Chelsea sign Portugal´s Deco

Portugal midfielder Deco has signed for Chelsea, the English Premiership club said on Monday, for eight million pounds (10.1 million euros).

Deco, the midfield maestro of Porto's 2004 European Champions League-winning campaign, leaves Barcelona, with whom he also won the Champions League two years later, after the Catalan club said he did not feature in their plans.

Stamford Bridge have now confirmed the 30-year-old has agreed the move to become the club's first signing since Luiz Felipe Scolari was appointed manager.

The Brazil-born player is the club's first signing since the appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager and he is believed to have cost around eight million pounds.

Deco told Chelsea TV: “It is good for me to be here and first of all I am very happy to be here.

“I am sure I have come at the right time to do great things and be able to help Chelsea go back to the way it was and come back to being the first one, not only in England but also to win the Champions League that has been their dream for so long.”

Deco's move will see him link up once again with Scolari, his national coach at Euro 2008, and another Portugal team-mate in Jose Bosingwa, who signed for the club earlier in the summer.

The two-time Champions League-winner had been linked with Inter Milan, where his former Porto boss Jose Mourinho is now manager, but the Italians appear to have been put off by the price. Chelsea, however, seem to have negotiated the fee down to sign Deco.

Barcelona released a statement on Monday claiming Deco had signed a three-year contract with Chelsea.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Corruption case dropped against FC Porto president

Portuguese judicial authorities announced Monday they were dropping the case against FC Porto president Jorge Pinto da Costa, relating to alleged match-fixing of a first division game during the 2003/2004 season.

A court in Porto concluded there had not been any “violation of the rules of the game” during the match between FC Porto and Estrela da Amadora, the Lusa press agency reported.

Pinto da Costa was accused of offering a dinner and the services of prostitutes to referees, in exchange for favourable refereeing for his team.

Later on Monday, the public prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling.

After first dropping the case, it was reopened by Portuguese authorities on the basis of evidence from Pinto da Costa's former mistress Carolina Salgado, who now risks being pursued for “false testimony”, the sports daily A Bola reported on their website.

The match referees and another FC Porto official, who were also under official investigation like Pinto da Costa, were also cleared, the Portuguese media reported.

The FC Porto president, who has been in charge since 1982, was also accused last March of being involved in another alleged attempt to fix the outcome of a game at Beira-Mar during the 2003/2004 season, when the Portuguese side won the league and the Champions League double.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Triumphant Spanish team returns to victory parade

Tens of thousands of escatic fans cheered Spain's Euro 2008 players as they were feted in a parade through Madrid in an open-top bus to celebrate the country's first major football trophy in 44 years.

The 69-year-old coach Luis Aragones and goalkeeper Iker Casillas were the first off the plane, marked “Campeones” (Champions), after it touched down at Madrid's airport on a flight from Innsbruck, Austria, at around 7:40pm (1740GMT).

The two lifted aloft the cup, won in Vienna on Sunday with a 1-0 defeat of Germany in the Euro 2008 final, to the cheers of supporters gathered at the airport.

“I am a bit emotional today,” Aragones said in a brief comments to reporters.

The players, wearing the team's red shirts, boarded the red open-top bus, which traveled into Madrid watched by tens of thousands of fans, still recovering from a night of wild revelry.

The players, who celebrated their victory in a Vienna nightclub Sunday, will also be received Tuesday morning by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at his Moncloa Palace office. Spaniards celebrated until dawn Monday in a nationwide fiesta.

Police said they made 52 arrests for acts of vandalism or public disorder in the capital, where a man was found dead in a pool of blood after apparently falling over drunk and hitting his head.

Emergency services said a man was also taken to hospital with a fractured skull, among some 90 people treated by medics, mostly for fainting and minor injuries.

Police said 65,000 people watched the match live on giant television screens in the central Plaza Colon, where chants of “Viva Espana” and “Champions” rang out amid a cacophony of klaxons, firecrackers, drum beats and car horns at the final whistle.

Spain's Cuatro television channel reported a record 17.69 million viewers were watching when Liverpool striker Fernando Torres scored the only goal.

“Spain has gone crazy,” said the top-selling daily El Pais.

