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‘Surprising’ Jude Bellingham Helps Real Madrid Crush Osasuna, Overtake Girona



Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said nobody expected Jude Bellingham to be so explosive in front of goal after the midfielder hit a brace to send Madrid back top of La Liga on Saturday with a 4-0 win over Osasuna. Girona’s 1-0 win at Cadiz temporarily gave the Catalan minnows a one-point lead but Madrid cruised to victory at the Santiago Bernabeu to reclaim first place, with Vinicius Junior and Joselu also scoring in the rout. England international Bellingham, the division’s top scorer with eight goals, was at his unstoppable best once more in the final third.

Ancelotti has shifted the former Borussia Dortmund player into a more attacking role, with freedom to move behind two more central strikers and it has paid dividends.

After scoring a brilliant solo goal against Napoli in midweek in the Champions League and adding two more against Osasuna, the midfielder now has 10 goals across both competitions in 10 appearances.

“Bellingham is finding a lot of chances in attack, he’s very involved in the team’s attacking play and not having a fixed position gives him an advantage,” Ancelotti told reporters.

“It’s been a surprising start to the season for him in all aspects. Obviously nobody expected this level, in terms of goals.”

Ancelotti deployed defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni alongside Antonio Rudiger at the heart of defence, with David Alaba and Eder Militao injured, and Nacho suspended after his rash tackle last weekend against Girona.

However Tchouameni enjoyed a quiet afternoon at the back as Madrid dominated to ensure they will stay top over the international break.

Luka Modric, afforded a rare start, helped create the opener by feeding Dani Carvajal who laid the ball off neatly to Bellingham.

The midfielder, who had surged into the box, slammed the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

“I like to visualise the game, I see the pitch, the grass, my playing position… that way I feel calmer,” Bellingham told Real Madrid TV.

‘Top form’

Bellingham started and finished Madrid’s second goal in the 55th minute as Madrid dominated, darting forward and playing a one-two with Fede Valverde, before sweeping home.

Fans gave him a standing ovation as he left the pitch, with many singing the chorus of Beatles song “Hey Jude”.

“I don’t know how to thank the fans, they’ve welcomed me into this family like one of their own,” added Bellingham.

Ancelotti warned one day he may use the Englishman in a deeper role.

“Everyone knows he’s not a centre forward who scores goals, he’s an attacking midfielder, or a central midfielder,” said Ancelotti.

“When the moment comes, I think he can play with a different type of attitude and contribution, helping the team in terms of hard work, obviously, and with quality.”

Vinicius extended Madrid’s lead, with the Brazilian rounding goalkeeper Herrera and tapping home.

The winger turned provider for the fourth goal, setting up Joselu for his fifth league goal in his last six games.

Joselu’s sixth should have followed when David Garcia conceded a penalty for handball, but Herrera saved the forward’s effort down the middle.

Osasuna’s goalkeeper has a superb penalty-saving record, including stopping two from former Madrid forward Karim Benzema in one match.

It did not take the shine off Madrid’s afternoon, as they celebrated their most emphatic win of the season to date.

Short-lived lead

Aleix Garcia’s tidy strike earned Michel’s Girona, now two points behind Madrid, their narrow victory at Cadiz on Saturday.

Cadiz gave themselves an uphill struggle when Darwin Machis was sent off after 10 minutes for a high lunge.

The Yellow Submarine still managed to play their part in an end-to-end clash, ultimately decided by Garcia’s strike just before the hour mark.

Girona’s playmaker swept home brilliantly from outside the area to put his team ahead against their mid-table opponents.

Champions Barcelona, who are third, visit Granada on Sunday.

Sevilla snatched a 2-2 draw at home against Rayo Vallecano, with Youssef En-Nesyri heading home in the 96th minute.

Valencia prevented Mallorca from earning their first home win of the season with a 1-1 draw.

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Switzerland Defeat Hungary 3-1 In UEFA Euro 2024 Opener




Switzerland made a flying start at Euro 2024 as Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer scored their first international goals in a 3-1 win against Hungary on Saturday. Murat Yakin’s side raced into a two-goal lead by half-time in Cologne to kick off their Group A campaign in impressive fashion. Duah opened the scoring in only his second international appearance after making his debut earlier this month. The London-born 27-year-old, who plays for Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad, holds dual citizenship with Ghana and Switzerland, who will be relieved he opted to represent them on the evidence of this dynamic display.

After providing the assist for Duah’s opener, Bologna midfielder Aebischer netted his maiden Switzerland goal with an eye-catching long-range strike just before the interval.

Barnabas Varga’s seventh goal in nine starts for Hungary set up a tense finale, but Breel Embolo struck in stoppage-time to seal the points.

Following reports of a rift between Yakin and his players over tactics, Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka insisted on Friday that the air had been cleared in time for the Euros.

A recent dinner with Yakin featuring “plenty of wine” healed the wounds and the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder showed his support for the manager with an influential performance.

