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The Footballers" Football Column – Rohan Ricketts: Globetrotter how he moved from England to Ecuador via India

ROHAN RICKETTS: Cows in the road and Twitter row meant my Indian adventure ended early… but I went back in time to live the dream in South America

PUBLISHED:

08:20 GMT, 18 February 2013

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UPDATED:

14:06 GMT, 18 February 2013

Rohan Ricketts

Rohan Ricketts started his football career playing for Arsenal and was part of the hugely successful side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2000 and 2001. But a year later he made the move that only four players before him had and crossed the north London divide to join Tottenham. After 30 appearances for the White Hart Lane club, Ricketts began his football journey playing for Wolves, Coventry, QPR, Barnsley before he opted to move abroad and to join MLS side Toronto FC. Since then he has played in Hungary, Moldova, Germany, Ireland and India. He is now playing in South America, in Ecuador. Before you read his first Footballers' Football Column, watch his video.

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I’ve often been called a ‘journeyman’ in my football career and in late 2012 I made my biggest journey to date when I signed for Dempo SC in Goa, India. It doesn’t sound like the most obvious move to make but, as they say, football is a funny old game.

Last summer I was really keen to return to the UK, after a stint at Shamrock Rovers in Ireland so I returned to London to see what I could find.

But it is such a tough market and there were so many players looking for a club. There’s a fine balance between holding your nerve and waiting to find a club or signing somewhere to ensure financial security for your family.

Getting to know the locals: Ricketts enjoyed his short spell in India, despite his issues on the pitch

Getting to know the locals: Ricketts enjoyed his short spell in India, despite his issues on the pitch

There were many players who were still looking for a club even after the season started. It’s easy to assume that players are being choosy about which club they sign for and ruling out lower league clubs but for me that wasn’t the case.

I love playing football, it’s what I was born to do. I may have been nearing 30 but I had no plans to give it up just yet.

After much deliberation with my family and friends, I made the decision to sign for Dempo SC. India isn’t really known for its football, I knew it would be different to Europe but the challenge of living in another country and helping them to build up the reputation of football really appealed to me.

I did it before when I signed for Toronto FC in MLS and I found it really rewarding to help educate a new generation about the sport.

First move abroad: Ricketts moved to MLS and joined Toronto

First move abroad: Ricketts moved to MLS and joined Toronto

I was told how serious Dempo SC were about growing football in India and I was excited to join them so I signed until May 2013.

It
certainly was a world away from London. It gets so hot there that we
were doing all our training sessions and practice matches early in the
morning before it got too unbearable.

It was fascinating to live in such a different culture, I was late for training on a couple of occasions due to cows in the road which was certainly something I had not experienced before and was I confronted with severe poverty in certain areas, which was difficult to see.

On the pitch, it was great to taste victory on the first day of the season after such a long break away, but it really was a different game to the one I am used to. It was the tactics that were lacking, rather than the players' skill level, so I was confident we would improve as the team gelled.

Rohan Ricketts

Mobbed: Ricketts helped Shamrock Rovers win the Irish League

Luck of the Irish: Ricketts enjoyed his spell with Shamrock Rovers and helped them win the Irish league

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see if that would be the case. I had joined the team under the impression that they wanted me to play as I do and that they wanted to develop a passing style.

However the coach soon made it clear that he was expecting me to adapt to the way they played. It didn’t help that he was trying to play me as a striker rather than an attacking central midfielder.

I had some discussions with him about this in the early days and he did start to play me in the
right position.

Young stars: Rohan Ricketts was part of the Arsenal Youth team that included Steve Sidwell, Moritz Volz, Jermaine Pennant and Jay Bothroyd

Young stars: Rohan Ricketts was part of the Arsenal Youth team that included Steve Sidwell, Moritz Volz, Jermaine Pennant and Jay Bothroyd

Ricketts playing for Spurs

Rohan Ricketts

Crossing the divide: Ricketts moved to Spurs after starting his career in the Arsenal youth team

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I mentioned everything that was happening on my Twitter account, something the coach was not happy about. When the Indian press asked him about the things I was saying he denied it and said that I had misunderstood.

