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ROUND OF 16: WALES TAKE ON DENMARK TODAY

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13 days of non-stop action from the Group Stages of Euro 2021 is a treat we all lapped up after a year of waiting courtesy the Covid Pandemic and the following lockdowns. But these 36 matches are only part of the first course of a grand 5 course football buffet that surely will leave every football lover begging for more!

With the group stages over, the round of 16 is all set to kick off from today with the opening day featuring a mouthwatering fixture. The first match of the Opening day of the Pre Quarter Finals will feature Wales against Denmark at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam.

Denmark was the second best team in Group B and scripted a fairy tale journey to qualify for the Round of 16 at this edition of the Euros. After suffering the mid-game collapse of their talismanic attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen and losing to Finland by a solitary goal, the Danes took their time to settle into their groove. Their flair was on display in bits and patches during their 1-2 loss to the FIFA World No 1 team Belgium but in their final group game against Russia the music and the rhythm was only theirs. Denmark played the game of the lives to outplay Russia in a one sided affair with the score line reading 4-1 in their favour. Mikkel Damsgaard, Andreas Christensen, Joakim Mæhle will be shouldering the responsibility of breaking open the gaps in the Wales defense. Yussuf Polsen has already found the opposition net twice. The first coming from a brilliant effort to beat an in-form Thibaut Courtois, who is considered by many as one of the best keepers in the world. One cannot forget their Leicester City Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and left Winger Martin Braithwaite of Barcelona who have had a big role in keeping the Danes in the game.

In these Euros, Wales are a side that has one thing that no other team has. That is their 31 year old Captain Gareth Bale who currently is on loan to Tottenham Hotspurs from Real Madrid. The six times Welsh Footballer of the Year is yet to find his name on the scoresheet but his presence and assists has helped Aaron Ramsey, Connor Roberts and Kieffer Moore to score for Wales. Danny Ward has let in only 2 goals in the Group stages and will hold the key if Wales aspires to scale as high and beyond their Semifinal finish in Euro 2016.  

Denmark does have the edge in this game but with the going getting tough and little room for errors the big game players like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey can stand out and change the course of the game. The game does promise to have edge to edge action and much will rest on the goalkeepers and their ability to deny the opposition from finding the mark.  

The second game features four-time World Champions Italy against Austria on June 27, Sunday. The two teams have locked horns 35 times previously where the Azzurri have 16 and Austria have won 11 matches to their credit, while 8 ending in draws. The last time these two sides faced each other was in August 2008 where the game ended in a 2-2 draw. Italy, who won their maiden European title in 1968, have changed in game, style and character in this edition of the Euros and surprised everyone in the footballing world. Roberto Mancini has more than a few options in finding the opposition net, the team relies on Lazio striker Ciro Immobile and Manuel Locatelli of Sassuolo who have two goals to their credit apart from Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Pessina. The Italian stallions topped Group A firing in 7 goals in their 3 matches and not conceding a single goal. It is a good reflection of the tight defense knot in front of the 6 feet 5 inch tall AC Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.  

Austria on the other hand, lost their group match against Netherlands 0-2 and also conceded goals against debutants North Macedonia while managing a 1-0 win over Ukraine. While they rely on their strikers Gregoritsch and Arnautović to drive inroads into the opposition, their right full back Stefan Lainer who plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach is a goal searching overlapping proposition. But against a formidable defense line like the Netherlands they lacked the firepower and could manage only 8 attacks that could reach the Dutch goal and forcing a save only once.

The odds are stacked against the Austrian side and the balance sways ever so gently toward the Italians when these two face each other at Wembley stadium in London.

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Olympics: Deepika Kumari bows out after losing to top-seed An San

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Star Indian archer Deepika Kumari bowed out of the ongoing Tokyo Olympics after losing to South Korea’s An San in the women’s individual quarter-finals here at Yumenoshima Park on Friday.

Top seed San defeated world number one Deepika in an absolutely dominating fashion 6-0 to march into the semi-finals of the individual event. 20-year-old San is aiming for her third gold medal at Tokyo after finishing top of the podium in the mixed team event and the women’s recurve team event. Korean An San had a brilliant start to the first round as she aimed at three 10s while Deepika shot 7-10-10. San carried that momentum in the second round and clinically shot 9-10-7 to which Indian responded with 10-7-7.

The dominance of the South Korean continued in the third set as she gathered 26 as opposed to 24 of Deepika. Match ended in less than six minutes. With this San will either face USA’s Mackenzie Brown or Mexico’s Alejandra Valencia in the last four.

Earlier in the day, Deepika defeated Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) Ksenia Perova to progress into the quarter-finals (6-5) in the 1/8 Eliminations round in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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YUZVENDRA CHAHAL AND GOWTHAM TEST POSITIVE IN SRI LANKA

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Three days after Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19, it has come to light that spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and K. Gowtham have also tested positive for the virus in Sri Lanka.

