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Brazil tapped to host Copa America as pandemic-hit Argentina withdraws

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Brazil tapped to host Copa America as pandemic-hit Argentina withdraws

ASUNCION (Reuters) – The Copa America will take place in Brazil next month, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said on Monday, although President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief of staff said ongoing talks might not reach a formal conclusion until the next day.

The surprise announcement, which would mean relocating the competition from one South American coronavirus hotspot to another, means the world’s oldest international tournament could kick off as planned on June 13, with the final on July 10.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao acknowledged the move in comments to Brazilian media, saying that if there was no audience present, there should be no issue with the pandemic.

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Later on Monday, Luiz Eduardo Ramos, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, said negotiations were underway and that there was “nothing certain” about the tournament’s potential relocation.

The tournament is set to feature many of the greatest players in the soccer world, with Argentines Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, Brazilian Neymar and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez among those expected to participate. CONMEBOL has promised all players will be vaccinated before the tournament begins.

“The Brazilian government has shown agility and decisive thinking at a crucial moment for South American football,” CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said in a statement.

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“Brazil is in a time of stability, it has proven infrastructure and recent experience in hosting a tournament of this magnitude,” he added.

Brazil hosted the Copa America in 2019 and the World Cup in 2014.

The decision is a boost for Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who has railed against lockdowns and urged Brazilians to return to normal life.

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In a separate tweet, CONMEBOL thanked Bolsonaro for “opening the country’s doors to what is now the safest sporting event in the world.”

The president’s office directed questions to the sport department at the Ministry of Citizenship, which did not respond to a request for comment.

‘LESS RISKY’

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More than 460,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, second only behind the United States, and the vaccination rollout has sputtered.

But Argentina is struggling with a recent COVID-19 spike. According to a Reuters tally, Brazil has reported 204 coronavirus infections per 100,000 people in the last seven days, compared to 484 per 100,000 in Argentina.

Large demonstrations took place across Brazil on Saturday to protest Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic.

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Huge protests also shook Brazil during the 2013 Confederations Cup, but Vice President Hamilton Mourao told reporters in Brasilia he did not expect more demonstrations during the Copa America. Brazil is a “less risky” choice than Argentina, he said, especially without fans.

But many others in Brazil, where soccer is a national obsession, were outraged by the decision.

Renan Calheiros, the senator leading the upper house’s inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, dubbed the tournament the “championship of death” and lambasted Bolsonaro’s tardiness in buying vaccines.

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“Vaccine offers went moldy in drawers but the OK for the tournament was rapid,” he wrote in a tweet.

This year’s Copa America was to be the first featuring joint hosts, but Colombia was removed as co-host on May 20 after a wave of protests demanding social and economic change spread across the country.

CONMEBOL hoped Argentina could then host all 28 games or share them with South American neighbors.

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Organizers had been reluctant to cancel the lucrative tournament. The last Copa America, held in Brazil in 2019, brought in $118 million in revenue.

Although no decision has yet been made on venues, many of the stadiums Brazil built or improved for the 2014 World Cup could be candidates to host matches, with the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro or the Mane Garrincha stadium in the capital Brasilia possible locations.

One source told Reuters that venues in Brasilia, Natal, Manaus and Cuiaba will be used. CONMEBOL said it would reveal the host cities “in the coming hours.”

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The last-minute decision also throws up some complicated logistics for the Brazilian national federation (CBF). The Brazilian league was not due to be halted during the Copa America and at least 70 league games are scheduled to be played during the month-long tournament.

News reports in Brazil said CBF will be asked to suspend the league for the duration of the Copa.

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Rangers

Rangers fear major exit for ‘key’ player wanted by clubs abroad

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Rangers fear major exit for 'key' player wanted by clubs abroad
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Scott Arfield has been a vital part of the Rangers team since joining in 2018, and his current form, especially after van Bronckhorst took charge, is nothing short of exemplary.

