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50-year-old striker extends contract for 33rd season

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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) One of the longest careers in soccer has been extended after 50-year-old striker Kazuyoshi Miura renewed his contract with second-division J-League club Yokohama FC on Thursday.

Miura, who will turn 51 on Feb. 26, will enter his 33rd season this year.

Miura played in 12 league games last year and scored one goal, breaking his own record as the J-League’s oldest scorer.

Miura joined Yokohama FC in 2005 and became the oldest player to appear in a professional match at the age of 50 years and seven days last March, catching global media attention by surpassing England legend Stanley Matthews’ longevity record.

Nicknamed “King Kazu,” Miura played for Brazilian club Santos and in Italy with Genoa earlier in his career, and represented Japan’s national team 89 times, scoring 55 goals.

Wenger: Man City, United should look to sumo wrestlers

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Arsenal is readying for a visit to West Ham United, but Arsene Wenger‘s mind took a detour to Japan.

In a wide-ranging pre-match interview touching on Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, and the Manchester Tunnel Fracas (TM), it was the last topic that had Wenger musing on the post-match actions of sumo wrestlers.

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For those who missed it, there was an alleged dust-up between Manchester City and Manchester United after Jose Mourinho and his men objected to boisterous City celebrations in the away locker room on Sunday.

Ever the politician, the rail thin manager called upon rather large athletes to make the point of what he’d like to see. From Sky Sports:

“It happened to us, it’s happened to them. It’s unfortunate. Ideally you would commit 100% on the pitch and be an angel after. It’s not always the case. You want to keep that passion on the pitch.

“It is difficult to take when you lose a game, to see the celebration. When I was in Japan, I liked sumo wrestling because you could never tell who had won. The winner never showed his happiness as there’s a deep respect for the opponent.”

Wenger’s last managerial stop came in 1996 with Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan.

There was plenty more from Wenger, who was asked about the statuses of Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil.

For the latter, it’s relatively straight-forward: There’s still no new contract between the playmaker and Arsenal, though no final offer has been made and Wenger remains optimistic about the hiring.

As for Giroud, who’s been tipped for a move away from Arsenal for some time, Wenger admits it’s tricky. The super sub would start on most teams but is quite valuable to Arsenal as the usual backup to Alexandre Lacazette.

And it’s not like Arsenal has hurt the Frenchman’s stock with one of the best international sides in the world.

“He’s a very important player and I have big respect for him. Look how many French caps he has got since he came here. He’s not wasted his time. I can understand his frustrations. He’s played many games, much more than many speak about. He’s played more than Lacazette for example. When you are at a big club with many strikers, you can’t guarantee.

“Personally I want him to stay at the club until the end of the season. Then we will see.”

If Wenger can massage the full season out of Giroud and then sell him, Arsenal will have to call it a win. But how different might the Gunners look next August, with Giroud, Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez all expected to be out the door?

North Korean national soccer teams in Japan for tournament

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TOKYO (AP) North Korea’s national soccer teams have arrived in Tokyo as an exception to Japanese sanctions against Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear development.

North Korea is competing against Japan, China and South Korea in the E-1 Football Championship, which starts Friday.

The arrival of North Korea’s men’s and women’s teams comes amid growing tension in the region. Pyongyang test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed within Japan’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, which experts said could hit Washington if launched on a standard trajectory. The U.S. and South Korean militaries are holding a major air force exercise.

Japan has banned North Korean nationals from entering the country as part of its sanctions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

Brazil hammer Japan; Serbia, South Korea win

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There are plenty of friendlies taking place across the globe this week as teams step up their 2018 World Cup preparations.

Five teams who have already booked their spot at the tournament in Russia next summer were in action early on Friday with Brazil, Serbia and South Korea all grabbing wins.

Below is a roundup of the games which took place, with plenty of other international friendlies to come in the next few days.

Japan 1-3 Brazil

The Seleceao were purring in Lille, France as Neymar scored from the penalty spot early on (with the help of VAR giving a decision against Southampton and Japan defender Maya Yoshida) but the PSG star then missed a second spot kick in the first half. Not to worry as Marcelo smashed home to make it 2-0 and and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus finished off a flowing team move to make it 3-0 before half time. Japan pulled a goal back in the second half through Tomoaki Makino but Brazil dominated as they now face England at Wembley next Tuesday. Japan face Belgium in Brugge on Tuesday.

South Korea 2-1 Colombia

Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son scored twice for South Korea as they beat much-fancied Colombia in Suwon. Cristian Zapata pulled a goal back for a strong Los Cafeteros side who had James Rodriguez and Davinson Sanchez in the starting lineup, plus Carlos Bacca and Edwin Cardona jumped off the bench with Juan Cuadrado an unused sub. Colombia travel to Chongqing to face China on Tuesday.

China 0-2 Serbia

Torino’s Adem Ljajic opened the scoring for managerless Serbia in Guangzhou and Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic made it 2-0 in the second half. Serbia play against South Korea in Ulsan on Tuesday. Good preparations for Serbia ahead of their first appearance at a World Cup since 2010.

Ranking the new jerseys released for 2018 World Cup

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A handful of new jerseys have been released by national teams heading to the 2018 World Cup in Russia (sorry, USMNT fans) and there are some intriguing new threads.

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Belgium, Germany, Spain and Argentina are all among the national teams to unveil new shirts via adidas with a nod to the past for them all, but who’s jersey will become the “must have” this summer?

Where are England, France, Portugal and Brazil I hear you cry? Hold on. Nike will not release those national team jerseys until around March time, with New Balance, Puma, Umbro and Errea also providing the jerseys for other nations who are among the 32 who have so far qualified for the tournament in Russia.

Below is a ranking of the top national team jerseys from the new batch released this week.

1. Did someone say argyle? Belgium’s homage to their EURO ’84 team not only looks great on the pitch but wack it on with a pair of jeans and you look stylish in the bar. Superb.

2. Big fan of this. Germany took inspiration from their 1990 World Cup win for this jersey. A beauty.

3. Carlos Valderrama would be proud of this from Colombia. I would like to have seen the blue and red triangles a little bigger, but still a quality jersey

4. El Tri will be looking sharp in this simple but eye-catching shirt. Love the deep green color

5. Argentina’s jersey to mark the 125th anniversary of their football association is a little too plain for me. Still, nice clean look

6. Simple and subtle, hard not to want a little more from the Samurai Blue’s jersey

7. Russia’s new jersey is inspired by the Soviet Union’s 1988 Olympic Gold medal team. Uninspiring

8. Spain’s nod to their 1994 World Cup shirt is just a little too messy for my liking