“Finally!” screamed the Catalan daily Publico in a massive double-page headline.

“Spain conquers Europe and opens a new era in Spanish football,” said Catalan sports daily Mundo Deportivo.

“The best team won the tournament and with a more beautiful style of football than any other,” the sports daily AS said in an editorial.

“The team reached the summit of European football with a generation of young players … who have swept away the curses of the past and announced a new era full of hope,” it said El Pais.

Spain last lifted the European trophy in 1964 with victory over the former USSR in what was its only previous triumph at a major tournament.

A win against Italy last week ended what was seen as a “curse”, in which Spain had lost three times on penalties in the quarter-finals of major competitions, and on the same date, June 22. In Thursday's semi-final, they demolished Russia 3-0.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Deco moves to Chelsea

Portugal and FC BarcelonaÂ’s star midfielder has completed a move to LondonÂ’s Premier League side Chelsea.

This information was disclosed on the Chelsea website earlier today.

Deco now becomes ChelseaÂ’s first transfer since PortugalÂ’s ex coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was appointed manager.

Scolari officially takes over the reigns at Stamford Bridge tomorrow (Tuesday 1 July 2008).

The transfer fee has not been disclosed.

Earlier BarcelonaÂ’s new manager Josep Guardiola had said that Deco did not feature in his plans for the new season.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Heroes´ welcome for Germany´s almost-champions

A huge flag-waving crowd gave Germany's not quite all-conquering football team a heroes' welcome in central Berlin on Monday despite their 1-0 defeat to Spain in the final of Euro 2008.

“Even if you are vice-champions it is worth celebrating,” said student Richard, 24, who drove for four hours from North-Rhine Westphalia to get to Berlin for Sunday's match – “which was definitely worth it,” he said.

“Lots of people came specially to Berlin for the match and now they are staying here for the team,” he said, one of around 100,000 fans who came to welcome Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger and co at the Brandenburg Gate.

Coach Joachim Loew, appearing on stage to rock music by the White Stripes, used the occasion to pay tribute to Luis Aragones's team but vowed to put Spain to the sword next time the two teams meet.

“The Spanish were a very good team all through the championship. We have to recognise their quality,” Loew said.

But he added: “Should the Spanish come up again in a championship we will beat them.”

Ballack said meanwhile it was “always bitter” to lose a final — a feeling he is intimately acquainted both at Chelsea and former club Bayer Leverkusen — and paid tribute to German fans for their support.

“For practically every game the home supporters were always in the majority. And that is important for our team,” the 31-year-old captain said.

“It is still a young team and it is very, very important that particularly in difficult phases of the game to have the support, and in many, many games that was fantastic.”

The atmosphere in Germany on Sunday for the match had been electric.

Some 600,000 had massed at the “Fan Mile” at the Brandenburg Gate to watch with horror on huge screens as their team fell at the final hurdle of the three-week-long championship.

Berlin and other cities had been transformed into raucous seas of flags, wigs and Hawaiian-style necklaces – all in the German black, red and gold – for the nail-biting finale beamed in live from Vienna.

Huge crowds had turned out under sunny skies to cheer “Deutschland! Deutschland!” in an orgy of flag-waving national pride in a country now much more comfortable with patriotism ever since the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Tens of millions had been glued to their televisions as the country ground to a halt, with even German car makers like Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi shutting down production so their workers could follow the game.

Some 72 percent of fans had predicted victory for Germany, according to a poll in the mass circulation Bild am Sonntag.

But it was not to be, with Spanish striker Fernando Torres's 33-minute stunner enough to win his team its first silverware in 44 years.

In contrast to Madrid where fans partied through the night, central Berlin emptied swiftly after the game as despondent fans headed back home – hopeful, however, that their team can do better in 2010 in South Africa.

The city's police, which had deployed 1,600 extra officers for the game, arrested 65 people but said on the whole the event had passed off peacefully.

The only major incident reported was in Lower Saxony in the economically depressed east, where 25 police were injured in clashes with drunken, disappointed fans. Sixty people were arrested here alone.

