The world governing the body of football, FIFA, has launched a new investigation into the Croatia National Team and Croatian Football Federation, following an incident that occurred during their Group D match against Nigeria on June 16. Telegram.org says Croatian fans displayed the banner of The Ustasha during the game at the Kaliningrad Stadium.
The Ustasha – Croatian Revolutionary Movement – was a Croatian fascist, racist, ultranationalist and terrorist organization between 1929 and 1945 and fought for Croatia’s independence and dissolution of Yugoslavia. In a separate case, Ognjen Vukojevic was fined by FIFA as a result of the video in which he stated, “This is a victory for the Dynamo (Kiev) and for Ukraine!” while Besiktas defender Domagoj Vida was warned.
The Croatian Football Federation HNS relieved Vukojevic, who scouted the Nigeria National Team and players before Croatia’s World Cup opener, of his duties and had his accreditation revoked
An own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a penalty from Luka Modric helped Croatia to beat Nigeria 2-0. (The Sun)
Despite his 33 years, Cristiano Ronaldo is still ending the marathon season with a sprint finish, heading into his sixth Champions League final in great form and a phenomenal physical shape that belies his age and astounds both fans and rivals.
He insisted this week that he actually has a ‘biological age’ of 23, and claimed ‘I can keep playing until I’m 41’.
Those close to him speak about dedication being the key but there is also a very clear plan that Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer sticks to stay ahead of the rest. His super-human fitness is built on three pillars: Pilates-based gym-work; rest and recuperation; and diet and hydration.
He has not always got the blend right. Earlier in his career, there were fears at Madrid that his gym routine and failure to rest were a threat to his fitness. He remains as dedicated but he has learned how to recharge and recuperate.
And much of that recuperation takes place in the water. After every game, Ronaldo goes for a swim. Mentally those lengths at home, alone, or accompanied by his son Cristiano Jnr, help him unwind from the tension of the game. They also work the upper body with triceps, biceps, pectorals and deltoid muscles in his shoulders all getting the full treatment as well as the latissimus dorsi, the large muscles that spread across the back and side, that give him that superhero silhouette.
And after the obligatory post-match swimming, there is more water therapy with hot and cold water baths to stimulate muscle regeneration, a high-pressure water jet to massage muscles, and a walk-in Cryotherapy chamber, worth £50,000. It’s the post-match recovery method favoured by Franck Ribery who, as at 35, is an excellent advocate for it.
Ronaldo had one installed in 2013 after hearing it had worked well for the Bayern Munich winger. The liquid nitrogen emitted reaches temperatures of between minus 160 and minus 200 degrees Celsius – bearable for about three minutes but with huge regenerative dividends.
Current Reading manager Paul Clement, who was a coach at Real Madrid for two years, spoke about the incredible levels of commitment he saw from Ronaldo regarding his very particular cold-water recuperation programme.
He recalled how after one Champions League game in Turkey the squad got taken back to the Valdebebas training ground near the city’s airport at 3am. Most players just wanted to pick up their cars and go home but Ronaldo went for an ice bath instead.
That emphasis on resting can also not be underestimated. It was at a launch of a new chain of gyms last year when he said: ‘It’s not true that I do 3,000 sit-ups a day. I’m not sure if I even reach a 1,000 in one week’.
Going to such extremes would injure lumbar muscles at worst and at best just exhaust him. It’s not all about sweat and suffering but clearly, the muscle definition is not just the result of rest.
Ronaldo sleeps for at least eight hours a day but all the rest and recuperation are only worth it because they allow him to indulge in daily work-out regimes that physically keep him one step ahead of other players. He works out for three hours, five days a week at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training complex or in his huge home gym.
The leg curls give him those bulging Rectus Femoris muscles in his thighs but it’s the unseen core strength that gives that ability to leap and then hang in the air so often seen when he scores with headers. And much of that core strength comes from another of the secrets to his longevity – Pilates.
The key Pilates apparatus is the ‘Pilates Reformer’. Via a combination of straps, springs, sliding seat and loops it offers greater resistance that someone’s body weight alone would offer them if they were working on a mat with free-weights. And the focus is on the entire core, building muscles that would have been left out of traditional workouts.
