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World awaits epic Euro and Copa America finals

While England will face Italy in the Euro Cup, Brazil will take on Argentina in the Copa America on Sunday.

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This week means a lot for the world of football. Everyone is curious to know for which team it will be a Super Sunday in the Euro Cup and who will lift the Copa America Cup. Will England be able to capture the title for the first time? Will the Italian team, playing in a completely different style, win this after a long time? Will Neymar and Messi’s clash in the Copa America Cup be successful in grabbing everyone’s attention?

If we talk about the Copa America Cup, then FIFA has given very interesting information about it. According to FIFA, a total of 105 matches have been played between Argentina and Brazil, in which Argentina’s team has been victorious on 38 occasions while Brazil’s team has won on 41 occasions; 26 matches were drawn. There was not much difference between the two teams in terms of scoring goals. While Argentina scored a total of 160 goals, Brazil scored 163 goals. This time the final of the Copa America Cup will be played between these two at the Maracana Stadium on 10 July.

If we talk about Brazil and Argentina, Neymar and Messi are the biggest attraction. Both are stars of their respective teams. Neymar’s biggest strengths are his quickness, dribbling, dodging and ball skills. All four of these things have been witnessed in the Copa America Cup as well. At times, he is adept at scoring goals by hitting three defenders.  On the other hand, Messi is the legendary footballer, as far as free-kicks are concerned. This time, on two out of four occasions, his goals were seen on the free-kick itself. The whole world knows that he proceeds in playing on the right and surprises everyone by scoring a goal with the left footer. It becomes almost impossible for any team to stop him. Of course, Neymar is slightly above Messi in dribbling, but this time at the Copa America, Messi has taken a slight lead in this matter.

Neymar proved to be the second most dribbler in this case. His scintillating dribbling on 21 occasions in four matches was a sight to behold. Messi has been seen doing almost similar dribbling on 22 occasions in four matches. Neymar is also enjoying the experience of PSG. He has scored two goals in this tournament and has a hand in three goals, while Messi has scored four goals in the tournament and has assisted in five goals.

It is also true that so far Neymar has not been able to perform at the continental level as per his abilities. This can be said by looking at his performance in the Copa America for the last ten years. In 2011 and 2015, his team got out of this tournament very quickly. Then the team of Paraguay was also dominating this team in the penalty shoot-out. Well, Neymar likes to play for the country. Four years ago he participated in the Rio Olympics and was instrumental in getting Brazil its first gold.

On the other hand, most of the successes of Lionel Messi have been seen in club matches. It is a different matter that he is counted among the greatest players of the century and is placed in the line of all-time greats Pele and Maradona. However, Messi’s team-mates can also be held responsible for not winning a major final for his country. Following the match against Peru, Neymar admitted that he would like to play Argentina in the final. As the Selecao striker will look to help Brazil retain the crown on their home ground, Messi on the other hand will want to be third time lucky after missing out on two Copa America finals.

It wouldn’t be the World Cup title, but winning this Copa América would lift an enormous burden off Messi’s shoulders. After losing the 2014 World Cup final and two consecutive Copa América finals (2015 and 2016), Messi will have another shot at a title against another formidable foe. Ahead of the final, Lionel Messi was talking to the press and was full of praise for his former club teammate, Neymar. He admitted the game against Brazil would be difficult, especially because of Neymar. Lionel Messi is currently a free agent as his contract at Barcelona has expired. The Barcelona star is free to hold talks with any club in the world but reports suggest that the Catalan side are confident of keeping him.

Now it remains to be seen whether the magic of Neymar’s dribbling and dodging works or the magic of Messi’s free-kick and his especially left-footer works.

