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Tuesday, Jul 29th

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International Friendly Wrap: England, Germany and Spain win; Italy hold Netherlands

The midweek international friendlies provided the perfect opportunity for nations to gauge their preparations for next year's World Cup and judging by last night's performances, England and Germany could be the teams to beat in Brazil in 2014. England turned on the style in their 2-1 win over Brazil at Wembley to mark FA's 150-year celebrations as Ashley Cole became the 7th player to notch 100 caps for the Three Lions. However, it was Frank Lampard who stole the limelight with his winner after coming off the bench. Meanwhile, Germany broke their French hoodoo as they came from behind to beat France 2-1 to register their first win over the Les Blues since 1987. Mathieu Valbuena gave France the lead in the first half only for Thomas Mueller and Sami Khedira to start the New Year in style for Germany.

However, there was no happy ending for the Netherlands as the Dutch were forced to settle for a late draw against Italy after Marco Verratti scored an injury time equalizer to cancel out Jermain Lens' opener. Elsewhere, Barcelona-dominated Spain registered a comfortable 3-1 win over Uruguay with a goal from Cesc Fabregas and brace from Pedro. There was also victory for Argentina who killed off the game inside the opening 23 minutes with goals from Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain leading them to a 3-2 win over Sweden.

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Arsenal legend Liam Brady tips Wilshere for greatness

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Former Arsenal star and current Arsenal Head of Youth Development, Liam Brady believes that Gunners star Jack Wilshere has the quality to develop into a true England veteran in the same league as Paul Gascoigne, Glenn Hoddle and Wayne Rooney.

Wilshere had shown great promise on a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers although his Arsenal and England careers have been marred by recurring injuries. However, the 21 year-old has made a strong return to action this season and has often been Arsenal’s most impressive player on the pitch. Roy Hodgson even called up the promising youngster to the national side for their mid-week friendly against Brazil.

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Ashley Cole: England’s least adored centurion?

Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole will enter an elite group of players on Wednesday night, becoming the 7th man to make 100 appearances or more for England. However, the veteran defender admits that he does not enjoy the same legendary status as the previous six centurions to don the whites of England.

While Bobby Moore and Sir Bobby Charlton are remembered by fans for winning the 1966 World Cup, Billy Wright and Peter Shilton are respected former England captains. Steven Gerrard and David Beckham are also English legends in their own right despite their lack of trophies at the international level and Cole knows that he does not enjoy the same level of recognition despite his 100 match milestone.

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Walcott targets central striker’s role under Roy Hodgson

Arsenal ace Theo Walcott has already convinced Arsene Wenger to employ him in a central striker’s role at the club and the 23 year-old is now planning to establish himself in a similar role in the England national team.

Walcott has been a first team regular at Arsenal since making his debut in 2006 and the player has dazzled in a right winger’s role over the years. However, following the departure of Robin van Persie last summer, the club have struggled to slam in the goals and Walcott has often stepped in to rescue the Gunners. Walcott insisted on a central strike role and despite his initial reluctance, Wenger gave in to the player’s demand, using the pacey forward there occasionally.

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Real and Barca grab a goal apiece in high-octane cup fixture

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Real Madrid will be beaming at their exceptional feat of pulling off a draw in Thursday’s El Clasico, with many first team players missing from the side. The 1-1 scoreline in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey semi-final clash definitely belies the intensity of the fixture as both sides threatened to provide a goal fest on the night. Cesc Fabregas was the hero for the Catalans as he made the most of a Lionel Messi interception to score past Lopez while 19-year old center back Raphael Varane completed a dream El Clasico debut with a strong performance in defence coupled with a late second half goal to save Real the blushes.

Jose Mourinho had to field a weaker starting eleven against Barca, with several key players missing through injuries or bans. Winter signing Diego Lopez made his first start for Real on the night with Iker Casillas out for two months through a hand injury . Meanwhile, Barca were at full strength, with the exception of second-choice keeper Pinto, who remains a regular starter for cup fixtures.

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Mourinho declares he will win the Champions League a third time

 

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho guaranteed today that he will win a third UEFA Champions League title in his career.

The self professed "Special One" has already tasted Champions League success twice, with FC Porto and Inter Milan, and has set his eyes on a third Champions League trophy, though not necessarily with Real Madrid.

 

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Bayern end months of speculation by landing Guardiola, Spaniard to take over next season

The long-wait to discover Pep Guardiola’s next managerial move is over after Bayern Munich announced that they had captured the ex-Barcelona coach, who will take over at the Allianz Arena before the start of next season. Guardiola has been on a sabbatical in New York ever since he drew the curtains on four glorious years at Barcelona last year but that hasn’t prevented the press from heavily speculating about his future.

Chelsea were the rumoured front-runners for his signature, with Roman Abramovich heavily courting the Spaniard last summer. Guardiola himself has spoken of his desire to manage in England, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s throne at Old Trafford said to be his ultimate ambition. French moneybags PSG and Italian aristocrats AC Milan have also been linked with the man who catapulted Lionel Messi into the upper echelons of world football but Bayern have ultimately won the race.

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