Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Portugal 3, Denmark 2

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Man of the match: Nani had an amazing night, if quietly so. Though he assisted on Portugal’s second goal, most of his work went unrewarded. Playing on the right flank, he created a number of turnovers, shutting down Simon Poulsen (who had been so good against the Dutch). Nani passing was excellent, deserving a second assist on a missed Ronaldo chance in the 78th minute.

NBC Sports: Late Valera goal gives Portugal 3-2 win over Danes

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It was practically a must-win match, and Portugal came through, taking advantage of lax defending on the first two goals and a dazzling finish when they needed a winner.
  • The first goal came off a corner. Great delivery from Joao Moutinho found Pepe on a near post run, Daniel Agger having lost his mark amid a crowd of Portuguese runners.
  • It was the start of a strong night of Pepe, with the Real Madrid star taking over at the back for long stretches of the second half. The only thing which kept him from Man of the Match was being the defender nearest Nicklas Bendtner on the late, equalizing goal, though it’s debatable whether Pepe should have been expected to prevent it.
  • Portugal’s second goal seemed to be a function of lazy Danish defending. They defense had sunk deeper and deeper to position themselves for balls sent in from wide. On Fabio Coentrao’s ball from the left, Denmark was set nine yards from goal and didn’t push after it was headed clear. The clearance was eventually played to Nani on the right, 15 yards from the line, who had no pressure on him when finding Helder Postiga cutting across the box.
  • Denmark’s first goal was beautiful. Michael Krahn-Dehli switched the ball right for Lars Jacobsen, who played back to Jakob Poulsen. Poulsen curled a ball from 30 yards out to the far post, where Krahn-Dehli had beat Joao Periera. With Riu Patricio coming to contest a shot, Krahn-Dehli played a header back across the box for Bendtner, who finished for a yard out.
  • It was a disappointing goal to concede right before halftime, but Portugal came out in the second having never lost their composure. Denmark dominated possession but created almost no chances, with Portugal looking more likely to score.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo was twice given open chances on goal by Nani. The first came when Helder Postiga dummied a long ball from the right, Denmark’s defense failing to account for Ronaldo. Stephan Andersen came out to make a nice save on a shot from 16 yards out. In the 78th minute, Nani gave Ronaldo another chance, but with Andersen going down early, Ronaldo pushed his shot wide.
  • When Bendtner equalized, Ronaldo’s misses loomed large. Again, it was a near-perfectly executed goal. Lars Jacobsen had to cross from deep on the right for Bendtner, who had to position himself outside the far post. The shot went just inside the left upright, grazed off Rui Patricio’s hand, and went in.
  • It was fitting that a well-executed Portugal goal won the game, though Denmark may ask why, when they were protecting their point, Silvestre Valera was given a second chance to win the game. Fabio Coentrao’s cross was met with a meek left-footed shot from the substitute, but turning on the rebound, Valera blasted an unstoppable shot just inside the right post.
  • Coentrao also had a strong Man of the Match shout.
  • For Denmark, you have to regret ever giving Portugal control of the match. The first 20 minutes were evenly played, but Denmark was too meek at the back, an attitude that conceded the first two goals. From there, Portugal was allowed to play their more comfortable, defensive approach, and although Denmark would end with 60 percent possession, they couldn’t get three points.
  • As a result, Denmark fails to build on their upset of the Netherlands and now need some help to get out of group. Portugal has the tiebreaker, should the teams end up even, though a number of three-way tie scenarios are still in play.
  • Portugal, on the other hand, have every reason to be happy with the result. It wasn’t a must-win game (they could have drawn and had a slim chance of surviving), but a win gives them needed confidence going into a final group game against the Netherlands.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

[ MORE: Turkey hands bid plans to UEFA for EURO 2024 ]

It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

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Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

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Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.