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Lights out at Wembley

At 11pm on 4 August 1914 the lights around Europe went out as Britain declared war on Germany. 

As the moment approached, the British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey made the famous remark: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”. 

On Monday night Wembley will join the UK wide ‘Lights Out’ campaign to commemorate the start of one of the darkest periods in British history. 

The national stadium will show the words ‘Lest We Forget’ on the screen from 9pm and then at 10pm the screen will be switched off in line with the Lights Out campaign. 

Lights Out, working closely with the Royal British Legion, will be one of the largest participatory events of its kind ever seen in the UK, and will complement the candlelit vigil held at Westminster Abbey on Monday. 

For more information, visit www.1418NOW.org.uk and sign up to their free mailing list.

Champions League images of the week – matchday one

Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov coming under pressure from Aduriz of Athletic Bilbao leads our Champions League images from week one of the group stage.

Other pictures include, Gareth Bale scoring for Real Madrid, Jerome Boateng’s last-minute goal celebration and images from another eight games.

Ings backed for goals

Danny Ings has the ammunition to shoot Burnley to Premier League safety, according to former Clarets striker Ade Akinbiyi.

Sean Dyche’s side were promoted in April after finishing second in the Championship and will kick off the new campaign with a home game against Chelsea on Saturday 16 August.

Akinbiyi was a part of the last Burnley squad to win promotion to the top flight, but unlike in 2009, he believes they are much better equipped this time around thanks to the talents of the England Under-21s striker.  

England Under-21s striker Danny Ings in action against San Marino.

Ings made his England debut for the Under-21s last season

"I think he's a top player, probably one of the best players that Burnley have had as a striker," said Akinbiyi. 

"He seems to score a goal every time he's on the pitch and I think he'll do the same in the Premier League because he is one of these players who gets one chance and tucks it away."

The former Wolves, Leicester, Stoke City and Sheffield United striker, who had two stints as a player in East Lancashire, has already witnessed one former Burnley striker flourish in the Premier League and break into the England side. 

During his time at Turf Moor, Akinbiyi mentored Jay Rodriguez during the fledgling stages of the Southampton star's career and he believes that Ings has the talent to follow him into the senior national team.

Speaking as an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK, Akinbiyi said: "Jay's a totally different type of player from Ings.

"Ings is an in-the-box player whereas Jay can play on the left and on the right. Ings is just more of a striker who gets goals, but he creates them as well.

"He is a player that I do think will do really well in the Premier League. If he can do what he did in the Championship I think then you are looking at the [senior] international level."

Milk Cup descends into violence as player kicked in the head

The Milk Cup, the prestigious youth football tournament held each year in Northern Ireland, descended into violence yesterday when the hosts’ clash with Mexico was hit by an astonishing outbreak of violence which resulted in four red cards being shown.

With Mexico leading 1-0, the match degenerated into a mass brawl on 57 minutes.

In the melee you can see a Mexican player land a fierce boot to the head of a Northern Irish opponent, before being dismissed by the referee.

Stewards were forced to intervene to restore the peace before referee Tim Marshall eventually sent off three players – Mexico goalkeeper Raul Gudino and defender Carlos Arreola as well as Northern Ireland’s Robbie McDaid.

Proceedings were halted again in the 89th minute after Kevin Gutierrez was sent off for kicking out and, when another brawl ensued, the referee, wisely, blew for time a minute early.

Asmir Begovic claims official world record

Stoke City goalkeeper scores longest goal ever recorded.

Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has taken his place in the Guinness World Records  book for the longest goal scored in football.

The Bosnian scored from a long kick forward in his side’s 1-1 draw with Southampton last November.

His kick, also one of the quickest goals ever scored, timed at 13 seconds, travelled the length of the pitch before bouncing over the despairing, outstretched hands of Artur Boruc into the Saints’ net.

It has now been measured at 91.9m, earning it the accolade in the latest edition of the records book.

“I feel amazing to be honoured in this way and as a goalkeeper I didn’t expect this to happen, not for this type of record anyway,” the Bosnia and Hercegovina international told Stoke’s official website.

He added: “I will take it though and enjoy it.”

Begovic becamse the fifth goalkeeper to score in the Premier League, along with Peter Schmeichel, Brad Friedel, Paul Robinson and Tim Howard.

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Stoney’s delight

England goalscorer Casey Stoney congratulated her team-mates after they held on to beat Ukraine 2-1 and leave themselves on the verge of qualification for the 2015 World Cup.

The 32-year-old, making her first start under head coach Mark Sampson, broke the deadlock with a tenth minute header.

Eniola Aluko doubled the lead shortly after to give England a 2-0 lead at half-time.

Ukraine 1-2 England

2015 Women's World Cup Qualifier

Group 6 

Arena Lviv 

Thursday 19 June

The hosts improved after the break and halved the deficit through Olha Ovdiychuk, but England hung on to move within one point of reaching Canada 2015.

