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Gloire éternelle à l’Espagne L’Espagne, en écrasant l’Italie (4-0), est devenue la première nation à réaliser un triplé Euro -Coupe du monde – Euro. Historique et inouï.

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L’Espagne est déjà dans la légende. La Roja a signé un triplé inédit en remportant l’Euro 2012 face à l’Italie (4-0), après avoir gagné l’Euro 2008 et la Coupe du monde 2010. La formation de Vicente Del Bosque a fait la différence en première période grâce à des buts de David Silva (14e) et Jordi Alba (41e) avant d’aggraver la marque en fin de match par Fernando Torres (84e) et Juan Mata (88e) face à une équipe italienne émoussée et sans réalisme, obligée de jouer à dix à partir de la 61e minute suite à une blessure musculaire de Thiago Motta. L’Espagne fait ainsi mieux que l’Allemagne, battue en finale de l’Euro 1976 après avoir gagné l’Euro 1972 et la Coupe du monde 1974, et que la France, sortie au premier tour de la Coupe du monde 2002 après ses succès à la Coupe du monde 1998 et l’Euro 2000. Longtemps pointée du doigt pour son incapacité à gagner des titres, la Roja affiche désormais la suprématie la plus longue de l’histoire du football au niveau international.

L’Italie n’a jamais été en mesure de le contester. Elle a vu les vagues rouges déferler sur son but dès les premières minutes de cette finale. Et l’Espagne a été réaliste. Gianluigi Buffon, d’abord soulagé de voir une frappe de Xavi passer légèrement au-dessus de sa barre (10e), s’est incliné sur le premier tir cadré espagnol. Sur une passe géniale d’Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas a adressé un centre repris victorieusement par David Silva (1-0, 14e). L’attaquant de Manchester City restera comme l’un des éléments les plus influents de l’attaque de la Roja. Avec deux buts et trois passes décisives, il a été directement impliqué sur la moitié des buts de son équipe au cours du tournoi. Et rendu concret le pire scénario possible pour des Italiens handicapés par la sortie sur blessure de Giorgio Chiellini (21e), et qui ont ensuite systématiquement buté sur Iker Casillas. Le dernier rempart espagnol a surtout fait parler la qualité de son placement sur des les tentatives de Mario Balotelli (27e) et d’Antonio Cassano (29e, 33e).

Le bourreau Torres finit le travail

Le cauchemar n’en était pourtant qu’au début pour l’Italie. Sur un contre espagnol, la défense transalpine, trop attentiste, a laissé filer Jordi Alba vers un duel face à Buffon sur un service parfait de Xavi. Le futur Barcelonais, révélation espagnole de l’Euro, a doublé la mise avec sang froid (2-0, 41e). Avec deux buts de retard à la pause, Cesare Prandelli a bien tenté de modifier le cours de choses en faisant entrer Antonio Di Natale pour Cassano. Mais le buteur de l’Udinese n’a pas connu plus de réussite que ses coéquipiers, manquant le cadre de la tête (47e) avant de voir sa frappe à bout portant renvoyée par un Casillas encore bien placé (51e). Pour ne rien arranger, Thiago Motta, à peine entré en jeu (57e), s’est blessé à la cuisse quasiment dans la foulée, laissant son équipe terminer la rencontre à dix puisque Prandelli avait déjà fait ses trois changements.

Avec deux buts de retard et en infériorité numérique, l’Italie a bu le calice jusqu’à la lie. Et Fernando Torres, entré en jeu à la place de Cesc Fabregas pour le dernier quart d’heure, s’est chargé d’administrer la sentence. Lancé dans le dos de la défense par Xavi, “El Niño”, déjà buteur en finale de l’Euro 2008, a récidivé en trompant Buffon d’un plat du pied tout en douceur (3-0, 84e). L’attaquant de Chelsea, une nouvelle fois abandonné par la défense italienne dans la surface, s’est ensuite mué en passeur pour offrir le quatrième but à Juan Mata (4-0, 88e). Le duel si serré auquel la plupart des observateurs s’attendait n’a pas eu lieu. L’Espagne, qui a au passage aligné un neuvième match à élimination directe sans prendre de but dans en compétition international, a affiché sa supériorité dans cette finale à sens unique. Comme une preuve supplémentaire de sa domination incontestable sur le football mondial, symbolisée par ce triplé inédit. Ses yeux peuvent maintenant se tourner vers le Brésil.

