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UCL final: He had most chances – Antonio Conte singles out one player

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Former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager, Antonio Conte, has singled out Romelu Lukaku for praise, saying the striker had the most chances and made the difference during Inter Milan’s Champions League final 1-0 defeat to Manchester City last weekend.

Lukaku faced criticism after Inter Milan’s defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League final last weekend in Turkey as he missed an excellent chance to equalise in the closing stages of the encounter.

The Belgium international is expected to return back to Chelsea this summer after his loan spell at Inter Milan expires this month.

However, Lukaku’s season was disrupted by injury and Inter Milan’s hierarchy has raised doubts over the possibility of a permanent deal this summer due to his fitness issues.

But Conte believes Lukaku, who was a key part of his title-winning Inter side in 2021, still has the quality to make an impact in matches for the Serie A giants.

“Romelu showed even in those 30 minutes in the [Champions League] final what he can do because that was the period of the game where Inter had the most chances,” Conte said at an awards ceremony in Arezzo.

“Putting a player of his strength onto the pitch makes the difference.

“He had injury problems this year, but nobody can doubt his quality.”

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Super Falcons ranked 1st in Africa, 38 in the world

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Nigeria’s Super Falcons are currently ranked 38 in the world and first in Africa, according to the latest FIFA/Coca Cola Women’s World rankings released on Friday.

Nearly three months have gone by since the rankings was last published, and no fewer than 154 international football matches have been played during that timeframe.

According to FIFA, the qualifying fixtures for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, Paris 2024 held in Africa, and the UEFA Women’s EURO 2025 qualifiers in Europe impacted on the rankings.

“These intense encounters in addition to a large number of friendly fixtures, resulted in several changes to the standings, including an adjustment to the top three”, the statement said.

Spain is top, reigning supreme for another edition, but the pressure is mounting. France surges into second place, overtaking a slipping England who now sits at third.

Big movers also include Montenegro (up 4 to 85th) and El Salvador (up 7 to 90th) making impressive strides within the top 100.

Belarus (up 2 to 55th) claims the biggest points gain (a whopping 31.91!), while North Macedonia (up a staggering 12 to 123rd) celebrates the most significant ranking jump after dominant wins.

Other than the Macedonians, five other national teams hit their highest-ever points totals: Spain, Zambia, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and Congo DR.

In fact, Zambia (64th, up 1) has two reasons to celebrate, as they have also attained their best-ever placing in a table that is likely to change further in the next few months.

Meanwhile, other African representatives, South Africa and Morocco are ranked 51 and 59 in the world, placing second and third in Africa respectively.

The next FIFA rankings will be published on Aug. 16.

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NFF set to appoint Super Eagles technical adviser

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The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, is planning to appoint a new technical adviser for the Super Eagles, who would be Finidi George’s immediate boss, according to ScoreNigeria.

The football house only appointed Finidi as the substantive coach in April.

Before his appointment, the former international was an assistant to Jose Peseiro, whose contract ended in February.

However, Finidi’s tenure has not gone well. As interim coach, he led Nigeria to defeat Ghana and lose to Mali.

Following his permanent appointment as Super Eagles coach, the team played out a 1-1 draw with South Africa in a 2026 World Cup qualifier and suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Benin in a neutral venue.

Those results have put Nigeria in a difficult situation in the World Cup qualifiers, as they are condemned to win at least four of their last six games.

It is believed that to salvage the situation, the NFF has scheduled a meeting with Sports Minister Owan Enoh to agree on getting a new technical adviser.

The NFF is proposing to have someone, most likely a foreigner with more experience as a coach, under whom Finidi will work.

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Thiago Motta named as new coach of Juventus

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Italian giants Juventus on Wednesday named Thiago Motta as their new coach, replacing Massimiliano Allegri who was sacked last month.

“It’s official, the next Juventus coach will be Thiago Motta. The Italian-Brazilian has signed with Juventus until June 30, 2027,” the club said in a statement.

Motta, 41, was previously in charge at Serie A rivals Bologna.

“I am really very happy to start a new experience at the helm of a big club like Juventus,” said Motta who, according to the Italian press, will earn an annual salary of 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million)

Motta made his coaching name at Bologna who he joined in 2022.

Last season, he led the team to fifth place in Serie A and qualified them for the Champions League for the first time.

The former Italian international was part of the squad which finished runner-up at the 2012 European championships.

He was also a five-time French champion with PSG and played in Champions League winning teams at Barcelona and Inter Milan.

Juve will be his fourth club as coach after Genoa (2019), where he only stayed three months before being fired with a record of just one victory in ten matches, and La Spezia (2021-22) and Bologna.

Juventus finished last season in third place in Serie A but 23 points behind champions Inter Milan.

They did, however, clinch the Italian Cup for the 15th time.

Their end to the season was painful with just three wins in 17 league matches having been hot on the heels of Inter at the turn of the year.

Juve fired Allegri for his explosive behaviour during the team’s Italian Cup triumph which the club deemed “incompatible” with its values.

Allegri was sent off in the final minutes of the 1-0 win against Atalanta for ranting at match officials and was also alleged to have manhandled and threatened the chief editor of newspaper Tuttosport.

His behaviour led to an investigation by the Italian Football Federation’s disciplinary authorities.

The 56-year-old won 12 trophies, including five Serie A titles, and reached two Champions League finals with Juventus over two spells as manager.

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