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BREAKING: Croatia beat Brazil on penalty, book semi-finals place

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Brazil mourn loss, Croatia celebrate victory

Croatia beat Brazil 4-2 on penalties on Friday to set up a World Cup semi-final against Argentina or the Netherlands.

The match finished 1-1 after extra time, with Bruno Petkovic cancelling out Neymar’s brilliant solo opener.

The World Cup quarter-final between Croatia and Brazil went to penalties after the match finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Neymar scored at the end of the first period of extra time but Bruno Petkovic levelled in the 117th minute in remarkable scenes in Qatar.

Neymar equalled Pele’s record of 77 Brazil goals after scoring against Croatia. The forward fired home from close range in extra time to put Brazil ahead and match Pele’s tally, achieved between 1957 and 1971.

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Ajagba outboxes Shaw for unanimous decision win

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Efe Ajagba

Nigerian boxer, Efe Ajagba, has claimed a win against formerly unbeaten Stephan Show in the early hours of Sunday morning faring better than the last time he fought a boxer-puncher.

Two fights after his one-sided, unanimous-decision defeat to Frank Sanchez, Ajagba won the contest against previously undefeated Shaw by unanimous decision.

Nigeria’s Ajagba was the aggressor for almost all 10 rounds, whereas Shaw seemed reluctant to engage with the hard-hitting heavyweight contender in a main event fight at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

Judges Eric Marlinski, John McKaie and Don Trella scored their uneventful encounter identically, 96-94 for Ajagba.

Nigeria’s Ajagba (17-1, 13 KOs), a 2016 Olympian, won a second straight fight since Sanchez beat him. Cuba’s Sanchez (21-0, 14 KOs) dropped Ajagba in the seventh round and comfortably out-pointed him on all three scorecards in a 10-rounder that was part of the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder undercard in October 2021 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Ajagba underwent surgery on both elbows following his loss to Sanchez. Healthier and more confident, he promised he would box better against Shaw than he did versus Sanchez.

St. Louis’ Shaw, meanwhile, was unable to capitalise on the biggest opportunity of his nine-year professional career.

Without hesitation, Shaw (18-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC) took this fight against Ajagba on less than one month’s notice. Ajagba was supposed to fight Colombian contender Oscar Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs), but Rivas suffered a detached retina while training last month.

Shaw was already training to fight Italian prospect Guido Vianello (10-1-1, 9 KOs), who was stopped due to a cut by Jonnie Rice (16-6-1, 11 KOs) in the seventh round of the co-main event.

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Messi scores in first game after World Cup as PSG win

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PSG's Lionel Messi, left, celebrates with teammate Neymar after scoring their side's second goal during the French League One soccer match against Angers at the Parc des Princes in Paris Wednesday. (AP)
Lionel Messi scored in his first game for Paris St-Germain since winning the World Cup with Argentina as the Ligue 1 leaders won at home against Angers.

Messi, 35, had an extended break after netting seven times during the World Cup, which Argentina won by beating France on penalties in the final.

Hugo Ekitike hit an early opener before Messi doubled PSG’s advantage.

He finished off from Nordi Mukiele’s pass with the goal given following a video assistant referee check.

Neymar thought he has added a third goal late on but it was ruled out for offside.

PSG are six points clear at the top of Ligue 1 after second-placed Lens could only draw 2-2 at Strasbourg.

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Brazilian football legend Pele is dead

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Brazilian football icon Pele, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time and a three-time World Cup winner who masterminded the “beautiful game,” has died at the age of 82, his family said Thursday.

“Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.

Named athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee in 1999, Pele is the only footballer in history to win three World Cups — 1958, 1962 and 1970.

Nicknamed “O Rei” (The King), he scored more than 1,000 goals in one of the most storied careers in sport, before retiring in 1977.

He had been in increasingly fragile health, battling kidney problems and colon cancer — undergoing surgery for the latter in September 2021, followed by chemotherapy.

– ‘Samba football’ –

Born October 23, 1940, in the southeastern city of Tres Coracoes, Edson Arantes do Nascimento — Pele’s real name — grew up selling peanuts on the street to help his impoverished family get by.

His parents named him for famed American inventor Thomas Edison.

But he was soon given the nickname Pele, for his mispronunciation of Bile, the name of a goalkeeper at Vasco de Sao Lourenco, where his footballer father once played.

Pele dazzled from the age of 15, when he started playing professionally with Santos. He led the club to a flurry of titles, including back-to-back Intercontinental Cups, against Benfica in 1962 and AC Milan in 1963.

Known for his genius with the ball, he epitomized the sublime style of play called “samba football” in Brazil, where he was declared a “national treasure.”

He scored an all-time record 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches for Santos (1956-74), the Brazilian national team, and the New York Cosmos (1975-77).

But beyond his records, he will be remembered for revolutionizing the sport, his ever-present number 10 on his back.

The first global football star, he played a lead role in the game’s transformation into a sporting and commercial powerhouse, tapping his preternatural athleticism despite his relatively small size — 1.70 meters (just under five-foot-seven).

He also played with heart, visible in the iconic black-and-white footage of the 17-year-old phenom bursting into tears after helping Brazil to its first World Cup title, in 1958.

Eight years earlier, seeing his father cry when Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup final at home to Uruguay, he had promised to bring the trophy home one day.

– Sports royalty –

Pele reached the pinnacle of his greatness at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the first broadcast in color, where he starred on what many consider the greatest team of all time, with talents such as Rivellino, Tostao and Jairzinho.

He was often welcomed like royalty when traveling abroad with Santos or the national team. Legend has it in 1969 his arrival in Nigeria was the occasion for a 48-hour truce in the bloody Biafra war.

Pele declined offers to play in Europe, but signed for a brief, lucrative swan song with the Cosmos at the end of his career, bringing his star power to the land of “soccer.”

His reign extended beyond the pitch, with gigs as a movie star, singer and later sports minister (1995-1998) — one of the first black cabinet members in Brazil.

But he faced criticism at times in Brazil for remaining quiet on social issues and racism, and for what some saw as his haughty, vain personality.

Unlike Argentine rebel Diego Maradona, his rival for the title of greatest of all time, Pele was seen as close to those in power — including Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime.

– Final match –

Pele’s public appearances had grown increasingly rare, and he frequently used a walker or wheelchair.

He was hospitalized several times for urinary infections, then again in 2021 and 2022 for the colon cancer that marked the beginning of the end.

But he met his health problems with trademark humor.

“I will face this match with a smile on my face,” he posted on Instagram in September 2021, after surgery to remove his colon tumor.

He was deeply moved when Maradona, his longtime friend and rival, died of a heart attack in 2020 at age 60.

“The world has lost a legend,” he wrote.

“One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky.”

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