I knew that I hadn’t, although I do recognise that talking about it in 140 characters on Twitter was perhaps not the best forum. I was just frustrated because I wanted the team to do well.

As a result of my comments I was put on the bench for the next four games, in both the Goa and
I League.

The team did not do as well as we had been doing and it was really hard to sit and watch, but I remained professional and trained hard. It was a big plus to have moral support from a lot of the key members of the squad. This is something that can be rare being a player in a foreign country.

Eventually after keeping my focus and positive spirit, I was re-instated in the starting XI against Salgoacar FC. The game was tough but we ended up winning 2-1, and I scored my first I League goal and then set up the winnner.

After the game the coaches and players were in a good mood and we had gone two points clear at the top of the table. I had hoped that was the turning point for me but unfortunately things didn’t improve with the head coach.

It was a really uncomfortable situation with him and again I spoke out about the difficulties I was having on Twitter. After my first tweets I had spoken with the President of the club, who is a great guy, and he was supportive but obviously I understood that he needed to run the club successfully and for that he needs a united team.

I wasn’t trying to unsettle things with my later tweets but I couldn’t stay silent.

After further discussions with the President it became clear that my position at the club was untenable.

I can’t talk about everything that happened there but suffice to say that I have the utmost respect for the President and my team mates at Dempo SC along with the many fans who I met while I was there. I wish them every success this season.

Fortunately for me, when I knew that I was leaving Dempo, I was able to sign very quickly for a new club – 10 hours back in time at Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador.

Playing in South America has always been a dream of mine so when my agent told me about this opportunity, I jumped at the chance.

A new excuse for being late: Ricketts was later for training due to cows in the road (file picture)

A new excuse for being late: Ricketts was later for training due to cows in the road (file picture)

Fans' favourite: Ricketts is surrounded by fans as he leaves training

Fans' favourite: Ricketts is surrounded by fans as he leaves training

I have been here for a month now and am settling in well. My team-mates have been very welcoming and I have joined in pre-season, which is refreshing after my last couple of moves where I have joined mid-way through and struggled to get to the same fitness level.

We played our first game of the season at the end of January against the Champions and biggest club in Ecuador Barcelona SC. Before the game I could feel the hype surrounding the game and for me it felt like I was involved in a Premier League fixture back home against Manchester United.

Fans all over our city, Quevedo, were stopping me daily to let me know how big the game was for them.

Talk about pressure on your first game.

This pressure was not new to me but I could still feel the anticipation and excitement all around. I'm grateful to be part of such moments. This is no doubt the stuff of dreams for others but for me it is reality.

I knew I was starting in the game a week before, so I did not have the annoying waiting game surrounding team selection.

On the move: Ricketts left India to move to Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador

On the move: Ricketts left India to move to Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador

Once the game day arrived and we got to the stadium and the energy around the ground was almost tangible. Salsa music was playing and the people were chanting an hour ahead of
kick-off.

I just tried to remain cool as I did not want to lose energy. Good thing I did because the game turned out to be a real scrap due to the bad weather which turned the pitch into a mud bath.

I was hoping to get on the ball and play our passing game, but it was not to be for either side.

ROHAN RICKETTS

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @RohanRicketts

It was all about winning the second ball and playing on the counter attack. We adapted really well to the conditions and took the lead early on but the referee seemed to have his own agenda, in the second half when he gave Barcelona as penalty which was never a penalty and then didn't give us a penalty for a blatant handball in their box.

I won't go too much into the incident as I may get myself in trouble, but the game ended 1-1. A good point for us against the champions and a good team performance.

I was relatively pleased with my performance but I know the conditions limited my chances of being more active in dangerous areas.

I'm adapting quickly and learning the lingo, which will only speed up the settling in process and help me get the most out of my latest football adventure.

Shaun Murphy took inspiration from late great pal Paul Hunter in thrilling York comeback

Murphy took inspiration from late great pal Hunter in thrilling York comeback

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UPDATED:

15:48 GMT, 8 December 2012

Shaun Murphy has been inspired by memories of Paul Hunter as he closes in on williamhill.com UK Championship glory.

Hunter was one of his sport's most popular figures but died of cancer in October 2006 at the age of 27.

