International Football

In an arduous and fiercely contested match, typical of Copa America, Argentina was crowned champions once again, courtesy of Lautaro Martinez’s decisive goal in overtime.

Led by Lionel Scaloni, the reigning champions of America and the world, Argentina aimed to replicate the same triumph they did in 2021 when they beat bitter rivals Brazil in the final and hoisting the Copa America trophy at Maracanã.

This time around, Colombia, led by the forgotten man James Rodriguez, came to the final undefeated, driven to secure only its second continental trophy in history. Under the impressive direction of Argentine manager Nestor Lorenzo, Los Cafeteros, were aiming to shock the world in Miami.

After an unexpected delay of over an hour, caused by the disturbance outside the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, the match kicked off with La Scaloneta – as the Argentinian team is known – going after the Colombia teams.

Just under a minute into the match, Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez took a shot inside the box at goalkeeper Camilo Vargas, but the ball narrowly missed the corner.

The Colombian team quickly ensure to dispel any notions that they would be intimidated by it, as they steadily up their lines, applied firm pressure on the Argentina defense, and through the pressure managed to steal the ball from the defenders, creating their first scoring opportunities.

In a brave performance by Nestor Lorenzo’s team, Colombia absolutely took command of the match in the initial 20 minutes, forcing Emi Martinez to work twice during this time.

Colombia absolutely dominated the first half, with James Rodriguez creating chances through the middle, Jhon Córdoba hitting the post with a short-range effort and defender Carlos Cuesta drawing a fine save from Dibu Martinez in a header inside the box.

Argentina struggled to find their footing on the pitch. After Lionel Messi got injured in the 37th minute, it felt like the Argentine team was desperately crying for the half. No changes on the first eleven for the second half for Scaloni, but a change in posture from Argentina was necessary.

A change in posture came in a rather topsy-turvy manner. To start the second half, Argentina started lifting balls into the penalty area, thus lifting their fans together.

However, In the 66th minute, Argentina suffered a big blow, Lionel Messi went off with an apparent ankle injury. Sat on the bench, tears streaming down his face, as he held an ice bag to his right foot, felt like this might be the last image of Messi with the Albiceleste.

A horrid second half, little to no creativity by both teams. By the 80th minutes, it was evident that neither team was willing to take any chances.

So, we went to overtime in Miami. Through an intense first half of overtime, both teams appeared to be exhausted, but what was striking was the high-paced South American style of play. When Juan Fernando Quintero entered the match; Colombia had a surge in physical vitality and creativity.

Scaloni answered with Lautaro Martínez, who made a fierce entrance and ultimately scored in the 112 minute to give Argentina the trophy.

The win over Colombia secured Argentina’s 16th continental trophy, surpassing Uruguay and establishing them as the most successful team in the tournament’s history. Lionel Scaloni once again leads Argentina to a championship, yet the spotlight also shines on Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María who might have done their last game ever with the national team.

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In a dramatic showdown at the Euro 2024 final, Spain secured an exclamation point win over England, thanks to the brilliance of underrated manager Luis De La Fuente.

The match kicked off as expected, with a visibly aggressive Spanish team dominating possession and actively seeking for their first scoring opportunities. In contrast, England relied on swift counterattacks, particularly through Bukayo Saka on the right wing. Saka, playing more as a right wing-back in Gareth Southgate’s cautious 3-4-2-1 system, took on more defensive responsibilities, supporting Kyle Walker in containing of Basque sprinter Nico Williams.

Under 25 minutes, Spain’s suffocating 85% possession set the tempo of the first half of the game, as they seemed to effortlessly control the midfield and win every rebound. It seemed like every second ball landed at Spanish feet.

As the match progressed to the 30-minute mark, it became apparent that the Spanish midfield was outclassing the English midfield, effectively neutralising the creative talents of Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden. Fabián Ruiz and Rodri seemed to have absolutely boxed in the English duo.

Despite the Spanish dominant possession, Gareth Southgate’s defensive system held strong in the first half, with Jordan Pickford making it through without soiling his kit.

In the first half, both teams struggled to create scoring opportunities, and it appeared that only one team was making an effort to actually play attacking football. Still, the match took a turn when news of Rodri’s injury reached the Spanish side.

The substitution of Rodri for Martín Zubimendi seemed to ignite a little momentum for the Three Lions. But, just two minutes into the second half, Nico Williams, the 22-year-old boy, from the Athletic Bilbao Academy, broke the deadlock with a score.

The score came as a big blow to the English team, who were nearly caught off guard again on the feet of Dani Olmo on the very next play.

Things were not coming together for England. Shades of Wembley 2021 against Italy. It seemed like another of one of those nights for the English team. Until the substitute, Cole Palmer, out of nowhere unleashed a spectacular long-range shot in the 73rd minute, leveling the score in Berlin.

Unfortunately for the white side of the Olympiastadion, English ecstasy did not last too long. England were facing another extra 30 minutes, until a superb late strike from Mikel Oyarzabal in the 86th minute, coming from the bench.

The deciding goal by Oyarzabal dealt a final blow to the English team, England seemed not to have the strength to mount a comeback. Once again, Spain is crowned champions of Europe, sending English football home.

During the tournament, amidst discussions about the impressive Spanish team, one name often goes unnoticed – Luis De La Fuente.

Ridiculed by the Spanish media when announced manager, the talent and contributions of De La Fuente seem to be overshadowed by this exceptional Spanish generation of players. Nonetheless, it is important to appreciate the exceptional work carried out by the 63-year-old coach during this competition.