Crystal Palace granted reprieve after principle agreement over sale of club and ground

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Crystal Palace were granted a dramatic reprieve yesterday when an intense afternoon of negotiations ended with an agreement in principle for the sale of both the club and the Selhurst Park ground. Crystal Palace administrator Brendan Guilfoyle had set a deadline of 3pm on Tuesday for the resolution of the stand-off between CPFC 2010 – the prospective new owners – and Bank of Scotland, but was satisfied when both parties confirmed their agreement shortly after 4pm. Had there been no progress on Tuesday, the process of selling players and liquidating the club would have begun. As it is, CPFC 2010, who are fronted by local businessmen Steve Parish and Martin Long, were on Tuesday night finalising the detail of a deal with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, who are the administrators for the stadium.

The main difficulty had surrounded the terms of a future sell-on clause for Selhurst Park with Bank of Scotland, who are the main creditors for the ground. CPFC 2010 have already reached agreement with the P&A Partnership – the club´s administrators – and must now hope that they can avoid administration through a Company Voluntary Arrangement. The takeover is dependent on concluding a deal both with the administrators for the club and the stadium. Throughout what has been a complex administration, we had remained hopeful that we could conclude a deal with a purchaser whose vision for the ground matched that of the community, the football club and its supporters, said Barry Gilbertson, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Earlier in the day, hundreds of fearful Palace fans had gathered outside the London headquarters of Lloyds Banking Group, the parent company for Bank of Scotland, and at Selhurst Park in protest at the apparent deadlock. Yet having warned on Monday that the club was facing the prospect of liquidation, CPFC 2010 emerged with optimism after Tuesday´s developments. While it is not 100 per cent done we are confident that all the main barriers have been removed," said a statement. Guilfoyle was forced to make 29 staff redundant on Friday and was unable to fund the monthly wage bill.

World Cup 2010: Portugal wing Nani ruled out of tournament with collar bone injury

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Portugal have suffered a major injury blow following news that winger Nani will play no part in the World Cup after damaging his collar bone. The Manchester United player is thought to have suffered the injury in World Cup training on Friday and will be replaced in the squad by Benfica midfielder Ruben Amorim.Nanis absence will disrupt the plans of Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, who was counting on the 23-year-old following an impressive season at Old Trafford. A statement on the Portuguese Football Federations official website read: “Following the injury to the left clavicle suffered by Nani, a daily assessment of the damage and the completion of medical tests, we have concluded he is unable to be competitive.The medical file will now be presented to the medical department of Manchester United. In light of the report, the Portuguese Football Federation, taking into account the Fifa regulations for the 2010 World Cup, will call-up Ruben Amorim as a replacement. Nani had struggled to hold down a regular first-team place at United following his switch to the Premier League from Sporting Lisbon in 2007. But he emerged from the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo following his compatriots move to Real Madrid last summer and became an integral part of Sir Alex Fergusons side as they narrowly lost out in the title race to Chelsea last term. Amorim made 24 appearances for Benfica last season as they won the league for the first time in five years.

The worlds largest super-ferry

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Watching England warm up today, there was a overriding feeling that something was missing.

It was an eager Labrador of a player, whose spindly legs invariably protrude from a pair of shorts as he bats, bowls and fields with the sprightliness of someone 10 years younger, encourages players in his Geordie twang and makes the odd self-deprecating remark to a passing hack. I am talking of course of Paul Collingwood.Collingwood is the heart and soul of the England team, someone for whom nothing is too much trouble, who will stoically bowl in the nets when all the other players have dragged their enormous kit bags back to the dressing room, and linger afterwards for extra slip catching practice to the slow bowlers or a bit of throwing at a stump. He is never knowingly underprepared.

That is why it is right to give him a rest for this match and presumably series. He has nothing to prove and quite a lot to lose. His body is willing but his mind will be running on empty. After the exertions of the last 12 months, he will have been existing on adrenalin during the world T20. Now back in the real world he will need the nourishment of a bit of time off to rejuvenate his cricketing appetite.

