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Dier: England’s Spurs boys “lucky to have,” owe it all to “brilliant” Pochettino

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Tottenham Hotspur’s troop of young, up-and-coming stars have been nothing short of sensational this season, as the north London side seems the last hurdle standing in the way of Leicester City winning the Premier League title.

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As they say, “with team success comes individual recognition,” typified not only by the five Tottenham players — all 25 years of age or younger — called into the current England squad for pre-2016 European Championship friendlies this week, but also the standout performances of four of them against Germany on Saturday.

After the game, Eric Dier, who signed for Spurs before the start of the 2014-15 season, Mauricio Pochettino‘s first at White Hart Lane, and scored the winner against the current World Cup holders, was first to sing the praises of the Spurs boys’ “brilliant” Argentine manager — quotes from FourFourTwo:

“We did all get together in the dressing room. It’s great for us five — Walks didn’t get on but for the five of us to be here was amazing.

“We have to be thankful for our manager, for being able to put us in this position by giving us a chance at our club and improving us. Us Spurs boys know how lucky we are to have him because he’s been brilliant.

“He demands a lot of us, always wanting us to improve. That’s what’s made us able to be in the position we are now so we’re very grateful for him and we want to repay him.

“We really enjoyed it and I think all four of us put in good performances. I am really happy for Danny Rose because I think it’s a long time coming. For me, he has been the best left back in the Premier League this season.”

Following Rose’s first cap on Saturday, 11 of the last 19 players to make their international debuts for England have been Pochettino-coached players, now at Spurs and Southampton before that.

Not only do the players owe Pochettino a massive thank you for the heights to which he’s helped them so early in their respective careers, so do England supporters who hope to see the Three Lions make a deep run at Euro 2016 — something that, given the quality and depth provided by Poch’s Spurs boys, they have a real chance of doing.

Former Arsenal, Brazil midfielder Baptista announces retirement

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Julio Baptista’s time at Arsenal only lasted 12 months, but it was a memorable stint.

The Brazilian, who played the 2006-07 season for the Gunners, announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 37. The former Brazil international only managed 10 goals with Arsenal, but they came in bunches.

Baptista memorably scored four goals against Liverpool in the League Cup quarterfinal, as Arsenal finished with a 6-3 win. Baptista even missed a penalty kick that game.

Baptista cemented his legacy later in the season with a brace in the FA Cup against rival Tottenham.

Baptista, clearly an immensely talented player, suffered from being a good, but not great player. He seemed to have no perfect position other than the No. 10, and most teams he played for had better players in that position. It forces him to play along the wings, deeper in midfield or as a striker during the prime of his career.

In the end, injuries beset his career, especially a short spell at Orlando City in MLS.

 

U-20 World Cup Rewind: Italy tops Mexico, host Poland falls on Day 1 (video)

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Italy opened the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a bang, knocking off fellow Group B favorite Mexico, 2-1, in Gdynia, Poland.

It only took Italy three minutes to get on the board, as Davide Frattesi found a pocket of space in front of the El Tri backline and dribbled in on goal. The Sassuolo midfielder then decided to fire on goal from distance, hitting a rocket into the corner to give Italy a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first half Gianluca Scamacca also took a rip from outside the box, but his strike sailed just wide.

A defensive error on a corner kick gave Diego Lainez and Mexico life. In the 37th minute, AC Milan product Alessandro Plizzari committed a howler, coming out to punch away the curled corner kick. Plizzari missed the ball and it went right to the head of Roberto De La Rosa, who calmly made it 1-1.

El Tri however suffered a blow late in the match as Italy took back the lead. In the 67th minute, Luca Ranieri collected the ball on the edge of the six yard box and from a tight angle, he scored past Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Higuera.

For Mexico, it’s a rough way to start the World Cup, having to go against a perennial power in Italy and playing on European soil. Not all is lost for Mexico, but it has to rebound with a win in its next game against Japan.

Elsewhere, Colombia defeated host Poland, 2-0, Japan tied Ecuador 1-1, and Senegal beat Tahiti, 3-0.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

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