Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Hungary wins Group F, and Ronaldo drags Portugal through after thriller

1 Comment

Cristiano Ronaldo almost single-handedly dragged Portugal into the knockout rounds with two goals and an assist as Hungary lost a trio of leads in a 3-3 draw that still handed them Group F at EURO 2016 on Wednesday.

Balazs Dzsudzsak scored a pair of deflected goals for Hungary, and Zoltan Gera also scored as they clinched a date with the runner up of Group E.

Nani scored Portugal’s only goal, his second of the tournament, and Portugal finished third in the group. Up next is Croatia, in a game which could be just as high scoring.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s absurd back heel ]

LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 22: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group F match between Hungary and Portugal at Stade des Lumieres on June 22, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Gera hammered a low rope through the legs of a defender and into the bottom right corner as Hungary seized the lead in the 19th minute.

Free kicks came for Portugal from dangerous spots, but Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly did well to marshall the defense or make the stop like when he flew low and left to slap a hard, low Ronaldo offering away.

Nani equalized for Portugal just before halftime, as the ex-Mancheter United man got on the end of a through ball from fellow ex-Red Devil playmaker Ronaldo to beat Kiraly and make it 1-1.

[ USMNT: Gulati cares about third place game ]

Balazs Dzsudzsak put Hungary back in front with a deflected free kick in the 47th minute, but Ronaldo answered back with a gorgeous cheeky backheel to make it 2-2.

Dzsudzsak hit another deflected shot home within moments, but there was Ronaldo again. The Real Madrid star stroked home a solid finish to make it 3-3 with just under a half hour to play.

Former Arsenal, Brazil midfielder Baptista announces retirement

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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)

AP
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports