Messi, Ronaldo miss out on Champions League positional awards for 2020-21

By Sports Desk August 13, 2021

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not among the final nominees for the 2020-21 Champions League positional awards.

On Friday, UEFA announced the 12 players, three per position, who could win the individual prizes on August 26.

The 12 players each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Messi came fourth in the poll for the best forwards, while Ronaldo did not make the top 10. Each player was eliminated at the last-16 stage, Barcelona losing to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to Porto.

Five of the 12 nominees are from Chelsea, who won their second Champions League by beating Manchester City in the final. Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho are all nominated.

City have three representatives – Ederson, Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provide one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, are the other nominees.

The winners of the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward prizes will be announced at the group-stage draw in Istanbul in two weeks' time.

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    FIFA will display anti-discrimination messages at the World Cup quarter-final matches on Friday and Saturday to mark International Human Rights Day.

    FIFA is collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to show the #NoDiscrimination hashtag on the giant screens and LED boards within the stadiums.

    The World Cup in Qatar has come under intense scrutiny for the standards of human rights within the host nation, particularly the views on same-sex marriage and the treatment of migrant workers used to build the tournament's infrastructure.

    On Wednesday, The Athletic reported a Filipino man in his early 40s died while working at the base of Saudi Arabia during the group stage.

    When questioned on the incident the chief executive of Qatar 2022, Nasser Al Khater, told the BBC: "Death is a natural part of life, whether it's at work or in your sleep."

    FIFA also declined to comment on the reports, with its secretary general Fatma Samoura saying to Reuters: "We've already elaborated... about what we are doing in Qatar.

    "We are talking about things we have already discussed for months and months, time and time again."

    But FIFA signalled its intention to celebrate International Human Rights Day on December 10, explaining in a press release: "Discrimination - in all its possible forms and expressions - is one of the most common forms of human rights violations and abuse.

    "FIFA and the World Health Organization (WHO) will mark International Human Rights Day on Saturday, 10 December by reinforcing the message that there is no place for discrimination of any kind, either in football or in society in general.

    "During the FIFA World Cup quarter-final matches on 9 and 10 December, the #NoDiscrimination message will feature on giant screens and LEDs in stadium and, as during the whole of the tournament, on the captains' armbands."

  • Barella: Give World Cup spots to Euros and Copa America winners Barella: Give World Cup spots to Euros and Copa America winners

    Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella claims the Azzurri should have been at the World Cup "by right" after being crowned European champions.

    A stunning 1-0 defeat to North Macedonia in a play-off qualification game in March eliminated Italy, who were almost totally dominant but conceded the game's only goal in second-half stoppage time.

    It meant four-time winners Italy have failed to qualify for two consecutive World Cups, unprecedented in their history, and Inter star Barella has felt unable to watch the tournament due to his gripe that he should be involved.

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    Italy, who won the delayed Euro 2020 finals last year, remain devastated by their World Cup qualifying stumble.

    "I haven't seen half a match of the World Cup yet, I can't understand the feeling I feel," Barella said.

    "They say that the pitch is always right, but for me in this case it gave an unfair response. Today it was our turn, maybe tomorrow it will be the turn of others: whoever wins a European Championship or a Copa America deserves to go to a World Cup by right."

    Barella's suggestion is similar to one from Roberto Mancini, the Italy head coach, last month. Mancini also said the champions of every continent should be awarded an automatic spot at the World Cup.

    Barella hopes to go to the 2026 tournament, which will be co-hosted by Mexico, Canada and the United States, and can see him remaining an Inter player through to that time.

    A host of teams, including Chelsea and Liverpool from the Premier League, have been linked as possible suitors for Barella, who has a contract with Inter that runs through to 2026.

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    Whether Milan Skriniar remains at Inter for so long must be in major doubt.

    Paris Saint-Germain wanted him in the last transfer window and may come back in January, and the 27-year-old Slovakian centre-back is due to lapse out of contract at the end of the season.

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  • Morocco v Portugal: Fernandes alert to upset threat as Regragui calls on support of Arab world Morocco v Portugal: Fernandes alert to upset threat as Regragui calls on support of Arab world

    Bruno Fernandes and Portugal are alert to the threat of an upset posed by Morocco in their World Cup quarter-final after the Atlas Lions stunned Spain and now eye tournament history.

    Walid Regragui's side held La Roja to a 0-0 draw before beating them 3-0 on penalties, owing much to the saves of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

    Portugal had been effective if unspectacular in the group stage, but they released the handbrake in the last 16, demolishing Switzerland 6-1 in one of the finest performances by any team at Qatar 2022 after Goncalo Ramos came in for the benched Cristiano Ronaldo and scored a hat-trick.

    With the out-of-form and maligned Ronaldo out of the team, there was a perception of Portugal suddenly realising their potential without the 37-year-old holding them back, and Ramos' performance – as he became the first player since 2002 to net a World Cup treble on his first start – was evidence of that.

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    "It's a difficult game," he told reporters. "Morocco are a really good team.

    "They came first in the group, beat Spain, so we are aware of their qualities. We want to do the best game, as always, but we have to focus on ourselves and understand what we need to do to win our game.

    "That's the most important thing: that we do our game, do our job to get through. We know it will be a really difficult game."

    That is backed up by the fact Morocco have kept three clean sheets in four games at this World Cup, which is the most ever by an African side in a single edition of the tournament.

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    If they do see off Portugal, Morocco will become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

    Each of the previous three African teams to reach a quarter-final were all eliminated in the last eight, with Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) falling at this hurdle.

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    "We cannot achieve anything without the Moroccan public," he said. "Four days ago, they came to the hotel to ask for tickets, and many of them came from all over to encourage us.

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portugal – Goncalo Ramos

    Will Fernando Santos stick to his guns and keep Ronaldo on the bench? Judging by the team's performance against Switzerland, he should.

    Ramos had a hand in four goals against the Swiss and his hat-trick in 74 minutes was more knockout goals than Ronaldo has ever managed in the knockout stages of the World Cup (none in 531 minutes).

    Morocco – Yassine Bounou

    He was the Atlas Lions' hero in the last 16, saving two penalties in the shoot-out – the other hit the post, but he seemed to have it covered anyway.

    But even outside of penalty shoot-outs, Bounou is a key man for Morocco as a dependable goalkeeper who was even nominated for FIFA's Yashin Trophy – the prize given to the world's best keeper – earlier this year.

    PREDICTION

    Portugal are firm favourites here, with Santos' side having a 55.8 per cent chance of progressing to the semi-finals.

    Morocco have an 18.8 per cent likelihood of winning in normal time, with the draw rated at 25.4 per cent.

    Clearly then, while the Atlas Lions are the underdogs, they have a good opportunity of at least forcing extra-time, which did not work out too badly for them last time.
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