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Croatia’s legendary football coach Miroslav Blazevic dies at 87

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Croatia's legendary football coach Miroslav Blazevic dies at 87

 Croatia’s famed football coach Miroslav Blazevic — who led the country to a third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup — died on Wednesday, the national football federation said. He was 87.

“The whole football family has lost ‘the coach of all coaches’ today,” the federation wrote on social media.

Blazevic died in the capital Zagreb after a long fight with cancer, spurring a flood of condolences.

Croatia’s national team coach Zlatko Dalic paid his respects, saying he mourned his “football father… a true inspiration for everything I achieved in my coaching career”.

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“Ciro was unique — an unsurpassed motivator and speaker… a man with great style and an even bigger soul and that’s why we all loved and respected him,” Dalic said in a statement, referring to Blazevic by his popular nickname.

Born on February 10, 1935, Blazevic started his playing career in his hometown of Travnik in neighbouring Bosnia.

In the early 1960s, he began coaching in Switzerland and moved in 1979 to Croatia, which was then part of the former Yugoslavia.

In Croatia, he coached Rijeka and later Dinamo Zagreb, where he led the club to their first Yugoslav championship in 24 years.

After winning the title, Blazevic’s popularity soared at home where he was known for wearing fashionable white scarves in public.

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“Dinamo’s 1982 win was the crown of my coaching career,” Blazevic told local media in 2021.

From 1994 to 2000, Blazevic took the helm of the national team and racked up a number of impressive wins, including a third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup in France.

The finish provided a much-needed boost to the weary nation following years of fighting during Croatia’s 1991-1995 independence war amid the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia.

During the 1998 World Cup, Blazevic was famed for wearing a French gendarme’s hat during games, as a symbol of solidarity with a security officer who was seriously injured by German football hooligans during the tournament.

‘Coach of all coaches’

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Eloquent, charismatic and well regarded for his motivational skills, Blazevic remained popular throughout the former Yugoslavia long after he retired in 2015.

As he battled cancer back in Zagreb, Dalic dedicated the team’s win in Croatia’s third-place match at the World Cup in Qatar in December to Blazevic.

“This is for you, boss. I can win five medals but you will always remain the ‘coach of all coaches’,” Dalic said after beating Morocco.

Blazevic, however, proved less successful at the ballot box, where he finished with less than one percent of the vote when he ran for the Croatian presidency in 2005. 

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Luis Sinisterra has made his move to AFC Bournemouth from Leeds United permanent, signing a long-term deal with the Premier League team on Friday.

Bournemouth reportedly agreed to a £20 million fee with Championship (second-tier) side Leeds.

The 24-year-old Colombian had been impressive since joining Bournemouth in September on a loan spell from Leeds United, with three goals and three assists in his 17 appearances.

“I’m really happy to make this move. I’m excited to play for Bournemouth for the long term,” Sinisterra said. “I feel really comfortable here and the fans are really nice. When I meet them in the streets, they show the love.”

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Andoni Iraola’s team are 12th in the table on 27 points, but are winless in their last four games. They play Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday. 

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

 Son Heung-min and Yves Bissouma returned to Tottenham Hotspur this week from international duty, and both are ready for Spurs’ game with Brighton & Hove Albion, manager Ange Postecoglou said on Friday.

Son was involved with South Korea at the Asian Cup where they lost to Jordan in the semi-final on Tuesday while Bissouma’s Mali exited the Africa Cup of Nations last weekend at the quarter-final stage.

Spurs, fifth in the standings on 44 points, host Brighton on Saturday, with Roberto De Zerbi’s side in eighth place on 35 points.

“Sonny and Biss they trained well. Sonny did recovery on Thursday and trained today,” Postecoglou told a press conference.

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“He is very disappointed for Korea’s exit, at the semi-final stage you feel so close. But he gave everything for his nation, no-one could question his commitment.

“I spoke to him after and he was keen to be back, so no surprise he was back training straight away.”

The manager also played down concerns over Bissouma, after media reports that he had played through the illness with malaria at the tournament.

“No, that’s not right. He had a slight form of malaria before the tournament, but it cleared up by the start of tournament. He’s 100 percent now.”

Manor Solomon hasn’t played since September and Postecoglou confirmed that the winger had another procedure on his knee earlier this week and is still another two or three weeks away from a return.

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Another injury concern was Giovani Lo Celso who missed the last three league games for Spurs.

“Lo Celso trained all week but he’s missed a fair bit of football so we’ll see whether he needs another week or not,” the manager said.

“It’s probably, for want of a better word, the healthiest squad we’ve had for quite a while anyway.”

Spurs conceded an added-time equaliser at Everton last weekend and lost to a late Nathan Ake goal against Manchester City in the FA Cup, but conceding late is not something that overly concerns their manager.

“It’s disappointing to concede goals at any point. People will want to analyse it,” Postecoglou said.

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“I’m sorry but we’re going to be a team that will score or concede goals late. The way we want to close out games is by trying to score goals late on.

“One thing we’re not going to do is jump at shadows and try to fix the latest thing being analysed.” 

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Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

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Fils ends 'great champion' Gasquet's 956 weeks in top 100

 Rising star Arthur Fils beat fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Auckland Classic on Tuesday to end the veteran’s run of more than 18 years in the world’s top 100.

The 19-year-old Fils cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the 37-year-old Gasquet, who had enjoyed a remarkable 956 consecutive weeks in the top 100, peaking at number seven in July 2007.

Gasquet was defending the Auckland title and points he won 12 months ago, so the first-round defeat will see him slide down from 76th in the world when new rankings are released next week.

Fils, with a booming serve that produced nine aces, broke at 2-2 in the first set and at 1-1 in the second and applauded Gasquet as he left the court.

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“He’s a great champion. He did an unbelievable career so I’m really happy to play on the court with him,” said Fils, who reached the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open last week.

“But it was a nice match for my part and I’m really happy.”

In other action, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov looked rusty in his first match since Wimbledon last year, losing Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 6-4, 6-2.

Roberto Bautista Agut was beaten by fellow Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-4 and eighth seed Max Purcell of Australia overcame New Zealand’s 716th-ranked wildcard Kiranpal Pannu 6-4, 6-4.

The top four seeds, Ben Shelton, Cameron Norrie, Francisco Cerundolo and Felix Auger-Aliassime, all had first-round byes. 

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