Switzerland beat France on penalties in the last 16 at Euro 2020 before losing a shoot-out to Spain in the quarter-finals.

They will hope to emulate that memorable run after enjoying a perfect start in a group that also includes hosts Germany, who thrashed Scotland 5-1 in the tournament opener on Friday.

Switzerland face Scotland in their second game on Wednesday, while Hungary play Germany the same day.

Hungary boss Marco Rossi had urged his side to embrace the pressure of being ranked as one of Europe’s emerging forces.

But their dismal first half proved fatal, showing that comparisons to Hungary’s ‘Mighty Magyars’, who finished as runners-up at the 1954 World Cup, were rather premature.

Swiss on a roll

Switzerland needed just 12 minutes to puncture Hungarian optimism in ruthless fashion.

Aebischer slipped a perfectly weighted pass through the heart of the Hungary defence, sending Duah through to plant a clinical low finish past Peter Gulacsi.

Duah’s celebrations were initially curtailed by an erroneous offside flag, but the decision was corrected by VAR as Switzerland’s players mobbed their unheralded hero.

Ruben Vargas should have sent the roiling red sea of Switzerland fans into ecstasy again moments later.

Vargas intercepted Milos Kerkez’s wayward pass on the edge of the area, but the winger was left holding his head in frustration after his shot cannoned off Gulacsi’s shoulder.

The Swiss were on a roll and Willi Orban wasted a golden opportunity to halt their momentum with a close-range header that was straight at Yann Sommer.

It was a crucial moment as Aebischer doubled Switzerland’s lead on the stroke of half-time.

With Hungary sat too deep, a flowing Swiss move climaxed with Aebischer curling a superb strike into the far corner from 25 yards.

Varga gave Hungary a lifeline in the 66th minute, just moments after he had missed a sitter.

Dominik Szoboszlai‘s pin-point cross found Varga and his diving header whistled past Sommer from six yards.

Hungary pushed hard for an equaliser, but Embolo came off the bench to chip a cool finish over Gulacsi in the final seconds.

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Spain’s Lamine Yamal, Aged 16, Becomes Youngest Ever Euros Player




Lamine Yamal will become the youngest player to ever play at the Euros.© AFP

Lamine Yamal will become the youngest player ever to feature at a European Championship after Spain coach Luis de la Fuente selected him to start their first match against Croatia on Saturday. The Barcelona winger, aged just 16 years and 338 days old, will beat Polish international Kacper Kozlowski, who played at Euro 2020 at 17 years and 246 days old. If Yamal scores during the tournament in Germany he will break the record for youngest goalscorer at the Euros, set by Johan Vonlanthen for Switzerland against France in 2004.

Yamal has enjoyed a superb breakthrough season at Barcelona after making his debut with the Catalan giants aged 15 in the 2023-24 campaign.

De la Fuente handed Yamal his Spain debut in September last year, when he became the country’s youngest ever player and goalscorer against Georgia in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Yamal was not even born when Croatia captain Luka Modric, 38, made his major tournament debut at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

“When I hear that kind of thing, I feel really old,” joked Modric.

“Everyone will see him as the greatest danger for Spain, he’s got great potential and a great career in front of him.”

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“Impossible To Beat Germany”: Hungary Coach Blasts Team After Switzerland Loss In Euro 2024




A dejected look on Hungary forward Barnabas Varga, during their defeat to Switzerland in Euro 2024.© AFP

Marco Rossi slammed his Hungary flops after their Euro 2024 campaign started with a dismal 3-1 defeat against Switzerland on Saturday and warned it may be “impossible” to defeat group favourites Germany in their next match. Rossi’s side failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing as dark horses with a lacklustre display in Cologne. They were rocked by first half strikes from Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer, who both netted their maiden international goals. Barnabas Varga’s second-half header gave Hungary hope, but Breel Embolo came off the bench to net in stoppage-time in his first international appearance since 2022.

“We had a tactical misunderstanding. We didn’t cope and have time to press them. The first half was very bad. We were too passive,” Rossi said.

“Switzerland are very experienced, with quality players all over the pitch. Against teams at this level, you run the risk of doing bad things. They made the most of our mistakes.”

Taking his share of the blame, as well as lambasting his players, Rossi said: “I’m not looking for guilty people. I’m the coach and need to take my responsibility.

“We had some short-comings in individual performances. There aren’t many strategies to stop individual mistakes.

“It’s hard to say anyone did well apart from two or three performances.”

Hungary’s defeat leaves them three points behind hosts Germany and second placed Switzerland in Group A.

A loss against Germany on Wednesday would be a hammer blow to Hungary’s hopes of making the last 16, and Rossi admitted he is not confident of upsetting the odds.

“We play Germany in four days. I dare anybody to bet one Hungarian forint on us. As of today that looks impossible,” he said.

“Germany are a different team than the last Euros, they proved it against Scotland. In my opinion they are the biggest favourite of the European Championship.”

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