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PARIS, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Lionel Messi scored as Paris St Germain stretched their Ligue 1 lead to five points with a 3-1 win at Montpellier after Kylian Mbappe limped off the pitch on Wednesday. Following a lacklustre first half PSG burst into life after the break with Fabian Ruiz, Messi and Warren Zaire-Emery finding the net to put them on 51 points from 21 games. Mbappe had a night to forget at La Mosson, having had his spot-kick parried away by Benjamin Lecomte in the eighth minute. He had to take it again, only for the Montpellier keeper to deny him again. England Under-21 striker Folarin Balogun bagged a hat-trick to help Stade de Reims beat Lorient 4-2 and move top of the scorers' charts.
Neymar to miss struggling PSG's trip to Montpellier
  + stars: | 2023-01-31 | by ( Julien Pretot | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
PARIS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Leaders Paris St Germain will be without Neymar at Montpellier in Ligue 1 on Wednesday with the Brazil forward suffering from "muscle fatigue" as the capital side struggle for form. PSG have 48 points from 20 games and have seen their advantage dwindle to three points over second-placed RC Lens. Against Reims, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi started together for the first time this year but barely defended, leaving the team split in two and vulnerable at the back. "We have three incredibly talented offensive players and playing without one of them to be more balanced would be a mistake," said Galtier. Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken FerrisOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Talking points from European soccer
  + stars: | 2023-01-29 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
Jan 29 (Reuters) - Talking points from the weekend in European soccer leagues:PIOLI UNDER PRESSURE AS MILAN SET UNWANTED RECORDSIt has been a rough start to 2023 for Stefano Pioli and AC Milan, with only one win in seven games. Pioli’s side have let in four goals in consecutive league games for the first time in the club’s history and on Sunday conceded five goals at home for the first time since 1997. BARCELONA SURVIVE THREE-GAME STRETCH WITHOUT LEWANDOWSKIBarcelona are in form on top of the LaLiga standings and extended their unbeaten streak to 13 games, even without key striker Robert Lewandowski. Despite struggling up front without Lewandowski, who is still LaLiga's top scorer on 13 goals, Xavi Hernandez's side managed to keep their momentum and even extended their lead over bitter rivals Real Madrid to five points. Fuellkrug, who at 29 was a surprise addition to Germany's World Cup squad back in November, is currently top of the scorers list with 13 goals.
PSG's poor run continues with Reims draw
  + stars: | 2023-01-29 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
The capital side, who had lost two of their three previous games, have 48 points from 20 games with Lens on 45 and Marseille on 43 in an open title race. Reims are 11th on 26 points after stretching their Ligue 1 unbeaten run to 12 games. In the 51st minute, Messi's shot was deflected into the path of Neymar, who dribbled past Yehvann Diouf before poking the ball home. But PSG continued to dominate with Sergio Ramos coming close with a double header and Achraf Hakimi having a goal disallowed for offside. Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian RadnedgeOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
PSG suffer another defeat as Ligue 1 lead cut to three points
  + stars: | 2023-01-15 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
PARIS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Paris St Germain suffered their second defeat of the season in a 1-0 loss to Stade Rennais on Sunday as their Ligue 1 lead was slashed to three points. Despite the win, Rennes slipped down to fifth on 37 points, behind Monaco on goal difference after the principality side destroyed AC Ajaccio 7-1 earlier on Sunday with a Wissam Ben Yedder hat-trick. If we find it again it will be fine," said PSG captain Marquinhos. Midfielder Warren Zaire-Emery, 16, became the youngest player to start a Ligue 1 game for PSG and was nowhere near the Italian's level. A homophobic banner was also displayed in the stands, which will likely trigger sanctions from the French league (LFP).
PARIS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - French champions Paris St Germain said they will explore "alternative options" for their home stadium after Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said the Parc des Princes was not for sale. The stadium, owned by the Paris city council, has been PSG's home since they entered France's top division in 1974. French media reported that Ligue 1 side PSG put forward an offer to buy the Parc des Princes in November last year. "... the Parc des Princes is not for sale. "It is surprising and disappointing to hear that the Mayor of Paris is taking a position which, effectively, will force PSG ... from the Parc des Princes while also ... adding tens of millions of euros to the taxpayer burden to maintain the structure of the building...," a PSG spokesperson told Reuters.
