, played on neutral territory in Eindhoven.

Final Pedigree

Liverpool have won three Uefa Cups (in 1973, 1976 and 2001); they need one more to match Sevilla’s record of four successes in this competition.

Sevilla are the first club to contest the Uefa Cup/Europa League final for three seasons running.

They landed the Uefa Cup/Europa League for a record fourth time last term – and a second time in succession. No team have won three consecutive editions of a major Uefa competition since Bayern Munich’s third straight European Champion Clubs’ Cup in 1975/76.Neither side have lost a Uefa Cup/Europa League final, though it took penalties to settle two of Sevilla’s deciders.

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Silva out, Sanches in for Portugal squad for Euro 2016

Portugal coach Fernando Santos left Bernardo Silva, one of the country’s brightest young players, out of his final 23-man Euro 2016 squad on Tuesday but included 18-year-old Renato Sanches.

Silva, 22, was excluded after suffering a thigh injury in his last game for Monaco, while full back Fabio Coentrao and forward Danny were also ruled out through injury.

Santos decided not to risk Atletico Madrid midfielder Tiago, who has just recovered after being sidelined for five months with a broken leg.

Silva’s absence opened the way for Sanches, who only made his professional debut in October and was sold from Benfica to Bayern Munich for 35 million euros ($40 million) earlier this month. Naijabet

As expected, 37-year-old central defender Ricardo Carvalho, who fell out with Santos’ predecessor Paulo Bento, was included in the squad.

“It was difficult to leave out some players who were fundamental in the qualifying competition but decisions have to be taken so that we are finely-tuned in France, with everyone in peak condition,” Santos told reporters. “It’s a short and intense tournament.

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‘France capable of beating anyone’ – Varane

Real Madrid and France defender Raphael Varane is confident Les Bleus have the right mixture of youth and experience to lead them to victory on home soil at Euro 2016.

Varane, 23, is one of a number of talented younger players including Juventus’ Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial of Manchester United and Atletico Madrid rival Antoine Griezmann who will carry French hopes of replicating their success of winning the Euros and World Cup at home in 1984 and 1998 respectively.

However, Varane believes their experience of dealing with the relentless pressure of playing at Europe’s top clubs will help them deal with the expectations of a nation.

“There is a mix of youth and experience which is quite interesting and the players are playing in the biggest European clubs. We regularly face that pressure,” Varane told AFP on Tuesday.

“This is a team that is able to unsettle anyone. At the moment we have potential and anything can happen.

“Despite the youth of the group we can do it. We have a group that is capable of beating anyone, who can claim to compete with the best teams. For me, our youth is a strength.” Naijabet

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Premier League Champions get heroes’ welcome in Thailand

Thai fans mobbed newly crowned English Premier League champions Leicester City as they arrived on Wednesday for a publicity blitz after their fairytale title triumph.

They also hoped to banish the memory of a sex tape scandal that marred a visit a year ago to the homeland of their billionaire owner.

Scores of fans — dubbed the “Siamese Foxes” — and a frenzied local media pack swarmed the champions at Bangkok’s main airport on Wednesday morning, greeting them with requests for selfies and chants of “Leicester City, Leicester City!”

Manager Claudio Ranieri, captain Wes Morgan, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and forward Shinji Okazaki led the team, beaming as they made a choreographed Thai bow — or “wai” — with garlands of jasmine around their necks.

But star players Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Danny Drinkwater were not among the Wednesday morning arrivals, with the two English players called up this week for international duty. Naijabet

Football-mad Thailand has fallen for Leicester after the astonishing success story of a club with deep links to the kingdom.

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Chicharito make headlines as Mexico named squad for Copa America

Bayer Leverkusen forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez headlines Mexico’s 23-man squad named Tuesday to compete in next month’s Copa America Centenario.

PSV midfielder Andres Guardado and Porto fullback Miguel Layun are the other prominent picks, but coach Juan Carlos Osorio left former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela out of the lineup.

Hernandez played at Manchester United and Real Madrid before joining Bayer for the 2015-2016 season, finishing fourth best scorer with 17 goals.

There are a total of nine Europe-based players.

Veteran defender Rafael Marquez, 37, who was once a stalwart at Barcelona and now plays for Mexican club Atlas, was brought in because “he is very much needed on and off the pitch,” Osorio said.