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LIONEL MESSI TAKES HOME HIS SEVENTH BALLON D’OR

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Popular Argentine striker Lionel Messi on Monday (local time) won the 2021 Ballon d’Or, adding the seventh golden ball to his account. The 34-year-old, who is also the star player of Paris St-Germain football club, has won Ballon d’Or in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021. The official Twitter account of Ballon d’Or #ballondor tweeted, “HERE IS THE WINNER! SEVEN BALLON D’OR FOR LIONEL MESSI! #ballondor.”

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski ranked second and Chelsea’s Jorginho stood third as runners up to the Ballon d’Or. “Congratulations Leo Messi and @alexiaputellas winners of the #BallonDor2021, congratulations also to all nominated players! I won Striker of the Year Award and no player can win an individual award without strongest team and loyal fans behind him. Thank you for your support,” tweeted Lewandowski.

Gianluigi Donnarumma of PSG also took home the Yashin Trophy for goalkeeper of the year, and Pedri Gonzalez of Barcelona won the Kopa Trophy for the best young player. Alexia Putellas of Barcelona won the women’s Ballon d’Or. The Ballon d’Or ceremony crowned mainstream footballers at the Theatre du Chatelet, in Paris.

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ABID ALI, SHAFIQUE GUIDE PAKISTAN TO EIGHT WICKET WIN

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Abid Ali and Abdullah Shafique went on to play knocks of 91 and 73 respectively as Pakistan defeated Bangladesh by eight wickets in the first Test here at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium on Tuesday.

With this win, Pakistan has gained a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.

Heading into Day 5 of the Test, the visitors needed just 93 more runs for the win and the opening batters made light work of the chase. Resuming Day 5 at 109/0, overnight batters Ali and Shafique started from where they left off and the duo kept Bangladesh bowlers at bay. However, the 151-run opening stand finally came to an end in the 43rd over as Mehidy Hasan dismissed Shafique (73).

Abid Ali (91) failed to reach the three-figure mark and Pakistan lost its second wicket, still, 31 runs away from the target. In the end, it was Azhar Ali (24*) and skipper Babar Azam (13*) who took Pakistan over the line by nine wickets in the first session on Day 5.

Brief Scores: Bangladesh 330 and 157; Pakistan 286 and 203/2 (Abid Ali 91, Abdullah Shafique 73; Mehidy Hasan 1-59).

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Buttler feels like he has ‘nothing to lose’ Down Under

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England wicketkeeper-batter Jos Buttler has said that he feels like he has nothing to lose in the upcoming Ashes. The five-match Ashes will begin on December 8 at the Gabba. Australia recently named Pat Cummins and Steve Smith as their new Test captain and vice-captain. “I feel like I have nothing to lose, to be honest. It’s sort of been disjointed, that year just gone. Some good form and some bad form and in the year before as well. It’s the first time I’m experiencing an Ashes series in Australia so I’m fully determined to enjoy all the challenges that throws up. I’m excited to experience it, the good the bad, and I’m sure the highs and lows along the way,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Buttler as saying.

“As a player at the minute, I’m trying to bring a fearless approach and to truly try and embrace the opportunity. I know when I get to somewhere near my best that’s going to be pretty good,” he added. Buttler has some experience of playing in Australia but it is all in the white-ball formats. He averages 38.71 from 18 ODIs Down Under.

“Familiarity with some conditions is something I can dip into and hopefully not be surprised by. But I think the challenge always as a player is to adapt to any conditions that are in front of you and adapt quickly. The practice, when you can practice, is incredibly important for that and your first five, 10 balls are vital as a player to understanding the conditions and playing accordingly,” said Buttler. “But certainly I will try to dip into that experience and I’m in my early 30s now so played quite a bit of cricket and hopefully know what to expect,” he added.

Talking about the Covid-19 Omicron variant, Buttler said: “It’s a hypothetical situation at the minute. Until we get told that something’s changed there’s no decision to make and it just adds to the unknown. So it’s things I don’t really need to worry about at the moment. If something like that happens I have to get the information and we can work through it and see how that looks.”

