Late goals see France advance, beat stubborn Nigeria to reach quarters

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France scored twice late on through Paul Pogba and a Josehph Yobo own goal to make the World Cup quarterfinals after beating Nigeria 2-0 in a tense encounter in Brasilia on Monday.

Early on the African champions took the game to France and the game wad deadlocked at half time.

However as the game wore on, France looked more likely to grab a winner and only the heroics of Nigerian ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama kept Les Bleus at bay. Enyeama then turned from hero to villain with 10 minutes to go, as he inexplicably came for a corner, tipped the ball towards Pogba and the Juventus midfielder nodded France into the lead.

In stoppage time Yobo’s own goal compounded Nigeria’s misery, as France made it through to the quarterfinals for the first-time since 2006.

[ RELATED : Full bracket for the WC knockout stages ]

Early on the game ebbed and flowed, as France surged forward through Pogba but the Juventus man saw his pull back cleared for a corner as Benzema and Giroud both lurked in the box.

Nigeria didn’t sit back and launched plenty of their own attacks to put France on the back foot. In the 15th minute Benzema and Giroud linked up but the latter was off balance and sent a shot way over the bar as Les Bleus struggled to get a foothold in the game.

However just as France threatened to start clicking through the gears, Ahmed Musa whipped in a delightful cross from the left which Emenike stabbed home for Nigeria… but the offside flag was up as American referee Mark Geiger (the first to ref a World Cup knockout match) and his officials got the call spot on.

source: AP
Nigeria pinned France back, but Les Bleus were too good in the end.

France hit back in the 22nd minute as  Valbuena was released down the right and his perfect cross found Pogba on the penalty spot but the Frenchman’s flying volley was beaten away acrobatically by Enyeama. Nigeria continued to press and pin France back as the heavy favorites looked nervy in the opening half in Brasilia. Five minutes before the break Deschamps side had a glorious opportunity to take the lead as Valbuena was again the architect as his run and cut back opened up space for right back Matheiu Debuchy but he lashed his effort wide with the goal beckoning.

Before the break Nigeria came close again as Emenike picked up the ball on the right hand side of the box and crashed a thunderous effort towards goal that Hugo Lloris couldn’t hold but France ended up clearing the danger. In the second half the same pattern occurred as Nigeria pushed forward but there was then a large stoppage as Ogenyi Onazi was caught by Matuidi outstretched leg and the Nigerian midfielder was stretchered off the pitch. Nigeria then went close through Peter Odemwingie as he blasted a shot in on goal that Lloris saved smartly.

France finally woke up and then took the game to Nigeria as Benzema saw his shot cleared off the line after going one-on-one with Enyeama. The Lille ‘keeper stopped Benzema’s shot but the ball then trickled towards the line, only for Moses to hack it clear and keep the scores locked at 0-0. Soon after France continued to pile on the pressure and Benzema’s cross-shot was cleared off the line by Efe Ambrose, then Yohan Cabaye’s follow-up shot smashed the underside of the crossbar and bounced away.

Then it was Benzema again as Enyeama saved his header from point blank range and tipped it out for a corner. Form that set-piece Enyeama made his only mistake of the afternoon as he came for the corner and only tipped the ball into Pogba’s path, as the French youngster headed France ahead with just over 10 minutes to go.

Late on Nigeria pressed for the equalizer that would send the match into extra time but a superb ball into the box from Valbuena found substitute Antoine Griezmann, however he missed it and the ball nicked off Yobo’s leg and into the net to make it 2-0 to France.

France saw out the game to book a quarterfinal spot for the first-time since 2006 and the eighth-time in their history.

LINEUPS

France: Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Koscielny, Evra; Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi; Valbuena (Sissoko, 90′), Giroud (Griezmann, 62′), Benzema.

Goal: Pogba, 79′, Yobo – Own goal, 90′

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Yobo, Oshaniwa, Omeru; Musa, Onazi (Gabriel, 59′), Mikel, Moses (Nwofor, 89′); Odemwingie, Emenike.

