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Italy crowned European champions after shootout win over England

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(Last Updated On: July 12, 2021)

Italy claimed the European Championship for the first time since 1968 as penalties came back to haunt England at Wembley on Sunday, Gianluigi Donnarumma saving twice as the Azzurri won a shootout 3-2 after the game finished 1-1 following extra time.

The giant goalkeeper saved from Jadon Sancho and, decisively, Bukayo Saka after Marcus Rashford hit the post, as Federico Bernardeschi, Leonardo Bonucci, and Domenico Berardi all scored for the Italians in the shootout.

Luke Shaw had given England a dream start with a superb goal after two minutes but Italy, who offered almost nothing in response in the first half, gradually took command and deservedly leveled through Bonucci after 67 minutes.

It was the first final decided on penalties since Czechoslovakia beat West Germany in 1976 and was wildly celebrated in Italy after they lost the final in 2000 and 2012.

For England coach Gareth Southgate, who missed from the spot when they lost in the Euro96 semi-final to Germany, it was another shootout horror show.

The two players he sent on late in extra time with penalties in mind missed their penalties, as did 19-year-old Saka, who crumpled under the pressure of taking the final kick.

Italy has now won five and lost six of their 10 major tournament shootouts, including one win and one loss in World Cup finals, while England’s dismal record now reads seven losses from nine.

But England fans dreaming of a second title to add to the 1966 World Cup can hardly complain they were robbed this time after their team followed a strong start by surrendering the initiative despite the support from most of the 67,000 crowds.

The match statistics told the story as Italy had 66% possession and 19 shots to England’s six and, until the shootout, Donnarumma barely touched the ball.

Italy is now unbeaten in 34 matches, underlining the stunning turnaround fashioned by coach Roberto Mancini who took over after the country’s humiliating failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“It was impossible even to think about this, but the guys were extraordinary,” Mancini said. “I don’t have words for them, this is a magnificent group. We were great, we conceded an early goal and had some problems but then we dominated.”

BRIGHT START

It had all started so well for England when Harry Kane spread the ball wide to Kieran Trippier and he instantly repaid coach Southgate’s faith in recalling him by sending over a curling deep cross that Shaw met on the half volley to hammer inside the post for his first international goal.

England had taken an early lead in their 2018 World Cup semi-final against Croatia before being outplayed and losing in extra time but for a while, they stayed on top, with the Italians arguing and running to Mancini for instructions as they struggled for a foothold.

England’s well-drilled defense, which had conceded one goal, via a Denmark free-kick, in their six previous tournament games, looked safe enough but the players in front gradually began to concede more and more territory.

Jordan Pickford had to save from Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa as Italy cranked up the pressure and it paid dividends when Bonucci pounced from close range after the keeper had turned Andrea Belotti’s header onto a post.

England could have no complaints after inviting their opponents on and offering almost nothing in attack.

It was a similar story in extra time, though England did briefly force their way back into the game, albeit without creating much to reward the crowd for their waves of noise.

England briefly sensed glory in the shootout when Pickford saved from Belotti, and Kane and Harry Maguire put them 2-1 ahead. The keeper kept the hosts in it again when he saved from Jorginho, only for Donnarumma to have the final word when he blocked Saka’s weakly-struck shot.

“The penalty takers are my call,” said Southgate. “We know they were the best takers we had left on the pitch, and we tried to get those players on to the pitch.

“The players have given everything, not only tonight but throughout the whole tournament. They should hold their heads high… but the devastation of getting so close is difficult to put into context.

“At the moment the pain of the defeat is huge, we wanted to give our nation one more special night and a first European championship and we haven’t quite been able to do it.”

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Moscow in talks with IEA’s leaders about visit to Russia

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

Moscow is discussing a possible visit by a delegation of the Taliban-appointed government to Russia with Kabul, the RIA news agency cited a Russian foreign ministry source as saying on Friday, Reuters reported.

Separately, RIA quoted Taliban deputy culture and information minister Zabiullah Mujahid as saying that Kabul was seeking such contacts, Reuters report said.

This comes after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has urged the international community to refrain from putting unnecessary pressure on the new Afghan government.

Speaking at an event on Thursday in Kabul, Mutaqi warned that if a country “pursues enmity with Afghanistan instead of friendship”, it will face the resistance of Afghans.

Muttaqi also called for the establishment of neutral political relations.

“Afghanistan is not the country it was 20 years ago, and the world should not try to put pressure on it.

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Kabul residents praise IEA on law and order, but hope for jobs

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

Kabul residents on Thursday praised the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) for their control of law and order, but concerns over job prospects and economic issues remain prevalent.

“Law and order is better under this government than under the previous government, that useless government, but they must work towards getting jobs for the people. They should pay attention to the economy, the unemployment situation,” said market porter Mohammad.

The IEA has asked to address world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week and nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Eventual U.N. acceptance of the ambassador of the IEA would be an important step in the new government’s bid for international recognition, which could help unlock badly needed funds for the cash-strapped Afghan economy.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the IEA’s desire for international recognition is the only leverage other countries have to press for inclusive government and respect for rights, particularly for women, in Afghanistan.

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IEA’s foreign minister calls for ‘neutral’ foreign relations

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has urged the international community to refrain from putting unnecessary pressure on the new Afghan government.

Speaking at an event on Thursday in Kabul, Mutaqi warned that if a country “pursues enmity with Afghanistan instead of friendship”, it will face the resistance of Afghans.

Muttaqi also called for the establishment of neutral political relations.

“Afghanistan is not the country it was 20 years ago, and the world should not try to put pressure on it.

“Afghanistan now has good relations with the rest of the world and the region and the pressure by some countries does not affect Afghanistan because it is not alone now,” said Muttaqi.

He also said strong economic ties between Afghanistan and the region would soon be established and that these would have a positive impact on the entire region.

At the same time, the foreign ministers of China and Pakistan, on the sidelines of the UN summit, called for the lifting of economic sanctions on the Afghan government.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the Pakistani foreign minister said that the world had no choice but to engage with the new Afghan government and recognize it.

“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” Shah Mahmood Hussein Qureshi told the AP.

“At the same time, the international community has to realise: What is the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”

Qureshi said Pakistan “is in sync with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their foothold, and for the Islamic Emirate to ensure “that Afghan soil is never used again against any country”.

“But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked.”

But some other countries, including Germany, have opposed the presence of a representative of the Islamic Emirate at the UN summit. German foreign minister said the new Afghan officials needed to show in practice that they were complying with international law.

“Unfortunately, since August 15, life has become very difficult for everyone: financial situation, poverty, level of violence, level of poverty, level of fear, level of losses are increasing day by day. We are not the women of 2001, we are not the women of the 90s. If they [Islamic Emirate] really want to rule and lead in Afghanistan, they cannot rule without [the participation of] the 50 percent of Afghanistan, women,” said Zarifa Ghafari, a women’s rights activist.

This comes after the IEA asked to address world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week and nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s UN ambassador.

Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi made the request in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, Reuters reported

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