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Zidane isolating, after contact tests positive for COVID-19

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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is isolating after a close contact of his tested positive for COVID-19, a Spanish newspaper reported on Thursday.

Real Madrid did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

The report had it that Zidane learned of the contact testing positive on Thursday morning.

He subsequently did not attend Real Madrid’s training session ahead of Saturday’s La Liga game away to Osasuna.

The report added that the Frenchman had undergone a COVID-19 test and was awaiting the result, although La Liga must approve his return to work.

Its protocols dictate that a person should isolate for three days and then get a negative test before returning to training or take part in a match

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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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W’Cup Qualifiers: Super Eagles W’Çup hope fades after Benin 2-1 defeat

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The Super Eagles of Nigeria, on Monday, were defeated 2-1 by Benin Republic in the fourth round of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers.

In the 29th minute, Raphael Onyedika’s effort to the right corner of the post opened the score for Nigeria.

However, Jodel Dossou of Benin tied the score with a well-placed shot after the Super Eagles made a defensive blunder.

Benin took the lead shortly before halftime thanks to a right-footed goal by Steve Mounie from a corner.

The Super Eagles lost the second half despite the introduction of Victor Boniface, Paul Onuachu, and Ibrahim Olawoyin, among others. Nigeria was unable to equalise.

Head coach Finidi George, named Terem Moffi and Ademola Lookman to spearhead the attack, while Boniface was placed on the bench.

The Super Eagles took to the field goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali. In defence were Bassey, Tanimu, Ajayi and Osayi-Samuel. Meanwhile, Ndidi, Onyeka, Iwobi started in midfield. Leading the attack were Chukwueze, Lookman and Moffi.

The substitutes include; Iheanacho, Boniface, Onuachu, Abdullahi, Dele-Bashiru, Onyeka Awaziem, Olawoyin, Igboke, Ismaila, Okoye (GK) and Ojo (GK).

Meanwhile, the result of this match means that Nigeria is now placed fifth, while the Benin Republic moves up to first place in the six-team table.

Nigeria, in four matches, has drawn three and lost one.

Last Friday, Pressure mounted on the Super Eagles after the team played a 1-1 draw against Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the third round of the 2026 World Cup qualifier.

Themba Zwane of South Africa opened the scoresheet in the 29th minute of the match played at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Equalising after a superb turn, Nigeria’s Fisayo Dele-Bashiru slotted in a low shot to the edge of the post in the 46th minute. The match ended in a stalemate.

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Croatia beat Portugal in Euro 2024 warm-up friendly

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Croatia finished their Euro 2024 preparations with an impressive 2-1 friendly win over Portugal on Saturday.

Zlatko Dalic’s side beat the Euro 2016 winners in the Lisbon suburb of Oeiras to send Group B rivals Spain and Italy a warning.

Roberto Martinez’s Portugal, among the contenders to win the tournament, fell to only their second defeat in 13 matches under the Spaniard.

Talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench by Martinez, whose side spurned chances to equalise in the second half.

“Today’s game had a negative result… we want to win, it’s the best way to grow, but today there are also positives to take,” said Martinez.

Portugal won all of their qualifying games but have lost in friendlies against Slovenia in March, and now Croatia.

“Winning against Croatia doesn’t make us good enough to win the tournament, losing doesn’t mean we will not qualify for the last 16,” continued Martinez.

“A friendly game is about preparation. Now we are stronger than before the game… this is international football.

“We lost, Croatia deserved it, but for us it was a test we needed.”

Croatia had the better of the opening period against the subdued hosts and veteran Luka Modric netted his 25th international goal from the penalty spot after Vitinha felled Mateo Kovacic.

Real Madrid midfielder Modric, 38, is hoping to finish on a high in what is likely to be the last major international tournament of his career.

Manchester City defender Josko Gvardiol twice came close, while Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa denied Andrej Kramaric and Ante Budimir headed off target.

Substitute Diogo Jota, on at the break, pulled Portugal level early in the second half but Budimir soon restored Croatia’s advantage with a header after Mario Pasalic hit the crossbar.

Portugal upped their game with Rafael Leao and Joao Cancelo creating danger in search of a leveller but the visitors held on for a second friendly victory after beating North Macedonia.

“It’s a great victory, it will give us confidence for the Euros,” Modric told Nova TV.

“Expectations are high, we have a very good team, a great atmosphere, desire, and enthusiasm.

“I hope we will play like this… only with this kind of game can we expect something big.”

Croatia start the tournament by facing three-time winners Spain in Berlin in a week’s time.

Martinez’s side have one final tune-up friendly, against Ireland on Tuesday in Aveiro.

Portugal are favourites to progress from Group F which also contains the Czech Republic, Turkey and Georgia.

Euro 2024 begins on June 14 in Germany.

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