Vinicius named Player of the Season as Real Madrid sweep Champions League awards

By Sports Desk June 03, 2024

Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior was named the Champions League's Player of the Season by UEFA's technical observer panel on Monday.

Vinicius played 10 matches in the 2023-24 competition for champions Madrid, scoring six goals and assisting five.

He was on the scoresheet as Carlo Ancelotti's side beat Borussia Dortmund in the final on Saturday, earning his second Champions League medal with the club.

The Brazilian has 22 direct goal involvements in the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition (11 goals, 11 assists), the joint-most recorded by any player before turning 24, alongside Lionel Messi.

The UEFA panel also named Vinicius' team-mate Jude Bellingham the Best Young Player of the 2023-24 tournament.

The 20-year-old England international scored four goals and provided five assists in 11 Champions League appearances.

The Goal of the Season award also went to a Madrid player, with Federico Valverde's late volley against Manchester City in a 3-3 quarter-final draw at the Santiago Bernabeu taking the honours.

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    Georgia head coach Willy Sagnol believes his players will learn from their defeat to Turkiye, but was proud of his side's performance in Dortmund.

    The 75th-ranked side in the world captured the hearts of many neutrals in their first game at Euro 2024, coming agonisingly close to snatching a memorable point late on.

    Georges Mikautadze made history by scoring Georgia's first-ever goal at a major tournament following Mert Muldur's opener, but the minnows were undone by a piece of individual brilliance by Arda Guler before Kerem Akturkoglu sealed a 3-1 win late on. 

    "I don't want to say we are happy losers today but I think we can be proud of our performance," Sagnol told reporters.

    "We have given such a nice image of the Georgian footballer but of course, we had a lot of opportunities to score, probably as much as Turkey did. But that's football.

    "I'm sure in the future, in the next months and years, Georgia won't lose this kind of game. We are in a learning process, but we want to learn in a good way."

    For Turkiye, however, they won their opening game of a European Championship finals for the first time, having lost each of their previous five. 

    And a big contributor to that was Real Madrid's Guler, whose stunning strike showcased his mercurial talent, and was something he revealed he had practised in the lead-up to the game.

    "I am just thrilled, no words to describe how I feel. I was dreaming of this goal constantly," Guler said.

    "I've been practising this particular shot recently at the end of training sessions. I'm so happy to have scored this way."

    Turkiye head coach Vincenzo Montella celebrated the triumph on his 50th birthday, and Guler was able to deliver the boss his only wish.

    "My coach had wanted a goal as a birthday present," Guler told reporters. "I hope I can continue these goals."

    Montella was equally pleased with the way his birthday had panned out, labelling the result as the perfect day as preparations turn to their game against Portugal on Saturday, who beat Czechia late on in the other Group F contest. 

    "We are just thrilled," Montella said. "It was a lot of coincidences coming together today, my 50th birthday, Eid at home, the Euro opener."

    He told reporters: "It really was the perfect day, in terms of the spirit and in terms of the best present I could get."

  • Euro 2024 social round-up: Ronaldo's rally cry as Portuguese laud it up in Leipzig and France offer Mbappe update Euro 2024 social round-up: Ronaldo's rally cry as Portuguese laud it up in Leipzig and France offer Mbappe update

    Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal claimed a late win over Czechia to get their Euro 2024 campaign up and running.

    Before that, there was a sensational Group F opener between Turkiye and Georgia.

    But the football was not the only thing to look out for.

    Here, we round up the best of Tuesday's social posts from around Euro 2024.

     

    Ronaldo's rallying cry

    Ahead of becoming the first player to feature at six European Championships, Ronaldo posted a motivational message on social media.

    "Portuguese, today begins another chapter in our history," Ronaldo wrote in a caption that came with a video of some of his best moments in a Portugal shirt.

    "I fondly remember my first day with the national team, a journey full of challenges and victories. Now, I have the honor of being alongside a team of champions, full of talent and determination. With everyone’s strength and support, we turn dreams into reality. Let's, together, fight for another triumph. United, we are unstoppable. Go Portugal!"

    The rallying cry just about worked - Ronaldo didn't score, but Portugal beat Czechia 2-1 thanks to Francisco Conceicao's last-gasp winner.

