EPL

Eriksen makes sensational Premier League return with Brentford

By Sports Desk January 31, 2022

Christian Eriksen has signed for Brentford as he completes a remarkable return to the Premier League after suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

The Denmark international collapsed during a clash with Finland last June and subsequently required surgery to fit an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) to his heart.

Rules in Italy prevent players from playing after having such a device fitted, so the 29-year-old's time with Inter came to an end.

However, it is not illegal to play professional sport in England with an ICD, nor in the Netherlands – where Daley Blind could continue playing fo Ajax after having the device fitted.

Eriksen had been training at his former club Odense to build up his fitness, while he also recently joined Ajax's training sessions with the Eredivisie leaders' reserve side.

Fellow Dane Thomas Frank has now acted by signing the former Tottenham man, who he coached when the midfielder was in Denmark's Under-17s side, on a deal until the end of the season.

"I am looking forward to working with Christian again," Bees boss Frank told the club's official website. "It has been a while since I last coached him, and a lot has happened since then.

"Christian was 16 at the time and has become one of the best midfield players to appear in the Premier League. He has also won trophies all over Europe and become the star of the Danish national team.

“We have taken an unbelievable opportunity to bring a World Class player to Brentford. He hasn’t trained with a team for seven months but has done a lot of work on his own. He is fit but we will need to get him match fit and I am looking forward to seeing him work with the players and staff to get back towards his highest level.

“At his best, Christian has the ability to dictate games of football. He can find the right passes and is a goal threat. He also has very, very good set-piece delivery, both from corners and direct free-kicks.

"He is a player you can find with the ball, and he will come up with a solution to the problem in front of him. Christian will also bring experience of top level football to the Club. I expect him to have an impact in the dressing room and at the training ground."

Eriksen appeared 226 times in the English top flight for Spurs, scoring 56 times and assisting 62.

The playmaker still holds the club record at Spurs for most assists in a single Premier League campaign, recording 15 during the 2016-17 season.

He joined Inter on a four-and-a-half-year deal in January 2020 and was a part of Antonio Conte's title-winning team that ended a 10-year wait for the Scudetto last season.

Brentford have lost their past four Premier League games, leaving them 14th in the table. They are next in action in the FA Cup against Everton on Saturday.

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  • Messi, Vinicius and the other Copa America 2024 Golden Boot contenders Messi, Vinicius and the other Copa America 2024 Golden Boot contenders

    A festival of football is about to kick off in the United States, as the Copa America sparks into action.

    Argentina, the reigning champions, get the ball rolling when they face Canada in the opening Group A match, and Lionel Messi will be the main man as ever for La Albiceleste.

    Messi was the joint-leading scorer at the 2021 Copa America, netting four goals to lead the standings alongside Colombia’s Luis Diaz.

    The Barcelona great is expected to be right up there again when it comes to the 2024 Copa America Golden Boot race, and here, we dive into the main candidates for that award.

    Lionel Messi

    Not only did Messi finish as joint-top scorer at the 2021 Copa, he was also the leading assister and then, 18 months later, he went on to lead Argentina to World Cup glory, scoring seven goals in the process, from 6.6 expected goals – only Kylian Mbappe (eight) netted more times in Qatar.

    As soon as he features for Argentina at this tournament, Messi will become the Copa America’s all-time record holder for appearances – he is tied with Chile great Sergio Livingstone on 34, as it stands.

    Messi has scored 13 Copa America goals, which puts him joint-seventh on the all-time list, alongside fellow Argentina great Gabriel Batistuta. If he is able to replicate his four goals from the 2021 edition, then Messi will join Norberto Mendez and Zizinho at the top of the all-time charts – that is unless Peru’s Paolo Guerrero and/or Chile’s Eduardo Vargas were to net at least four times each to set a new record.

    Since the start of the 2011 Copa, Messi has had 102 shots – more than any other player. Surprisingly, his conversion rate stands at just 10.78 per cent, which stands as the second-lowest out of any player to have netted at least five goals in the competition in that time.