In York over the past week Murphy has had his old friend on his mind, and he considers the Leeds man to have been the perfect model of a player who knew how to stay cool in the heat of battle.

Most famously, Hunter employed a 'Plan B' during the interval in his first Masters final, as he returned re-energised from spending the break with his girlfriend and future wife Lindsey in their hotel bedroom. Hunter beat Fergal O'Brien 10-9 from 6-2 behind.

Comeback win: Shaun Murphy (left) saw off Ali Carter to reach the UK Championship final

Comeback win: Shaun Murphy (left) saw off Ali Carter to reach the UK Championship final

Murphy's mental strength has shone through at the Barbican Centre where he has won final-frame deciders against Luca Brecel and Ali Carter to clinch a place in the title match. He insisted last night that there had been no 'Plan B' in operation during the Carter match.

The 30-year-old will tomorrow have a shot at the 125,000 top prize and his second UK title, four years after the first.

And when Murphy has had to fight to stay composed, three-time Masters champion Hunter's attitude has come to mind.

'I'm very strong technically and my shot selection has been good over the years, but what I've been able to do recently is hold myself together,' Murphy said.

'And I remember the great Paul Hunter, that was his best strength. Under pressure he was able to chill out and you'd never know with Paul whether he'd won or lost. I've tried to take that on board and use it to the same effect.

'I see the funny side of things rather than banging my cue on the table and in the last few frames against Ali I didn't feel any pressure at all.'

Inspiration: The late Paul Hunter had an astonishing temperament

Inspiration: The late Paul Hunter had an astonishing temperament

From 8-4 behind against Carter, Murphy won five frames in a row to prevail 9-8, and after making a recent bad habit of losing in ranking event semi-finals he is thrilled to be challenging again for one of the most prized trophies in snooker.

He said: 'I think what's happened this week is that all the little pieces of the experience that I've gathered over the last few years have all come together.

'Win, lose or draw on Sunday I've had a really great week. I've gone back to my attacking play, my long potting has been good and I've had a bit of nous here and there which I never used to have.

'I've played quite clever snooker at times. But the biggest thing for me is that I've been able to keep my composure.

'Never at any time has my head gone down. I've not been stomping around and I've not been sulking. I've just got on with it.

'I'm going into the final having already won this tournament, so I feel I probably won't be under much pressure. I've got a free crack at it.'

There was disappointment for Murphy at the beginning of the year when he was beaten in the Masters final by Neil Robertson, and that is a title he has yet to claim.

He will have another chance next month at Alexandra Palace, but for now Murphy's focus is on lifting the UK trophy.

'It'd be nice to have one of the big three,' said the player who is based in Sale, Greater Manchester.

'I had a great chance in January to win the Masters and complete my set of 'BBC' majors, that didn't happen but to have another good run at this tournament and another crack at the trophy is very, very exciting.'

Joey Barton has TV presenters in stitches with comedy French accent

Game for a laugh! Barton has TV presenters in stitches with comedy French accent

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UPDATED:

13:49 GMT, 27 November 2012

The immediate reactions across the
nation would have been mixed.

Stunned silence, head-in-hands, a wry
smile and maybe a few belly laughs.

But not even the professional
broadcasters inside the Sky Sports News studio could hold it together as
they showed footage of Joey Barton's cringing French accent live on
air.

VIDEO: WATCH JOEY BARTON'S HILARIOUS FRENCH ACCENT

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The footage of Barton, who is on loan
at Marseille from QPR, in a press conference became a viral sensation
over the internet on Monday and caused presenter Kirsty Gallacher to
hide behind paper notes on the desk to try and mask her laughing.
Co-presenter Jim White didn't seem to help.

The transfer deadline day favourite
reacted by going into his own French accent which did little to calm the
giggles that had got the better of Gallacher.

White is arguably more convincing
with his take on the accent and using it was keen to point out to Barton
that he is a long way off mastering the French language.

Gaffe: Joey Barton spoke in a French accent at the press conference after his league debut for Marseille

Gaffe: Joey Barton spoke in a French accent at the press conference after his league debut for Marseille

Funny side: Sky Sports News presenter Jim White

Funny side: Sky Sports News presenter Jim White

White said (in a French accent): 'The
thing is Kirsty, is I think Joey thinks by talking like that by going
up at the end of every sentence and doing the shoulder bit he is
actually speaking French. But Joey, you're actually not.'

