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Netherlands wins women’s European soccer championship

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ENSCHEDE, Netherlands (AP) Striker Vivianne Miedema scored twice Sunday as the Netherlands beat Denmark 4-2 to win its first Women’s European Championship title and set off a huge party among thousands of orange-clad fans.

Long after the final whistle and award ceremony, the players – many clutching bottles of Champagne – danced through the corridors of the FC Twente stadium chanting “Champions!”

The success of the Dutch women’s team is in stark contrast to the country’s men, who failed to qualify for last year’s European Championship in France and is struggling to reach next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said she hoped the victory and success of the tournament on home soil would promote the game among Dutch girls and prove a platform on which to build greater success for the women’s team as it prepares to start qualification for the World Cup later this year.

It was a disappointing end to the tournament for Denmark, which knocked out six-time defending champion Germany in the quarterfinals and reached its first final after losing five previous semifinals. A penalty shootout win over Austria after extra time in the semifinals left the Danes looking tired in the second half, allowing the Dutch to control play.

The end of the German reign as European champion after more than two decades at the top is a sign that the game is improving across the continent, Wiegman said.

“Germany was champion and nobody else could get close,” she said. “Today we changed that. Actually Denmark changed it and we continued today.”

The game started well for the Danes, when striker Nadia Nadim – a former refugee from Afghanistan whose father was killed by the Taliban – converted a sixth-minute penalty after Kika van Es clumsily brought down Sanne Troelsgaard in the area.

“Sometimes you can’t choose what you want. You just get it,” said Nadim, who fled Afghanistan after her father’s death and settled in Denmark. She now plays for the Portland Thorns in the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League.

The Dutch fans did not have to wait long for their team to cancel out Nadim’s opener.

A long ball by midfielder Jackie Groenen launched right winger Shanice van de Sanden and her low cross was met by Miedema for her third goal in as many matches in the knockout stage of the tournament.

Left winger Lieke Martens, named player of the tournament after the match, put the Dutch ahead in the 28th when she drifted into the center, turned a defender and fired a low shot past goalkeeper Stina Lykke Petersen.

Five minutes later, Denmark was back on terms at 2-2 when captain Pernille Harder overcame the Dutch offside trap and then beat Sari van Veenendaal at her near post with a well-placed shot.

Captain Sherida Spitse restored the Dutch lead after the break with a free kick that rolled wide of the wall and into the corner. Miedema, who had been criticized for not scoring in the group stage, sealed the victory in the 89th with her second goal of the final.

“It was tough at the start, but then things started going well,” the forward told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “Today the first half was so chaotic, Denmark was good, and it was fantastic that we could show in the second half that we can play good football.”

The frenetic match was played in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 28,000 fans, including Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik, at FC Twente’s stadium in the eastern city of Enschede. Also in the crowd was Marco van Basten, the star of the Dutch men’s team that won the 1988 European Championship.

Nadim, who overcame so much to reach the final, said she was disappointed with the loss, “but maybe in a week or so we can be proud of our performance and happy that we won a silver medal, but right now it feels like we lost a gold medal.”

Neymar says he’s staying at PSG; rumors “invented by the press”

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Neymar insists he is going nowhere this summer, that he’ll spend (at least) one more season at Paris Saint-Germain, and he intends to bring another handful of trophies back to the French capital in doing so.

[ MORE: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for N’Golo Kante, but must sell first ]

Speaking during a press conference on Friday, his first media availability session since Brazil were eliminated in the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals, the 26-year-old superstar went so far as to say that reports linking him with a move to other European mega-clubs (most notably, Real Madrid) were “invented by the press” — quotes from ESPN:

“Yes, I will stay in Paris. I have a contract with PSG. The speculation? The majority of it is invented by the press.

“I have a contract and people know the objective, the reason why I went to PSG. I want to win with this club and I hope this season will be wonderful.”

While it seems a no-brainer that PSG would want Neymar to stay, there’s unquestionably a case to be made that selling him would give them the financial flexibility needed to address needs elsewhere in the squad. N'Golo Kante, for instance, is reportedly transfer target no. 1 at the Parc des Princes, but sales will have to be made before a fee of that size can be paid, due to financial regulations.

Report: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for Kante, but must sell first

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N'Golo Kante might just be the best midfielder in the world, and he might just be leaving Chelsea for Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days or weeks, as French newspaper Le Parisien has reported that the defending Ligue 1 champions are in “advanced negotiations” over a mega-bucks contract with the World Cup winner.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The report goes so far as to say that a “provisional contract” has already been agreed. “Provisional,” in this instance, means there has likely been little — if any — contact between the two clubs thus far.

