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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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ANDSF to launch offensives in north to retake fallen districts

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are expected to start offensives in Balkh province and across the country to retake fallen districts and areas, said Bismillah Mohammadi, acting minister of defense on Tuesday during a trip to Balkh.

According to Mohammadi, if the Taliban think they can win militarily, they are wrong.

“Hopefully we will witness our offensives across Afghanistan and we will recapture areas one after another,” said Mohammadi.

He also praised ANDSF for their achievements in Balkh, Samangan and Herat provinces.

“It is our obligation to defend the country until our last breath. We assure people that yesterday Kaldar was recaptured and earlier one district in Herat was recaptured,” said Mohammadi.

The acting minister of defense said that people, especially youths, stand by the ANDSF to defend the country.

“When I assessed the situation in Mazar, I saw that most people who stand by ANDSF were youths. Not only in the north but in all Afghanistan, uprising forces were established to defend people,” added Mohammadi.

During his visit to Balkh, Mohammadi also met Afghan army soldiers.

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Well known Afghan comedian gunned down in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

A well-known local comedian, Nazar Mohammad, who was known as Khasha Jawan, was gunned down on Tuesday, allegedly by the Taliban, in Kandahar, sparking widespread condemnation.

According to sources, Khasha Jawan was assaulted by the militants before being killed.

He was allegedly then dragged out of his house, with his hands tied behind his back and his body dumped in the Dand district of Kandahar.

A video doing its rounds on social media shows the militants assaulting Khasha Jawan before killing him.

Vice President Amrullah Saleh wrote on his Facebook page that Khasha Jawan was executed by the Taliban in a “kangaroo court.”

“Footage of the moments before the execution of Khasha Jawan Kandahari in a kangaroo court shows that the Taliban does not abide by Sharia; they have no court, no law, and no humanity,” Saleh said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture and Information stated that Khasha Jawan sent out strong messages through “art and allegory” to the people.

Waheed Omer, Director General at the Office of Public and Strategic Affairs of the Afghan government, stated: “Footage of Taliban killing a bound local comedian in Kandahar is a drop [in the ocean compared to] the massacre campaign that the Taliban has waged across Afghanistan.”

“Please don’t look the other way. Raise your voice on whatever stage that you have access to. These savages are after rooting our people out,” Omer tweeted.

The Taliban, however, stated that Nazar Mohammad was a member of the Afghan security forces.

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Taliban negotiating team member’s son killed in clashes in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

Anas Haqqani, a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, confirmed Tuesday that the son of Mohammad Nabi Omari, a member of the Taliban leadership and negotiating team, was killed in a battle with government forces.

In a tweet, Haqqani confirmed the killing of Omari. But he did not give any further details.

The Afghan government also confirmed that Abdul Haq Omari, who was the deputy chief of the Taliban military wing in Paktia province, was killed in a clash with Special Forces.

Meanwhile, Shaheen 209th Military Corps claims that a Pakistani army officer Javed was killed by NDS forces.

According to the Corps, he was a serving Pakistani army officer and was leading the Taliban in Logar, Paktia, and Paktika provinces and was killed on Tuesday morning in an operation by NDS 01 unit.

The Corps also said that a commander of tactical training and head of the Taliban Red Unit in Faryab province, along with seven of his fighters was killed.

“Qari Hayatullah, known as Osama, the head of the Taliban’s red unit and commander of the Taliban’s tactical and terrorist training for Faryab province, was killed Monday afternoon in a joint operation by defense and security forces in the village of Deh Azizan in the Sabz area of Pashtun Kot district,” read the statement.

During the operation nine other members of the group were wounded, the Corps added.

The Taliban has not commented yet.

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