Barton's accent has already been
compared to Steve McClaren's Dutch accent which was quickly adopted by
the Twente boss shortly after joining the club during his first spell in
charge in 2008, following his dismissal as England boss just months
before.

VIDEO: Kirsty and Jim can't help but have a laugh!

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Links have also been made with 'Allo! 'Allo! character Officer Crabtree.

Barton responded on Twitter soon after his accent video emerged.

The midfielder said: 'Steve MaClaren
(sic) eat your heart out…'In my defence, it is very difficult to do a
press conference in Scouse for a room full of French journalists. The
alternative is to speak..like a 'Allo Allo!' character which is choose.
Its simply a case of you had to be there. #youstupidwomen!'

Applause: Barton is on loan to the French team from British side QPR

Applause: Barton is on loan to the French team from British side QPR

Oh 'Allo! Barton sounded alarmingly like Officer Crabtree from the hit television series

VIDEO: WATCH STEVE MCCLAREN SPEAK IN A FAUX DUTCH ACCENT

Jenson Button welcomes Sergio Perez to McLaren

Button presses claim for more titles as he welcomes new boy Perez to McLaren ranks

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 5 October 2012

Having taken on and beaten Lewis Hamilton last season, Jenson Button has already turned his attention to the challenge he will face from new boy Sergio Perez at McLaren.

'It made me smile because I love margaritas and sombreros,' quipped Button regarding the arrival of his Mexican team-mate for next season.

'There's a good picture of me somewhere wearing a sombrero and not much else!'

Main man: Jenson Button wants to push for more titles since the departure of Lewis Hamilton

Main man: Jenson Button wants to push for more titles since the departure of Lewis Hamilton

Speaking ahead of Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix – his chances of a second successive victory dented by a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change – Button is clearly anticipating some knockabout fun with Perez and hopefully more success after finishing ahead of Hamilton in last year's drivers' championship.

'For the amount of time I have spent with Sergio, he seems a funny guy and I like his attitude,' said Button.

Equally, however, Button is aware that making sure he is not eclipsed by the new arrival from Sauber is no laughing matter.

Being beaten by a world champion in the shape of Hamilton is one thing, losing out to a 22-year-old with only two years' experience is quite another.

'I think he is quick, intelligent and willing to learn,' said Button. 'Having just one experienced person in the team changes things but that is something I love. It is fun racing with new team-mates.

'He is inexperienced compared with Lewis and it will be his first year, but he will still be quick, I think.

'There should be more consistency in the following year but I will definitely be the person McLaren turn to if they want a world champion next year.'

I'm off: Hamilton left McLaren to join Mercedes

I'm off: Hamilton left McLaren to join Mercedes

Focus: Button is committed to taking the title again with McLaren

Focus: Button is committed to taking the title again with McLaren

Perez is likely to have his own thoughts on that while McLaren have vowed that their new driver pairing will enjoy equal status.

There is no doubt, however, that the greater responsibility to deliver race wins rests on Button's shoulders following Hamilton's switch to Mercedes.

It is a decision Button respects; after all, Mercedes were born out of Brawn with whom he won his title in 2009. Even so, he finds Hamilton's choice difficult to fathom.

'I am surprised he is leaving but we all have different things we want to achieve,' said Button.

'For Lewis, I think he feels he needs a new challenge and, fair enough, that is his choice.

'But for me, being at McLaren for three seasons, and nowhere near retiring or stopping racing for this team, puts a smile on my face.

'I love racing in Formula One and I am with a team that can fight for wins, unlike most others on the grid.

New kid on the block: Sergio Perez will leave Sauber to join Button at McLaren

New kid on the block: Sergio Perez will leave Sauber to join Button at McLaren

'I came in here not really knowing what to expect, coming to a brand new team after seven years racing for one team.

'I really had to find my feet again after being so long with one team.

'But I feel very at home here and I can't see me racing anywhere else in my career.

'I am looking to challenge everyone next year – not just Lewis.

