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PSG coach Pochettino must work on weaknesses as stars flop

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Paris Saint-Germain was able to start its superstar attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the first time on Wednesday in the Champions League.

Instead of fireworks, though, they only produced a big thud as PSG drew 1-1 draw against modest Belgian side Club Brugge.

“Fantomatique” — or “Ghost-like — was the headline in French sports daily L’Equipe on Thursday.

While 2020 champion Bayern Munich and last season’s runner-up Manchester City won and scored freely, PSG’s performance highlighted that the team still has glaring shortcomings despite being able to field three of the world’s best forward.

The fact that Keylor Navas was the busier goalkeeper on the night — and PSG’s best player — should be of concern to coach Mauricio Pochettino ahead of playing much tougher teams in the competition.

“We’ve got a magnificent squad, but we need to find balance,” Pochettino said.

But given PSG’s remarkable summer recruitment drive, Pochettino knows he has little room for error in a season where the Qatari-backed club has been touted by many observers as the favorite to win the Champions League.

Behind the veneer of Messi’s arrival, the reality is that the midfield and defense still look very vulnerable, and allowed a modest side like Brugge to muster 16 shots at goal.

That is alarming considering that City is PSG’s next opponent in the group stage. Pep Guardiola’s side visits Parc des Princes on Sept. 28, giving Pochettino little time to make his team more solid.

PSG has a home game against Lyon in the French league on Sunday followed by a midweek trip to Metz before hosting Montpellier.

Pochettino also has a thorny goalkeeping dilemma to resolve — whether to stick with Navas or start Italy’s European Championship star Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Last season, Navas rescued PSG with outstanding performances against Barcelona and Bayern in the knockout stages before PSG’s limitations were exposed by City in the semifinals.

PSG would likely have lost against Brugge without Navas who, through no fault of his own, now finds himself fighting for the No. 1 jersey. Pochettino sounded evasive when asked after the Brugge game if Donnarumma would play against Lyon.

“Anything’s possible,” Pochettino said. “Decisions will be made game after game with regards to the performances.”

But rotation could also work against Pochettino, for he needs a settled goalie to take command of a brittle defense that was too easily exposed by Brugge.

Even the signing of Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Italian league champion Achraf Hakimi at right back did little to stop the waves of Brugge attacks.

Wijnaldum lost a surprising number of tackles and was not helped by Leandro Paredes, who failed to control a simple pass early on as it rolled under his foot and led to a yellow card as he then fouled a Brugge player breaking through.

Wijnaldum and Paredes were both replaced by Pochettino, whose midfield clearly struggles when Marco Verratti is absent. The Italy star’s ball retention and distribution is superior and takes pressure off his teammates.

With Messi and Neymar up front, PSG also has a forward line that isn’t known for tracking back to defend, which can lead to the midfield getting overrun and the defense being exposed as a result.

Central defenders Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe looked exhausted at the end on Wednesday, as they often did last season when PSG lost eight games and the league title to Lille.

Messi’s positioning on the right of the three-man attack offers little protection to the midfield or to Hakimi, who by nature is a very attacking player and leaves space behind him where the opposition is free to counter.

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video of the Congolese women’s team angers “FIFA” and football players

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The International Football Association “FIFA” expressed its “grave concern” over the recent images that spread through social media platforms of the Democratic Republic of the Congo women’s national under-20 team.

The World Players Association published video clips showing the team training in the street before a qualifying match for the U-20 World Cup, CNN reported.

The FIFPro account on Twitter said that the video, which was published on Thursday, shows the team practicing on a dirt road with cars and motorbikes passing, and at one point, the training was interrupted as a truck was passing on the road between the players.

“The player’s welfare is a top priority for us, and we have taken immediate steps with the authorities in the country, including the Congolese Football Federation, to ensure the safety and well-being of all participating players,” FIFA said in a statement.

While “Fivebro” said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo Football Association did not reserve enough time to train on the field before the team’s expected match, which will decide qualification for the 2022 World Cup, against Cameroon on September 25, which the Congolese team lost 4-0 at home.

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England pays a heavy price for its fans’ riots

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The UEFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to penalize England by playing its next match in the UEFA competition without an audience, after English fans rioted during the Euro 2020 final.

The decision was also applied to the second match that followed, with the suspension of implementation, according to the sports website “The Athletic”.

The Football Association was also fined 100,000 euros, as it was responsible for the actions of English fans, especially since the match was on English soil.

The European Football Association (UEFA) punished England, citing “a lack of order and discipline in and around the field, intrusion into the field of play, throwing objects and whistling during the playing of the national anthem”.

The ban will only apply to UEFA competition matches, meaning that England will play their first match of the 2022-2023 season in the Nations League at Wembley without fans, and this does not include the World Cup qualifier match next month against Albania.

The FA requested an in-person hearing in the case, which was held via video link on Monday.

In a statement after the decision, they said: “Although we are disappointed with the referee, we acknowledge the outcome of UEFA’s decision.”

They added: “We condemn the shameful behavior of the individuals who caused the shameful scenes in and around Wembley Stadium in the Euro 2020 final, and deeply regret that some of them managed to enter the stadium.”

“We are determined that this can never be repeated, so we have conducted an independent review,” they said. “We continue to work with the relevant authorities to support their efforts to take action against those responsible and hold them accountable.”

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Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

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Indian Davis Cup representative Ramkumar Ramanathan is the latest player to join the Tie Break Tens Dubai Presented by Zone, joining Taylor Fritz, Dustin Brown, Dan Evans and Gaël Monfils at the tournament being held on Oct. 22 at City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Ramkumar is the first Indian player to reach an ATP world tour singles final since Somdev Devvarman in 2011. He plays both singles and doubles games and is well known for his attacking serve, which will come in handy in the Tie Break Tens short-form of the sport.

“Ramkumar is a great addition to the inaugural Dubai TB10s line-up, and is sure to be a particularly big attraction for the UAE’s passionate Indian sports fans. He has a very aggressive style on the serve and second shot, so he is another player that promises to do well with the tie breaker format. Whoever he is pitted against, one thing is for sure: It’ll be quick and dramatic,” said Jimmy Poon, the tournament director.

As the build-up to the Middle East’s first ever TB10 tennis tournament continues, the organizers have also announced the launch of the inaugural TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament. This new competition will culminate in some of the UAE’s best young players battling it out in the finals ahead of the main tournament itself on the evening of Oct. 22 at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Qualifying rounds are taking place each Friday, leading up to the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai’s City Walk. The TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will further support young Emirati talent in the sport, with the finals for the under-18 competitors set to take place in front of the international stars and a packed arena on the night of the main event.

The TB10s format is the only officially recognised short form of tennis. It is already proving popular among the participating youngsters, and up to 16 players of ages ranging from 12 to 18 are competing in each of the Friday tournaments, drawn from tennis academies and schools across Dubai. The finals will be played between the players who accrue the most points across the three weeks.

As well as the Friday competitions, a tennis clinic will be held the day before the main TB10s evening for competition winners from schools in Dubai.

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