His promotion of the discipline is limited to a few Instagram snaps but Ronaldo is as convinced a convert to the late German fitness coach Joseph Pilates’s method as anyone.
What is astounding is the mental discipline involved in Ronaldo’s brutal post-training workouts. His home pool is no more than 25 metres in length but he has the concentration levels to go up and down it for the good of his body when other players might be relaxing after matches. The Pilates apparatus is also demanding on the mind. There is no ball in sight when he goes through those gruelling routines.
There are times when he can’t resist integrating the ball. During one of his favourite chin-up routines, he puts a football between the knees. After each set of 10 chin-ups, he drops the ball from his knees on to his right foot and volleys it into a strategically placed basketball two metres in front of him.
Ronaldo’s expertise in the gym field has led to him to going into business with American company Crunch Fitness and there are plans to open over 100 more gyms in the next few years with his CR7 branding.
If Ronaldo has honed his workout routines and incorporated rest as the years have passed he has also refined his diet. He tends to eat four or five smaller meals rather than three big meals a day. Everything is designed to speed up metabolism. That’s why he steers clear of sugary foods that slow down that process.
He is not vegetarian but he knows that fish is preferable to meat because of the lower fat content. That does not need to be a problem because the Portuguese dish Bacalao a la Brasa (braised cod) is one of his favourites.
There are plenty of whole grains, egg whites and fresh vegetables and he knows that one of the most important times to eat is immediately after a game when the body is crying out for replenishment. Gone are the days when Real Madrid players refuel on pizza. Their stars always eat sushi post-match and that fits Ronaldo’s strict regimen.
He never drinks booze and was angry when in 2015 his 30th Birthday celebrations – to which Colombian singer Kevin Roldan was invited – were later portrayed as having been ‘alcohol-fueled’. Roldan put a video on social media, and Ronaldo was filmed, glass in hand, leading many to jump to the wrong conclusion that he was consuming alcohol at the £200,000-plus bash. What was worse was the timing – the party came just hours after Real Madrid had lost the Madrid derby 4-0. The false accusations of a lack of professionalism upset him but it was the alcohol claim that really hurt.
He remains guarded about the habits that have made him such a physical phenomenon into his thirties but one thing he is happier to open up about is how big a part certain individuals have played in his maintaining himself in such good shape.
That’s not just weights spotting partner Cristiano Jnr but his mother Dolores Aveiro and coach Zinedine Zidane. Dolores spends time in the exclusive La Finca neighbourhood of Madrid where she can be near to her son and his partner Georgina Rodriguez and can help care for his three youngest children Eva, Mateo and Alana.
She makes sure his food is prepared according to those important restrictions on fat and sugar content. And she can help make sure his environment is relaxed enough for him to be able to dedicate so much time to training.
Zidane ensures that everything is right for Ronaldo on the pitch too. He is rested more than ever in the early part of the season so that he can be right for the games that really matter. In the past there was a reluctance to sit out games. Even the ones that did not matter were important opportunities to amass more and more goals as he smashed the scoring records of first Alfredo di Stefano and finally Raul.
The former Spain captain scored 323 goals in his 741 appearances for the club and it was a record that most believed would never be broken. It is a distant second now with Ronaldo currently on 450 goals in just 437 games. How many would he have scored had he clocked up the same number of appearances as Raul?
He will not get to 741 games – Raul played at Madrid for 16 years while Ronaldo is in his ninth year. But behind that famous quote from agent Jorge Mendes that his player would go on scoring goals for Madrid until he was 40 is a deep-lying desire to go on as long as possible.
Indeed, Ronaldo himself said this week in the build-up to the final: ‘Right now I have a biological age of 23. I’ve still got a long time left, I can keep playing until I’m 41. I’m feeling good, happy, I can’t complain.’
Sports science has come a long way since Sir Stanley Mathews played until he was 50. His secret was fasting one day a week. Raul had his own secret weapons as he played on until he was 33 – Ronaldo’s age now. He used to sleep in an oxygen tent that replicated conditions of high altitude.