'You always want to beat your team-mate, it is one of the most important goals for a Formula One driver. If you are alongside your team-mate going into turn one, you don't back out, you still give it your all.'

Now that Button feels he is the main man at McLaren he clearly has no intention of losing that hard-earned status to Perez, on or off the track.

Welcome aboard Sergio. You have been warned.

Track guide

Wigan 1 Fulham 2: Duff and Rodallega bag the points as Berba shines for Fulham

Wigan 1 Fulham 2: Duff and Rodallega bag the points as Berba shines for Fulham

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UPDATED:

16:13 GMT, 22 September 2012

Hugo Rodallega opened his Fulham goals account against the club he left in the summer to set Martin Jol's side on their way to a first away win of the season in the Barclays Premier League.

It meant that for the second campaign in a row the Cottagers have broken their away duck at the DW Stadium, and the result lifted Fulham into the top four, at least until tomorrow.

Rodallega deservedly broke the deadlock in the 31st minute with a goal created by the excellent Dimitar Berbatov, and Damien Duff added a second goal midway through the second half before Arouna Kone scored an injury-time consolation for Wigan.

Winging it: Damien Duff scores Fulham's second

Winging it: Damien Duff scores Fulham's second

Match facts

Wigan: Al Habsi,Boyce (McManaman 77),Caldwell (Miyaichi 76), Ramis, Figueroa, Beausejour, McCarthy, Watson, Gomez (Boselli 62), Maloney, Kone. Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, McArthur. Scorer: Kone 90.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Duff, Baird, Sidwell, Kacaniklic (Ruiz 59), Berbatov, Rodallega (Briggs 88). Subs Not Used: Stockdale, Kelly, Kasami, Petric, Karagounis. Booked: Hughes, Sidwell, Baird. Scorers: Rodallega 31,Duff 68.

Att: 19,284

Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

The main talking point of the early stages was an unfortunate moment for referee Lee Probert, who was the unintended victim of a full-blooded challenge between Steve Sidwell and Ben Watson.

The referee was well and truly floored and there was a lengthy delay while he received treatment, although he did see the funny side, waving a red card in jest.

When play resumed, it did not take
long for Fulham to get on top and three times they went close to taking
the lead midway through the first half.

First a dinked cross from Berbatov
was headed straight at Ali Al Habsi by Rodallega before Jean Beausejour
acrobatically cleared Chris Baird's header from in front of his post.

Centre of attention: Referee Lee Probert takes a tumble

Centre of attention: Referee Lee Probert takes a tumble

Cause for concern: Referee Lee Probert receives treatment

Cause for concern: Referee Lee Probert receives treatment

Berbatov then drew a scrambling save from Al Habsi, and in the 24th minute the Bulgarian went close again with a wobbling shot that the Wigan goalkeeper was grateful to push over the bar.

The home side created their best chance a couple of minutes later, Maynor Figueroa crossing for a diving Emmerson Boyce at the far post but he headed wide.

Happy return: Hugo Rodallega opens the scoring for Fulham against his old club

Happy return: Hugo Rodallega opens the scoring for Fulham against his old club

It was no surprise that Berbatov was the creator of the opening goal, the striker building on his two goals against West Brom last weekend by expertly picking out the head of Rodallega.

The Colombian had been booed by the home fans earlier on but he earned their applause when he declined to celebrate his bullet header right in front of them, and he was given a warm reception when he was substituted late on.

Flying high: Hugo Rodallega climbs above Wigan defenders to open the scoring

Flying high: Hugo Rodallega climbs above Wigan defenders to open the scoring

That gave Wigan some much-needed urgency and Jordi Gomez was unlucky not to equalise in the 38th minute when he met Beausejour's cross perfectly but saw his left-footed shot hit the underside of the bar and bounce down just in front of the line.

The hosts began the second half brightly and Boyce's cross was headed just wide by Watson before Kone spurned a glorious chance.

Pulling the strings: Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov was at the heart of their good play

Pulling the strings: Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov was at the heart of their good play

The striker was played clean through but took a slightly heavy touch and could only poke his shot straight at Mark Schwarzer.

Both managers made changes, Bryan Ruiz replacing Alex Kacaniklic for Fulham while Mauro Boselli was given his chance by Roberto Martinez in place of Gomez.