One major sticking point remains: following last summer’s outlandish spending spree, in which they shelled out nearly $500 million to sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are in serious danger of failing to comply with financial regulations set forth by UEFA and could/would be banned from European competition should they fail to achieve compliance.

The likes of Angel Di Maria, Goncalo Guedes, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jese Rodriguez and Alphonse Areola have had their names floated as possible departures to recoup the necessary funds before paying another fee of (presumably) over $100 million.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

After helping the Blues to the Premier League title two seasons ago (and doing the same with Leicester City three campaigns gone by), Kante was powerless in saving Chelsea from themselves in 2017-18. They finished fifth in the PL and failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

Given his age — 27 — it’s wholly understandable that Kante would prioritize playing in club soccer’s top competition (while also making even more money) every season going forward. Throw in the fact that uncertainty is the only certainty at Stamford Bridge these days, and trading west London for Paris — where Kante was born — starts to sounds pretty good, pretty quickly.

18-year-old Vinicius ready to fight for minutes at Real Madrid

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Following in the footsteps of Neymar and Kaka, and Ronaldinho and Ronaldo before them, Vinicius Junior has been dubbed the next transcendent Brazilian superstar, and he’s ready to show why after being unveiled by Real Madrid on Friday.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The 18-year-old from the famed Flamengo youth academy will make his European debut next month when the new La Liga season kicks off, and he has every intention of being part of the first-team squad from the very beginning. While many South American starlets will move to a club the size of Real Madrid and spend a season or two (or more) out on loan as they continue to develop and adjust to life abroad, Vinicius is bullish on his ability to make an immediate impact — quotes from ESPN:

“I am staying at Real Madrid with the first team. I will play some games with Castilla [the youth team] to adapt as quickly as possible.

“I can do everything I did at Flamengo, and do better. I will show I am ready to play and show everything possible as quickly as I can. I know the adaptation will not be easy, but I am ready to do whatever is necessary.

“I am coming from Flamengo, another club with a lot of pressure. The people around me are here to help me with this. I never think of failing, just succeeding, winning as much as possible.”

“Football is a bit different here, but coach Lopetegui is helping me a lot, telling me what I must do, how I can improve. This is the best opportunity a football player can have.

“I will sacrifice a lot to show I deserve this opportunity. But sacrifice is not something new for me. I come from a very simple family, and am very proud of all they did for me and the values they have taught me.”

Vinicius’s $52-million transfer was agreed last summer, but FIFA rules stipulated that the player must be 18 before making the move abroad.

Sports court overturns AC Milan’s ban from Europa League

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — In a legal victory over UEFA, AC Milan is back in the Europa League after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a ban imposed for overspending.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The court said Friday the punishment was “not proportionate” following a takeover completed last week, even though UEFA was right to judge Milan had broken financial monitoring rules.

The seven-time European champion had failed to approach breaking even on player transfers and wages over several seasons in which it failed to qualify for the top-tier Champions League.

UEFA was ordered to review the case and apply a “proportionate disciplinary measure,” the court said in an urgent ruling.

Milan’s reprieve was largely due to the takeover by a United States-based hedge fund which last year provided key finance to a Chinese-led purchase of the storied club.

In a statement Friday, European soccer body UEFA noted without comment that the case returns to the judging section of its club finance panel.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

The verdict was given Friday without detailed reasons from a three-judge panel, one day after a hearing at the highest court in world sports.

An urgent ruling was needed because the case affected Italy’s entry in the Europa League second qualifying round next week.

Milan’s legal win restores the club’s place in the group stage which kicks off in September. Atalanta, which placed seventh in Serie A, goes back into the qualifying rounds and plays Sarajevo in a first-leg game in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday. Fiorentina, which placed eighth last season, is now withdrawn from the Europa League.

Milan broke UEFA’s financial fair rules which monitor finances over a three-year assessment period of all clubs qualifying to enter the Champions League or Europa League.

When it was banned last month, Milan said it failed to break even on soccer-related business in the period from July 2014 to June 2017 — before its spending spree one year ago.

[ MORE: Goalkeeper Alisson completes record transfer to Liverpool ]

Milan spent nearly $250 million on new players. This was despite questions over the financial stability of the Chinese-led consortium that purchased the club from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April 2017.

The team finished sixth in Serie A, missed out on the four Italian places in the Champions League, and qualified for the Europa League.

However, the court said UEFA had not “properly assessed” some relevant points in Milan’s case, and the club’s finances improved after the takeover.

Elliott Management has promised to inject $66 million in capital.

Former owner Li Yonghong missed a deadline to repay part of a loan worth more than $350 million from the hedge fund. Elliott repossessed the holding company in Luxembourg that Li used to buy Milan.

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