Nani relishing Melbourne derby day as Portugal star vows to dig deep for Victory

By Sports Desk October 21, 2022

Nani outlined his intention to give Melbourne Victory supporters "a beautiful night" as the derby against Melbourne City arrives on Saturday.

Portuguese winger Nani has experienced derbies in some of the world's great football cities, having played for Sporting CP, Manchester United, Lazio and Fenerbahce during an illustrious career.

Now an A-League derby awaits the 35-year-old, and he says the occasion will be comparable to his previous experiences of gunning for local bragging rights.

"A derby is a derby. You need to take it the way it is, you need to win," Nani said.

"Derbies are there to win, not to lose, because if you lose, it is the worst day of your life. You cannot go out. I don't feel in the mood to walk around, and you know you feel the shame.

"This is a moment of pride, so you want to give your fans a beautiful night, special feelings, and make them feel we are the best in the country."

Nani said hosts Victory will need to put in an almighty effort to earn all three points in front of a sell-out crowd at AAMI Park.

"We know it's a tough game," he said. "They are a strong opponent as well, so to win we need to give everything we've got and let's wait for the game and see what we can do."

Victory began the season with a 3-2 win over Sydney FC, before falling 1-0 to Western City Wanderers last week.

Last season saw Victory finish one point behind their neighbours, who topped the table in the regular season. Melbourne City then went on to lose to Western United in the Grand Final.

Melbourne City have begun this campaign with two wins, an early indication they should be challengers again.

Nani sees Victory as underdogs this weekend, saying Melbourne City "have a fantastic squad".

"I think probably they've been showing they're better than us on the field, the way they've been performing," Nani said. "So, it will be very tough for us. We need to be a compact team, we need to work very hard, and then try our best to beat them."

At the age of 35, Nani says he is putting in the hours to get in the best possible shape for his latest career challenge in Australia.

Asked if he might produce one of his famous backflips should he grab a derby goal, Nani said: "Yeah, why not? Let's see. I let the environment and the moment make the decision. So, what comes in the brain, we will do."

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    Euro 2024 continued to deliver on the drama on Monday, as Group B came to a thrilling conclusion.

    Matters were relatively simple for Spain, as the group winners made it three wins from three by seeing off Albania 1-0 in Dusseldorf.

    Yet there was late chaos in Leipzig, as reigning champions Italy salvaged a 1-1 draw against Croatia to book their place in the last 16.

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    Croatia 1-1 Italy: History-making Modric strike not enough

    Luka Modric, at the age of 38 years and 289 days, became the oldest player to score at the Euros when he lashed home in the 55th minute, and it looked for all the world as if that would be enough for Croatia to sneak into second place.

    Yet Italy, and specifically substitute Mattia Zaccagni, had other ideas.

    Zaccagni curled in his first Italy goal with just 41 seconds of stoppage time remaining to send Luciano Spalletti's team into the knockouts, with a tie against Switzerland up next. It is the latest goal scored by Italy at the Euros.

    Italy have now come from behind to avoid defeat in two of their three group games at Euro 2024, after also beating Albania 2-1 on MD1 – they had only done so in two group games previously in the finals of the competition (2-1 win against Bulgaria in 2004 and 1-1 draw against Romania in 2008).  

    Croatia, who were also pegged back late on by Albania last time out, have failed to win any of their group games at an edition of the European Championships (D2 L1) for just the second time, after previously doing so in 2004 (D2 L1).

    Each of the last four meetings between Croatia and Italy in all competitions have been drawn, since a 2-0 victory for Croatia in a friendly in August 2006.

    Modric's goal came just 33 seconds after Gianluigi Donnarumma had saved the veteran campaigner's penalty.

    Donnarumma has conceded just two of his last seven penalties faced at the Euros, saving four of them, with one hitting the woodwork. 

    Modric atoned with a brilliant close-range finish, making him just the second player to score at four different editions of the Euros, after Cristiano Ronaldo (five).

    Whether or not Modric has played his final game at the tournament is yet to be decided, with Croatia relying on England beating Slovenia by a three-goal margin to progress.

    Albania 0-1 Spain: Pretty perfect

    With Spain already through as group winners, Luis de la Fuente made wholesale changes, but La Roja got the job done thanks to Ferran Torres' goal.

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    It is, in fact, the first time La Roja have not conceded a goal in the group stage of a major tournament, too.

    Torres has been directly involved in seven goals across nine appearances for Spain under De la Fuente (five goals, two assists), with no Spain player being involved in more goals under him.

    Dani Olmo released Torres with a sublime pass. He provided his fourth assist at the Euros on what was his seventh appearance in the competition, with only Cesc Fàbregas providing more for Spain in the competition since records began in 1964 (five).

    Bayer Leverkusen star Alex Grimaldo came in for his first start at Euro 2024, meanwhile, and delivered by creating five chances.

    That is the most of any Spanish defender in a single match at a major tournament on record (since 1980).

