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Bayern wins sixth straight Bundesliga crown – with help from Heynckes

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BERLIN (AP) Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has earned his retirement at the end of the season.

Again.

After returning to the helm in October, Heynckes’ Bayern won its record-extending sixth straight Bundesliga title on Saturday with a 4-1 win at Augsburg.

No other team has come close since Bayern claimed the treble in 2013 under Heynckes, who has said he will go back into retirement at the end of this season – despite Bayern’s attempts to keep him on.

Bayern sealed its record 28th German championship, including the solitary pre-Bundesliga title in 1931-32, with five rounds to spare.

Here’s a look at why Bayern keeps winning in Germany:

HERO HEYNCKES

Bayern’s lackluster start to the season is all but forgotten due to the rapid turnaround instigated by Jupp Heynckes on his return for his fourth stint as coach in October.

Bayern was five points behind Borussia Dortmund after slipping to two draws and a defeat in its opening seven league games, but Heynckes started with a 5-0 win over Freiburg, led the side back to the top and claimed the title with 18 wins in 21 games, including the victory in Augsburg.

A perfect record in the German Cup – four wins from four – and Champions League – seven from seven – sees Bayern well placed in both competitions for a possible repeat of the treble achieved in Heynckes’ previous stint in 2013.

The only issue Bayern has with Heynckes is that he won’t continue. The 72-year-old former striker has long maintained that he will go back into retirement once the season is done.

Bayern coach Heynckes and Franck Ribery (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

TACTICS

Jupp Heynckes reverted to the 4-2-3-1 system he favored in the treble-winning season for most games this time round, but he has also shown willingness to tinker with the system depending on the opponents.

He also coaxed a better work-rate from his players, starting with league top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, who pressurizes defenders for the ball and helps to win back possession.

Heynckes returned to the wide areas as key facets of the side’s attack. Franck Ribery, despite celebrating his 35th birthday against Augsburg, has enjoyed a renaissance on the left wing. Kingsley Coman (before his injury) and Arjen Robben have also excelled, helped by overlapping pace from David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich.

IMPROVEMENT

Arturo Vidal was criticized by Jupp Heynckes shortly after returning, saying the combative midfielder wasn’t working hard enough and that others were ahead of him in the pecking order.

But the Chile midfielder, familiar to Heynckes from their days together at Bayer Leverkusen, responded as Heynckes undoubtedly knew he would and has since emerged as one of the team’s key players in fighting for midfield possession. Vidal has also chipped in six goals.

James Rodriguez is another player to have blossomed under Heynckes, returning to the form that prompted Real Madrid to pay a reported 80 million euros for his services in 2014. Madrid could yet regret letting him go.

MONEY

Bayern is by far the richest club in Germany thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals, TV money, ticket sales and other sources of revenue. Last season the club posted a record turnover of 640.5 million euros ($759 million) with profits up 22.2 percent on the season before.

Borussia Dortmund, the next nearest challenger, lags well behind with turnover of 405.7 million euros for 2016-17.

Bayern’s financial clout means it can afford to turn down mega-money advances for its best players. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently ruled out Robert Lewandowski moving to Real Madrid. Bayern can also cherry-pick the best of what the rest of the Bundesliga has to offer.

Schalke’s Leon Goretzka is joining for free next season.

COMPETITION

Bayern had no challengers for the title after Borussia Dortmund’s early promise collapsed. Schalke, the best of the rest, is clearly not at the same level, despite its improvement under new coach Domenico Tedesco. Bayern has scored almost twice as many goals.

Faced with the added strain of European football, last year’s runner-up Leipzig was unable to mount a challenge.

Dortmund faces another summer of rebuilding, while Bayer Leverkusen has been too inconsistent to mount a challenge under new coach Heiko Herrlich.

“It looks like we’ll also be German champions next year,” Heynckes said last month.

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.”

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

Why Derby deserve Premier League promotion

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With the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27, the richest game in soccer will see one of Aston Villa or Derby County promoted to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest Championship news ]

Which club deserves a spot in the English top-flight, and the estimated minimum $120 million it will generate, more?

You can use metrics such as fanbase, stadiums, players, historical success and quality of coaches to try and sort this out, but the fact of the matter is, the playoffs are always a complete, and utterly brilliant, lottery.

The path Villa and Derby took to get to the final this season proves that.

We’ve already focused on why Villa deserve to return to the PL after a three-year absence, so now it is time to see why Derby should return after an 11-year absence…


The Rams are on a roll and Frank Lampard, in his first season as a manager, has led Derby to Wembley to play Aston Villa with the latter the favorites to win.

Like Villa, we are talking about a team which has some magical moments in its history. Derby were Champions of England under Brian Clough twice in the 1970s but since then success has been hard to come by. A five-season spell in the Premier League from 1996-2002 was followed by a miserable season in 2007-08 (the worst in PL history) and the Rams haven’t been back to the top-flight since.

Owner Mel Morris, a local businessman who is behind gaming apps such as Candy Crush, has led their crusade back towards the PL in recent seasons but Derby have come up short in the playoffs time and time again, with the Rams failing in the playoffs in three of their previous five campaigns.

Heading into the final weeks of this season Derby were in the chasing pack after a poor second half of the campaign. For most of the season it seemed like Frank Lampard’s youngsters were nailed on for a top six finish, but then they wobbled and it seemed like they may miss out on the playoffs altogether.

But a run of four wins in their last six to finish the season gave them extra momentum heading into the playoffs.

Then came that incredible night at Leeds.

1-0 down from the first leg, then 1-0 down on the night in the second leg, Derby had a mountain to climb with a 2-0 aggregate deficit at Elland Road as Leeds’ fans started the party… Then Derby scored three unanswered goals in a wild 13-minute spell to turn the game on its head before Jack Marriott added his second and Derby’s fourth of the game late on to stun Leeds and send them to Wembley.

With the backdrop of the spygate scandal — which saw Leeds and Bielsa punished earlier in the season for spying on Derby’s training sessions — and the fact Leeds were heavy favorites to get past Derby, this was a sweet moment for Lampard and his adoring squad and fans.

Derby don’t have a lot of cash to work with. They have relied this season on Lampard’s contacts as some of the best young talents at the Premier League level (Mason Mount and Harry Wilson) wanted to learn from him and that is why they arrived at Pride Park on loan. Lampard has translated his knowledge as a player who had an amazing career to several of his Derby players, and it is exciting to think what he can go on to do.

This Derby squad is made up of youngsters from the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool and veterans like Richard Keogh, Ashley Cole and Bradley Johnson who are desperate for one last chance to play in the Premier League.

Lampard has galvanized the entire club and the Chelsea legend regularly bounces in celebration with the Derby fans after games. Runs in both the FA Cup and League Cup saw them beat Manchester United and Southampton on penalty kicks, while they also pushed Chelsea close to show they are capable of competing with PL clubs regularly.

Derby are full of guts and their young stars Wilson and Mount have the ability to win games with one swipe of their foot.

Lampard is a loveable character and if Derby do beat Villa to clinch promotion, he can work his magic to secure some big names signings and they will be an intriguing squad who, like Villa, will play open, expansive soccer. If Derby don’t get promoted then Lampard is already being lined up for Premier League jobs, even at the club where he became a legend, Chelsea. If the Rams do go up we will get to see Lampard and this exciting attacking side put on a show.

That is why Derby deserve promotion to the Premier League.