Ronaldo may yet graduate to that but for now, his own methods are working well. As another Champions League final approaches, Liverpool must not underestimate a man now heading into his mid-thirties: he looks as fit to rule now as he did in 2009 when he arrived at the club and remains the physical specimen all players aspire to be.
CRISTIANO RONALDO’S INCREDIBLE CAREER SO FAR (AND HE WANTS TO PLAY ON UNTIL HE’S FORTY!)
Sporting Lisbon (2002-03) – 25 games, 3 goals
Manchester United (2003-09) – 292 games, 118 goals
Juventus took less than two minutes to go ahead, with Douglas Costa and Sami Khedira combining to set up Mario Mandzukic, who headed home at the back post.
Marcelo and Toni Kroos came close for Madrid as they took control, while veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made fine saves from Gareth Bale and Isco as the hosts fought to avoid the fate arch-rivals Barcelona met against Italian opposition on Tuesday.
Having not had a sniff for much of the night, Ronaldo was given the ball, seven minutes into three minutes’ stoppage time, after Lucas Vazquez was fouled in the area by Benatia.
If there was any player in the history of football that you want taking that penalty, despite his performance, it’s Ronaldo.
And the striker delivered, slamming his penalty into the top right corner to send Madrid through to the Champions League semi-final.
He continued his scoring streak too, now up to 11 consecutive matches. Ronaldo is dreaming of retaining the trophy for the third year running, and so are Real.
2) Buffon bows out in chaos
Legendary Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon may never win this competition. He may never appear in it again.
“This is a possibility,” said Buffon, when asked if this would be his final game in the tournament. The Italian is out of contract at the end of the season and has not announced his plans for the future.
If this is his final game on Europe’s biggest stage then at least it was one to remember.
The 40-year-old guardian made some sensational stops to keep Madrid at bay and keep Juventus’s Champions League dream alive.
Buffon kept Bale’s effort out from close range and produced a phenomenal stop to stop a blasted Isco effort from an angle.
The veteran denied Ronaldo with a fine stop too and then when Isco turned home the rebound was given a deserved break by the linesman’s raised flag.
Then, deep into stoppage time, after Benatia gave away the penalty for a foul on Vazquez, he lost his head. With his dream being taken away from him, Buffon went face to face with the referee and was shown the red card for dissent.
Ronaldo drilled the penalty past Wojciech Szczesny and that was that.
3) Sergio Ramos’ stock rises
Real Madrid’s captain and their best defender were suspended for this game and the impact that had on the team was evident from the first minute.
While there is a school of thought which says Ramos is a poor defender and only has his goals to thank for his world-class status, its students were left scratching their head after this game.
However, after a flat first half in which he produced little and missed a clear chance when put in on goal by Luka Modric, Bale was brought off.
Does that spell the end for him at Madrid? Moving a player with Bale’s price-tag is never simple, especially considering how many injuries he has suffered.
However, a Premier League club will surely move for him in the summer and now even Madrid president Florentino Perez must concede that his bet on Bale has not paid off.
5) No sure things in the Champions League
Back when the quarter-final draw was made, most pundits were fairly sure Barcelona, Man City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were going to be the four teams left standing.
However after Liverpool and Roma stunned the Premier League and La Liga leaders respectively to reach the semi-finals, it became clear that Real couldn’t just sit back and expect to progress because of their first leg lead.
Juventus took just two minutes to score, sending the Bernabeu into a state of nervousness.
Then when Mandzukic pulled off the same trick again for his second goal in the 37th minute, the levels of fear grew higher still.
Matuidi’s third sent the stadium into a state of panic and even the ice-cool Zidane was made to sweat before Ronaldo saved the day. (Mirror)
Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has apologised to fans after Champions League exit Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has apologised to fans after being knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Barcelona went out of the competition on away goals after Roma won 3-0 on the night to level the aggregate score at 4-4.
Bartomeu spoke after the defeat at the Stadio Olimpico and said Barcelona let down the fans who travelled.
“I also won my fifth Ballon d’Or and my second The Best award. I also dedicate it to my four children. That’s another record — three children in three months.
“We have to defend what is ours because there is always a Portuguese in the fight.