French hearts are broken but future looks bright
  + stars: | 2022-12-19 | by ( Julien Pretot | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
Mbappe, who turns 24 on Tuesday, netted all three French goals, taking his tally from two World Cups to 12. "Potentially, this France team has an important reservoir of talents," said Deschamps. "We'll always need experienced team leaders to groom the young players but the reservoir is big." "Some players have been in the Euro 2016 final, won the 2018 World Cup, they bring their experience. "We have to keep this France team at this level, with the best players on the world and European stage."
[1/5] Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Final - Argentina v France - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - December 18, 2022 Argentina's Lionel Messi lifts the World Cup trophy alongside teammates as they celebrate after winning the World Cup REUTERS/Kai PfaffenbachLUSAIL, Qatar, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Sunday's World Cup final turned from a one-sided affair into a nerve-racking vintage showdown and it was somehow fitting that footballing diva Argentina prevailed over France amid the drama. "Argentina have been playing a World Cup final, not us," Deschamps said at halftime. The whole Argentina bench ran onto the pitch like headless chicken, but it was somehow not enough drama for a night to remember. France have conceded all the last 14 penalties against them in shootouts, with the last person to miss Luigi Di Biagio in the 1998 World Cup quarter-final. After France's shootout defeats in the Euro 2021 last 16 and 2006 World Cup final, it was a coherent end to a logic-defying final.
[1/5] Dec 17, 2022; Doha, Qatar; Croatia midfielder Luka Modric (10) and family pose for a photo after winning the third place match against Morocco during the 2022 World Cup at Khalifa International Stadium. Croatia, runners-up in 2018, prevailed with goals by Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic to end their World Cup on a high as Luka Modric possibly bid farewell to the soccer extravaganza. "Yes this is the last World Cup for some of my players today due to their age. Dalic, however, is still counting on his old guard for the Nations League and the Euro 2024 qualifiers. Croatia qualified for the Nations League final four to be played in June with Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
Despite defeat, Morocco also leave with heads aloft after becoming the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final. We won a tough game," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, who also led the nation of four million people to runners-up in Russia four years ago. But the African side lacked the killer instinct in front of goal, the final pass or touch always found wanting. By the 67th minute, Morocco had made all five of their substitutions. We're still happy, we're among the four best teams in the world," Regragui said.
GROUP STAGE MATCH 2: FRANCE 2-1 DENMARKHaving lost their last two games against Denmark in June and September, France were facing their first real test of the tournament. LAST 16: FRANCE 3-1 POLANDAfter France went through a brief rough patch, Giroud opened the scoring to become France's all-time top scorer on 52 goals - moving one ahead of Thierry Henry. They went ahead thanks to a 25-metre Aurelien Tchouameni strike, but cracked early in the second half with Harry Kane converting a penalty after a Tchouameni foul. They went ahead on five minutes thanks to Theo Hernandez's high-hooked volley, forcing their opponents to take the initiative. France will play Argentina, who are also looking to win the World Cup for the third time, in Sunday's final at the Lusail Stadium.
Regragui had noted on Tuesday that France were tactical masters and able to adjust to any opponents as he praised Didier Deschamps as the best coach in the world. In previous games, Belgium, Spain and Portugal had been unable to match Morocco's grit, but on Wednesday, France showed they were also able to fight tooth and nail and rely on players going above and beyond. That wrapped a win that reminded everyone of France's tournament nous and that Argentina better come up with a masterplan of their own in Sunday's final at Lusail stadium. Just like Belgium were left frustrated by their defeat to France four years ago in Russia, Morocco might feel they were the better team on the day. Yet France once again barged into the final like a regular at a nightclub who gets in without a look from the bouncer.
