Russia stun Spain 4-3 on penalties to reach World Cup quarters

Russia’s goalkeeper saved Koke’s and Iago Aspas’ spot kicks after both teams had scored two apiece in Russia’s first ever World Cup penalty shootout, to set up a last eight clash with either Cro

Hosts Russia beat Spain 4-3 on penalties thanks to two saves by their goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev on Sunday to advance to the World Cup quarter-finals and send thousands of ecstatic Russians to the streets to celebrate.



The 32-year-old keeper saved Koke’s and Iago Aspas’ spot kicks after both teams had scored two apiece in Russia’s first ever World Cup penalty shootout, to set up a last eight clash with either Croatia, who also edged out Denmark in a penalty shootout later on Sunday.



World Cup knockouts: Teams hope against dreaded penalty shootout



Putin leads gov’t support for team



With Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev watching from the stands, Russia’s qualification triggered a wave of enthusiasm for the host nation as thousands celebrated in the capital’s iconic Red Square and beyond.



“Players will not do things just because the coach says so. They have to feel it and tonight they did it,” said Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov.



“To be a strong team is one thing, but you have to be the best on the pitch. Tonight, we were that team at the right place at the right time,” added the coach, who had received a phone call from President Vladimir Putin a few hours before the game.



It may have been a dry 120 minutes but there was high drama in the shootout for the 78,000 spectators at Luzhniki Stadium, with all four Russian penalty-takers keeping their cool and Muscovite Akinfeev doing well to deny Koke’s effort.



Akinfeev, who started his professional career by saving a spot kick in his first ever match, then kicked Aspas’ penalty high and wide to trigger wild celebrations.



“In the second half, we were trying to defend. We were hoping for penalties and that’s what happened, thank God,” the keeper said.



Spain’s painful elimination



It was a painful World Cup exit for Spain and coach Fernando Hierro, who replaced Julen Lopetegui, fired on the eve of the tournament after accepting Real Madrid’s offer to be their manager.



“There is a lot of pain in the delegation, the players, the coaching staff,”, Hierro told reporters. “We had great hopes for this World Cup and it was not to be.



“There are 15 players who have given everything, I have absolutely no complaint. This is football. We had more possession, got to their area much more. We understand that in these moments you have to be effective.”



How the game unfolded



Spain, who have never beaten a host at World Cups or Euros, went ahead after 12 minutes when Sergei Ignashevich bundled into Ramos at the far post, knocking a free kick in with his heel for the 10th own goal of the tournament.



The 2010 world champions controlled the game with their slick passing but failed to add to their lead as the Russians defended with discipline.



Russia also were toothless up front until Gerard Pique’s handball gave them a chance to level with a penalty in the 41st minute.



Forward Artem Dzyuba buried it for his third goal of the tournament to awaken the subdued crowd.



Despite 75 percent possession and more than 1,000 passes, Spain’s famed tiki-taka got them nowhere and they had to wait until the 85th minute to test Akinfeev with a low drive from substitute Andres Iniesta.



Having long run out of steam and with several players cramping, Russia were reduced to desperately defending in extra time.



Akinfeev came to the rescue once again to deny Rodrigo after his fine sprint before becoming a national hero by saving the two spot kicks to send the hosts into the last eight and his fellow Russians to the streets to celebrate.



Guide to the World Cup knockout stage: Meet the 16 contenders

FIFA maintains 32 teams for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

FIFA said it had abandoned the expansion plans « following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process » which led to the conclusion that « under the current circumstances such a proposal could not

The world’s football governing body, FIFA took a decision to maintain 32 teams at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, rejecting president Gianni Infantino’s proposal to expand the tournament to feature 48 teams.

FIFA said it had abandoned the expansion plans “following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process” which led to the conclusion that “under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now”.

“(The tournament) will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June,” FIFA said in a statement.

Why Gianni wanted 48 teams

The expansion was a pet project of Infantino, who pushed the idea despite the likely need for Qatar’s neighbours to put aside a two-year blockade and help to host an expanded tournament.

“The involvement of these countries in the organisation of the tournament jointly with Qatar implies the lifting of this blockade, in particular the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods,” said a feasibility study submitted to March’s FIFA Congress in Miami.

The study, seen by AFP, also claimed that a Qatar World Cup with 48 teams would generate “between $300-$400 million (265-354 million euros) of additional income”.

Specifically FIFA was counting on an additional $120 million in TV rights, $150 million in marketing rights and $90 million from ticket sales.

An announcement of the final decision had not been expected until next month’s FIFA Congress to be held in Paris ahead of the women’s World Cup that takes place in France between June 7 and July 7.

Obstacles to expansion

The news comes after Europe’s top football clubs said in March they would boycott an expanded 24-team Club World Cup — also backed by Infantino — which is planned to take place in June and July 2021, replacing the Confederations Cup tournament.

Expanding the competition for the 2022 tournament was always a complicated proposition. FIFA had sounded out potential co-hosts in the region willing to support Qatar, which is subject to an ongoing embargo by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee, charged with the organisation of the tournament, said in reaction to FIFA’s decision that “Qatar had always been open to the idea of an expanded tournament in 2022 had a viable operating model been found and had all parties concluded that an expanded 48-team edition was in the best interest of football and Qatar as the host nation.”