“It’s a team with several mixed and multi-purpose players,” Osorio, who is Colombian, said at a news conference. Naijabet.com

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Liverpool : Klopp confident ahead of Europa final

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is confident the Reds can end a difficult season on a high note and claim their first European trophy in 11 years by beating Sevilla in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

Sevilla arrive in the Swiss city of Basle aiming for a hat-trick of victories in the competition. They are also looking to win the trophy for the fifth time in 11 seasons, having also successfully defended their 2006 title in 2007. Naija and Bet

Liverpool were struggling before Klopp’s arrival earlier in the campaign, but he insisted his faith in the players’ abilities was there even before he joined the club.

“I came here because I was really convinced about the qualities of these players and this squad, despite the doubts people had,” he said.

“When I came here there was a big amount of doubt about these players and now I am really happy they can show how strong they are.

“It is a big opportunity to make the final step this season and achieve something.”

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Rashford shine as Man United sign off in fifth spot

Louis van Gaal was booed by his club’s own fans after Manchester United ended their Premier League campaign by beating Bournemouth 3-1 in Tuesday’s re-arranged Old Trafford fixture.

In a game carried over from Sunday following a postponement caused by the discovery of a fake bomb accidentally left behind during a terror training exercise, United needed a 19-goal victory in order to steal past Manchester City into the fourth and final Champions League qualifying berth.

Goals from Wayne Rooney, 18-year-old Marcus Rashford, named in England’s provisional Euro 2016 squad a day earlier, and substitute Ashley Young secured the three points, but it was only enough to lift Van Gaal’s side above Southampton into fifth place.

Introduced to the crowd for a post-match address, the Dutchman was booed by pockets of the home support, before declaring, somewhat ironically: “I want to thank you for your unconditional support.”

As Bournemouth’s fans goaded him with chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning!”, Van Gaal added: “You never let us down. Thank you for that. We will bring the FA cup home to you. You deserve it. Thank you.”

The result secured a Europa League group place for United, while Saturday’s FA Cup final against Crystal Palace may yet yield a piece of silverware. Naijabet

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Germany named squad for Euro 2016

Uncapped midfielders Joshua Kimmich and Julian Brandt were on Tuesday included in Germany’s provisional 27-man squad for next month’s European championships in France.

Defensive midfielder Kimmich, 21, caps a meteoric rise having only broken into Bayern Munich’s first team earlier this season and has been now promoted from Germany’s Under-21 team, as has 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt.

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has 114 caps, has been included as he recovers from a torn medial knee ligament.

Head coach Joachim Loew will cut his squad from 27 to 23 on May 30, the day after their friendly against Slovakia, before their opening Euro 2016 Group C game against Ukraine on June 12.

Loew has also opted to include Galatasaray forward Lukas Podolski, who has made 127 appearances in the famous white shirt.

Both Schweinsteiger and Podolski will be playing in their fourth European championships.

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Iheanacho is ready to improve his game for Guardiola’s coming

Kelechi Iheanacho believes the imminent arrival of Pep Guardiola to Manchester City will make him a better footballer.

Iheanacho proved to be a revelation in the just-concluded season, scoring in the first half as the Citizens drew 1-1 with Swansea City in their final game of the 2015/16 Barclays English Premier League season on Sunday.

His goal proved vital as it sealed City’s place in the qualifiers for next season’s Uefa Champions League and Pellegrini was quick to salute the accomplishments of the youngster.

Iheanacho has now voiced his sentiments about the arrival of Guardiola, who has previously managed FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich with distinction.

“There is a great manager coming in and you have to be happy about that.

“We (Manchester City stars) will work with him and he will be choosing the players he wants to work with next season so it’s a case of working hard and seeing what happens. Naijabet.com

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Keeping Rafa ‘a step in the right direction for Newcastle United

Newcastle United should tie down manager Rafael Benitez as he would not only ensure they make an immediate return to the Premier League but also transform the side into a force in the top-flight, winger Andros Townsend has said.

Newcastle ended their campaign in style as they romped to a 5-1 win over third-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, but it was not enough to avoid relegation as they finished third from bottom, two points behind bitter rivals Sunderland.

“It would be massive for Newcastle to keep Rafa as manager. He’s one of the best managers in the world. If we can keep a manager of that calibre and keep doing the right things we’ll build,” Townsend, who was recalled to the England squad for the Euro 2016 on Monday, told British media.

“We won’t cut corners but we’ll build for the future and come straight back into the Premier League. Then we’ll be up there challenging in the Premier League because that’s what the manager wants to do.”

