By DAN KARELL
With both teams failing to score a goal in 120 grueling minutes of soccer at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, any outcome seemed likely.
It was the Spanish National Team though that showed why they were still the team to beat in the world, calmly hitting all of their penalty kicks to defeat Italy, 7-6 on PKs, in the Confederations Cup semifinals. With the win, Spain advances to the final on Sunday in Rio De Janeiro, where they’ll face the host nation, Brazil.
The two squads suffered through long periods of possession without finding goals, with shots pinging off posts and tiredness creeping into the legs and minds of the players as both teams trudged on. Spain midfielder Xavi took a 25th minute strike that was palmed off the post while later Emanuele Giaccherini of Italy had one ping away as well. Spain midfielders Jesus Navas and Andres Iniesta spent the entire game running and tiring the Italian defense, yet their “bend but don’t break” method of defending kept Spain off the board after regulation and extra time.
Finally in the penalty shootouts, despite a brilliantly taken “panenka” kick by Italy’s Antonio Candreva, Spain kept their cool, slotting home six times before Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci stepped up to take a penalty kick. Bonucci sent his shot over the bar, and the ensuing penalty kick taken by Jesus Navas was dispatched past Buffon for the game-winner.
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SPAIN, FRANCE, PORTUGAL, NIGERIA PROGRESS AT U-20 WORLD CUP
Four nations at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup ensured a place in the knockout rounds on Thursday.
Spain defeated France, 3-1, with yet another goal coming from Real Madrid starlet Jese, earning the Iberian nation top spot in Group A. France was helped by Nigeria’s victory over the U.S., which allowed the French to qualify for the next round automatically.
Portugal ran over Cuba in a 5-0 victory for the Group B leaders. Portugal winger Bruma scored his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament on either side of halftime as Ricardo, To Ze, and Aladje each added goals of their own in the blowout victory. Nigeria needed just one goal to take down South Korea, a ninth minute strike from Olarenwaju Kayode proving to be the difference.
Next up for Spain and Portugal are third-placed finishers, while Nigeria will face the runners-up in Group F and France will face the runners-up in Group C.
BLANC INTRODUCED AT PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
After a two-year stint with the French national team, Laurent Blanc is now officially back in the league that made him famous as a player and manager.
Blanc was formally introduced Thursday as the new manager of defending League 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. The 47-year-old, who started his managing career with a successful stint at Bordeaux, had been away from coaching since resigning as national team manager almost one year ago.
“When a club wins the championship with 83 points and reaches the quarter-finals of the Champions League, the aim will be to do just as well, if not better, in terms of titles, in terms of points and in terms of the quality of our play,” Blanc said of PSG’s ambitions. “Paris are a great club, where demands are very high. We have the means to construct a great team so we should be competitive.”
Blanc spent three seasons at Bordeaux, where he won a domestic double in his second season. The former French international then left to become the national team manager, and he resigned shortly after a quarterfinal finish at Euro 2012.
SPORTS COUNCIL TO PUSH FOR COLLECTIVE LA LIGA TV RIGHTS
In a move that would seek to overall club finances and increase league competitiveness, Spain’s Sports Council has announced a plan that would end FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s TV revenue dominance in the country.
Miguel Cardenel, president of Spain’s Sports Council, announced Thursday that he plans to present a new law by the end of the year that would give La Liga collective control of all television rights.
Cardenel said the law would make individual club’s finances more transparent, making it easier for the Spanish government to collect payments on tax debts.
“The centralization (of TV rights) would let the public administrations be the first to get paid,” he said. “Thirty-five percent of revenues from TV rights won’t be passed on to the clubs that can’t show they are up to date on their payments.”
FC Barcelona and Real Madrid currently rake in $182 million a year in television revenue alone. The third-highest earning club, Atletico Madrid, makes $61 million from TV, and small club Rayo Vallecano makes only $18.2 million.
What do you make of these reports? Who did you think would win the penalty shootout? Impressed by Portugal’s win over Cuba? How do you see Blanc settling at PSG?
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