As Mbappe takes back seat, old guard drives France on
  + stars: | 2022-12-11 | by ( Julien Pretot | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
DOHA, Dec 11 (Reuters) - As Kylian Mbappe was being muzzled by the England defence, it was France's old guard who took the defending champions through to the World Cup semi-finals in a nerve-racking 2-1 victory on Saturday. Griezmann capped his performance with two assists, the first for Aurelien Tchouameni's first-half thunderbolt, and the second for Giroud's 78th-minute winner. Griezmann has now set up 28 France goals, more than any other player, on his record 72nd consecutive appearance. It was, possibly, the biggest takeaway from France's victory. France next face Morocco, with Mbappe set to battle it out with club team mate and great friend Achraf Hakimi, as Les Bleus look to become the first team to retain their World Cup title since Brazil in 1962.
DOHA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - All eyes will be on Kylian Mbappe once again as France take on England in a mouthwatering World Cup quarter-final clash but the defending champions must hope their lack of options from the bench will not be exposed on Saturday. WALKER v MBAPPEOne of the strengths that has emerged through the tournament is England’s depth. Their tally of 12 goals – equalling their World Cup best set from three more matches in 2018 – has been achieved via eight players. While the goalscorers grab the headlines, Southgate made sure he complimented his defenders after the last 16 match as his side chalked up a third successive World Cup clean sheet for the first time in 20 years. One thing that should be a given is that England will not be overawed by the occasion after their recent runs to the last four of the 2018 World Cup and final of Euro 2020.
"It's not been easy because they're a well-organised team and we had to make some positional changes at halftime," said Deschamps. Poland's poise came close to being rewarded in the 38th minute when the onrushing Zielinski's shot was parried by Lloris. Jakub Kaminski followed, only for his shot to be saved close to the goal-line by Raphael Varane. NINE WORLD CUP GOALSOne minute from the break, however, France's tactics paid off. Mbappe now has nine World Cup goals to his name, as many as Argentina's 35-year-old Lionel Messi, and became the first player to reach that mark before his 24th birthday.
They have now reached the knockout phase in every World Cup or European championship since 2014 and even if they have never gone past the last eight, they cannot be regarded as a surprise package anymore. "It's the best Swiss national team that ever existed," coach Murat Yakin said before their opening game, a clinical 1-0 win against Cameroon. He was also in the build-up of the third as he clipped the decisive ball into the box after Breel Embolo had levelled with his second World Cup goal. "The dual nationals have brought an extra touch of soul," former Swiss international Stephane Grichting said. Adding to the Swiss confidence is their U-17 World Cup campaign in 2009, when they beat Brazil on they way to the title.
Over the line? Japan goal adds fuel to VAR debate
  + stars: | 2022-12-02 | by ( Nick Mulvenney | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +5 min
The perspective that is clear is from above, and the belly of the ball is very big," he said. Everyone can take and use the photo they want, it doesn't matter, but the ball didn't go out." FIFA, who declined to comment on the incident on Friday, have invested heavily in VAR technology since introducing it at the World Cup four years ago in Russia. The match ball now contains a chip that transmits data to the VAR operations room 500 times a second, while 12 cameras in each stadium track 29 points on the body of each player. Former Scotland midfielder Graeme Souness said FIFA needed to be more transparent over VAR decisions.
Les Bleus were 3-1 up against the Swiss but conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes before going out on penalties. "I think we were too relaxed against Switzerland," attacking midfielder Antoine Griezmann told a news conference on Friday. In big competitions you realise that there are no easy opponents, it's going to be the same against Poland. Poland have two major assets - striker Robert Lewandowski, and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has already stopped two penalties in three games here. The winner of the France v Poland clash will face either England or Senegal in the quarter-finals.