But it said there was insufficient time to make a deeper assessment before the June deadline and “it was therefore decided not to further pursue this option.”

“With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team FIFA World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud,” the Supreme Committee said.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting Iran and Islamist groups.

Qatar vehemently denies the charges and says Saudi Arabia and its allies are aiming to incite government change in the emirate, the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas.

Gulf states Kuwait and Oman have not taken sides in the crisis. However, Oman said in April it was “not ready” to host matches.

AFP

South Africa appoints first ever female national rugby coach

The union announced two other former female internationals in team management roles with ex-captain Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe to be Springbok women’s team manager and Natasha Hofmeester the Under-20 women

South Africa’s Rugby authorities on Tuesday appointed the first ever female coach of a national team, announcing that Laurian Johannes will take charge of the country’s Under-20 women’s side.

She will begin next month with two internationals against neighbouring Zimbabwe in Harare.

“This is a massive achievement for Laurian and for South African rugby, and we wish her luck in this significant role,” said SA Rugby chief executive officer Jurie Roux.

“The fact that Laurian played for the Springbok women’s team and participated in the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup before learning the ropes of coaching at Western Province makes this achievement even more meaningful.

“She has come through the ranks, and I hope she will inspire other former female players to enter into coaching and follow their dreams.”

The union announced two other former female internationals in team management roles with ex-captain Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe to be Springbok women’s team manager and Natasha Hofmeester the Under-20 women’s team manager.

Agencies

Ghana's president convinces Gyan to cancel retirement

Asamoah Gyan has not featured for the side since September 2017 after persistent injury problems and has also battled for game-time with his Turkish club Kayserispor.

Gyan back from retirement

Just 48 hours after announcing his international retirement, Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan has bowed to a presidential request to make himself available for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations

‘‘I have taken the request of His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in good faith, and will make myself available for selection by coach Kwasi Appiah to help win the AFCON trophy,’‘ Gyan tweeted.

Government spokesperson Eugene Arhin in a statement confirmed the president’s intervention.

“The President urged him, in the national interest, to rescind his decision to retire from the Black Stars, and make himself available for selection by coach Kwesi Appiah.”

Fans applaud Gyan’s national record

Football fans across the world are paying tribute to Ghana’s all-time leading goal-scorer Asamoah Gyan who announced his international retirement on Monday.

The news which comes a month before the start of the African Nations Cup, follows shortly after he was removed as the national team’s captain.

Striker Gyan has not featured for the side since September 2017 after persistent injury problems and has also battled for game-time with his Turkish club Kayserispor.

“Upon consultation with my family and team, and as an active footballer and captain of the national team, if the decision of the coach is to give captaincy of the tournament to another player while I am named in the team (squad) of the tournament, I wish to recuse myself from the tournament,” Gyan said in a statement.

“I also wish to retire from the national team permanently,” he said.

The 33-year-old netted 51 goals in 106 international appearances, both Ghana national team records, which includes scoring at six consecutive Nations Cup finals, as well as three World Cups between 2006 and 2014.

Social media reactions

Fans applaud Ghana's Asamoah Gyan following international retirement

Asamoah Gyan has not featured for the side since September 2017 after persistent injury problems and has also battled for game-time with his Turkish club Kayserispor.

Football fans across the world are paying tribute to Ghana’s all-time leading goal-scorer Asamoah Gyan who announced his international retirement on Monday.

The news which comes a month before the start of the African Nations Cup, follows shortly after he was removed as the national team’s captain.

Striker Gyan has not featured for the side since September 2017 after persistent injury problems and has also battled for game-time with his Turkish club Kayserispor.

“Upon consultation with my family and team, and as an active footballer and captain of the national team, if the decision of the coach is to give captaincy of the tournament to another player while I am named in the team (squad) of the tournament, I wish to recuse myself from the tournament,” Gyan said in a statement.

“I also wish to retire from the national team permanently,” he said.

The 33-year-old netted 51 goals in 106 international appearances, both Ghana national team records, which includes scoring at six consecutive Nations Cup finals, as well as three World Cups between 2006 and 2014.

Social media reactions

CAF unveils AFCON 2019 mascot [Football Planet]

Guinea’s U17 side, finalist at this years youth championship have been disqualified from participating in the next two editions of the U17 AFCON as well as the world cup in Brazil lat

Guinea’s U17 side, finalist at this years youth championship have been disqualified from participating in the next two editions of the U17 competition as well as the world cup in Brazil later this year, as they fielded two over aged players during the competition in Tanzania.

RS Berkane last night muscled a late goal in the Caf Confederation Cup first leg finals against Zamalek of Egypt. Playing their first continental finals, the Moroccans take a one goal lead into the return leg to be played this weekend.

Less than a month to the kickoff of Africa’s most prestigious football come together, Caf has officially released the mascot for the competition do not blink it is brief.

Exclusively getting the views of former premier league player George Elokobi’s views on the surge of record breaking Africans in the EPL this season and he tells us what has changed from when he played for Wolverhampton Wanderers from 2009 to 2011.