“Of course, they make mistakes and sometimes are too excited, but they are going to win next time in 2010,” Dennis, an 18-year-old stone masons apprentice, told AFP on Monday.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Toni and Gomez head top of the Euro flops

It doesn't say much for the Bundesliga defenders that Luca Toni and Mario Gomez accrued 40 goals between them last season and yet when they got to Euro 2008 their return was – zero.

Toni had a pretty thankless task ploughing a lonely furrow up front for world champions Italy, with neither veteran Alessandro del Piero nor Antonio Cassano capable of providing much support – his only moment of note was being brought down by Eric Abidal in their final group match against France leading to a penalty.

The poor fellow was so distraught at his predicament that he got in touch with Bayern Munich strike partner Miroslav Klose.

“I had a text after the Portugal game (Germany's 3-2 win in the quarter-finals), he (Toni) told me he has a problem with his best friend and asked me for help with his best friend,” Klose revealed.

“I asked him what was the problem and he told me his best friend was the ball and he doesn't know what to do with it.”

Gomez too looked all at sea, slipping down the order of Joachim Loew's list of strikers that having started in the 2-0 opening win over Poland he was the last to be sent on in the 1-0 Euro final defeat by Spain, with just 11 minutes remaining.

The German defence too could be added to the list for while Philipp Lahm was great at going forward he was exposed all too often at the back – climaxing with being outpaced by Fernando Torres for the goal in the final.

His centreback partners didn't escape lightly either with former Liverpool and Scotland defensive great Alan Hansen summing up his opinion of them at half-time of the final.

“I would have taken off the entire back four – but you're only allowed three substitutes!”

Cristiano Ronaldo would seem to be a strange choice to list as flopping but once again when his supreme talents were needed in the last eight clash with Germany he was not really to be seen.

Indeed UEFA evidently don't see him in the same light as Real Madrid – whose constant links with the player probably didn't help him – as he was not included even in the top 23 players adjudged by European football's ruling body following the final.

“It wasn't that I played badly, it was because my team-mates didn't play according to the plan,” was the 23-year-old's assessment of the German loss.

Nothing much went right for France – their only really satisfying moment must have been seeing the man they see as the villain of the piece at the 2006 World Cup final Marco Materazzi's defensive limitations being brutally exposed by the Dutch in their 3-0 victory over Italy and relegated to the bench.

But for Willy Sagnol and Lilian Thuram there was not a lot to smile about.

Both the Bayern Munich defender and 36-year-old Thuram felt so disconsolate after the 4-1 hammering by Holland that they asked to be stood down for the final group match with Italy.

However, Thuram's loss of form was put into perspective when a proposed transfer to Paris Saint Germain collapsed because of a previously undetected heart condition.

“It seems that it's the same illness that my brother had a few years ago and from which he died on a basketball court,” admitted a tearful Thuram.

Romania's hopes of progressing from the 'Group of Death' rested and fell on the shoulders of striker Adrian Mutu – his form had hardly been helped prior to the tournament as he was ordered by world governing body FIFA to pay former club Chelsea 12million euros for revenues they claimed to have lost following his sacking for testing positive for cocaine in 2004 and his adored maternal grandmother died.

However, despite scoring a goal in the match with Italy, it was his penalty in the final 10 minutes that was saved by Gianluigi Buffon which kept Italy alive and ultimately condemned the Romanians to an early flight home.

“I have that on my conscience, it is important I push it to the back of my mind, but it is not at all easy … the fault for us not qualifying lies fairly and squarely with me, if you are looking for someone to blame,” he said.

While he may not have set an example on the pitch in terms of his play his acceptance of blame is praiseworthy in that it is not often a word that passes sportspeople's lips – for that alone he shouldn't be top of the flops.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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We´ve broken so many hoodoos, says Casillas

Spanish goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas basked in the glory on Monday of having won Euro 2008 and reflected on the ghosts Spain laid to rest by winning their first title for 44 years.

A first-half goal from Liverpool's Fernando Torres was enough to seal a 1-0 win over Germany in Sunday's final in Vienna to give the Spanish their first European Championship win since 1964.

On route to the final, Spain beat Italy for the first time in a competitive match in the quarter-finals and in doing so broke their June 22 curse having lost three times on penalties on that date in major tournaments.