Sources in the know of developments confirmed that the duo have tested positive for COVID-19. “Unfortunately, they have tested positive. They were close contacts of Krunal and were already away from the rest of the squad in the team hotel,” the source said. Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and eight Indian players — Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Deepak Chahar, Manish Pandey, Ishan Kishan, and K Gowtham were identified as close contacts.

Being close contacts of Krunal, they were staying away from the rest of the team and didn’t participate in the last two T20Is after Krunal’s test came positive.

Meanwhile, Wanindu Hasaranga’s four-wicket haul and Dhananjaya de Silva’s unbeaten 23-run knock helped Sri Lanka defeat India by seven wickets in the third and final T20I. With this win, Sri Lanka won the series 2-1.Sri Lanka won the T20I series while India had earlier won the ODI series.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS: NUMBER ONE SEED DJOKOVIC BOWS OUT, LOSES TO ZVEREV

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Number one seed Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic on Friday was knocked out of the men’s singles event in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics after losing the semi-final clash. Germany’s Alexander Zverev defeated Djokovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the men’s singles event.

As a result of this loss, Djokovic would not be able to achieve the Golden Slam (all four Grand Slams and Olympic gold) in the same year. Djokovic had brought out his A-game to the court in the first set, and he ended up winning it 6-1. However, disappointment followed for the Serbian as he lost two back-to-back sets and as a result, he bowed out of the tournament.

Djokovic had won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year and now he would look to win the US Open, beginning August this year. Earlier, top seeds Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka were also knocked out of the Olympics.

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INDIA WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM BEAT IRELAND 1-0, KEEP QF HOPES ALIVE

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The Indian women’s hockey team defeated Ireland 1-0 here at the Oi Hockey Stadium North Pitch on Friday. As a result, India’s hopes of making it to the quarter-finals of the women’s hockey event remain intact.

Earlier, the Rani Rampal-led side had suffered defeats in its first three group-stage games. The first quarter between India and Ireland saw no goals and after the end of the first 15 minutes, the scoreline remained 0-0.

A similar story was on the offer in the second quarter and at the halftime mark, the scoreline remained the same and it was Rani Rampal’s side that was feeling the pressure going into the third quarter. The third quarter also saw no goals, however, Navneet Kaur finally broke the deadlock in the fourth quarter and she gave India a lead with three minutes left to play. In the end, India managed to hang on to the advantage to score a 1-0 victory.

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INDIA MEN’S HOCKEY TEAM FIRE ALL CYLINDERS, DEFEAT JAPAN 5-3

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A resilient Indian hockey team came firing on all cylinders to thrash Japan 5-3 in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics on Friday. This was India’s fourth win of the ongoing quadrennial event. The Men In Blue will next be in action in the quarter-finals of the mega event. Japan might have scored three goals but the Indian boys made sure the Men in Blue were in the lead throughout the game and dominated proceedings.

Just two minutes before the end of the third quarter, India earned their second Penalty Corner only to miss the net. But the Indians were in the lead (3-2) with one quarter to go. Both teams got off to a cautious start but the Manpreet Singh-led side broke the shackles and netted the first goal in the 13th minute.

Gurjant Singh then scored early in the second quarter as India doubled the lead over Japan. However, Japan came back with a goal as Tanaka opened the team’s account.

In the third quarter, Kota Watanabe scored an equaliser but Shamsher Singh again put India on top as he scored a goal in the 34th minute. At the end of the third essay, India led 3-2 with a thrilling final quarter on cards. In the final quarter, Nilakanta Sharma doubled India’s lead after a desperate attempt from both sides to find the net.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS: SINDHU DEFEATS YAMAGUCHI, GETS INTO SEMIS

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India shuttler P.V. Sindhu stormed into the semi-finals of the women’s singles event after defeating Japan’s number four seed Akane Yamaguchi in the quarterfinals here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 1 on Friday. Sindhu defeated Yamaguchi 21-13, 22-20. The quarterfinal clash between Sindhu and Yamaguchi lasted for 56 minutes.

The first game was more close than the scoreline suggested and Sindhu had to bring out the best in her to win it 21-13. The scoreline in the first game might not indicate how closely it was fought, but Yamaguchi made her fight for every point. The star Indian shuttler was just one more game away from progressing to the semi-finals.

Yamaguchi made Sindhu toil hard in the second game, and for every point, the Indian shuttler had to be at her best. In the end, the number six seed Sindhu ended up winning the match in straight games.

In the second game of the quarter-final, there was a 54-shot rally between Sindhu and Yamaguchi and it lasted for one minute and two seconds. On Thursday, Sindhu had defeated Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in the Round of 16 match of women’s individual event in the Tokyo Olympics here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 3. Sindhu defeated Blichfeldt 21-15, 21-13 in just 41 minutes to cruise into the quarter-finals.

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