    But there can be no doubting Messi’s genius, and the little magician is entering what will surely be his final Copa in fine form – he has scored 12 goals in MLS for Inter Miami this season, outperforming his 8.3 xG and averaging a goal every 86 minutes.

    Argentina are the Opta supercomputer’s favourites to win the Copa, and group matches against Canada, Chile and Peru provide Messi with a favourable jumping off point to win the Golden Boot again.

    Vinicius Junior

    Fresh from winning the Champions League with Real Madrid (and scoring in the final – again), Vinicius heads into the Copa America as Brazil’s talisman.

    With Neymar absent through injury, the onus will fall on the winger to provide the creative spark and clinical edge to drag what looks like a more dogged, workmanlike squad through to the latter stages – Brazil are, according to our model, second favourites behind Argentina, with a 23 per cent win probability.

    If the Selecao are to challenge the holders, then they need Vinicius in top form.

    While he played as a split-striker for Madrid this season as Carlo Ancelotti found a way to get the best out of Jude Bellingham, Vinicius is more likely to play wide left for his country, though his cutting runs from out-to-in will make him a constant threat, as long as the likes of Bruno Guimaraes and Lucas Paqueta can pick him out.

    Vinicius netted 24 times for Los Blancos in 2023-24, and attempted 286 dribbles – 10 more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues across all competitions. He averaged 8.4 take-on attempts per 90, a tally bettered by only Jeremy Doku, while Vinicius also boasts a dribble completion rate of 3.3 per 90.

    He is yet to score at the Copa America, however. That being said, he did not make a single start in 2021, with all four of his appearances coming as a substitute, having only one shot and completing only one of his seven dribbles. But such has been his stellar form under Ancelotti in the intervening three years, there is no doubting he is now Brazil’s main man.

    Brazil face Costa Rica, Paraguay and in-form Colombia in Group D, but none of those defences should strike fear into Vinicius.

    Luis Diaz

    Diaz enjoyed a superb campaign three years ago, scoring two absolute screamers – one came in the group stage, an overhead kick against Brazil, while the other came in the third-place play-off as Colombia beat Peru; it was a stunner from outside the area, with the then-Porto winger lashing into the top-right corner after skipping in from the flank and taking on several defenders.

    Indeed, the quality of Diaz’s finishes are shown by his xG in 2021, which was just 1.0. And Diaz’s excellent shooting at that edition is further evidenced by his expected goals on target (xGoT) figure of 2.2.

    Diaz had only 10 shots, 18 fewer than Messi, yet boasted a hugely impressive 40 per cent shot conversion rate. Only Messi (57) and Neymar (77), meanwhile, attempted more dribbles than Diaz (43) at the 2021 edition, while it was just that superstar duo that completed more dribbles, too (Neymar 35, Messi 34, Diaz 26).

    His performances at that tournament piqued the interest of Premier League sides, and Diaz subsequently moved to Liverpool in January 2022. So while he will not be quite the unknown quantity that he was three years ago, if he is at his best, he will still be hugely difficult to stop – especially with James Rodriguez pulling the strings behind him.

    Darwin Nunez

    Bookending this list of the top Golden Boot contenders is Uruguay’s Darwin Nunez. The Liverpool striker has been superb under Marcelo Bielsa, and looks to be El Loco’s main attacker, even with Luis Suarez in the squad.

    Nunez scored 11 Premier League goals for the Reds in 2023-24, but underperformed his xG (16.4) by 5.4. While he was unfortunate in a sense – he hit the woodwork on nine occasions, four more times than any other player – he was also erratic in his finishing, with his xGoT dropping to 15.5. Nunez also missed 14 big chances, which ranked behind only Manchester City’s Erling Haaland (34).