    Portuguese party in Leipzig

    There were plenty of travelling Portuguese fans who made themselves right at home in Leipzig.

    It looked like a fair old party pre kick-off!

    Nose job

    Mbappe will require surgery, France coach Didier Deschamps confirmed, to fix his broken nose.

    However, when the superstar forward will go under the knife remains to be seen.

    Deschamps revealed this in a video interview posted to the official France team X account. Could Mbappe's Euro 2024 be over, or will he make it back in time to feature?

    Kante's warm welcome

    It was not all doom and gloom for France.

    N'Golo Kante was spectacular in his first competitive game for Les Bleus in two years, and the 33-year-old midfielder received a rapturous reception when he returned to the dressing room after the match, with the moment captured on video.

    Baller

    Turkiye and Georgia served up a thrilling encounter, and Arda Guler was one of the stars of the show.

    The Real Madrid midfielder became the youngest player to score on his Euros debut, breaking a record set by Ronaldo way back in 2004.

    He did so in stunning fashion, curling home from outside the area, and it's worth watching again and again.

    Quaresma watches on

    Ex-Portugal star Quaresma was no stranger to scoring great goals on the big stage, and he watched on from the stands to support his nation.

    Cool as you like

    Looking dapper is part and parcel of a team's travelling routine to and from match locations, especially for major tournaments.

    And the German team made sure to dress with the style befitting of hosts as they left their training base and headed for Stuttgart, where they take on Hungary on Wednesday.

    Derek's Cologne tour

    The Tartan Army have taken over Cologne ahead of Scotland's clash with Switzerland on Wednesday.

    And with the help of commentator Derek Rae, Scotland's social media team put out a handy guide to the city.

    Rice grabs the lens

    France's Benjamin Pavard took over camera duties for an ad hoc Olivier Giroud photo shoot earlier in the competition, and now England's Declan Rice has got in on the act.

    After training on Tuesday, Rice grabbed hold of the camera to get some snaps of his team-mates. And the results were pretty good!

  • Martinez lauds Portugal hero Conceicao after Euro 2024 drama in Leipzig Martinez lauds Portugal hero Conceicao after Euro 2024 drama in Leipzig

    Roberto Martinez lauded Francisco Conceicao as Portugal's much-needed hero after the Porto forward snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

    Portugal seemed set for a disappointing draw in their first match at the tournament after Robin Hranac's own-goal cancelled out Lukas Provod's second-half rocket on Tuesday.

    Yet Conceicao scored just two minutes after being introduced from the bench, sparking wild celebrations as Martinez's men escaped their first Group E test by the skin of the teeth.

    Having only introduced Conceicao in the 90th minute, Martinez hailed the impact of the 21-year-old on his first competitive appearance for his country.

    The Portugal boss told reporters: "He deserves it. He always works with one eye in front of the goal, he sniffs out goals.

    "He was the fireworks we needed today."

    Portugal completed 368 passes in the first half of this match, their most in a single half of football at the European Championship finals on record (since 1980), without finding any reward.

    That dominance turned into frustration when Provod cannoned in the opener after 62 minutes, only for Portugal to be bailed out by new hero Conceicao in Leipzig.

    Yet Martinez was not overly disappointed with his team's efforts.

    "There are some points to evaluate, not from a tactical or physical point of view – we had 18 shots and 13 corners," the former Belgium head coach added. 

    "We won because we showed values ​​of resilience, will and belief, from a dressing room that wants to give everything for Portugal. For a coach, it's the best."

    Conceicao's winning strike came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal at the tournament since Ferran Torres, for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds).

    The Porto youngster admitted nerves played a part before his heroics took over.

    "Of course there are, I suffer a lot inside and I try not to show it," Conceicao said.

    "I have to be calm, that's what I tried to do and I knew the time could come to enter."

    Vitinha also impressed in a controlled midfield showing for Portugal, though acknowledged his side must improve.

    "Fortunately, we equalised and we believed until the end we could turn the match around," the Paris Saint-Germain player said.

    "We need to do better but this was the first game. Everybody was enthusiastic but sometimes we were a bit hasty."

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