Ruiz made an immediate impact, forcing a diving save from Al Habsi with a 20-yard free-kick after Rodallega had been sent tumbling by Gary Caldwell.

Wigan had certainly had their opportunities and in the 65th minute the ball fell for James McCarthy on the edge of the box and he draw a scrambling save from Schwarzer.

Boselli was first to the rebound but the Argentinian, still looking for his first Premier League goal two years after first joining the club, could only guide the ball wide.

The visitors made Wigan pay with their second goal three minutes later, Ruiz doing brilliantly to hold off the home defence and tee up the unmarked Duff for a clinical finish into the bottom corner.

Still the Latics plugged away and they would have pulled one back in the 73rd minute but for the fingertips of Schwarzer, who kept out Ivan Ramis' header with the help of the bar.

Martinez made his last throws of the dice, sending on Ryo Miyaichi and Callum McManaman, but it was Fulham who were next to threaten another goal, Berbatov denied by an accomplished save from Al Habsi.

Wigan did find the net eventually, Kone with a fine turn and shot, but, with only two minutes of injury time remaining, it came too late for the hosts.

Tough tussle: Fulham's Bryan Ruiz holds off Wigan's Shaun Maloney

Tough tussle: Fulham's Bryan Ruiz holds off Wigan's Shaun Maloney

Up for it: Wigan's Shaun Maloney challenges Fulham's Steve Sidwell

Up for it: Wigan's Shaun Maloney challenges Fulham's Steve Sidwell

Euro 2012: Cesc Fabregas revels in hero role

Fabregas revels in hero role as sluggish Spain reach final the hard way

|

UPDATED:

08:53 GMT, 28 June 2012

Cesc Fabregas hailed Spain's penalty shootout win over Portugal as a 'miracle', while coach Vicente Del Bosque called for one last mighty effort as they look to claim their third consecutive major title.

Substitute Fabregas slotted away the decisive spot-kick after Bruno Alves had struck the bar for Portugal as defending champions Spain claimed their place in the Euro 2012 final with a 4-2 win in the shootout.

Hero: Fabregas scored the winning penalty in Donetsk

Hero: Fabregas scored the winning penalty in Donetsk

Euro 2012 email button

The match finished goalless after extra time with chances few and far between, but Fabregas was still in celebratory mood.

'Being in another final is a miracle, it's very emotional,' said the midfielder.

'I had a funny feeling about the penalties and I was thinking about
them this afternoon. They told me initially to take the second one but I
said “no, give me the fifth” as I had this premonition.

'I had a premonition, an intuition that things were going to come off
and that life had reserved something for me as nice as this.

'When I stepped up to take the penalty I said to the ball that we had to make history and it shouldn't let me down.

'I talked to the ball four years ago [when he scored the winning penalty against Italy] and it didn't let me down.'

Del Bosque praised his side's fighting spirit and looked ahead to
Sunday's final against either Germany or Italy, saying: 'The players
have played so many matches and they have to show their best in one
more.'

Del Bosque added: 'It was a very even match but maybe we were a little better in extra time.

Just... Fabregas's effort went in off the inside of the post

Just… Fabregas's effort went in off the inside of the post

Just... Fabregas's effort went in off the inside of the post

'They looked a bit tired, but there were few chances before that. It wasn't easy to get through their defence.

'They were superior when it came to defence and we didn't have that many
opportunities so it was very balanced. In extra time it was slightly
different and we had lots of luck with the penalties.

'I would like to express my congratulations to Portugal because they played a great tournament, but we were luckier this time.'

Party time: Spain's players run over to celebrate with their fans

Party time: Spain's players run over to celebrate with their fans

Del Bosque is aware his side will need to play better in the final,
although he is not worried about who they will face in the showpiece.

'Portugal were in control today and both teams only had a few chances to score, so we have to improve on this,' he said.

'The other semi-final will be a great match and whoever our opponent is
in the final, that will also be a great match. But we don't care about
who our opponents are.'