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Diego Costa, Juan Mata & Fernando Torres left out of Spain Euro squad

Coach Vicente del Bosque has also overlooked Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata and Atletico Madrid’s former Liverpool and Chelsea forward Fernando Torres. Naijabet.com

Holders Spain are in Group D, along with Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey as they chase a third successive European Championship title.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa was left out of Spain coach Vicente del Bosque’s provisional 25-man squad for Euro 2016 on Tuesday.

The nationalised Brazilian missed Chelsea’s last two games of the season due to a persistent hamstring injury and has struggled at international level with just one goal in 10 games since declaring to play for Spain in 2013.

World Cup winners Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and Javi Martinez were also high-profile names left out by Del Bosque.

England capable of matching anyone

England have what it takes to get the better of any opponent but need to be consistent if they are to win their first European Championship in France, captain Wayne Rooney has said.

Manager Roy Hodgson announced his provisional England squad for the tournament on Monday and will hope to guide the country to their first major trophy since winning the World Cup in 1966.

A confident England side will head to France with a 100 percent record in the European qualifiers Group E, having won all their 10 games.

“I feel we’ve got a very good squad. It’s probably the first time I’ve felt the squad is capable in any given game of matching any team,” Rooney, the team’s all-time leading goalscorer, told Sky Sports.

“But obviously it’s one thing having that, and another being able to do that consistently throughout a tournament.

“We’ve got players who can play anywhere across that front line. Myself, Jamie Vardy, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge can play out wide too. It’s always difficult for opponents as well.

“We’ve had a good European Qualifiers campaign, but we need to make sure that we don’t slack, that we keep going and keep pushing forward, and give ourselves every possible chance.” Naijabet

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Chelsea new manager clear of sporting fraud charges.

Italy coach and future Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on Monday welcomed the end of “a nightmare” after being acquitted of sporting fraud charges.

“Four years ago when they came to search my house at five o’clock in the morning it was the start of a nightmare period that seemed never to end,” Conte said in a statement on his Facebook page after the decision by a tribunal in Cremona.

“Today, finally, it’s the end of this horrible story.”

Prosecutor Roberto di Martino had requested a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of 8 000 euros ($9 063) for Conte, as well as similar sanctions for his former assistant at Siena, Angelo Alessio, following accusations they failed to report episodes of match-fixing while in charge at Serie B side Siena in 2011.

On Monday, the Cremona court acquitted Conte of the charges because of his “lack of involvement in the facts”, allowing the 46-year-old to lead Italy into this summer’s Euro 2016 before he takes over as Chelsea manager following the tournament.

Continue reading “Chelsea new manager clear of sporting fraud charges.”

Liverpool stand between Sevilla and Europa treble

Liverpool midfielder Emre Can believes the Reds’ legendary battling qualities can help end their 11-year wait for a continental trophy against treble-chasing Sevilla in Wednesday’s Europa League final.

In their first European final since defeat to AC Milan in the 2007 Champions League, Liverpool are bidding to scupper the Spanish side’s bid for an unprecedented third straight Europa League title at Basel’s St. Jakob-Park. Naijabet

It brings Liverpool’s breathtaking journey through the competition under new manager Jurgen Klopp to a thrilling climax, following dramatic wins over Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal in recent months.

After seeing his side sink Villarreal brilliantly to reach the final, Klopp declared: “To go to a final you need a little bit of luck in decisive moments, but most of the time you need outstanding performances.

“Now we are there, and it’s a great opportunity and we will take it.”

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Musa shine as CSKA Moscow beat FC Krasnodar

Super Eagles assistant captain, Ahmed Musa, scored on Monday to help Russian club, CSKA Moscow beat FC Krasnodar 2-0 and maintain a strong grip on top spot in the Premier League.

The forward netted in the 17th minute of the game decided at Arena Khimki.

He latched onto Roman Eremenko’s pass and finished with aplomb to give the ‘Army Men’ a 1-0 advantage. Naijabet

Eremenko was to complete the scoring, two minutes after the restart to seal maximum points.

Musa’s league goals for the season is now 13.

He has also scored once in the Russian Cup and once in the Uefa Champions League.

CSKA have now amassed 62 points from 29 matches.

Five reasons why Spanish clubs dominating Europe

Sevilla look to continue the reign of Spain in European competition when they face Liverpool in the Europa League final on Wednesday aiming to win the competition for a third consecutive season.

An all-Madrid Champions League final for the second time in three years between Real and Atletico Madrid on May 28 will ensure a Spanish winner of Europe’s premier club competition for a third straight year.