Stoney said: "It's always hard to come away and play against Ukraine, in a nice stadium with a lively crowd and an unbelievable atmosphere.

"On a personal level it was great to be back out there playing again but more importantly it was fantastic to get three points.

"We showed really good character in the second half. We might not have performed as well as we'd like to have done after half-time but we knew the job was to come here and get the win and we did that."

Stoney's goal, from Fara Williams's corner, was just her sixth in 117 appearances and although she admitted her delight at getting on the score sheet, the Arsenal said she was frustrated to have conceded - the first goal England have let in during this qualifying campaign.

Stoney added: "It's always nice to score, especially because I don't get many, but it was all credit to Steph Houghton for winning the first header. I ran over to the bench because I wanted to make it a real team celebration.

Casey Stoney competes for possession with Ukraine

Casey Stoney out jumps Ukraine's Tetyana Romanenko

"Every team works a lot on set pieces so it's nice when all that work pays off.

"But we are disappointed as a defence to have conceded because we set our standards so high

"If you look at it, though, we've conceded one goal in eight games so you can't be disappointed with that. I also thought Ukraine were much better than when we last played them.

"They had a lot more going forward than they usually do. They really went for it and I think we defended well on the whole. We conceded from a set piece so we just need to tidy up on that but overall we can be pleased."

All thoughts are now on the penultimate qualifier in Wales on 21 August, where a draw would be good enough to qualify for the World Cup.

England have won all eight Group 6 matches so far and Stoney is determined to make it nine from nine.

"That's a massive one point. We go to Wales next and we'll go there for all three, as we always do."

She continued: "It was great to be back out there playing my part. Hopefully I've put myself back in the manager's thoughts.

"In saying that, the girls have done fantastically well in the games before. I think the competition for places is really healthy. This is a strong squad and a great squad to be a part of."

FIFA whistleblower fears for her life

Too much money at stake for FIFA to risk World Cup being taken away from Qatar, argues whistleblower.
Phaedra Almajid says she was offered protection by the FBI.

FIFA headquarters

The FIFA whistleblower who made allegations about Qatar’s World Cup bid, says she fears for her life after receiving threats to herself and her family.

Phaedra Almajid, who worked for the Qatar 2022 bid team before losing her job in 2010, provided evidence to Michael Garcia’s investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

Almajid spoke on condition of anonymity but believes her idientity was exposed in a summary of Garcia’s report published by FIFA ethics committee judge Hans-Joachim Eckert last week.

“Do I regret being the Qatar whistleblower? It has cost me personally, it has cost me emotionally – I know for a fact I will be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life,” Almajid told Sky Sports News.

“It has cost me my credibility and most importantly it has cost me the security of both me and my children. However I did witness something and I believe I did have to say what I had witnessed.

“I had a lot of cyber attacks, a lot of them were directed to my children. I do believe it was through the Qataris. They knew a lot of information about me that I don’t believe FIFA knew or were interested in. I was a bigger threat to the Qataris than I ever was to FIFA.”

Almajid and fellow whistleblower Bonita Mersiades, who worked for Australia’s 2022 bid, have both lodged formal complaints against Eckert’s report.

“I was shocked, immediately I was crying,” Almajid said. “Every time I met with Michael Garcia he ensured me everything was confidential.

“It was agreed before I even met him that I would not participate in the investigation unless I was kept anonymous and everything I provided was kept in confidence.

“I had no reason not to trust him so I was completely in shock at what was done. I feel frightened at the moment because Eckert so conveniently, so calculatedly made sure that my identity was revealed.”

Almajid added: “Why has it happened? Simply to silence any other whistleblowers and to intimidate me and Bonita so we will stop talking about what happened during the 2022 bidding process.”

Almajid also revealed she has been offered protection by the FBI as a result of the threats made against her and her two children.

“I was at home watching TV and then there were three FBI agents at my doorstep and said they wanted to talk to me,” she said. “I let them in and they said to me, ‘We are here because we know you have received threats and we know the security and that of your children has been jeopardised, so we want to be here to see what we can do to help you.’

“It was terrifying. I opened up the door and there were three men there with their badges and they asked me all questions pertaining to my time in Qatar, what I had observed, what I had witnessed, everything and especially about the threats and affidavit.”

Although Eckert cleared Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Garcia has appealed against the summary, claiming it contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions” reached in his own findings.

Almajid remains sceptical that her evidence will  be used by FIFA, arguing that too much is at stake for football’s governing body to ever risk invalidating the bid process.

“How much is this World Cup worth?” she asked. “I think it’s worth billions, it brings billions of revenue into FIFA and the country who hosts it. Remember, I’m one single mum against the richest country in the world and the richest sporting organisation in the world.

“People might find it strange that this is happening in football but a lot of things have happened in football and FIFA and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is scared right now.”

Roy reveals team v Norway

England v Norway

International Match
8pm, Wednesday 3 September 2014
Wembley Stadium connected by EE

"Joe Hart will play in goal, John Stones will play at right-back, Leighton Baines left-back and the two centre-backs will be Cahill and Jones," said the England boss. 