    Unlike Croatia, Albania's fate is sealed. They have been knocked out at the group stages of the Euros for a second time (alongside 2016), while this was the first edition that they failed to win a single game (D1 L2).

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    Kevin Csoboth scored the winning goal in the 10th minute of injury-time to put Scotland out of another major tournament in the group stages. 

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    Stuart Armstrong looked to have skipped beyond Hungary's Willi Orban in the 80th minute, before the RB Leipzig defender grappled across the midfielder, with both tumbling inside the area. 

    Referee Facundo Tello waved away Scotland's appeals, and a subsequent check by VAR deemed the challenge not worthy of awarding a spot-kick. 

    “It was 100% a penalty," Clarke said. "Somebody, somewhere has to explain to me why that's not a penalty. It’s a one goal game, we get the penalty and it could have been a different night.

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    Having qualified for successive European Championships, this was Scotland’s 12th major tournament group stage, and in 50% of those they have failed to win a single match – at the 1954, 1958, 1986, and 1998 World Cups and EURO 2020 and 2024.

    “We gave everything, there’s nothing you can fault there. It was a very tough game against a good opponent," said Clarke. "A very close game that was always going to be decided by the first goal. You could tell that after half an hour.

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  • Euro 2024 Data Dive: Late goals and broken records tee up dramatic finish to Group A Euro 2024 Data Dive: Late goals and broken records tee up dramatic finish to Group A

    Sunday's action at Euro 2024 saw the conclusion of Group A, with late drama ensuring a last-gasp shake up to the standings.

    Germany looked sure to be on the end of a shock defeat to Switzerland until substitute Niclas Fullkrug stepped up to make it 1-1 in stoppage time and send the hosts through as group winners.

    Meanwhile, Scotland crashed out of the tournament without a win after conceding the latest goal ever scored at the Euros, with Hungary keeping their hopes of knockout football alive with their 1-0 victory.

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    Switzerland 1-1 Germany: Neuer makes history, but Fullkrug grabs headlines

    Having already qualified for the last 16, the hosts left it late to seal top spot in the group, needing Fullkrug to make a much-needed impact off the bench in Frankfurt.

    Dan Ndoye had given Switzerland a first-half lead with his maiden international goal to become the nation's second-youngest goalscorer at the Euros (aged 23 years 242 days), but Switzerland could not hold on.

    Manuel Neuer was left helpless against the forward's first-time finish on his 18th appearance at the European Championships, the most among goalkeepers at the tournament (overtaking Gianluigi Buffon – 17). At major tournaments, only Cristiano Ronaldo (45) has played in more games than the Bayern Munich stopper (37).

    Julian Nagelsmann named the same starting XI for three consecutive games, the first time Germany have done so in the competition's history, though it looked like tiredness was starting to take its toll as they struggled to break down their opponents.

    Toni Kroos finished the game with a passing accuracy of 92.5%, only averaging lower than that in one game for Real Madrid in 2023-24), but also equalled a record in the late drama.

    Having completed 323 passes so far at Euro 2024, Kroos has made the joint-most on record (since 1980) by a player in the group stage since himself at Euro 2016 (also 323).

    Germany eventually had 18 shots, with Fullkrug picking out the top corner with the final one; the striker has scored 13 goals in just 19 international appearances, while his four as a substitute at major tournaments are more than any other European player.

    Despite ultimately losing out on top spot, Switzerland have now gone unbeaten in their last four games against Die Mannschaft (W1 D3), with no nation currently enjoying a longer unbeaten streak against Germany (England and Spain both have ongoing runs of four).

    Scotland 0-1 Hungary: Csoboth breaks Tartan Army's hearts

    Meanwhile in Stuttgart, it was Hungary celebrating a late strike to seal a 1-0 victory that ensured an early exit for Scotland as they chased what would have been a landmark win.

    Kevin Csoboth cemented his place in European Championship history with his counter-attacking finish as he netted the latest goal ever scored in the tournament's history (excluding extra time), timed at 99 minutes and 32 seconds.

    Despite needing a win to finish third, Scotland failed to have a single shot on target in the game. In total, the Tartan Army had just 17 shots at Euro 2024 – since the group stage was introduced in 1980, it is the joint-fewest by a national team, along with Northern Ireland at Euro 2016.

    Indeed, only twice at Euro 2024 has a team failed to manage a shot on target in the first half of a match and both have been Scotland (also on MD 1 against Germany).

    Scotland pushed numbers forward for their last-minute corner with the hopes of reaching the knockout stage of the Euros for the first time, but instead will leave a major tournament group stage without a win for the sixth time (1954, 1958, 1986 and 1998 World Cups and Euro 2020 and 2024).

    While looking down and out after failing to win either of their opening games, Hungary finally ended a run of eight games in the competition without a win, registering their first victory since beating Austria 2-0 at Euro 2016 – this was also their first clean sheet since that win.

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