    The 24-year-old may never be ultra-clinical, (he had a shot conversion rate of 10.2 per cent in the Premier League in the season just gone) but his pace, tenacity and work rate make him the ideal Bielsa folly up top.

    Nunez scored a hat-trick in Uruguay’s 4-0 demolition of Mexico earlier in June, while he is the leading goalscorer in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, with five to his name.

    Uruguay head into the tournament in fine fettle, and Bielsa will always be willing to risk it all in attack – meaning plenty of opportunities should come Nunez’s way.

    They are in a group with the hosts USA, Panama and Bolivia – the worst-ranked team in the tournament – so Nunez should be aiming to make a dent early on.

    Other contenders

    Lautaro Martinez

    Martinez has had an outstanding season for Inter, who he led to the Scudetto while finishing as top scorer in Serie A, scoring 24 goals in 33 appearances, and comfortably outperforming his 17.6 xG.

    However, he has not netted for Argentina in 2026 World Cup qualifying, and is not a regular starter under Lionel Scaloni, so chances may not be of a premium for him. That being said, he did score twice in Argentina's 4-1 win over Guatemala on Friday.

    Endrick

    Boy wonder Endrick, who will link up with Vinicius, Bellingham and Kylian Mbappe at Real Madrid next season, has scored three goals for Brazil in his last three appearances.

    He scored those in successive matches, though he was unable to become the first Selecao player since Neymar in 2021 to net in four consecutive games as Dorival Junior’s team drew 1-1 with the USA in a warm-up match. At 17, Endrick looks like a superstar in the making, and he could be an outside bet for the Golden Boot.

    Luis Suarez

    Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer Suarez is bang in form heading into this tournament. The veteran has 68 goals in 138 caps and has netted 12 times already for Miami in MLS this season, averaging a goal every 96 minutes.

    Of players to score at least five times in MLS in 2024, Suarez has the fourth-highest shot conversion rate, too (33.33 per cent). Uruguay are ranked as the third-favourites by the Opta supercomputer, so Suarez could have plenty of matches to add to his international goals tally.

    Christian Pulisic

    The USA cannot find much consistency under Gregg Berhalter, though they did draw 1-1 with Brazil in a friendly on June 13. If the hosts are to make a serious run, then they will need to channel through Pulisic.

    While he is more likely to act as a creator, the attacker has proved he is more than capable of putting away chances. He scored 15 goals for Milan in 2023-24, making it the best goalscoring campaign of his career.

  • Italy 'like looking in the mirror' for Spain, says De la Fuente Italy 'like looking in the mirror' for Spain, says De la Fuente

    Luis de la Fuente sees striking similarities between Italy and his Spain side as La Roja prepare to "get muddy" against the Azzurri at Euro 2024.

    Spain and Italy each won their Group B openers, against Croatia and Albania respectively, and a further victory for either team on Thursday will clinch top spot.

    Although the pair account for three of the past four European Championship titles, neither have widely been counted among the leading contenders, but De la Fuente expects a highly competitive encounter between two young sides.

    "They're very similar to us," Spain coach De la Fuente said of Italy. "They have changed coach and they have young players. They are very competitive.

    "When I see them, it's almost like looking at ourselves in the mirror actually.

    "We are a growing, developing team, working on cohesion and consistency, and so are they. I think it will be a very high quality match."

    Italy beat Spain on penalties in the semi-finals of the last Euros, while the sides went on to meet in the 2012 final when they last played each other in the group stage.

    The calibre of the fixture makes for a mouthwatering occasion, in which De la Fuente is keen to ensure Spain will be "ready for everything".

    "It's a football clasico, a clash that could easily be a Euros or World Cup final," he said.

    "We are prepared to get muddy, to dig deep in a quarry, for a good day at the office. We are ready for everything.

    "We know what kind of football Italy play and how competitive they are, so we won't be surprised. I expect a strong, aggressive Italy who will try to control possession."

