New Middlesbrough Manager Press Conference

Mourinho steers former assistant away from Crystal Palace, to Middlesbrough

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Aitor Karanka would have been the fourth José Mourinho-affiliated manager in the Premier League. Instead, the man thought to be the favorite to get the Crystal Palace job will go north, the 40-year-old  appointed Middlesbrough manager this morning.

The Basque boss, assistant to Mourinho at Real Madrid, would have joined Steve Clarke (West Brom), Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool), and André Villas-Boas (Tottenham) as former Special One staffers managing in the Premier League, yet on the advice of his former boss, Karanka turned his back on the top-level gig to work in England’s second division.

“Mourinho recommended me to come here,” the former Real Madrid defender said at today’s introductory press conference, one which spent inevitably addressed Karanka’s connections with the Chelsea boss.

“He’s the person who’s supported me for months,” Karanka said. “He recommended me to come here because he believes in this project, like me.”

“It is my time. I have been, for three years, with José Mourinho and I think he supported me every day. I learned with him and his staff and I’m ready now.”

That readiness will be tested immediately, with Karanka set to debut with this 16th place side at Leeds United on the 23rd. Fifteen games into the season, Boro sit eighth points back of sixth (the last Championship promotion playoff stop). Replacing former West Brom manager Tony Mowbray, Karanka will be expected to mount a stiffer challenge for a Premier League return.

“We set down a clear template of what we were looking for,” club owner Steve Gibson said at Karanka’s introduction, “and Aitor was the outstanding candidate.”

There’s some talent on the shelves. The team features Jonathan Woodgate and Australian international Rhys Williams in defense. Dean Whitehead and Grant Leadbitter are options in midfield. Africans Albert Adomah and Kei Kamara are capable of getting goals. Perhaps it’s not the best stocked team in the division, but teams with less have found ways to get promoted.

But what of Crystal Palace? Karanka’s no longer an option, nor is Martin O’Neill. Tony Pulis is rumored to have been too expensive.

Welsh boss Chris Coleman? Alex McLeish? It’s unclear where the Eagles go after Karanka turned them down.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia