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England, Netherlands battle for berth in UEFA Euro 2024 final on TSN

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Two giants of European football meet in Dortmund on Wednesday as the Netherlands take on England for a spot in the UEFA Euro 2024 final on Sunday against Spain.

Both teams head into the match with the belief that we still haven’t seen the best from them, but time is running out to show it. For England especially, there’s a feeling that anything less than a return trip to the final is a disappointment.

This Three Lions side loves to leave it late. It took Jude Bellingham’s spectacular overhead kick to force extra time in their Round of 16 encounter with Slovakia before a Harry Kane header won it early in the first extra 15 in a 2-1 victory. Then in the quarters against Switzerland, England fell behind again with Breel Embolo putting the Swiss up in the 75th. It was Bukayo Saka who came to the rescue only five minutes later with a low strike from just outside the area that beat Yann Sommer.

Extra time didn’t solve anything, and the match moved on to the traditional bane of England’s existence at international tournaments – penalties. This time, though, England left nothing to chance. A cheat sheet on his water bottle that let Jordan Pickford know of each potential Switzerland shooter’s penalty proclivities allowed the Everton goalkeeper to start the spot kicks with a stop on Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji. That would be all his shooters needed as all five Three Lions players converted their spot kicks, with Brentford forward Ivan Toney never averting his gaze from Sommer’s eyes in a moment of supreme confidence.

For Luke Shaw, it doesn’t matter how England got there. All that he’s concerned with is that they’re in another final four.

“The most important thing is winning,” the Manchester United left-back said. “At the moment, whether people like it or not, the way we’re playing [got us] in the semifinals. That’s all that matters.”

The 28-year-old Shaw, who had been out of action since February with a hamstring injury, made his tournament debut as a substitute in the quarters. He says he’s ready to play a full 90 minutes now, and thanked manager Gareth Southgate for sticking by him.

“The last four months have been really tough,” Shaw said. “At the start, I was expected to come back a lot sooner, but I went through a lot of setbacks. It was really nice to get on the other night and get some minutes – I’ve been itching. I think before the squad got announced, we had a plan to come back around the second or third game but, unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned and I was pushed back a game or so…They were really there for me, not just Gareth and [assistant manager] Steve [Holland], but the medical staff, as well. I have a lot to thank them for.”

On the other side of the pitch, the Oranje showed their mettle in the quarter-finals. After a comfortable 3-0 win over Romania in the Round of 16, the Dutch got all they could handle from Turkiye in the final eight.

Falling behind 1-0 late in the first half, it was almost curtains for Ronald Koeman’s team in the 65th. Bart Verbruggen did well to deal with a shot from distance from Arda Guler, but he parried directly into the path of Kaan Ayhan, who appeared to have a tap-in to double the lead. Before he could do that, though, striker Wout Weghorst intervened at the last possible moment to poke it away and keep his team alive in the match.

Only five minutes later, the Dutch were level when Stefan de Vrij met Memphis Depay’s cross with a powerful header to beat Mert Gunok. Then, moments after that, Mert Muldur turned a Denzel Dumfries cross into his own net as he attempted to stop Cody Gakpo from scoring a fourth goal of the tournament to make it 2-1 and the Netherlands held on.

City defender Nathan Aké believes the Oranje are finally rounding into form after a disappointing group stage that saw them finish third behind Austria and France.

“We’re building momentum,” Aké said. “We came through tough stages at the start of the tournament and now we’ve got through another test, so we’re ready. Underdog or not, it doesn’t matter. We focus on ourselves. We know what we need to do. We are very close now.”

From a tactical perspective, Southgate has a choice to make. Switching to a back three of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ezri Konsa, in for the suspended Marc Guehi, to match Switzerland resulted in England’s best performance of the tournament. With the Oranje utilizing a back four, it would make sense to go back to the four-man backline Southgate utilized in the first four matches, but there was enough to like against Switzerland to once again go with three. What Southgate opts for remains to be seen and it’s unlikely he will tip his hand either way.

“A lot of our processes have been shared,” Southgate said of the news breaking in advance of the switch to the back three. “We live in an amazing world where it is so difficult for us because any element of surprise you might have is gone three days before the game. It’s quite incredible really.”

The Netherlands are 7-9-6 all-time against England and Wednesday’s match will be the fourth between the two teams at a major tournament and third at a Euro. En route to winning the entire tournament, the Oranje defeated England 3-1 at Euro 1988 in the group stage on a hat trick from Marco van Basten. Two years later at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, the Three Lions and Netherlands would face off again in the group stage, this time playing to a 0-0 draw. Their final meeting took place at Euro 1996 as Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham each had a brace in a 4-1 Three Lions group-stage victory at Wembley Stadium.

While the last time these two teams met wasn’t at a major tournament, the match was of some importance. In the summer of 2019, the Oranje defeated England 3-1 in the UEFA Nations League semifinal on goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Quincy Promes and an own goal from Walker. Five England players from that match could feature on Wednesday, while seven are with the Oranje squad in Germany.

NETHERLANDS POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Bart Verbruggen; Denzel Dumfries, Stefan de Vrij, Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Aké; Jerdy Schouten, Xavi Simons, Tijjani Reijnders; Steven Bergwijn, Memphis Depay, Cody Gakpo

ENGLAND POTENTIAL XI (3-4-2-1): Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Marc Guehi; Bukayo Saka, Kobbie Mainoo, Declan Rice, Luke Shaw; Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham; Harry Kane

 

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LeBron Saves Team USA in Thrilling Exhibition Against South Sudan at O2 Arena

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LONDON — In what could have been one of the most monumental upsets in international basketball history, Team USA narrowly escaped with a 101-100 victory over a spirited South Sudan team at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night. This exhibition match, serving as a tune-up for the 2024 Olympics, showcased the rapid rise of South Sudanese basketball and the indomitable spirit of the American team led by LeBron James.

The atmosphere at the O2 Arena was electric, with fans witnessing a game that turned out to be far more competitive than expected. South Sudan, a team composed largely of refugees and players from the diaspora, pushed the heavily favored Americans to their limits.

First Half Highlights:

  • South Sudan came out firing on all cylinders, building a surprising 16-point lead in the second quarter.
  • Team USA struggled with their three-point shooting, missing 12 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite the odds, South Sudan’s players, many of whom have overcome significant personal and professional challenges, played with remarkable cohesion and determination. Their performance was a testament to the rapid progress the team has made under the guidance of former NBA star Luol Deng.

With the game hanging in the balance, LeBron James demonstrated why he remains one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Benched at the start of the third quarter, James returned to the floor with a determination that was palpable.

Key Moments:

  • Third Quarter: Anthony Davis’ defensive prowess helped shrink the deficit. LeBron’s return brought stability and focus back to Team USA.
  • Final Minute: With just 20 seconds left, JT Thor of South Sudan scored over LeBron, giving his team a one-point lead.
  • Game-Winning Shot: LeBron drove to the basket, scoring the decisive layup with eight seconds remaining.

South Sudan’s journey to this point has been nothing short of inspirational. The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011, and the basketball program, still in its infancy, has quickly become a source of national pride.

Notable Contributions:

  • Carlik Jones: Delivered a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.
  • Wenyen Gabriel: LeBron’s former teammate with the Lakers, contributed 11 points.
  • Marial Shayok: Led South Sudan with 24 points.

The team’s formation and rise have been spearheaded by Luol Deng, who played a pivotal role in recruiting and funding the program. His efforts have culminated in South Sudan qualifying for the Olympics, marking a historic achievement for the young nation.

Stephen Curry: “Wild game. They played really intense. It was nice to see how we responded. LeBron with a great finish down the stretch.”

Steve Kerr: “The whole team was embarrassed at halftime. We were challenged today, and it was good for us to feel that now. This was a reminder that we need to bring our best every game.”

Luol Deng: Expressed immense pride in his team’s performance, emphasizing the significance of their journey and the obstacles they have overcome.

This exhibition game was more than just a pre-Olympic warm-up. It highlighted the potential for underdog stories in sports and underscored the global reach and impact of basketball. Team USA, despite the narrow escape, was reminded of the importance of every game and the challenges that lie ahead.

South Sudan, on the other hand, has cemented its place on the international stage, showcasing that with determination and the right support, even the newest teams can compete with the best in the world.

As both teams prepare for the Olympics, this game at the O2 Arena will be remembered not only for its thrilling finish but also for the remarkable stories of resilience and ambition that played out on the court.

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UFC Vegas 94: Amanda Lemos vs. Virna Jandiroba – Main Event Recap

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In a thrilling main event at UFC Vegas 94, strawweights Amanda Lemos and Virna Jandiroba faced off on Saturday night. After an evenly matched first round, Jandiroba secured a dramatic submission victory in the second round, just moments before the bell.

Fight Summary:

  • First Round: The opening round was highly competitive, with both fighters showcasing their skills and maintaining a close contest.
  • Second Round: In the final seconds of the second round, Jandiroba managed to secure a submission, forcing Lemos to tap out. The win marks an impressive fourth consecutive victory for Jandiroba.

Post-Fight Remarks:

  • In her post-fight interview inside the Octagon, Jandiroba confidently called out UFC President Dana White, declaring, “Dana, I’m the next one. Dana, I’m your next champion.”

Future Implications:

  • With this victory, Jandiroba has positioned herself as a strong contender for the strawweight title. Tatiana Suarez, who was the rightful next contender for Weili Zhang, has been sidelined due to an injury. Jandiroba’s current four-fight win streak and her dominant performance at UFC Vegas 94 make a compelling case for her title shot.

Stay tuned for more updates as the UFC strawweight division continues to evolve, and see if Virna Jandiroba will indeed become the next challenger for the championship belt.

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Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry: Fight Night Updates

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Jake Paul is back in the ring, and he’s promising fireworks as he takes on former UFC star Mike Perry at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The fight will be broadcast live on DAZN. Originally, Paul was set to fight Mike Tyson, but Perry stepped in after Tyson suffered an injury.

Fight Details:

Jake Paul (9-1, 6 KOs)

  • Paul is coming off a first-round TKO of Ryan Bourland in March.
  • He has promised that Perry won’t survive the second round.
  • Paul is more experienced in boxing but still relatively new to the sport.

Mike Perry (0-1)

  • Perry, known as “Platinum,” brings over a decade of fighting experience, mainly in MMA and bare-knuckle fighting.
  • He believes Paul is still green in the fight business and intends to use his experience to pull off an upset.

Main Event:
Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry

Live Updates: Follow DAZN for all the live updates, results, and highlights from the Paul vs. Perry pay-per-view main card.

Main Card Results:

Amanda Serrano def. Stevie Morgan via TKO

  • Round 2, 0:38
    • Watch the finish

Lucas Bahdi def. H20 Sylve via knockout

  • Round 6, 2:27
    • Watch the finish

Corey Marksman def. Tony Aguilar via majority decision

  • Scores: 76-76, 77-75, 78-74

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. def. Uriah Hall via unanimous decision

  • Scores: 59-55, 59-55, 58-56
    • Recap

Stay tuned for the main event updates and see if Jake Paul can deliver on his promise of another highlight reel knockout or if Mike Perry will teach him a lesson and pull off a major upset.

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