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Christian Benteke to miss World Cup, as injury curse hits Belgium


This summer’s World Cup will see plenty of top players not taking part, and that’s not because their countries haven’t qualified.

Christian Benteke joined the long list of notable absentees in Brazil, as Aston Villa’s Belgian striker ruptured his Achilles in training on Thursday and will now be out of action for a minimum of six months.

Benteke, 23, has been in and out of the treatment room all season and has struggled for form since singing a new long-term deal with Villa last summer. Releasing a statement following Benteke’s injury, Villa had the following to say on their website.

“Christian Benteke will undergo surgery after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon injury today in training. He will be out for a minimum of six months.”

Villa manger Paul Lambert will also be missing his star striker for the run-in, and a big chunk of next season, as the Birmingham club still aren’t clear of the bottom three with the final few weeks of the season left to play.

“It’s a terrible blow both for Christian and for the Club,” Lambert said. “He will miss the rest of the season, obviously, and also the World Cup. But he’ll work hard because that’s what he does and he’ll come back for us stronger than ever next season.”

That damaging blow to Belgium’s World Cup hopes in Brazil this summer comes after Colombian striker Radamel Falcao is racing to be fit, while Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman has been sidelined and an injury to England’s Theo Walcott has halted his involvement in the showpiece tournament.

Belgium will miss Benteke’s presence up front, as his partnership with Romelu Lukaku gives Diables Rouge phenomenal power going forward. But Benteke has time on his side. However the big Belgian will be heartbroken to miss out on being the focal point of his nation’s burgeoning side in the tournament they’ve worked so hard to qualify for.

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

Jurgen Klopp announced as new Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
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Enough with the speculation and reports already, because it’s finally officially official: Jurgen Klopp has been appointed the newest manager of Liverpool Football Club, the Merseyside club announced on Thursday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Klopp will be unveiled to the world at an introductory press conference at Anfield on Friday.

According to early reports, Klopp’s three-year contract could pay him as much as $10 million per season.

[ QUOTE KING: Top 10 “Klopp-isms” from his time at Dortmund ]

The 48-year-old German has been out of work since stepping down at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund following a seventh-place finish to the 2014-15 season. Klopp’s seven seasons in charge of Dortmund weren’t without success and silverware, though, as he led Der BVB to back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012, a German Cup triumph in 2012 and a UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2013.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright will be at Anfield on Friday for Klopp’s unveiling, so be sure to follow JPW on Twitter and check back to PST for wall-to-wall coverage of Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager.