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    What happened in Karim Benzema’s sex tape blackmail case and why was he dropped, then recalled to France team?

    KARIM BENZEMA missed France’s World Cup triumph in 2018 – but was back in the France squad after a surprise recall from coach Didier Deschamps.The Real Madrid striker’s exile dates back to a court case involving former team-mate Mathieu Valbuena and a sex tape.
    Karim Benzema was recalled to the France team by coach Didier DeschampsCredit: Getty
    The court case has ended in the 33-year-old being given a one-year suspended sentence.
    So was he brought back into the fold, and why was he frozen out in the first place?Why didn’t Karim Benzema play for France in the 2018 World Cup?
    Didier Deschamps made Benzema ineligible for selection over a blackmail case involving former teammate Mathieu Valbuena and a sex tape.
    Benzema has been given a one-year suspended sentence for complicity in a bid to blackmail Valbuena.
    He was also given a £63,000 fine, along with three friends.
    The sentence was tougher than that sought by prosecutors against the 33-year-old player over the 2015 extortion attempt, which led Benzema to be cast out of the France team for five-and-a-half years.
    Benzema was not in court in the Paris suburb of Versailles for the verdict, which comes hours before Real Madrid take on Sheriff Tiraspol in a Champions League game in Moldova.
    He was not accused of being behind the extortion attempt but rather of conspiring with the suspected blackmailers by putting pressure on Valbuena to pay them off.
    The court ruled that he had “implicated himself personally, through subterfuge and lies, to convince his team-mate to submit to the blackmail.”
    It added that he had shown “no kindness towards Valbuena”, as he had claimed, “just the opposite”.
    The star’s lawyer Sylvain Cormier said he was “quite stunned by the ruling” and they intend to appeal.
    Why was Karim Benzema selected by France for Euro 2020?
    At the time, the blackmail scandal was not yet resolved.
    Yet Didier Deschamps has decided he needed Benzema for the Euros after over half a decade out of the squad.
    Deschamps said of his decision: “I’m not going to give you or anyone else any more details about that.
    “You know the story of our meeting, the most important step: we met and talked. Without that, it would have been impossible.
    “To talk about forgiveness is a big word. We are not talking about Didier Deschamps as a man, but Didier Deschamps as a coach.
    “And I am in a position [as coach]. As I said before, I’ll say it again, even if it’s hard for some people to understand: I’m not interested in my personal situation.” More

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    Kalvin Phillips inspired by Andrea Pirlo message before Euros final… now ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ out to emulate hero in Qatar

    THE ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ got a message from the real McCoy on the eve of the Euro 2020 final.The following night, Leeds and England star Kalvin Phillips had to make himself watch Andrea Pirlo’s successors in the Italy shirt celebrate their Wembley triumph.
    Phillips has established himself as a vital piece of England’s midfieldCredit: Getty
    Pirlo inspired a generation of midfielders with his performances for AC Milan, Juventus and ItalyCredit: Getty
    But the 25-year-old midfielder says he will use those scenes and the legendary playmaker’s kind words as motivation to help the Three Lions go that one big step further at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
    Phillips said: “The night before the final Jack Harrison, who used to play at New York City with him, sent me a video of Pirlo.
    “It was a video to me saying ‘good luck in the final’, and he wished me all the best.
    “So that was very nice. I thought it was going to say something about Italy but no, he wished me well — full respect for that.
    “I just got the video and I was like, ‘Oh, my God’.”
    Pirlo enjoyed an illustrious career with AC Milan, Juventus and Italy, and Phillips added: “To have someone on the other side, on the other team, wish you well — and especially a player like that — it is always a great feeling

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    “To get noticed by very good professionals and people who have done everything in their career – won World Cups and Champions Leagues – it’s very special and something I’ll always remember.”
    Phillips also still replays moments from the final in his head, not least the pain of seeing the Italians lift the trophy after their victory on penalties.
    Phillips, 25, said: “I think I hung around quite a bit. There was me, Ben White, a few other lads. I just wanted to see what it was like to win a major trophy.
    “I just got the video and I was like, ‘Oh, my God’.”Kalvin Phillips
    “I wanted to see their reactions at winning it and the fans’ reactions as well.
    “I think — no disrespect to Italy or anything like that — but if England had won it, the celebrations would have been a lot better than theirs!
    “I still think about it now, I think about what could have been if we’d won. And I can remember a chance in the game when I had a volley on the edge of the box… obviously it’s fairytale stuff but just think, imagine if that had gone in?
    “But it wasn’t to be and it’s part of learning, part of being involved in these major tournaments — and we want to go one better next time.”
    Barring one of the biggest upsets of all time in San Marino on Monday night, England will qualify for Qatar 2022 as group winners.
    And Phillips is set to be a key figure in the Gulf state after his remarkable rise since watching the last World Cup as a fan at home in Leeds.
    He said: “I can remember Kieran Trippier’s free-kick going in (against Croatia in the semi-final) and I think I wrecked my living room because he scored. Then after I tidied up, disappointed we lost.”
    Phillips never represented any of England’s youth teams and made his senior debut barely 14 months ago.
    But he played all but 25 minutes of the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 adventure, forming a fine partnership with Declan Rice — who had to pull out of the current squad through illness.
    Kalvin Phillips is out to emulate Pirlo at next winter’s World CupCredit: Getty
    With characteristic modesty, Phillips said: “It’s been a good year. I didn’t expect to be in an England shirt, never mind doing this well.
    “I love playing with Declan. We’re two very similar players but work in different ways when we play together.
    “Declan is almost a protector in front of the back four and I’m almost a dog that goes running after people that have got the ball.”
    After suffering with injury problems since the Euros, Leeds Academy graduate Phillips — who made his pro debut against Wolves in 2015 — is going the extra mile to be as fit as a butcher’s dog.
    Like Arsenal star and former Nando’s addict Emile Smith Rowe, he has joined the ranks of footballers employing personal chefs to devise and cook the food they need to stay in peak condition.
    Phillips said: “Some of the lads at Leeds got it (a chef) but I just like the idea of investing in stuff that’s eventually going to prolong your career and help you become a better athlete.
    “I can remember a chance in the game when I had a volley on the edge of the box… obviously it’s fairytale stuff but just think, imagine if that had gone in?”Kalvin Phillips
    “I can eat anything, me! The only thing I don’t like is mushrooms. I hate mushrooms! I don’t know why, I think I have a phobia of mushrooms.”
    But Phillips is not afraid to say that only one thing will satisfy the appetite of him and his England team-mates when they go to Qatar — winning.
    He said: “The team over the last two to three years has done exceptionally well to get to where we’ve got — the semi- finals of the World Cup and the final of the next tournament, the Euros.
    “We’re hungry for more. We want to get a taste of what it feels like to win a trophy, and win a major trophy at that.
    “We’ve got some amazing players in this team and we’ve got a very good coach.
    “He knows how to handle us and knows how he wants us to play.
    “So we’ll take that information on board and I feel like — touch wood that we qualify first — when we come to the World Cup we’ll be very confident, because we’ve got no reason not to be.” More

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    England slapped with Wembley stadium ban and fined £85k by Uefa after Euro 2020 final chaos

    ENGLAND have been ordered to play a match behind closed doors after fan trouble at the Euro 2020 final.Gareth Southgate’s men won’t have fans present for their next Uefa home match – which will be a Nations League contest next year.
    England will have to play a game behind closed doors after fan trouble at the Euro 2020 final at WembleyCredit: AP
    England fans won’t be able to attend a match next summer after the Euros final chaosCredit: AP
    And the Three Lions were also hit with an £85,000 fine as well as a second match behind closed doors, which is suspended for two years.
    It comes after chaos at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley this summer when ticketless fans stormed the stadium.
    England lost to Italy on penalties in a game that was overshadowed by the poor fan behaviour.
    Groups of fans broke through security cordons and got into the stadium without a ticket.
    And the disorder continued as objects were thrown and the Italian national anthem was booed.
    Tournament organisers Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings against the FA in August and finally issued sanctions on Monday.