Indeed, until Villarreal’s defeat to Liverpool in the Europa League semis, Spanish clubs had won all 17 of their knockout ties against non-Spanish opposition this season.

Here, we look at five reasons for Spain’s prolonged domination of European competition.

1 – Top two raise the bar

Barcelona and Real Madrid’s sustained success is the easiest to understand. They are the two richest clubs in the world with the capacity to continually invest the world’s best players. Naija and Bet

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Yobo will be giving 100-gift to fans ahead of his Testimonial game

Former Super Eagles captain and defender, Joseph Yobo will be giving away hundreds of signed football items and tickets as part of preparations for his upcoming testimonial game.

The game will takes place at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt on Friday, May 27.

Yobo who played 100 games for Nigeria will give away signed shirts, boots, balls and tickets in the 10-day period leading up to the game.

“I know lot of people want to attend the game and I am grateful to everyone. This is a very important time for me and I feel that the fans should share in this too.

“The upcoming match marks my 100 games for Nigeria I want to give out 100 items each. So there will be 100 balls, 100 jerseys, 100 balls and 100 tickets for fans.

“We want to encourage everyone to be part of this so we will also run a competition for the kids who will walk the stars out to the pitch.

“Details will be available on our website and social media pages,”he said.

Yobo’s official social media handles are @jyobo234 on Twitter and Instagram and on Facebook, it is Official: Joseph Yobo.

Leicester boss named manager of the year

Claudio Ranieri was named the League Managers’ Association (LMA) manager of the year on Monday after leading 5 000-1 outsiders Leicester City to an improbable Premier League title.

The 64-year-old is only the second non-British or Irish manager to win the accolade after Frenchman Arsene Wenger won it with Arsenal in 2002 and 2004.

The award capped a day of celebration for the Italian as he joined the players in a victory parade on an open-top bus through the streets of Leicester in front of about 250 000 ecstatic fans. Naijabet.com

Under Ranieri’s guidance, Leicester won their first ever top flight title.

The Leicester boss had already picked up three manager of the month awards in the course of his side’s remarkable campaign, and was named Italian manager of the year in his homeland last month.

Thousand of fans turn out for Champions Leicester parade

Leicester City’s incredible Premier League fairytale reached a joyous crescendo as thousands of fans turned the city blue while revelling in the club’s title parade on Monday.

For two weeks since Claudio Ranieri’s side were crowned one of the most unlikely champions in English football history, the city of Leicester hasn’t stop celebrating and the party climaxed beneath sunny skies 24 hours after the Foxes finished their campaign with a draw at Chelsea.

After starting the season as 5 000-1 outsiders for the title, Leicester defied the odds in stunning fashion and being hailed by a crowd of over 100 000 was a fitting finale for Ranieri’s squad and the club’s Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who soaked up the celebrations with his family.

“The city is here. It’s something special. I’m very glad,” Ranieri said.

“This is because the team played with their soul and their hearts. The people understood this.

“It’s unbelievable. I can only say thank you to the people.”

Fans began congregating hours before the scheduled 1700 GMT start of the parade as they packed streets along the route and massed at Victoria Park, where cheerleaders and a gospel choir provided the entertainment on a stage set up to welcome the players at the end of the parade. Naijabet

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Swansea to prepare a good team for next season

Swansea City do not need to make wholesale changes to their squad in order to avoid being part of the relegation battle next campaign, manager Francesco Guidolin has said after Sunday’s draw against Manchester City at Liberty Stadium.

 

The Italian, who signed a new two-year deal on Wednesday after taking charge in January when the Welsh club were flirting with relegation, earlier revealed that chairman Huw Jenkins will have the final say on transfers.

Swansea prepare for their sixth successive season in the Premier League after they secured top-flight safety with a 12th placed finish.

“For this situation, to prepare a good team for next season, I’ll speak with my chairman. But we have a good team and I think we need something more, but not many changes in my opinion,” Guidolin told British media.

“I have my idea of what I would like to change but in front of you (the media) it’s difficult to say. My attitude is to keep private.” Naijabet

Guidolin also refused to rule out the possibility of bringing back striker Wilfried Bony from Manchester City during the summer transfer window, which begins on July 1.

“I don’t know him but I know his characteristics as a player. I like him. He’s a good player and I know he worked very well here. For this, people here like him,” the 60-year-old said.

Five best games in Premier league 2015-16 season

With another dramatic Premier League season at an end, we look back at the five best matches of the 2015-16 campaign:

Manchester City 1 Leicester City 3
Rarely can a goal from Sergio Aguero have been greeted with such apathy, but the sound of the Manchester City star’s irrelevant late strike barely being acknowledged by the chastened home support told the story of a defining day in the title race.