There will be those who say that a month of his exertion was spent in sole self-advancement at the IPL. But his time in India wasn´t without benefit for England. He spoke before he went of the positive influences and sharing of ideas that involvement in the IPL brings, and the development of a different mindset it imbues. In short it banishes fearlessness, which, in a T20 match, translates as not worrying about losing your wicket. It was the hallmark of England´s approach and the reason they won their first world title. Keeping the scoreboard moving was more important than keeping your wicket intact. It´s a big step for naturally cautious, technique-obsessed English players to take. As a result of Collingwood, and Andy Flower´s input, they took it and it paid off. Even Kevin Pietersen reaped the benefit.

Rousting Africa´s Sleeping Giant

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South Africa Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira stood outside the auditorium at Soccer City Stadium on Thursday being interviewed by a television crew when word came that Mexico´s coach, Javier Aguirre, was arriving for his session.

An innocent enough encounter, one that coaches in the United States negotiate all the time. Their paths accidentally cross, they smile and shake hands, and then they go their separate ways.

But not here. Not at South Africa´s World Cup.

The South African delegation wanted to stop the interview on the spot and usher Parreira away from Aguirre so the two coaches would not meet face to face with their teams´ game a day away.

In his remarks, though, Parreira hardly seemed like the kind of person about to be intimidated by the presence of the opposing coach. "Playing in the opening match of the World Cup is special," he said. "But out there on Friday against Mexico it will be a battle – no, make that a war. And we are ready for it."

So this is Parreira – Bafana Bafana´s Brazilian-born, well-traveled mentor, whose task was to transplant his country´s soccer swagger to South Africa´s team.

So far, it has worked. Regardless of the results of Friday´s game, there has been a meaningful transition in the way the South African team conducts itself.

Yes, there have been technical improvements – better conditioning, a greater focus on playing with an accelerated pace and more efficiency.

But what Parreira has really delivered to his players is confidence, which is something that cannot be defended by the opponent. Under his guidance, Bafana Bafana has gone from losing and feeling it would continue to lose, to winning and feeling it will continue to do so. But what exactly did Parreira do to turn things around? Was it something physical, mental?

"Everything," midfielder Lance Davids said. "We improved mentally, physically, technically, everything that a football team can do."

On Thursday, during his news conference, Parreira spoke easily; joked with reporters; answered questions; and displayed his versatility with the languages of the World Cup.

He used English with English-speaking reporters, Spanish with Spanish ones, Portuguese with Portuguese ones. At one point, Parreira even broke in and answered a question meant for Aaron Mokoena, the team captain. Mokoena said that since Parreira took over last year, he had infused South African players with a sense of joy, a trait one normally associates with the Brazilian game that Parreira knows so well.

"We are more relaxed, much fitter and hungrier," Mokoena said. "This is a big game for our country. We know we have to go out there and get a result. But the coach has made it easy for us by keeping the pressure off us and keeping us relaxed. He has had experience of being in this position a number of times, and that experience has been a great help to us."

Parreira coached Brazil to victory in the 1994 World Cup, made subsequent detours to such places as Saudi Arabia and New Jersey, where he coached the MetroStars of Major League Soccer, and then became coach of Brazil again, although that team only made it to the quarterfinals at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

In the aftermath of that failure, Parreira soon resigned. He became coach of the South African team the next year, stepped down in April 2008, but then was brought back in October 2009.

None of this is that unusual in the transient world of elite soccer coaches. Meanwhile, for all the success he enjoyed at times as Brazil´s coach, Parreira has now been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and good will that has been showered on his South African players.

"In this country, soccer has been sleeping for many years now," he said Thursday. "And then suddenly, there was a ray of hope. This team has a face, this team has an identity, this team has confidence."

South African soccer had suffered from a lack of esteem that stemmed from decades of failure. It was undervalued, underestimated and marginalized.

When he took over in South Africa, Parreira instructed his players to put aside the overseas leagues that many of them played in.

"We are now World Cup players," he said he told them. "We are talking about a high level, where the demand is very high technically, tactically, physically and especially mentally."

As South Africa prepares for its debut as the home team in Africa´s first World Cup, Parreira has walked a razor-thin line between instilling confidence and selling false hope. A victory over Mexico on Friday would be spectacular – it would create great harmony and confidence, Parreira said, for his team and for the country.

If the South Africans don´t win, they aren´t done. But the mountain will get a little steeper for a Brazilian coach who has been in so many places in his long career, but perhaps never in a situation as significant as this one.