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    But under new Uefa rules, England could still play in front of a stadium full of kids.
    Games played ‘behind closed doors’ are set to be allowed an unlimited number of kids under the age of 14 in attendance.
    The youngsters must be from local schools or football academies and be accompanied by responsible adults.
    A Uefa statement ordered the FA: “To play its next two Uefa competition matches as host association behind closed doors, the second of which is suspended for a probationary period of two years from the date of the present decision, for the lack of order and discipline inside and around the stadium.”
    And the European governing body statement added: “To fine the English Football Association £85,000 for the lack of order and discipline inside and around the stadium, for the invasion of the field of play, for throwing of objects and for the disturbances during the national anthems.”
    An FA statement said: “Although we are disappointed with the verdict, we acknowledge the outcome of this Uefa decision.
    “We condemn the terrible behaviour of the individuals who caused the disgraceful scenes in and around Wembley Stadium at the Euro 2020 final, and we deeply regret that some of them were able to enter the stadium.
    “We are determined that this can never be repeated, so we have commissioned an independent review, led by Baroness Casey, to report on the circumstances involved.
    “We continue to work with the relevant authorities in support of their efforts to take action against those responsible and hold them to account.”
    ONE CONVICTION
    The Sun revealed how just one England fan has been convicted of causing trouble at the Euros.
    And police do not know if they were even among those wreaking havoc at the final.
    Without convictions in court, no banning orders can be issued.
    So all who shamed the country are free to continue following the national side home and away.
    The lack of action heaps more pressure on Met chief Dame Cressida Dick.
    Force figures show there were more than 150 arrests for disorder during games in England.
    Of those, 19 were charged and 26 issued with cautions or penalty notices for disorder.
    A further 104 have been released under investigation or bailed.
    But just one person has been convicted so far.
    We can also reveal just one Met officer was at a Wembley safety meeting before the security shambles at the final.
    The force said: “We refute any claim that our representation at these meetings underestimates our commitment to keeping people safe and mitigating disorder.”
    Fight breaks out at Wembley between Hungarian fans and stewards during England game More

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    Just ONE England fan convicted of causing trouble at Euros

    JUST one England fan has been convicted of causing trouble at the Euros.And police do not know if they were even among those wreaking havoc at the final.
    Only one England fan has been convicted of causing trouble at the EurosCredit: Reuters
    The Three Lions are expected to be ordered to play at least one match at Wembley behind closed doors as punishment for the fans’ rampage at the July 11 final.
    But without convictions in court, no banning orders can be issued.
    So all who shamed the country are free to continue following the national side home and away.
    The lack of action heaps more pressure on Met chief Dame Cressida Dick.
    Force figures show there were more than 150 arrests for disorder during games in England.
    Of those, 19 were charged and 26 issued with cautions or penalty notices for disorder.
    A further 104 have been released under investigation or bailed.
    But just one person has been convicted so far.
    We can also reveal just one Met officer was at a Wembley safety meeting before the security shambles at the final.
    The force said: “We refute any claim that our representation at these meetings underestimates our commitment to keeping people safe and mitigating disorder.”
    The lack of action heaps more pressure on Met chief Dame Cressida DickCredit: PA

    ITV reveal fans without tickets did manage to break into Wembley before England’s huge Euro 2020 final game against Italy More

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    BBC given dressing down for airing ‘distressing’ Christian Eriksen cardiac arrest coverage as viewers complaints upheld

    OUTRAGED viewers have scored a victory over the BBC after it upheld a complaint over the broadcast of ‘distressing’ images of collapsed Christian Eriksen during a Euro 2020 football match.The Beeb’s Executive Complaints Unit says shots of Denmark star Eriksen, who went into cardiac arrest during the game, breached guidelines on potentially offensive material.
    Denmark players react after Christian Eriksen’s collapse at Euro 2020Credit: Getty
    Christian Eriksen posted this image on Instagram from hospital days after his collapseCredit: Reuters
    The Inter Milan ace, 29, needed medical attention after he collapsed during Denmark’s group stage clash with Finland in June.
    Harrowing footage showed attempts to resuscitate the attacking midfielder, and images of his distressed wife Sabrina Jensen, mother to his two kids.
    The BBC apologised at the time for offence caused by the broadcast, and it was hit with a whopping 6,417 complaints.
    A report published on Thursday states: “The ECU agreed that the coverage of the incident, which included shots of the efforts to resuscitate Eriksen and of his evidently distressed wife, was likely to cause offence, both because of the upsetting nature of some of the images and by the element of intrusiveness they involved.”
    It notes that the choice of shots from the stadium were provided by the host broadcaster, UEFA, not the BBC.
    The ECU says the BBC programme team assumed the host broadcaster would stick to established protocol and show wide shots of the stadium.However, distressing close-up shots were also shown.