  • Euro 2024 social round-up: Tartan Army turns Cologne blue, no rest for Mbappe Euro 2024 social round-up: Tartan Army turns Cologne blue, no rest for Mbappe

    Day six at Euro 2024 brought more thrills and spills on the pitch, with Albania sealing a last-gasp draw against Croatia and Germany booking their place in the last 16 by beating Hungary.

    Scotland, meanwhile, kept their hopes of progressing from Group A alive by earning a creditable 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the late kick-off.

    There was also plenty going on outside the games, from the Tartan Army painting Cologne blue to Kylian Mbappe getting out on the turf two days after breaking his nose.

    Here, we run through the best of Wednesday's social media posts from around Euro 2024.

    Cologne turns blue for Scotland

    One noticeable theme of this tournament has been the colour and noise brought by huge contingents of travelling fans, and an estimated 100,000 Scotland supporters brought the fun to Cologne on Wednesday.

    "No Scotland, no party" was ringing around Munich last week, and on Wednesday, it was Cologne's near-800-year-old cathedral that played host to the Tartan Army.

    #effzeh pic.twitter.com/R0fFFUnyEs

    — 1. FC Cologne (@fckoeln_en) June 19, 2024

    Those with tickets were then treated to a spirited performance as Steve Clarke's side went ahead through Scott McTominay, and they were arguably unfortunate not to win as they finished the game strongly after Xherdan Shaqiri's fine equaliser.

    Cheesy humour from Swiss fan 

    One Switzerland fan, meanwhile, took culinary inspiration for his outfit at the RheinEnergieStadion.

    Fortunately for him, Murat Yakin's defence had fewer holes than the Swiss cheese he paid homage to, and they are now all-but guaranteed to make the knockout stages.

     

    Hosts on the march

    Germany strode into the last 16 of the tournament on Wednesday, a 2-0 victory over Hungary ensuring a top-two finish in Group A.

    It's fair to say their performances have gripped the imagination of the German public, with Wednesday's fan march to the Stuttgart Arena a particularly impressive sight.

    If Julian Nagelsmann's team can maintain their performance levels, they may just find themselves marching to the Olympiastadion on July 14...

    Mbappe out on the grass 

    It has only been two days since France captain Mbappe broke his nose in a nasty collision with Austria's Kevin Danso, but the forward is in no mood to rest.

    He was out on the training pitch on Wednesday as Les Bleus prepare for Friday's clash with the Netherlands, wearing strapping across his nose.

    His participation in that match remains in doubt, and a protective mask will be required for him to return to competitive action, but the sight of him going through his paces will have encouraged France's fans.

    Cruyff turn celebrates big Five-O

    France's next opponents also had something to celebrate on Wednesday, as it represented the 50th anniversary of Johan Cruyff first wheeling out his signature turn.

    The Cruyff turn was born on this day in 1974, the Oranje legend having first performed the move on June 19, 1974, in a World Cup group-stage match against Sweden. 

    Jan Olsson, the unfortunate defender on the receiving end of the move, probably remains bamboozled half a century on.

    Gallagher in the hot seat

    It was Conor Gallagher's turn to take part in England's diary room series on X, with the Chelsea midfielder discussing what he and his team-mates get up to on days off.

    He then attempted to match a series of dogs with the Three Lions stars they belong to, posting a pretty good success rate.

    The episode began, however, with Gallagher failing to prevent a Jenga set from crashing down around him. England will hope that is not a metaphor for their campaign...  

    Memorable day for Gjasula

    It initially looked like Wednesday would be a day to remember for all the wrong reasons for Klaus Gjasula. 

    Having come off the bench with Albania 1-0 up against Croatia after 72 minutes, Gjasula saw Andrej Kramaric equalise before putting through his own net, all within just four minutes.

    However, the midfielder – who plays his club football in Germany with Darmstadt – was in the right place at the right time to level five minutes into stoppage time.

    His post-match Instagram post summed up how much it meant to him and his team-mates.

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