Having so often been the brides-maid, but never been the bride, Casillas' side then swept past Russia 3-0 in the semi-finals before beating Germany in Sunday's final to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy in style.

“We've broken a lot of hoodoos – above all the quarter-final jinx,” said Real Madrid shot-stopper Casillas.

“It's not comparable to a European Cup – this is much more. This is all of Spain, all of the country.

“Real Madrid fans, Barcelona, Valencia, everyone. It's the best.”

Having become the oldest man to guide a team to European success, Spain coach Luis Aragones pieced together a glorious campaign from the wreck of a 3-2 qualifying-stage defeat by Northern Ireland in September 2006.

“Luis Aragones had to suffer a lot but at the end he's got the reward,” said Casillas, with the 69-year-old set to stand down.

“What he had to suffer was incredible.

“He was very emotional, I'd like him to stay on but I don't think he will.”

And Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso said Spain are worthy winners having won all three group games and had been the most consistent team of the tournament.

“I think we deserved to be champions, we played well all the way through,” said the 26-year-old, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005.

“The key for me was the quarter-finals against Italy.

“We had a lot of pressure in that game but once we went through we had so much confidence.”

And having finally won some silverware, Alonso says the Spaniards have over-come a key mental barrier.

“This changes things. It shows you can do it. Winning a trophy gives you confidence.”

He also paid tribute to his Liverpool team-mate Torres who slipped his marker Philipp Lahm on 33 minutes to flick his shot past Germany's ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

“Fernando was fantastic,” said Alonso.

“He's a great striker.

“He's the kind of man who performs great on the big nights and what can I say about him, he's amazing.”

And having scored the crucial penalty which sealed Liverpool's fight-back from 3-0 down against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions Leage final in Istanbul, Alonso said the Euro 2008 win is special – now he wants league success.

“It's different,” he said.

“You are sharing a moment with a club and not with another group with a national team.

“Both are special.

“I was as excited to win the Champions League as I am now but this is very, very special.

“I'm absolutely delighted to win both trophies – now I would like a league somehwere.”

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Spanish fan found dead, 52 held after Euro 2008: police

A Spanish football supporter was found dead on Monday in Madrid where 52 others were arrested after a night of revelry to celebrate their team's victory over Germany in the final of Euro 2008, police said.

A municipal street cleaner found the 40-year-old man, wearing a red shirt of the Spanish team, at dawn in a pool of blood in the centre of the capital.

There was no indication of foul play, and police said he probably bashed his head on the ground when he fell over drunk.

Police also announced that 52 supporters were arrested in Madrid during the night of wild celebrations at Spain's first major international football trophy in 44 years.

They were detained for acts of vandalism and public disorder around the Plaza Colon, where 65,000 fans watched the match beamed live from Vienna on giant television screens.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Nihat out for up to four months

Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci could be out for up to four months after undergoing a successful operation on his right thigh that he injured in Turkey's Euro 2008 quarter-final win over Croatia.

The 28-year-old Villarreal forward played a pivotal role in getting Turkey to the last four, his two late goals against the Czech Republic earning them a place in the quarter-finals, where they saw off the Croatians on penalties having levelled the match at 1-1 with the final kick of the match.

However, his injury prevented him from taking any role in the semi-final which saw Turkey lose 3-2 to Germany.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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Japan name Endo in Olympic squad

Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo was the only over-age player in Japan's preliminary 20-member Olympic football squad announced on Monday.

Endo, 28, has scored six goals in 70 full internationals, gaining a reputation for his probing passing and sharing free-kick duties with Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura.

Another over-age candidate, ex-Real Mallorca striker Yoshito Okubo, was not chosen after his struggling J-League side Vissel Kobe refused to release him to avoid exacerbating an injury.

Japan will use only one of the three over-age slots available, according to Japan Football Association technical director Takeshi Ono.

Olympic team coach Yasuharu Sorimachi said he would announce a final squad on July 14 after a training camp.

“I have called up the best members available at the moment,” he said.

The under-23 line-up included two regular defenders from the senior national team, Gamba Osaka's Michihiro Yasuda and Atsuto Uchida of Kashima Antlers.

Two Europe-based players, VVV-Venlo midfielder Keisuke Honda and Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto, were also named.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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