US are ready to surprise Colombia in Copa America

Jurgen Klinsmann is confident the United States can spring a surprise over Colombia in Santa Clara on Friday when his team kicks off the Copa America Centenario determined to launch an extended run in the competition.

Two years after the USA emerged from the “Group of Death” at the 2014 World Cup, reaching the knockout rounds at the expense of Portugal and Ghana, Klinsmann’s men find themselves with another daunting first round assignment.

As well as the Colombians, the Americans face World Cup quarterfinalists Costa Rica and last year’s Copa America semifinalists Paraguay in Group A, easily the toughest group in the 16-team tournament. Naijabet

Yet Klinsmann is relishing the prospect of trying to mastermind another upset of Colombia on US soil, 22 years after the Americans’ famous win over the South Americans at the 1994 World Cup.

The former German international wants to see how his team measures up against powerful opponents in Friday’s opener at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara as he builds towards the 2018 World Cup.

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Neville wants new deal for Hodgson

England manager Roy Hodgson’s work over the last four years should earn him a contract extension, his assistant Gary Neville has said.

Hodgson, who took over from Fabio Capello in May 2012, led England to a quarter-final finish at the European Championship a month later but he oversaw a poor 2014 World Cup campaign, where the side were eliminated at the group stages.

“Yes, people would argue that the 2014 tournament was a major disappointment,” Neville said in an interview in Henry Winter’s book “Fifty Years of Hurt”.

“I’d agree with that but this summer is a big moment in terms of how the four years will be viewed, in terms of the four-year contract we were all given. People will judge it based upon tournaments.”

The Football Association decided not to discuss a new deal for Hodgson until after Euro 2016, which begins in France on June 10, but Neville said the 68-year-old deserved an extension based on what he had achieved so far.

“I think Roy can be proud of an excellent piece of work. It needs a good finish in the summer,” Neville added.

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Messi to take stand at tax fraud trial

Argentina and Barcelona football star Lionel Messi, one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, is due to take the stand Thursday for the first time at his tax fraud trial in Spain.

The 28-year-old and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros ($4.6 million) of Messi’s income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09.

The striker will take the stand on the third and likely last day of the trial. Naija and Bet

After his court appearance in Barcelona, the five-time World Player of the Year will jet off to the United States where Argentina take on Copa America defending champions Chile in their first game of the three-week tournament in California on Monday.

The high-profile case kicked off on Tuesday without Messi, as he was recovering in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina from a lower back injury he suffered during a friendly match against Honduras last week.

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Kaka out of Brazil’s Copa America squad

Kaka has dropped out of the Brazil squad for the Centenary Copa America due to injury and will be replaced by Paulo Henrique Ganso, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said on Wednesday.

Attacking midfielder Ganso “will replace Kaka, who suffered a muscle injury that was revealed in a scan – his recovery time is estimated at 20 days,” the CBF statement said.

The Centenary Copa America starts on Friday, with Brazil kicking off their campaign against Ecuador the following day. Naijabet

They will also face Peru and Haiti in the group stage of the tournament, which is being held in the United States for the first time.

Kaka, who himself was a late replacement for Douglas Costa, is the fifth player to drop out the squad due to injury.

Spain to easy win 6-1 against South korea

European Champions Spain produced a dominant display to thrash South Korea 6-1 in Salzburg, Austria, on Wednesday in their penultimate friendly before Euro 2016.

Celta Vigo forward Nolito staked a claim for a starting berth in the opening group game against the Czech Republic by netting twice after David Silva and Cesc Fabregas had given Spain a two-goal lead around the half hour.

Juventus forward Alvaro Morata also scored twice, either side of Nolito’s second-half strike, to round off Spain’s biggest win since they thrashed Tahiti 10-0 in 2013. Substitute Jong Tae-se got a consolation goal for South Korea. Naijabet

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque made four changes to the team that comfortably beaten Bosnia 3-1 last Sunday, recalling Iker Casillas, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Morata.