Mourinho reportedly close to Man Utd contract extension

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Jose Mourinho is scheduling an extended stay at Manchester United.

[ MORE: Donovan unveiled by Leon ]

The 54-year-old has a contract through the end of next season, the dreaded third at a club for Mourinho, but reports say United is keen to keep him around through 2021.

Mourinho has not tasted a fourth season with a club despite winning league titles at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.

The 2019-20 season at Old Trafford would be Mourinho’s fourth. According to the BBC:

Talks have progressed well and it is now just a matter of time before Mourinho commits to remain at Old Trafford beyond the expiry of his present deal in 2019.

Somehow, this feels it should be deemed another loss for Antonio Conte.

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

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Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.

FA Cup preview: Three more PL sides face 3rd-round replays

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Three more Premier League sides, including a top-four fighter, attempt to join a dozen of their top-flight contemporaries in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea and Swansea City host Championship opposition in the form of Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, while Bournemouth will make the 500-mile roundtrip to take on League One side Wigan Athletic.

The Blues, who now sit fourth in the PL after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Leicester City, could manage only a scoreless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road earlier this month. They are winless in their last four games across all competitions — all draws — including their League Cup semifinal first-leg draw with Arsenal last week; the last three of those all finished without a single goal scored. Chelsea, who are tied with Liverpool with the fourth-most FA Cups in their history (7), lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final at Wembley Stadium.

Swansea are undoubtedly the side on highest Cupset alert, as Wolves are the runaway leaders and champions-elect in the Championship (10 points clear after 27 of 46 rounds played), thus able to devote more attention to the FA Cup than the typical second-division side. With the two sides separated by just a single place in the English footballing pyramid (Swansea, 20th in the PL; Wolves, 1st in the Championship), they appear destined to swap places by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s punishment for conceding a pair of early goals to a side currently 32 places below them in the pyramid, is the long, midweek trip from the south coast to the DW Stadium in the northwest of England. It was the Premier Leaguers who needed a two second-half goals, including Steve Cook‘s 90th-minute equalizer, to draw level at home in the first meeting.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay actionFULL ROUNDUP

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town
West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Agent: 37-year-old Ronaldinho has retired

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SAO PAULO (AP) The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho announced Tuesday that the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football.

Roberto Assis made the announcement to Brazilian media on behalf of the 37-year-old midfielder, who played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

“Ronnie’s professional career is over. He wants to be a football ambassador, do charity, and work with his friends in music from now on,” Assis told The Associated Press.

Assis hopes to schedule some farewell matches for Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. The initial plan is to play games in Brazil, Europe and Asia and to also get Brazil’s national team involved, Assis said.

Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action.

The Brazilian’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two Spanish league titles with Barcelona, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).

Ronaldinho started his professional career at Gremio in southern Brazil in 1998. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 and was signed by Barcelona two seasons later.

At the Camp Nou, he was the engine of a team that took Barca back to the limelight. However, after a series of club trophies, Ronaldinho’s career took a downturn. He was often accused by Brazilian and Spanish media of lacking professionalism, despite his mentoring of a then youthful Lionel Messi.

In 2008, with Messi then leading Barcelona, Ronaldinho left for AC Milan. Despite being part of a team that won Serie A in 2011, he failed to reach his previous heights as a player.

When returning home became a real option, Ronaldinho frustrated Gremio’s efforts to re-sign him and joined Flamengo instead.

Disappointing performances in Rio de Janeiro took him to Atletico Mineiro, a club that then was more often fighting against relegation than for titles.

Yet a more mature Ronaldinho took Atletico to a different level.

In his last great run, Ronaldinho carried Atletico with his superb passes and dazzling dribbles to second place in the 2012 Brazilian Championship.

A year later, he was the key to his club lifting its first Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club trophy, but his hopes of playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were dashed.

Ronaldinho left to play for Mexico’s Queretaro in 2014-15, but was mostly on the bench.

He played his last seven matches as a professional for Fluminense, though his performances were a far cry from his best days in Spain.

Now living in Rio, he has appeared in advertisements all over the world since leaving Fluminense.