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Mourinho: England needs to keep coaches for next World Cup

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is operating as a pundit for this summer’s World Cup in Russia, but saved any biting thoughts for either of Wednesday’s semifinalists for another time.

Mourinho of course praised Croatia for its run to the final, where Vatreni will meet France on Sunday.

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“It’s a great achievement for a country where the league is a minor league and the majority of the players don’t player in Croatia but abroad,” Mourinho said. “As I know, when you work abroad, you feel your country in a different way.”

The Croatian First Football League ranks 11th in UEFA coefficient, between Iceland and the Netherlands.

As for England, the Portuguese manager heaped praise on the Three Lions.

He says the side is primed to move forward and continue its growth, and was sure to toss in some fond words for his former Chelsea assistant Steve Holland.

“It’s a young team, the majority of the players will play in the next World Cup with more experience at club level,” Mourinho said. “If I was in charge of the FA there would be no doubt that I would keep Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland in their jobs and give them the chance to take the team to the next Euros and the next World Cup.”

Not exactly going out on a limb there, though England’s managerial spot has neither been stable nor particularly hot in some time. Roy Hodgson and Sven-Goran Eriksson each worked three major tournaments, but Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello were both one-and-done.

AC Milan’s mistakes hand Italian Cup title to Juventus

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ROME (AP) AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gifted two goals and Nikola Kalinic added an own-goal in a nightmare 4-0 defeat for the Rossoneri as Juventus claimed a record fourth straight Italian Cup title on Wednesday.

While the 19-year-old Donnarumma could not be blamed for Medhi Benatia’s opener in the final, his mistakes led to the ensuing goals from Douglas Costa and Benatia. Then Kalinic headed a corner into his own net.

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After the final whistle, Milan captain Leonardo Bonucci and Juventus counterpart Gianluigi Buffon attempted to console Donnarumma.

“We have to accept it and realize we made our own errors,” Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso said.

It was the first of two titles that Juventus is hoping to celebrate over the space of four days at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Bianconeri can clinch a record-extending seventh consecutive Serie A title with only a draw against Roma on Sunday.

“Now we have to ensure the Scudetto mathematically and enjoy this extraordinary season,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said.

Juventus has won a total of 13 Italian Cups, at least four more than any other team.

For Benatia, the brace served as redemption after he was blamed for a goal in a 1-0 loss to Serie A rival Napoli last month.

“After my error on the marking for Kalidou Koulibaly, everyone said I was useless,” Benatia said. “I haven’t become fantastic now and I wasn’t useless then. … I gave my contribution, nothing more.”

Buffon, who is expected to retire at the end of the season, far outperformed Donnarumma, who is considered his protege.

Milan, meanwhile, missed out on a chance to justify its preseason spending spree and take home a trophy ahead of likely punishment from UEFA for financial fair play violations.

The last time Juventus had beaten Milan by at least a four-goal margin came more than 20 years ago – in a 6-1 away win in Serie A in 1997.

“The guys had an extraordinary game and deserved this win, taking nothing away from Milan, who had a good first half,” Allegri said. “In games like this you need a little time to get into gear, but we found the passing lines, the spaces opened up and naturally the technique emerged.”

After a slow-paced first half, Juventus took control when Benatia headed in from a corner.

Donnarumma then had Costa’s shot on his fingers but the ball fell through his hands.

Three minutes later, Donnarumma was preparing to collect a header from Mario Mandzukic but it again slipped off his fingers and Benatia was waiting to pounce on it.

Milan came closest when Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi nearly scored an own-goal, hitting the post with a failed clearance.

Kalinic, who has not reached expectations at Milan, then added to the misfortune by finding his own net with his back to the goal by the near post as he attempted to defend a corner.

Buffon preserved the clean sheet with successive saves on Manuel Locatelli and Fabio Borini.

AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

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Sporting CP suspends entire first-team squad after feud with team president

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Things are getting really, really heated in Lisbon.

According to reports across Portugal, Sporting CP will be forced to play its B team after the first team squad became embroiled in a feud with outspoken team president Bruno de Carvalho.

Following the club’s Europa League quarterfinal first-leg loss to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, Carvalho roasted the squad via Facebook, putting players like Fabio Coentrao, Gelson Martins, Fredy Montero, and Bas Dost on blast for things like missing chances and getting yellow cards.

It was an absolutely ruthless post, one that claimed the team “wasn’t focused” and that the 11 players “played like 9 many times.”Seeing bad errors by international and experienced players adds more to the suffering [of the defeat],” he claimed.

