France win U-20 World Cup on penalties, after dramatic final vs. Uruguay

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The French Under-20 won the World Cup in Istanbul earlier this evening, as they defeated Uruguay 4-1 on penalties.

After a 0-0 game that ebbed and flowed but without any goals scored, France’s hero was goalkeeper Alphonse Areola who saved two spot-kick to give France their first ever FIFA U-20 World Cup.

With the grueling tournament now in the history books, plenty of fans across the globe will have been pleased with the action on display in Turkey, even though not many fans actually watch the games in person after incredibly poor attendance figures.

But that should take nothing away from France. Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, who was nurtured at Manchester United, pulled the strings in the final and looks to be a tremendous player with a bright future. United will rue letting him leave Old Trafford.

And plenty of other stars were born in a tournament that saw plenty of goals, late drama and extra-time heartache. The U.S. national team youngsters will take heart from their Group opponents winning the whole tournament, while Ghana who the USA also faced finished in third.

Anyway back to the final, and the game itself was played out in a nervous manner with France dominating early but Uruguay having the better of the first half.  The French side dominated possession but couldn’t find a way through Uruguay’s stubborn defense and with La Celeste’s wayward shooting, extra time played out scoreless and the dreaded penalty shootout ensued.

(MORE: U.S. U-20’s draw with France, keep World Cup dream alive)

In this day and age, surely we can come up with a better way to decide a game of soccer than the penalty shootout. For any game, in any cup, at any level it is a horrible thing to go through as a player, manager or fan. But this was the U-20 World Cup final!

Anyway, the French scored all four of their penalties and ‘keeper Areola was the man they all rushed to.

The big question now is this: Can France make a comeback on the international scene with all these promising youngsters?

It’s not that cut and dry. But a few of them will definitely be in the squad if the French national team make World Cup 2014. A talented core were all brought through the national team youth ranks when France won the World Cup back in 1998. David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry, Willy Sagnol and William Gallas were all around that squad and went on to become huge stars.

Can the French U-20 World Cup winning squad of 2013 help the French national team return to its glorious past?

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.