Disconsolate: Portugal's players and manager Bento (below) react after Fabregas' penalty

Disconsolate: Portugal's players and manager Bento (below) react after Fabregas' penalty

Disconsolate: Portugal's players and manager Bento (below) react after Fabregas' penalty

Portugal coach Paulo Bento rued his side's missed opportunities, saying:
'I think we were the better team but we couldn't take our chances.

'Spain were stronger in extra time but we could have won it in the first
90 minutes because we were very good in the first half and at the end
of the second half.

'If I had to choose a way of losing I wouldn't choose this one but you have to lose some way.

One more step: Spain face the winner of Germany v Italy on Sunday night

One more step: Spain face the winner of Germany v Italy on Sunday night

'We have in my opinion played a very good tournament. Spain is a great team and we can leave the pitch with our heads held high.

'We can be sure we can compete with any team in any tournament at any level. We know how to compete and that's what we've shown.

'Spain really deserve to be in the finals but, at the same time, I want
to thank and praise my players for what they have shown in this
tournament.'

Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli tugs Thiago Motta"s tie in team photo

Mario up to his old tricks in Italy camp as Motta fails to see the funny side of tie joke

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UPDATED:

16:26 GMT, 1 June 2012

He is the gift that keeps on giving. Mario Balotelli is up to his old tricks yet again.

The Manchester City striker was caught on camera tugging at former Inter Milan team-mate Thiago Motta's tie before a team photograph with the Italy squad.

Thanks for that, Mario! Balotelli (right) fiddles with Thiago Motta's tie

Thanks for that, Mario! Balotelli (right) fiddles with Thiago Motta's tie

Clearly aggrieved by the incident, Motta leans over Giorgio Chiellini and slaps Balotelli on the back of the head.

At first the City man looks to be getting a little shirty about Motta's reaction, but then continues giggling with side-kick Andrea Barzagli as the doting Chiellini straightens Motta's attire.

Earlier this year, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told Balotelli he needed to 'grow up' if he wanted to be taken seriously.

Still, old habits die hard.

Roberto Mancini calm before crucial match – Molineux Match Zone

Molineux Match Zone: Roberto calm before it kicks off

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UPDATED:

21:31 GMT, 22 April 2012

If Roberto Mancini was caught up in mind games, he wasn’t about to show his hand prior to kick-off.

One pre-match interviewer tried to hype the importance of Sunday's match but the Italian simply replied: ‘There was a five-point difference. Now it is six.’ You can bet the dark arts will be taken to another level during the course of the next week.

Keeping cool Roberto Mancini tried to underplay the importance of Sunday's match

Keeping cool Roberto Mancini tried to underplay the importance of Sunday's match

… and his team didn't bottle it

It was a measure of just how worried Mancini was when David Silva was substituted shortly before the hour. Nigel de Jong was introduced in his place to protect the one-goal lead. And if he wasn’t feeling the pressure, Manchester City’s boss had a funny way of showing it.

A water bottle was hurled to the ground after just six minutes in frustration that an early chance had gone begging.

Gallows humour

Wolves fans have not been slow to show their anger in recent weeks, particularly at the worst home run in the club’s history.

But they resorted to good old gallows humour as the final whistle approached singing: ‘Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Barnsley…’

Away days: Wolves will have a few less glamorous trips to make next season

Away days: Wolves will have a few less glamorous trips to make next season

Wolves did win after all

The half-time pitch announcer clearly had a sense of humour. After informing the stadium of the interval score at Anfield he asked for the crowd’s attention, saying: ‘There was an important match at lunchtime today’ and then proceeded to say that Wolves’ women had won the League Cup by beating Stoke City 2-0.

Fair play

Joe Hart is known as one of the game’s good guys. And he was caught applauding and mouthing the words ‘great save’ when Wolves substitute Christophe Berra almost fired the ball past his own keeper Dorus de Vries in the closing stages.

IN FOCUS

Doris De Vries
The Dutch keeper had already conceded five against City in the Carling Cup this season. His last league match — for Swansea — saw him promoted to the top flight. This one saw him relegated from it.

Joleon Lescott
He is fondly remembered at Molineux for his part in Wolves’ first Premier League campaign and got a warm reception.

Gael Clichy
He has not been a prominent figure but Mancini was grateful for his contribution as it was his superb pass that set up Aguero and his quick free-kick that led to the second goal.