“I always believe and say that I am the best, whatever they say, and then I show it in the field. We are in the fight year after year.”
Ronaldo scored 42 goals in 46 games in all competitions in 2016-17, while he has 37 in 35 so far this season.
He scored four times in a 6-3 win over Girona on Sunday, marking the 50th hat-trick of his career for club and country.
Madrid sits third in La Liga, 15 points behind rivals Barcelona. They resume league play against Las Palmas after the international break before travelling to face Juventus three days later in the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final tie. (Goal.com)
Morocco’s players hold up the trophy as they celebrate after winning the final football match of the African Nations Championship against Nigeria at the Mohammed V Casablanca Stadium on February 4, 2018.
Morocco on Sunday hammered the Super Eagles 4-0 in the final of the 2018 African Nations Championship at the Stade Mohamed V, Casablanca.
Two goals from Hadraf and one each from El Karti and tournament top scorer Ayoub El Kaabi gave the hosts their first title of the competition exclusively for players plying their trade in their country’s domestic leagues.
The Eagles finished the match with 10 men after Moses Eneji was sent off in the 48th minute for a second bookable offence. It was Eneji’s first match of the tournament.
The Atlas Lions dominated the match from the first minute, pressurising the Eagles’ defence with several marauding runs down the flanks.
Their first chance came in the fourth minute when El Kaabi sent his shot off target. El Kaabi converted from a corner kick but his effort was ruled out for a goal kick by referee Bakary Gassama for an infringement.
El Kaabi struck the bar in the 15th minute with an acrobatic kick after he was played on with a cross from the flanks. Hadraf got the first goal in the 44th minute when El Haddad beat Osas Okoro and crossed to the winger who struck past Dele Ajiboye.
The second half went sour for the Eagles after Eneji was sent off for a second bookable offence. Morocco doubled their lead in the 61st minute when El Karti headed home after Ajiboye had punched a cross out.
The Eagles, who finished third at the 2014 edition of the tournament in South Africa, were outclassed and Morocco got their third two minutes later when Hadraf struck home after he was left unmarked in the goal area. El Kaabi completed the rout in the 73rd minute after another defensive error by the Eagles.
Sudan at Stade de Marrakech in Marrakech on Saturday defeated 2014 champions Libya 4-2 in a penalty shootout to win bronze. (Punch)
The 30-year-old Messi has been runner-up to Ronaldo on each of his wins.
Ronaldo has been runner-up to Messi four times, with the exception being when midfielder Andres Iniesta — Messi’s brilliant club teammate — finished second in 2010 after scoring the winner for Spain in the World Cup final. Ronaldo did not make the podium that year, with Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi taking third place.
He has bounced back to win the last two.
Ronaldo was shown on television receiving his latest award Thursday while making the sign of five with his left hand as held the trophy in his right.
“Of course, I feel happy, it’s a big moment in my career,” Ronaldo said. “It’s something I hope to win every year.”
The 32-year-old Portugal forward also took home the Ballon d’Or prize in 2013 and 2014, and in 2008 when playing for Manchester United.
Messi won it from 2009-12 — with Ronaldo runner-up three times during the period — and in 2015 ahead of Ronaldo and Neymar.
Ronaldo claimed it back last year after helping Portugal win the European Championship and starring for Madrid as it won the Champions League.
“Thanks to my Real Madrid teammates,” Ronaldo said, adding. “I want to thank the rest of the people who helped me reach this level.”
Last season he won the Champions League once again — scoring twice in a 4-1 rout of Juventus in the final — and played a key role as Madrid won the Spanish league title for the first time since 2012. His league tally of 25, however, was his lowest since joining the club in 2009.
Ronaldo is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Champions League with 115 goals.
“If he can score 10 times in training he will, that’s what impresses me,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “His ambition impresses me. I’m proud to be his coach.”
He set another competition record on Wednesday, scoring in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday to become the first player to find the net in all six group-stage matches.
It took his tally to nine so far, but in La Liga it has been a very different story during this campaign.
In August, he was banned for five games after shoving referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea in the back following his red card during a 3-1 victory over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup. He missed the return leg of the Spanish Super Cup in Madrid plus the first four matches of the Spanish league season.