"In the midfield, the two wide players will be Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sterling, the two central players will be Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere. 

"The two front players will be Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge. They’ll start the game, then we’ll have an interesting bench. There are some players who can come in and play some part in the game, but that’s the team who will start." 

Hodgson, who will be without the services of newcomer Jack Colback due to injury, says he was keen to see the midfielders and forwards he has selected in action.

While the defensive set-up remains similar to the one in the summer, Jones comes in alongside World Cup ever-present Cahill in the middle as Stones replaces the injured Glen Johnson.

The attacking shape is different, with Hodgson opting for two central midfielders and two up front, but he expects the strikers to work back and assist when Norway are in possession of the ball.  

"I wanted Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge to play," said Hodgson. "And it seems to me the way we’ve put them on the field is the best way to get them to play the game they are used to playing. We’ll make it very clear to them what we expect from them in those roles. 

"With the six in front of [the defence], there are lots of ways you can manipulate them, but the bottom line is you are always going to need at least one forward, and at least one midfield player who has an idea about defensive duties and you can go from there.

Rooney and Sturridge

Rooney and Sturridge will partner up front

"What I really want is for Wayne to play as a forward alongside Daniel and for one of them to be able to drop in when we are defending to help us out in the midfield. But is that too much to ask? 

"As it happens I don’t think so and I don’t think Wayne and Daniel think so either, so that’s what I’m hoping to see them do." 

He added: "Even though there is a buzz at the moment for three at the back, we don’t intend to go down that road for the moment as we feel we have players perfectly suited to playing with four, and we have the four to do that. 

"When it comes to formations there’s a risk that there will be trends and sometimes people will expect you to follow them. Sometimes that ends with you trying to put square pegs into round holes. 

"We’re trying hard not to do that and to make certain that the players who go on the field [against Norway] feel comfortable with what we ask them to do." 

England Team: Joe Hart; John Stones, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling; Wayne Rooney (c), Daniel Sturridge.

England meet Norway at Wembley on Wednesday night to kick off the new season. You can buy tickets online here...

Sabella: the reluctant leader looking to get the best out of Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi's wonderful goal kick-started Argentina's World Cup but will coach Sabella have the courage to stick with an attacking line-up?

Blurred lines...Lionel Messi in motion

Blurred lines...Lionel Messi in motion against Bosnia-Herzegovinia.

One of the disadvantages of holding the World Cup in a such a vast country as Brazil is that it’s impossible to travel to a different game every day. Even poor old Sepp Blatter only managed two games in the first four days. (Although that may have had something to do with the less-than-favourable reception he gets whenever he encounters the Brazilian public.)

But one upside of the tournament’s travel constraints is that there has been time to get to pre-match press conferences. Here in Rio de Janeiro, it meant a larger-than-expected attendance at the briefing held by Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella on Saturday, the day before his team’s opening match against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Sabella was interesting – not for what he said, but rather for what he did not say. He rarely spoke with much conviction and seemed uncomfortable facing the international media. He was questioned about a possible change to a 5-3-2 formation, but seemed reluctant to expand on his reasons for a switch away from the 4-3-3 used in qualifying.

Sabella is something of a reluctant leader. A long-time number two to Daniel Passarella, he was appointed Argentina coach on the back of a two-year spell with Estudiantes. Not necessarily the ideal qualifications for handling such stellar names as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria.

There have been suggestions by some, including our own Jonathan Wilson, that Messi played a role in switching to the 5-3-2 and away from the more attack-minded 4-3-3. But it seems more likely that Sabella simply lacked the confidence to go with an attacking formation.

With injury ruling out Rodrigo Palacio, Argentina’s fourth striker, Sabella was reluctant to start with all his forwards and leave no striking option on the bench. So he went, instead, for the safety-first approach against Bosnia.

The 5-3-2 formation was used in qualifying for the away games played at altitude. It shored up the defence but inevitably limited the attacking options. And so it proved last night against Bosnia.

Argentina struggled to find their shape and rhythm in the first half. Although half-time substitute Gonzalo Higuain provided the assist for Messi’s wonderful winning goal, it was Fernando Gago, also introduced at the interval, who made the real difference for Argentina following the switch to a three-man attack.

Messi seemed far more comfortable playing alongside Aguero and Higuain. Their presence enabled him to drop deep and collect the ball for the start of the run which ended in his opening goal of the tournament.

Ironically, Bosnia’s late goal was precisely the sort of event that Sabella had hoped a 5-3-2 formation would prevent. But the 4-3-3 gives Argentina – and crucially, Messi – a greater platform for success.

Whether Sabella has the confidence to pursue such a strategy as the tournament progresses remains to be seen.

EXCLUSIVE Wembley Tunnelcam

Arsenal lifted the first piece of silverware on offer this season as they breezed to victory over Manchester City in The FA Community Shield on Sunday.Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey gave th...