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Ligue 1: Falcao scores late winner, preserves Monaco’s 3-point lead

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PARIS (AP) Monaco had Radamel Falcao to thank once again as the Colombia striker came off the bench to score the winner with a superb free kick in a 2-1 home victory against Dijon on Saturday.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure to Chelsea (again) ]

Falcao scored an opportunistic winner in a 1-0 defeat of Angers last weekend, and this goal was equally important as it kept Monaco three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the French league.

Nabil Dirar scored the first goal midway through the second half, having also set up Falcao’s winner against Angers.

With teenage star Kylian Mbappe enduring a tough evening and Monaco struggling to find space in the first half, 19th-placed Dijon took the lead with a goal from Cedric Varrault shortly before halftime.

Monaco pushed hard after the interval but failed to break Dijon’s solid defense from open play. Falcao first came to the rescue in the 69th minute when the striker hit a free kick from 25 meters (yards) that hit the bar, bounced on `keeper Baptiste Reynet and stopped just in front of the goal line. Dirar rushed toward the ball and hammered it into the back of the net to level.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL preview — Chelsea visit Mourinho at Old Trafford ]

Falcao, who played 31 minutes, sealed Monaco’s win in the 81st with a sumptuous 20-meter curled strike into the top right corner that left Reynet stranded.

It was Falcao’s 26th goal of a season that has confirmed his return to the highest level and his 18th in 24 league games. Six of those games have been as a substitute since he has occasionally struggled for full fitness.

Falcao warmed up perfectly for the visit of Borussia Dortmund in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday, with Monaco leading 3-2 from the away leg in Germany

With five games left to play, Nice is guaranteed a top-three finish in the French league for the first time in more than 40 years.

Chasing its first league crown since 1959, the southern side beat struggling Nancy to ensure its first podium slot since it was runner-up behind Saint-Etienne in 1976.

The only team still unbeaten at home, apart from defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, Nice was caught cold against the run of the play after 26 minutes. It recovered with goals from Mickael Le Bihan and Jean-Michael Seri, who scored a brace.

The win kept Nice within four points of leader Monaco, which has one game in hand.

[ MORE: La Liga roundup — Madrid, Barca win final games before El Clasico ]

Yoan Cardinale made a reflex save in the 25th minute to deny a direct free kick from Loic Puyo which surprised everyone else in the box, but the Nice `keeper was powerless in the next minute after midfielder Valentin Eysseric failed to clear a corner from the left. That allowed Issiar Dia to recover the ball in the area and serve up an assist for Maurice Dale, who scored from six yards (meters).

The goal triggered an all-out assault on the Nancy goal and the hosts managed to level 10 minutes later. After receiving the ball in front of the area, Younes Belhanda almost lost it but managed to deliver a perfect through ball for Le Bihan, who beat `keeper Guy Roland Ndy Assembe for his third goal this season with a precise shot to the bottom corner.

In the absence of injured striker Alassane Plea and with Mario Balotelli suspended, Le Bihan was given his first start of the season and proved to be a worthy addition to the team, with two other good chances in the second half. Le Bihan scored a brace in February after coming off the bench in a 2-1 win against Montpellier on his return from a 17-month injury layoff.

Eysseric almost doubled his team’s lead immediately after the interval when he dribbled on the left side of the box and forced Ndy Assembe into a fine save. Issiar Dia then committed a clumsy foul on Dalbert Henrique in the box and Seri coolly converted from the spot with a shot right in the center of the goal in the 50th minute.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Champions-elect, Juventus, go 8 points clear ]

Seri doubled his tally with five minutes left from Eysseric’s clever assist in the back of the defense.

Montpellier made a big step forward in the fight against relegation with goals from Ryad Boudebouz and Isaac Mbenza.

After posting its first home win since February, the 2012 French champions moved to 12th place, eight points above the danger zone.

It was Boudebouz’s 11th goal this season, his best ever tally in the league.

Also Saturday, Guingamp beat Toulouse 2-1; Metz and Caen drew 2-2; and Rennes defeated Lille 2-0.

Adidas reveals away kits for Mexico, Argentina, 7 other World Cup squads

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Fans of El Tri, La Albiceleste, Die Mannschaft and more can now get their hands on another set of 2018 World Cup jerseys.

Adidas unveiled the latest designs for the away kits of nine World Cup squads, including Mexico, Argentina and the defending champions Germany, with some of the team’s star players modeling the kits. Carlos Vela, Lionel Messi and Toni Kroos are all pictured in Adidas’ photo shoots with the new kits, and the uniforms are inspired by the kits worn at previous World Cups.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sweden, Colombia, Japan, Belgium and the host nation Russia are also included.

“For adidas, the World Cup has always been the stage to showcase some of our most iconic products, innovations and designs,” Juergen Rank, Senior Design Director said in a statement. “Many of these classic designs remain hugely popular with fans, and we want to continue to celebrate them while introducing new innovations, combining authenticity with progression.

“The new official World Cup away kits feature both the latest product technologies to ensure peak performance on the pitch and easily identifiable classic looks, making them perfectly suited to both the stadium and the street.”

Check out the latest kit release from Adidas below.

Ronaldo: “I always believe I am the best”

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You’ve got to appreciate the over-sized ego of Cristiano Ronaldo, even if it is deserved.

The 33-year-old Real Madrid striker was bestowed the 2017 Player of the Year award from the Portugal FA, earning 65 percent of the vote. But more than winning yet another trophy to add to his burgeoning case was what he told the media after accepting the award.

“We have to defend what is ours because there is always a Portuguese in the fight (for the top awards),” Ronaldo said, via AS. “I always believe and say that I am the best, whatever they say, and then I show it in the field. We are in the fight year after year.”

Ronaldo did score 42 goals last year for Real Madrid and has scored 18 goals in 2018 alone already for Los Blancos as the club look to go back-to-back-to-back in the UEFA Champions League.

Miazga: “We’re all ready to make an impression” with USMNT

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Last October, for reasons unknown, Matt Miazga didn’t make the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for its final two World Cup qualifiers.

Five months later, he’s risen to the top of the centerback depth chart.

[MORE: Digging into the USMNT roster]

The hulking centerback spoke on Tuesday as the USMNT started off its training camp in Cary, N.C., noting that the youth-laden squad wanted to make an impression to stay in the picture moving forward. With four years until the next World Cup and still more than a year until competitive matches, there is still plenty of shuffling and expanding of the player pool to do before then.

Have a listen to Miazga and enjoy the sights and sounds of the USMNT training camp ahead of its friendly match against Paraguay.


Banker Gaetano Micciche elected Serie A president

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MILAN (AP) Bank boss Gaetano Micciche has been elected president of Serie A.

Micciche, the president of Banca IMI, was chosen unanimously on Monday by the Italian league’s 20 clubs.

He succeeds Maurizio Beretta, who left the position nearly a year ago.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

The league has been under emergency leadership, first by former Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio then by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.

Malago recommended Micciche for the position.

The federation remains under emergency leadership following Tavecchio’s resignation in the wake of Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.