France on a tightrope as knockout phase looms
  + stars: | 2022-12-01 | by ( Julien Pretot | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
Until then, with Deschamps having made nine changes to the team who secured their spot in the knockout phase with a 2-1 win against Denmark, France looked clueless and were overwhelmed in the midfield. LACK OF 'COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCE'"I know I haven't put them in the best conditions with all these changes because they don't have a collective experience," said Deschamps. The Liverpool centre back appeared a level above all his team mates, especially Varane, and it is a safe bet to say that Deschamps might consider fielding him from the start alongside Dayot Upamecano. "Another tournament is starting now," said Deschamps - which may come as a relief to France watchers after Wednesday's performance. Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh LawsonOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Cat-ar not cat-shy Dembele's purrfect World Cup country
  + stars: | 2022-12-01 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: 1 min
DOHA, Dec 1 (Reuters) - France's players have generally been happy at the World Cup in Qatar although one, Ousmane Dembele, has found it hard to adjust to one feature on the streets of Doha - stray cats. "Ousmane is scared of cats. There are cats strolling around and he's scared of them. It makes everyone laugh," his team mate Randal Kolo Muani told a news conference on Thursday. Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh LawsonOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
AL RAYYAN, Qatar, Nov 30 (Reuters) - France are filing a complaint to FIFA after a last-gasp equaliser by Antoine Griezmann was disallowed following a video review after the final whistle of their World Cup match against Tunisia, the French federation said on Wednesday. "We are writing a complaint after Antoine Griezmann's goal was, in our opinion, wrongly disallowed. This complaint has to be filed within 24 hours after the final whistle," the FFF said in a statement. Tunisia were eliminated from the tournament while France advanced top of Group D into the last 16 and they will face Poland on Sunday. The FFF did not specify whether the complaint was over the goal itself or the fact it was ruled out after the final whistle.
DOHA, Nov 28 (Reuters) - France will look to strike the right balance between resting players and keeping their World Cup momentum going when they take on Tunisia in their final Group D game on Wednesday. Should they finish first, they will face the team who end up second in Group C, which features Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Mexico. Coach Didier Deschamps is set to rest some of his key men and give fringe players minutes at the Education City Stadium. The centre back returned from a hamstring injury for the second game and was substituted in the second half. We'll think about what's best for the team first, then we'll see what's best for me," Varane told reporters.
[1/2] Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group G - Cameroon v Serbia - Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah, Qatar - November 28, 2022 Serbia players on the pitch before the match REUTERS/Marko DjuricaAL WAKRAH, Qatar, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Dusan Vlahovic will be on the bench for Serbia for the second game in a row at the World Cup as they face Cameroon in Group G on Monday. The 22-year-old striker, who was battling a groin problem in the run-up to the tournament, came on in the second half of Serbia's 2-0 defeat by Brazil. Wing back Filip Kostic was named in the starting side after missing the opening game with a muscle problem. Cameroon coach Rigobert Song made two changes to the team who lost 1-0 to Switzerland, replacing keeper Andre Onana with Devis Epassy and midfielder Samuel Oum Gouet with Pierre Kunde. Teams:Cameroon - Devis Epassy, Collins Fai, Jean-Charles Castelletto, Nicolas Nkoulou, Nouhou Tolo, Andre-Frank Zambo-Anguissa, Pierre Kunde, Martin Hongla, Bryan Mbeumo, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (c), Karl Toko EkambiSerbia - Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, Nikola Milenkovic, Milos Veljkovic, Strahinja Pavlovic, Andrija Zivkovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Sasa Lukic, Filip Kostic, Nemanja Maksimovic, Dusan Tadic (c), Aleksandar MitrovicReporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Peter Rutherford;Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Serbia strike late to take 2-1 halftime lead against Cameroon
  + stars: | 2022-11-28 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: 1 min
AL WAKRAH, Qatar, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Strahinja Pavlovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic struck in stoppage time to give Serbia a 2-1 halftime lead against Cameroon in a pivotal Group G clash at the World Cup on Monday. Milinkovic-Savic's left-footed effort came three minutes into added time, two minutes after Pavlovic's header had cancelled out Jean-Charles Castelletto's 29th-minute tap-in, punishing some woeful defending by Cameroon. Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh LawsonOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
DOHA, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Substitutes Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal earned Morocco their first World Cup victory in 24 years as they upset a hugely disappointing Belgium side 2-0 in World Cup Group F on Sunday. It was Morocco's first win at a World Cup since they beat Scotland in 1998. That’s what happens at the World Cup," said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. Croatia, who have a point from their draw with Morocco, play Canada in the other Group F game later on Sunday. As Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne struggled to find his range and Eden Hazard remained largely ineffective, Morocco looked safe.
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