    The ECU adds: “All those working for BBC Sport have now been reminded of what action should be taken in the event of a serious incident such as this one, and a wide and generic shot will always be made available for immediate use at future live matches.”
    The report adds: “The ECU noted that the choice of shots from the stadium was not in the hands of the BBC programme team (the pictures being provided by the host broadcaster UEFA), who had no way of anticipating the earliest of the distressing images, which were among the most intrusive.
    “The ECU also noted that the programme team’s expectations were influenced by a longstanding UEFA protocol covering events of this nature; they recognised that the initial shots of the incident didn’t conform to those expectations, but assumed from the fact that the UEFA match director then cut to wide shots of the crowd and other players that the protocol was being properly observed.
    “Unfortunately that assumption proved ill-founded, as the remainder of the coverage included several instances of the match director cutting to shots which were closer than a BBC team would have selected.
    “The ECU agreed with the management of BBC Sport that the BBC’s coverage should not have stayed with the pictures from the host broadcaster for as long as it did, and found no contextual justification which would have brought the sequence as a whole within the requirements of the BBC guidelines on potentially offensive material.”
    Eriksen was discharged after six days in hospital after a “successful” operation to fit a device to regulate his heart.
    He has not played competitive football since and it has not yet been decided whether he can ever play again.
    Christian Eriksen returns to Inter Milan training ‘in excellent physical condition’ after Euro 2020 cardiac arrest More

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    Jesse Lingard reveals he cried when he missed out on Gareth Southgate’s England Euro 2020 squad

    JESSE LINGARD was reduced to tears after being left out of Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020.The Manchester United forward made it into the Three Lions manager’s provisional 33-man squad but was then ousted from the final 26.
    Southgate left England out of the final 26-man squadCredit: Rex Features
    Lingard turned to supporting England from the pub during the EurosCredit: Instagram @jesselingard
    That was despite scoring nine goals on loan at West Ham during the second half of last season.
    And Lingard recently described the anguish he felt when he found out he had not made it to the Euros.
    Speaking to The Players’ Tribune, he said: “Back in June, I really thought I had done enough to get into the final 26 for the Euros. Obviously, I respected Gareth’s decision, but when I rang to tell my brother, well … I cried. Lou (his brother) cried as well.”
    Despite his desperate disappointment, Lingard flew home and cheered his England team-mates on throughout the tournament.
    He publicly documented his support for the national team during their Euros opener against Croatia where he posted photos and videos on social media of him in a local pub with an England shirt on.
    He has now opened up about the antics that day – which included having Declan Rice on the back of his shirt, getting on the DJ decks and having a parrot on his shoulder.

    Lingard was snapped wearing a ‘Rice 4’ England shirt with a parrot on his shoulderCredit: Instagram @jesselingard
    “Two years ago, that news would have crushed me completely,” he added. “Thankfully, I’m in a better place these days. When the boys played the opener, I wasn’t going to sit around and mope. I might not have been playing, but I was still a fan, right??
    “So I pulled on a shirt — I’m close to Dec, so it had to be RICE 4 on the back — and I went to a pub with Lou and some friends. This guy there was walking around with a parrot — how random is that? — and suddenly it’s sitting right on my shoulder watching us beat Croatia!! 
    “You gotta love the pub when England are playing — the atmosphere, the energy. I took some pics, signed some autographs. I’m not really sure how it happened, but soon I was on the DJ decks! 

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    “What an afternoon that was. I’ll say this to every player: Join the fans in a pub at least once during your career. It just gives you a different perspective.”
    Since the Euros, Lingard has gone on to force his way back into the England set-up.
    And he repaid the faith Southgate put in him by scoring twice in a 4-0 win over Andorra last month. More

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    Van der Vaart tells Courtois to stop ‘silly’ moaning about schedule and goalkeeper is just ‘standing there a bit’

