Late Nathan Ake goal earns Dutch draw against Italy

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Nathan Ake headed home his first international goal as Holland scrambled to force a draw with 10-man Italy in Turin.

The hosts had looked on course to win this clash of two nations who had surprisingly failed to qualify for the World Cup when Simone Zaza marked his recall to the Azzurri squad with a goal off the bench.

But, after Domenico Criscito was sent off, Holland were able to find a way through as Bournemouth’s Ake headed in to make it 1-1 with just three minutes to spare.

New Italy boss Roberto Mancini had seen his side beaten 3-1 by France over the weekend and he was prevented from collecting a second win from three games in charge here.

The hosts thought they had taken an early lead but Andrea Belotti’s third-minute effort was chalked out for offside.

The Torino forward then wasted a good chance as he fired straight at Holland goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

It was Cillessen who the Dutch had to thank for keeping the scores level at the break following another smart stop to deny Simone Verdi.

The opening goal finally came the other side of the hour as Zaza needed just three minutes on the pitch to break the deadlock.

Recalled by Mancini having not played for the Azzurri since Euro 2016, the Valencia forward slid in to turn home Federico Chiesa’s low cross.

Criscito then saw red for bringing down Ryan Babel, with Memphis Depay bringing a good save out of Mattia Perin with a free-kick.

Tonny Vilhena shot wide and Perin saved well from Steven Berghuis as Italy looked to survive, only for Ake to level matters in the 87th minute as he headed in from six yards out to silence the Allianz Stadium.

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India football match sold out after captain Sunil Chhetri's emotional plea

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The Indian football team’s Intercontinental Cup match against Kenya on Monday got sold out within hours of captain Sunil Chhetri’s emotional plea for fans to support the national team.

Less than 3,000 fans had turned up to watch India beat Taiwan 5-0 in the Mumbai on Friday. That prompted Chhetri to post a video on social media urging fans to attend their games and make them ‘feel relevant’.

India’s cricketing icons Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar gave their support to Chhetri’s appeal, which saw a massive response from fans.

According to the AFP, every seat in the 15,000-capacity Mumbai Football Arena got sold with one fan apparently buying more than 1,000 tickets for the match.

In his video, Chhetri had said : “To everyone who has lost hope in Indian football I request you to come and watch us in the stadiums. It is not fun to criticise and abuse on the internet, come to the stadium and do it to our face. Scream at us, shout at us, abuse us, who knows one day we might change you guys.”

India are ranked 97th in the latest FIFA standing having risen from 166th position in 2015.

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Diego Costa's inconsistency and more talking points as Spain struggle against Switzerland

Andy West 4/06/2018
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Will the Atletico Madrid man lead the line in Russia?

Spain and Switzerland played out a 1-1 draw in Villarreal on Sunday night with a pair of full-backs getting on the scoresheet, as Spanish youngster Alvaro Odriozola saw his first-half strike cancelled out by Ricardo Rodriguez after a poor mistake from David De Gea.

The home team dominated possession but created few clear cut chances, giving coach Julen Lopetegui reason for both optimism and concern ahead of the World Cup Finals.

Here, we take a look at the three big stories to emerge from the game.

Spain sparkle but lack punch

This was a game which fully displayed the good and bad of Spain, with the home team dominating possession and stringing together plenty of pretty passing movements but lacking punch in the final third, creating few clear chances and needing a fine strike out of nowhere from young right-back Alvaro Odriozola for their only goal.

The tone was set straight away with Switzerland failing to complete a pass until more than two minutes had elapsed, and at that stage the visitors appeared to be set for a long night as Koke and Thiago both got early efforts on target.

But the Swiss soon found their usual defensive solidity to crowd out the hosts in the penalty box, and at times there was an excess of finesse but a lack of purpose from the Spanish forwards. They looked more dangerous with David Silva on the pitch, and with Isco also due to return after being rested there’s plenty of reasons to believe Spain can score plenty in Russia. However, finding penetration to match their approach play is imperative: we know they’ll look good, but will they score?

Spain's midfielder David Silva (L) vies with Switzerland's defender Stephan Lichtsteiner during the international friendly football match between Spain and Switzerland at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on June 3, 2018. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Made an impact: David Silva.

Strikers fail to shine

Very much linked to Spain’s unconvincing performance in front of goal is the question of their starting striker, with neither Diego Costa, Iago Aspas nor Rodrigo Moreno doing much in this game to further their hopes of getting the nod from Lopetegui.

Aspas, in fairness, was lined up on the right wing – not his preferred role, and not one he is likely to fill in Russia when everyone is available. But the Celta Vigo man had little impact before being replaced at half-time.

Costa was exactly what you’d expect from Diego Costa: strong and powerful, a physical handful for the opposition defence, and some poor touches leading to unnecessarily conceded possession. But his battering ram style does give variety from the tippy-tappy approach employed in midfield, and he probably looks the best starting option right now.

Substitute Rodrigo was the least convincing of the trio, failing to make the most of three opportunities to net a winner with timid finishing – and if Spain end up using him much in Russia, it will probably be a bad sign that things are going wrong.

VILLAREAL, SPAIN - JUNE 03:  Diego Costa of Spain reacts on the pitch during the International Friendly match between Spain and Switzerland at Estadio de La Ceramica on June 3, 2018 in Villareal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Likely to lead the line: Diego Costa.

De Gea doesn’t save

It might sound strange to suggest that David De Gea could prove to be a weak link for Spain this summer, following the Manchester United man’s stellar form in the Premier League over the last few years.

But the supposed Real Madrid transfer target was responsible for Spain failing to win this game, making a major error with the only save he had to make as he badly fumbled Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross into the path of Rodriguez for the leveller.

The issue for De Gea is mental: playing in this Spain side, which controls so much of the possession in every game, is a very different task from appearing in a United team which is regularly prepared to soak up opposition pressure and therefore keeps the goalkeeper automatically involved in the action.

De Gea must adjust to having long passages of play where the ball doesn’t even come anywhere near him, and still stay mentally alert enough to deal with the danger when it finally arrives. He failed on this occasion and must use this lesson as a wake-up call – further lapses like this in Russia could prove disastrous.

Uncharacteristic: David De Gea.

Uncharacteristic: David De Gea.

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