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If I get a chance to coach Axar, I can help him to become a world class spinner

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Ravichandran Ashwin has revealed that he feared his career would not survive the chaos unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic last year.  It is good that Ashwin is still performing well. In the Kanpur Test too, he has shown his importance by taking six wickets.

Well R. Ashwin can play cricket for at least three to four more years. I am sure the coach of the team, Rahul Dravid, keeps motivating him. This player has great talent. By the way, it is also a fact that this player had to sit out during the Test series in England and was not even included in first two important matches of the T20 World Cup, but despite all this, he did not give up and whenever he got the opportunity, he performed well. In fact, it is the result of India’s little defensive thinking on foreign soil that he has to sit out and Ravindra Jadeja has been given priority over him. I don’t think anyone should be disappointed with such things.

By the way, the biggest judge of any bowler is hidden inside him. When R Ashwin feels that he is not giving his best, then he will not take time to clear the space for someone else. He is currently showing his utility for the team. Apart from his excellent bowling, his batting in the lower order also proves to be very useful for the team.

At the same time, Axar Patel has got record-breaking success in Test cricket. That is, getting five wickets five times in four Tests is a huge success. Some of his deliveries have been really good which shows the hidden talent in him. Although it is also true that till now he has got opportunities to play in India only. I haven’t seen him bowling in adverse conditions or playing on a pitch favouring seem bowling. Being a left-arm spinner, I love watching him bowl. It would be a different experience to watch him bowl on pitches where spinners don’t have anything special to do and only then can an opinion be formed about him.

Of course, if I get a chance to teach or coach this player the tricks of his left arm bowling, I can be of great help to him in making him a world class spinner.

The author has played 35 Tests and 59 ODIs for Team India as a left arm spinner.

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WAS A BIG RELIEF: RACHIN RAVINDRA AFTER FIRST TEST

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New Zealand all-rounder Rachin Ravindra said he felt “big relief” when the Kiwis managed to survive by the barest of margins on the last day of the first Test against India. New Zealand’s Rachin and Ajaz Patel put up a gritty performance to ensure that the visitors walked away with a draw at Green Park, Kanpur on Monday. Team India had taken eight wickets on Day 5 of the first Test but some late drama and stout-hearted performance from New Zealand’s tail ensured a draw.

“It was a pretty incredible moment I think, taking in the crowd and how loud they were and all the fielders around the bat. It’s the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid. You watch test matches like that and that’s where your heroes and your idols are made,” said Rachin. “It’s the stuff of dreams being able to take in the crowd. I know my process, I have done my training and I backed myself to do this. It was like a big relief, I was thinking ball after ball, ball after ball, ‘how many overs to go’ and obviously a big relief,” he added.

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South Africa expects series with India to go ahead as planned

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South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has released a statement, saying it expects the bilateral cricket series between India and South Africa to go ahead in December-January.

The statement comes following concerns that the tour might have to be called off due to the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. India is slated to visit South Africa in December-January. The side will play three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is.

“South Africa will take all precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of the Indian teams. ‘A’ full Bio-secure environment will be established around both the South African and Indian ‘A’ Teams as well as the two National Teams,” said the official statement.“India’s decision to show solidarity by choosing to continue with the tour of the Indian ‘A’ Team stands in contrast with a number of countries who have decided to close their borders and to restrict travel from Southern African after South Africa announced the detection of the new Omicron variant,” it added.

The statement further said: “The South African Government has expressed its appreciation to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for allowing the tour to continue and for not letting travel restrictions negatively impact on international sports.”

India A is also currently in South Africa fulfilling their commitment of playing three 4-day games.

“The South African Government wishes to welcome the Indian ‘A’ Cricket Team that is currently in South Africa to play three unofficial test matches against the South African ‘A’ Team,” read the statement.

The Omicron variant a new variant of the coronavirus, was first reported in Botswana on November 11, 2021, and appeared on November 14 in South Africa.

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