The 33-year old Scottish-Canadian’s display is on a high now, and he recently helped his side’s win against Livingston with his “unbelievable” (according to Richard Foster) 75th minute goal.

He is a must-keep, but according to transfermarkt, the reigning Scottish champions risk losing him and other senior team members, including Steven Davis and Allan McGregor, in the summer following contract expiry.

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The Mirror’s print edition reported that the Gers fear letting their No. 37 go in exchange for nothing, given that USA clubs have their sights set on the midfielder, and his contract is only months away from expiry.

Money included or not, Scott’s departure could be a big blow come next season since he now practically determines Rangers’ performance (the one time he didn’t play after Gerrard’s exit is the only time Rangers dropped points.)

Hopefully, Rangers will consider holding talks to fight for the former Huddersfield Town’s contract extension, and he (Scott) is willing to stay in Scotland and at Ibrox, otherwise the double loss in terms of money and talent could hugely affect the Gers next season.

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Liverpool FC

Liverpool win race for £50m Porto star

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Liverpool win race for £50m Porto star
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Liverpool are preparing a late £45 million bid for Porto striker Luis Diaz, who is also being pursued by Tottenham.

The Colombian winger was Jurgen Klopp’s first option for the summer transfer window, but due to Spurs’ significant interest, Liverpool have hastened their preparations.

Liverpool is thought to be proposing an initial £37 million, plus bonuses, which will only be activated if Diaz is a major success at Anfield.

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Tottenham has been in discussions with Porto over Diaz, reportedly willing to spend up to £46 million for the player.

Spurs are reportedly willing to pay £37.6 million upfront for Diaz, with an extra £8.4 million in performance-related add-ons, according to reports in Portugal.

Spurs have already appeared to miss out on Wolves attacker Adama Traore, who appears poised to return to Barca on loan, and missing out on Luiz would be another major blow this month.

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It is unclear whether Diaz will move to Anfield this month or wait till the end of the season. In 18 outings for his current club this season, he has managed to score 14 goals.

Sky Sports reporter Vinny O’Connor:

“Obviously, it’s far from done and could easily come to nothing.

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“However, Liverpool view this as an excellent deal if it gets completed – very much close to a Diogo Jota-type fee. Also, it is far better value than the original €60m asking price.

“Diaz was Jurgen Klopp’s first choice for the summer, but they have brought those plans forward because it was clear if Liverpool didn’t act this window, the player would move on.

“This isn’t done and could yet collapse – the player is in Argentina with his national team, so it will be far from straightforward to complete the deal.

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“However, if it does get done, it’s a big coup for Julian Ward, who is to succeed sporting director Michael Edwards in the summer. It was a deal in which Ward lead for the first time, but it is fair to say he’s been supported strongly by Edwards who put together the strategy to secure the player this month.”

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Everton

Two Everton midfielders out for minimum of four weeks

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After suffering injuries in the last week, Everton midfielders Abdoulaye Doucoure and Fabian Delph will both be out for at least four weeks.

The injury to Doucoure occurred in the second half of Everton’s 1-0 loss to Aston Villa on Saturday, while the injury to Delph occurred in training.

Duncan Ferguson, the interim manager, suddenly has a scarcity of fit midfield players, with Tom Davies also sidelined for a prolonged period.

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Allan, Andre Gomes, and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, as well as Tyler Onyango, are available.

An Everton statement read: “Everton midfielders Abdoulaye Doucoure and Fabian Delph are expected to be out for a minimum of four weeks after sustaining injuries.

“Frenchman Doucoure was forced off in the 65th minute of Saturday’s Premier League match against Aston Villa at Goodison Park due to a groin problem.

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“Subsequent tests have revealed the 29-year-old requires a period of rehabilitation under the care of Everton’s medical staff at USM Finch Farm.

“Meanwhile, Delph sustained a thigh injury during a training session this week and is now undergoing treatment with the club’s medical team.”

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