Leicester arrived at Eastlands in February regarded in some quarters as a novelty act, whose time at the top would soon be over once a superpower like City had finished with them.

But by the end of a bravura Leicester display, it was clear Claudio Ranieri’s side were more than capable of completing their fairytale title bid. Robert Huth met Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick to give the Foxes an early lead and Mahrez doubled the lead himself with a cool finish before German defender Huth sealed the points with another header to leave City stunned.

Norwich City 4 Liverpool 5
Arguably the most dramatic match of the season featured Liverpool’s inconsistent attack at its dynamic best and Norwich’s creaky defence at its very worst. Liverpool took the lead through Roberto Firmino before Norwich hit back with goals from Dieumerci Mbokani and Steven Naismith before half-time.

Wes Hoolahan’s penalty gave the hosts a 3-1 lead early in the second half. But back came Jurgen Klopp’s team and three goals in 20 minutes from Jordan Henderson, Firmino and James Milner made it 4-3 with 15 minutes to go. Naijabet.com

Continue reading “Five best games in Premier league 2015-16 season”

Barca celebrating La liga title, Stuttgart relegated

Luis Suarez notched his third hat-trick in five games as Barcelona won 3-0 at Granada to clinch their 24th La Liga title.

Suarez finished the season as La Liga’s top scorer with 40 goals, breaking Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s grip on the honour since 2009.

Barca ended with 91 points, one ahead of Real Madrid.

At the other end of the table, Sporting Gijon beat Villarreal 2-0 to prevail in a gripping three-way battle to avoid relegation as Getafe and Rayo Vallecano dropped into the second tier. They joined Levante, who had been relegated two weeks previously and finished bottom on 32 points.

ENGLAND

Manchester City secured fourth place in the Premier League and Arsenal leap-frogged their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur to finish second on the final day of the season.

City drew 1-1 at Swansea City to earn the point they needed to book the last Champions League qualifying spot, Arsenal crushed Aston Villa 4-0 and Spurs were routed 5-1 at relegated Newcastle United. Naijabet

Champions Leicester City drew 1-1 at Chelsea to end the campaign 10 points clear at the summit with only three league defeats all season.

The game between Manchester United and Bournemouth was abandoned after a security alert at Old Trafford.

Continue reading “Barca celebrating La liga title, Stuttgart relegated”

Benitez’s might remains with relegated Newcastle

Rafael Benitez admits his ‘heart says yes’ to staying at Newcastle as he leans towards pledging his long-term future to the club despite their relegation from the Premier League.

Benitez held talks with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley after the 5-1 victory over Tottenham on Sunday that denied the visitors a second place finish on an emotional final day as St James’ Park bade farewell to the top-flight for at least 15 months.

Fans serenaded Benitez for the 90 minutes, urging him not to trigger the relegation clause in his three-year contract and to instead remain to lead the bid to seal an immediate return from the Championship next season.

The 56-year-old Spaniard spoke in glowing terms about the club afterwards, before holding face-to-face talks with sports retail billionaire Ashley, who watched from the directors’ box for the first time this year.

“The game was emotional,” Benitez said. “It’s not easy to leave a club like this, and I think my heart is saying yes. It was a great atmosphere and I could really feel it.

“I was open to talk before this and I’m even more open to talk now. I’m flattered and really pleased.

“I’ll talk, I’ll analyse and try to do the best for me and the best for Newcastle. If we go together it has to be the best for both of us.

“I expected a great atmosphere but this was amazing, so it’s even more positive but we still have to sit down.” Naijabet

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England named squad for EURO 2016,Rashford made the list

Manchester United’s teenage forward Marcus Rashford was the one surprise in England manager Roy Hodgson’s provisional 26-man squad for the European Championship named on Monday.

Rashford, 18, made his United debut in February and ended the season with seven goals from 16 appearances, including two on his Premier League debut.

Hodgson selected five strikers in his provisional list which will be reduced to 23 before the tournament in France, with Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge the others.

“Marcus Rashford is one of the contenders,” Hodgson told a news conference.

“Competition is strong and he deserves to be selected for the main squad but I am pleased someone who has had an outstanding end to the season has a great future. He will have the chance to knock someone off their perch.” Naija and Bet

FULL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton.

Continue reading “England named squad for EURO 2016,Rashford made the list”