The Fiver | Champions of Africa as many times as Andorra, Burnley and Richard Keys


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Senegal, regular producers of remarkable players, have been champions of Africa exactly as many times as Djibouti, Andorra, Burnley, Richard Keys, Danny Mills and Weird Uncle Fiver. So when Senegalese fans look at their international trophy cabinet, all they see is Ali Dia’s gong for top b@ntz and a certified letter from El Hadji Diouf in which he confirms he is the greatest sportsman who ever lived. But all that could be spittle under the bridge if the Teranga Lions do the business in Cairo on Friday, when they take on Algeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final.

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The forgotten story of … Ray Freeman, the ‘madman’ manager and trailblazer


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The British coach enjoyed such success in Norway with Brann in the 1970s that he was awarded honorary citizen status

SK Brann’s Europa League campaign ended on Thursday with a 2-1 defeat by Shamrock Rovers in Dublin, just down the road from where their very first continental adventure foundered 46 years ago at the hands of the Belfast side Glentoran. Decades of competition in Europe for the Norwegian club began under the guidance of an intrepid Englishman, Ray Freeman, who died this year and is remembered with great fondness.

Brann fans used to call him the Madman of Bergen because of his touchline gesticulations and hollering. But his method and personality won such admiration that within two years of his arrival he became the first person to be awarded honorary citizen status in Norway’s second-biggest city. He inspired Brann to their first Norwegian Cup triumph for 47 years. Which was Continue reading “The forgotten story of … Ray Freeman, the ‘madman’ manager and trailblazer”

The Fiver | Beating competition from Europe’s most admired clubs and PSG


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Back in the day, Serie A attracted the best players in the world. From Diego Maradona and Michel Platini to Ruud Gullit and Paul Rideout, all the stars flocked to Italy, lured by big salaries, high-brow competition and the prospect of tucking into ice-cream with James Richardson. To an impressionable young Fiver it seemed like a ball had not truly hit a net unless a commentator screamed “Gooolaazo!”, and the Milan derby could take the edge off a Purple Tin hangover. Heady days.

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The Fiver | Peter Crouch: an everyman appeal to go with his exceptional ability


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Of all the English language’s most welcome word pairings – including “cut price”, “extra strength” and “insufficient evidence” – the one most likely to raise a smile among football folks might just be “Peter Crouch”. So tears welled in more than a few bleary eyes when dear ol’ Crouchie announced that, at the age of 76, he has decided to call time on a playing career that spanned more than two decades, 11 clubs, 42 England caps and 7,435 urgent phone calls from ‘Arry Redknapp.

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Madagascar v Tunisia: Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final – as it happened


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The Fiver | Arsenal’s best defender even when watching from a treatment table


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Arsenal are the legal property of a man who spends his days in front of a gigantic abacus in the USA! USA!! USA!!! showing little interest in how his club is doing on pitches back in the old continent. So there is a certain irony to suggestions that Arsenal are captained by a man hellbent on sitting on his hole in the old continent because he thinks what Arsenal do on pitches in the USA! USA!! USA!!! should not be any of his business. Yet that appears to be where we are with Arsenal now, as the club announced that Laurent Koscielny has opted not to travel with the team on their pre-season flight over the plastic and water cocktail known as the Atlantic Ocean.

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Senegal v Benin: Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final – as it happened


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The Fiver | A cunning plan to hold on to as many underperformers as possible


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It is nearly four months since Manchester United lost 4-0 at Everton through a performance Ole Gunnar Solskjær could only describe as “so bad I can’t describe it” and which Paul Pogba, a man well placed to judge, condemned as “disrespectful” of the club. Both agreed the best thing about the experience was that it gave United an excellent opportunity to prove their enduring class by bouncing back in style. They have not gone so far as to win a match since then, but they did hold Huddersfield to a draw in May and, after Cardiff inflicted another setback on the last day of the season, they went unbeaten throughout the Women’s World Cup, the Epsom Derby, the Canadian Grand Prix and a good chunk of Wimbledon. If that doesn’t keep the club’s official ornamental hatstand suppliers happy, Continue reading “The Fiver | A cunning plan to hold on to as many underperformers as possible”

The Fiver | A flaw in the PSG strategy of indulging their stars’ every whim


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This time last year the international performance artist Neymar Jr was reflecting deeply on being knocked out of the World Cup by Marouane Fellaini’s Belgium. He vowed to come back stronger and, knowing the character of a man who has risen from humble beginnings to become a global icon, Paris Saint-Germain were sure that over the next club season they would get the benefit of a genius on a mission of redemption. And boy, you should have seen that brace he netted against Guingamp!

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Manchester United go for potential but can Solskjær nurture it? | Paul Doyle


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The policy of targeting players with a point to prove is fine provided the club has the right people to guide them

With Manchester United on the hunt for a centre-back who could do for them what Virgil van Dijk has done for Liverpool, it is no wonder they are sniffing around Leicester City. After all, if Van Dijk’s solidity is encapsulated in that oft-repeated statistic about no player managing to dribble past him last season, then it makes sense for United to pursue the defender who was just below the Dutchman in that ranking, the next best. Taking due care to eliminate daft outliers by restricting analysis to central defenders who played at least 1,500 minutes in last season’s Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjær is no doubt aware that at the heart of Leicester’s rearguard there was a colossus who was beaten once by a dribble in the entire Continue reading “Manchester United go for potential but can Solskjær nurture it? | Paul Doyle”

Uganda 0-1 Senegal: Africa Cup of Nations last 16 – as it happened


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Netherlands v Sweden: extra time in Women’s World Cup semi-final – as it happened


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Benin v Cameroon: Africa Cup of Nations – live!


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Uganda 0-2 Egypt: African Cup of Nations – as it happened


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Madagascar v Nigeria: Africa Cup of Nations 2019 – live!


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Tottenham set to sign winger Jack Clarke then loan him back to Leeds


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• Teenager to join for £10m before returning to Championship
• Spurs also targeting Sessegnon and NdombeleTottenham are poised to make their first senior signing in more a year after agreeing to buy the teenage winger Jack Clarke from Leeds. The clubs are putting the finishing touches to a transfer for which Spurs will pay an initial fee of £10m, rising to £11.5m depending on achievements.

Related: Long contracts, big pay-offs: Premier League remains a manager’s market

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Morocco v Ivory Coast: Africa Cup of Nations – live!


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62 min: A flowing Moroccan move: Ziyech to Boussoufa to Hakimi to … no one! The final ball goes astray after the Atlas Lions swept 30 yards forward and into the box.

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61 min: Ziyech has a blem from 22 yards. The ball wobbles over the bar.

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Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast: Africa Cup of Nations – as it happened


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Senegal 0-1 Algeria: Africa Cup of Nations 2019 – as it happened


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The Fiver | Good must prevail. Unless it comes up against better


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Following his team’s painful victory over Cameroon in the last 16, England manager Phil Neville felt so much shame on behalf of his vanquished opponents that he needed to do something radical. He had to find a way of cleansing himself, lest he be deflected from his crusade to make football pure again. Undignified reactions to agonising defeats were never tolerated by Lord Ferg or David Moyes, so Neville would be damned if he was going to let the behaviour of frustrated Cameroonian players stop him from saving football, especially women’s football. Little girls around the world are depending on him! “Help us, Phil Neville,” they say like so many tiny Princess Leias. “You’re our only hope!”

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