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Rooney excited by Mourinho appointment

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney on Wednesday hailed the club’s “exciting” appointment of new manager Jose Mourinho.

Former Chelsea manager Mourinho, 53, was appointed on a three-year contract last week and succeeds the sacked Louis van Gaal.

“It’s exciting. He’s one of the best managers in the world,” Rooney told a press conference in Watford ahead of England’s friendly against Portugal on Thursday. Naijabet

“Obviously he knows the Premier League really well. For myself and the Manchester United players, it’s exciting times. I’m looking forward to it.”

“I’m among the best strikers – Lukaku

Everton’s Romelu Lukaku has described himself as one of the most gifted strikers in world football after scoring 25 goals in all competitions for his Premier League club last season.

Despite his form in front of goal Everton finished 11th and sacked manager Roberto Martinez, although Lukaku still rates the season as his finest in terms of individual achievement.

“I’m among the best. That’s good. Personally I am happy,” Lukaku said in an interview with the June edition of World Soccer magazine. “I did expect to produce a season of this calibre.” Naijabet

The 23-year-old is part of Belgium’s squad for this month’s European Championship in France, where his team play Italy, Ireland and Sweden in Group E.

Lukaku, who may face club mates Seamus Coleman, Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy when Belgium play Ireland on June 18, said the prospect of going head-to-head with them at the Euros had been part of the dressing room banter at the club.

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England set for Portugal dress rehearsa

England manager Roy Hodgson could reveal his hand ahead of Euro 2016 when his side tackle Portugal at Wembley on Thursday in their final pre-tournament warm-up match.

Hodgson finalised his 23-man squad for the campaign on Tuesday, including 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford and cutting loose Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater and Newcastle United’s Andros Townsend.

Rashford needed just 138 seconds to open his England account on his debut against Australia last Friday and midfielder Jordan Henderson has backed him to enjoy a distinguished international career. Naijabet

“It reflects the season he’s had –- he’s got no fear and wants the ball all the time in behind and it was a great finish from him,” said the Liverpool captain of the youngster’s adroit volley.

“Marcus is good on the ball, he’s got good movement, his finishing is very good for a young lad. He’s got everything.

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Messi targets drought as Copa Centenario kicks off

Lionel Messi and Argentina will be targeting the country’s 23-year title drought when the Copa America Centenario kicks off on Friday after a troubled build-up marred by corruption allegations which threatened to derail the event.

One hundred years after Uruguay clinched the inaugural four-team South American championship in Argentina, 16 teams from across the Americas are gathered in the United States for a special one-off edition of the tournament.

The three-week festival of football gets under way at the Levi’s Stadium in California on Friday, when the United States face Colombia at the home of the San Francisco 49ers American football team.

The tournament will conclude with a final at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on June 26, drawing a line under what is arguably the biggest tournament held in the United States since the 1994 World Cup. Naijabet

Billed as a celebration of football across the Americas, 10 South American teams and six teams from the CONCACAF (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) region make up the field.

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Alaba, Fuchs make headline in Austria

Austria coach Marcel Koller on Tuesday named his 23-man Euro 2016 line-up headlined by David Alaba and Christian Fuchs, winners of league titles in Germany and England respectively.

Koller made the announcement after his side beat Malta 2-1 in a pre-European tournament friendly in Klagenfurt despite an Alaba own goal.

Early goals by Marko Arnautovic and Alessandro Schoepf helped Austria to victory before Alaba’s blunder in the 87th minute as he cleared to keeper Ramazan Oezcan, who was standing beside his goal. Naija and Bet

The 23-year-old Alaba, fresh from winning a fifth Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich, will occupy the role of versatile midfielder in France, beside Marko Arnautovic and Martin Harnik.

The Austrian defence is built around captain Fuchs, winner of the English Premier League title with Leicester City, backed up by Aleksandar Dragovic, who returns from injury.

Veteran Marc Janko, also a recent injury worry, will be up front, alongside Rubin Okotie and Lukas Hinterseer.

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