Needless to say, the squad didn’t take kindly to being called out publicly by members of the front office. The reports state the players first hoped to confront Carvalho personally at training the next day, but he never showed. Feeling like they had to save face, the players took to Instagram on Portuguese international goalkeeper Rui Patricio’s page – also posted to Coentrao’s account – to make a statement saying they are united as a squad and expressed “disgust” with Carvalho’s comments.

Somos Sporting Clube de Portugal, em nome do plantel, somos a informar o seguinte… Suamos, lutamos e honramos sempre a camisola que vestimos. Não somos perfeitos e não acreditamos em jogadores perfeitos, porque queremos sempre evoluir! Não existem jogadores nem equipas perfeitas, mas quando as coisas não correm como queremos, sabemos assumir as nossas responsabilidades. Todos nós temos de o fazer! Quando vencemos, empatamos ou perdemos… sim… porque no Futebol estes são os resultados possíveis, a responsabilidade é sempre de todos! Somos uma equipa! Somos um grupo unido de um Grande Clube onde o respeito é uma das bases necessárias a essa união. Não podemos pensar apenas no “Eu”, mas sim “Nós” e sempre na equipa, porque só assim poderemos vencer. No nosso Clube, nas seleções nacionais que representamos, sempre damos e continuaremos a dar o nosso melhor, porque o querer é uma constante. Somos profissionais, somos humanos! A nossa integridade e o nosso compromisso são sagrados! Esforço, dedicação, devoção e glória sempre! Damos o máximo pelo Sporting Clube de Portugal, damos o máximo por nós próprios enquanto equipa, individualmente enquanto atletas. Lutamos pelo nosso Clube, pelos nossos adeptos e por nós, sempre! Não há outra forma séria de estar no Futebol Profissional que não seja esta… Por esta razão, em nome de todo o plantel do SCP, espelhamos neste texto o nosso desagrado, por vir a publico as declarações do nosso Presidente, após o jogo de ontem, no qual obtivemos um resultado que não queríamos… a ausência de apoio, neste momento…, daquele que deveria ser o nosso líder. Apontar o dedo para culpabilizar o desempenho dos atletas publicamente, quando a união de um grupo se rege pelo esforço conjunto, seja qual for a situação que estejamos a passar, todos os assuntos resolvem-se dentro do grupo. Saibamos ver que, por maiores que sejam as dificuldades, ainda há muito para disputar. Temos uma recta final em várias competições e vamos, haja o que houver, unidos e coesos, dar o máximo pelo Sporting Clube de Portugal. Somos Sporting Clube de Portugal.

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“On behalf of the SCP squad, through this joint statement we express our disgust with our president’s public statements after yesterday’s game for which we did not achieve the result we desired,” the statement reads. “The lack of support at this moment from the one who is supposed to be our leader, pointing the finger to publicly blame an athlete’s performance when a group is ruled by its combined effort.”

Well, it didn’t end there. Carvalho called the players “spoiled boys” has threatened to suspend every player on the first team for replying to his comments, in a since-deleted post on his Facebook account. And according to reports, Carvalho is planning on carrying out his threat, with Sporting planning to play its reserve squad against 14th placed Pacos Ferreira on Sunday.

This is not the first time Carvalho has publicly criticized his players. Just two weeks ago after former Porto striker Andre Silva said he didn’t get along with Carvalho, the president responded by painting Silva as ungrateful.

Sporting sits third in the Primira Liga table, five points back of second-placed Porto and six behind leaders Benfica. They are just a single point above fourth-placed Braga.

Serie A fixtures postponed as Totti, Dzeko, world soccer mourn Astori

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Serie A has postponed seven weekend fixtures in a gesture of sorrow and respect for Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, who passed away overnight.

The 31-year-old was found dead in his hotel room ahead of Sunday’s match at Udinese.

Astoria was a Cagliari mainstay before his time at Fiorentina, and also played for top flight power Roma after beginning his career in AC Milan’s Academy.

The center back was capped 14 times by Italy, and is mourned across Italian and world football.

Benevento captain Lucioni banned one year for doping

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ROME (AP) Benevento captain Fabio Lucioni has been banned one year for doping.

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Italy’s national anti-doping organization made the decision Tuesday after the steroid clostebol was found in a sample taken after Benevento’s 1-0 loss to Torino in September.

Benevento team physician Walter Giorgione was banned for four years for administering the steroid to Lucioni in a spray.

Both Lucioni and Giorgione plan to appeal.

The 30-year-old Lucioni joined Benevento in 2014 and the defender helped the team move from the third division up into Serie A this season for the first time.

Benevento is last in Serie A with only two wins in 20 matches.

The ban is back-dated to October, meaning Lucioni can return early next season.