    THIBAUT COURTOIS has been told to stop ‘whining’ about the number of games on the calendar for top-level football. Former Holland ace Rafael van der Vaart gave the Belgium goalkeeper a ticking off after he slated the need for a Nations League third-place play-off. 
    Thibaut Courtois reckons players are competing for ‘nothing’ in Uefa Nations League third-place play-offsCredit: Rex
    The Real Madrid stopper, 29, accused Europe’s top football authority of putting profit before players’ wellbeing. 
    However, Van der Vaart, who has 109 Holland caps, dismissed the former Chelsea star’s argument.
    Appearing on Dutch sports show Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, the former Tottenham playmaker, 38, said: “I think it’s silly. 
    “You have six months of vacation. You only play football, a club pays you a lot of money, of course, the match schedule is very busy, but we have all been through that. 
    “Competitions are the most fun there is. They are whining.”
    Courtois refused to back down in the lead-up to the clash for the Nations League’s third spot in which Belgium were beaten 2-1 by Italy. 

    And the Bernabeu star, who played 14 international games from 2020 to 2021, said players were being treated like ‘robots’ within the current set-up. 
    Courtois, who 61 times last season, told Sky Sports: “Next year we have a World Cup in November, we have to play until the latter stages of June again. 
    “We will get injured. Nobody cares about the players anymore. If we never say anything it will be always the same.
    “In the end, top players will get injured and injured and injured. We are not robots.
    “It’s just more and more games and less rest for us. 
    “This game is just a money game and we have to be honest about it. We just play it because for Uefa it’s extra money.”
    And the Madrid keeper told Belgian publication Nieuwsblad: “We are playing for nothing. 
    “To arrive third or fourth in the Nations League is not interesting for anyone.”
    Courtois is among the sports figures who have criticised new Uefa contests such as the Nations League and Europa Conference and Fifa’s unpopular proposals for two-yearly World Cup and Euros tournaments. 
    Rafael van der Vaart believes it is ‘silly’ to criticise competing in Uefa National League play-off gamesCredit: Getty
    And his views on the necessity of a Nations League third-place play-off have been echoed by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher who describe the match as ‘an absolute waste of time’. 
    However, Van der Vaart gave Courtois’ comments concern the risk of player injury and fatigue short shrift. 
    And the former Spurs forward claimed goalkeepers have little reason to highlight tiredness with the Dutchman suggesting their performance involves ‘just standing there a bit’. 

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    Thibaut Courtois shows off his expertise in goal at Real Madrid training More

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    Euro 2028 bidding opens with England in prime position to host despite Wembley violence and likely Italy and Russia bids

    UEFA has officially launched the bidding process to host the 2028 European Championships.And England ALREADY meets all the stadium criteria required.
    Wembley would host the final if England were winners of the bidCredit: Reuters
    Under the demands for a 24-team tournament involving 51 matches, potential hosts must be able to put forward 10 stadia.
    That includes at least one with a capacity of 60,000 and preferably two that can seat 50,000.
    Four grounds must have a capacity of 40,000-plus with three able to host 30,000 or more.
    While the FA is currently only in the middle of the ‘feasibility study’ into whether to go through with the proposed England-led 2030 World Cup bid, the fact that it ticks all Uefa’s boxes already could be important.
    But the entire concept could be thrown up into the air if Fifa’s plan for a World Cup every two years – starting in 2028 – is voted through, as that would force Uefa into putting their tournament back by 12 months.

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    English football already has eight grounds – at Wembley, the Emirates and Tottenham in London, plus the two in Manchester, Anfield, Villa Park and Newcastle – that could seat 50,000-plus.
    Everton’s new home at Bramley Moore dock would make that nine while the Stadium of Light, plus Middlesbrough, Derby, Leicester, Stoke, Southampton and Wolverhampton are among grounds that would all exceed the minimum requirements.
    So far there are no declared bidders, with Uefa having set an initial deadline of March ahead of a decision in September 2023.
    There have been suggestions of bids from Russia, Italy, Turkey, the Scandinavian countries plus Finland and a four-nation Balkan bid involving Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.
    But Uefa, under President Aleksander Ceferin, thinks that Wembley is the ideal footballing showcase, despite the disgraceful hooliganism trouble that took place before the Euro 2020 Final.
    And it would not be a shock if the FA was encouraged by Uefa to apply at some stage, even if that was after the deadline had passed.

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    Watch Hungarian thugs attack cops in horrific tunnel stand-off during England clash at Wembley More