Since then, he has managed only a meager two in 10 games and Madrid is fourth — already eight points behind leader Barcelona after 14 matches. Messi is already well clear with 13 league goals.
Meanwhile, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was fourth on France Football’s list. The 39-year-old Italian helped Juventus reach the Champions League final and win the Italian title for the sixth straight season.
Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Spain defender Sergio Ramos — both Ronaldo’s teammates — were fifth and sixth respectively.
Teenage star Kylian Mbappe finished seventh after helping Monaco win the French title and reach the Champions League semifinals. He joined Neymar at PSG this season in a deal worth 180 million Euros ($216 million) — the second-most expensive ever.
Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Tottenham striker Harry Kane completed the top 10.
PSG striker Edinson Cavani was surprisingly 11th despite scoring a career-high 49 goals in all competitions last term.
The Ballon d’Or is voted for by 173 journalists worldwide.
It became known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or for six years in conjunction with world soccer’s governing body. That association ended last year, when it became the sole award of the magazine once more.
The last player to win it before either Messi or Ronaldo was Brazil midfielder Kaka — who starred for AC Milan when it won the Champions League in 2007.
FIFA has ordered a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal to be replayed in November after the referee in charge of the fixture was banned for life.
Bafana Bafana won the match 2-1 after official Joseph Lamptey gave a penalty for a handball against defender Kalidou Koulibaly, when the ball had clearly struck him on the leg, with the score level at 0-0.
The November 2016 result is the only win collected by bottom side South Africa in Group D of African qualifying, with Senegal above them in third place, a point behind joint-leaders Burkina Faso and Cape Verde after September’s fixtures.
FIFA’s decision to replay the game comes after the lifetime ban handed to Ghanaian official Lamptey for “match manipulation” was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“The match will be replayed within the November 2017 international window, with the exact date to be confirmed in due course,” a FIFA statement said.
“As stated in the FIFA World Cup regulations, this decision shall come into effect immediately but shall be subject to confirmation by the Organising Committee for FIFA Competitions at its next meeting, scheduled for September 14.”
The South African Football Association (SAFA) has denied all wrongdoing but will consider FIFA’s report before deciding whether or not to launch an appeal.
“SAFA is studying the contents of the report and will issue a statement on intentions to challenge that decision,” the organisation said.
“SAFA wishes to also state categorically that it was in no way involved with any wrongdoing related to the actions of the referee, as stated in the FIFA report.” (Goal.com)
Neymar has posted pictures of himself in Dubai as he appears to be closing in on a world record transfer to Paris-Saint Germain.
The Barcelona forward has been heavily linked with a €222million (£199m) move to the French side who are set to trigger his Nou Camp release clause.
This comes following reports that the Brazilian is due to fly to Qatar on Tuesday in order to discuss the move and undergo a medical.
The 25-year-old posted an Instagram story which showed him initially in Shanghai for a Replay modelling shoot, followed by snaps of him having lunch in Dubai.
Should he complete a move to the Ligue 1 side, Neymar will become the most expensive footballer of all-time, with PSG willing to pay more than double the fee Manchester United shelled out for Paul Pogba to Juventus last summer.
On Monday Qatari newspaper El Watan and various European publications claimed Neymar will visit Doha to meet PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi ahead of what would be a historic move.
But fresh reports have since claimed that the medical may take place in Paris, amid a report from Spanish outlet Sport that Neymar has looked to delay the move in order for his father to pick up a €26million loyalty bonus.
A five-year deal has been mooted for the Brazilian, with the Guardian reporting that the club going as far as preparing for his unveiling, as they look to come up with something even more spectacular than the Eiffel Tower presentation that Zlatan Ibrahimovic received when he signed.
Last week Neymar added fuel to the speculation about his long-term future at Barca by storming out of training following an angry confrontation with team-mate Nelson Semedo. Hours later PSG defender Silva said details of a possible transfer might emerge “soon”.
Neymar, who was the catalyst for Barca’s famous Champions League comeback against PSG in March, has scored over 100 goals in all competitions for the Spanish giants. (The Mirror)