While Luis De La Fuente may not have the charisma of Vincente Del Bosque or the tactical brilliance of Luis Enrique, his success in securing the European title is beginning to earn him a place among the great Spanish coaches.

Through adept management of the squad, extensive tactical knowledge, and the bold decision to field one of the youngest teams in the tournament, De La Fuente is starting to make a name for himself among the pantheon of Spanish coaching legends.

Throughout their terrific tournament run, the Spanish team left behind Italy in the group stage, Germany in the quarterfinals, France in the semi-finals, and finally, England in the grand final.

Spain now secures their position as the top champions of the European tournament with an impressive total of four titles.

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Oh so close from Canada who were almost there with a 2-1 lead off the back of Uruguay’s good start and that 80th minute breakthrough for the team’s 2nd goal. But the match isn’t even over just yet when veteran striker Luis Suarez held them back a bit longer  not only after 90 mins of normal time 2-2 all & even 2 x 15 mins extra time periods where the score remained unchanged, but Canada also eventually lost in the end to Uruguay via penalties for the best of third spot in Charlotte, 3-4.

It would’ve been awesome to see Canada close down with the win against one of the seasoned South America teams following their semis loss against Group A opponents Argentina – especially when they were the only North American team left remaining. They controlled the pitch really well on what has been a huge tug-o-war where both teams shared the pie at half-time 1-1 until Canada found a way to get on top of Uruguay in the 80th minute.  However, that turned out to be short lived and Canada eventually ran out of steam to make Uruguay pay. Not even the penalties have helped much in a sudden death drag race under pressure & Uruguay turned out to be the better 3rd placed team. Canada is at the right time right now with the World Cup after a 36 year wait two years ago followed by a 4th-placed Copa America finish & sure they can do even better to achieve from here – such as the next Gold Cup next year as well as 2026 World Cup across home soil, USA & Mexico.

Well, chasing a possible 16th title will have to wait next time for Uruguay come 2028 before looking to unseat the defending champs Argentina at some point. But the tournament isn’t 100% over yet until tomorrow and Uruguay will be hoping that Colombia can spoil Argentina’s unbeaten winning run in the Final tomorrow, so they can still share with Argentina as the joint most successful team in Copa America history of 16 winning trophies together.  Yes, Uruguay were nearly out of place for the most part when they had less ball following an early lead to the match. However, they well to turn things around thanks to Super Suarez at the last minute in normal time before Uruguay eventually found a way to escape the Canadians unscathed – which wasn’t easy to play but hey, they’ve done it after all!!  There’s still unfinished business ahead with the World Cup qualifications up next, so they can hopefully get back to their best following their early round exit in Qatar two years ago.

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Look who has made the Euros big dance again, it’s the mighty Three Lions from England, who are now one step closer to going one better this time v Spain this weekend, thanks to a game-winning goal by striker Ollie Watkins in the 90th minute. 

Netherlands fired off well from the start thanks to Xavi Simons while Harry Kane levelled up for England via a penalty kick not long later before things went quiet until very nearly towards full-time & Ollie has a way to get the England supporters go wild with the 2-1 win in Dortmund. Yes, you can criticise the manager all you want in Gareth Southgate but he knows how to put the best interests of heart for England when a few fresh faces off the bench helped saved the day. Let’s see if that back three formation would finally put Spain into bed in order to help him bring that Euros trophy home in a long time.

And heartbreak for the Netherlands as said with an excellent start to get the ball rolling, having had an excellent campaign up until the semis under Ronald Koeman in charge once again. But they just couldn’t find a way to stop England in its tracks or unable to capitalise the fightback England put in by Harry Kane, while they kept on hitting and missing these shots whenever they had the chance until it was too little, too late after Watkins confirmed their elimination last minute from the last 4. It’s going to be around 40 years now when the Oranje last won the Euros that goes back to 1988 v Soviet Union 2-0 also in Germany at Munich’s Olympiastadion as they will most likely return to try & end that long-running drought come 2028. 

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We all love the joy of witnessing these fairy tale moments such as Canada who made it as far as the semis off the back of a undefeated performances bar the opening round defeat v Argentina including that Quarter-Final win the other day v Venezuela via penalties. However, facing a top side like the Argentinians again were never easy indeed with the likes of Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez following a 2-0 semi-finals loss earlier this afternoon at MetLife Stadium in New York. Although Canada’s unreal Copa America run isn’t over just yet with a third-place Playoff match coming up this weekend against the loser of the 2nd semi-final match as we turn our attention to Colombia v Uruguay in Charlotte, NC tomorrow morning.

First of all, Canada weren’t bad for the most part defensively other than a couple of mis-timed tackles and passes that led to two Argentina goals where it could’ve been 0-0 to give themselves a lifeline like another 30 mins of extra time and maybe penalty shootouts or even a successful goal or two would do it to stop Argentina from bothering them. They did have a couple of late chances though to try and hold back Argentina but then there was very little time left against the clock unfortunately as the game well and truly belongs to the Defending Champions. As said, they had a spectacular run as being the best North American side in this competition across the Americas & sure Canada will keep on grinding towards regular silverware like the future CONCACAF Gold Cup editions sooner rather than later. But it’s all about South America for now when Canada is now out of the tournament with three nations left in the running that will become two in less than 24 hours time.

Meanwhile, it’s great to see Argentina advance to the Final once again following an easy 2-0 win v Canada having dominated the pitch for most of the game. Yes, they could’ve done a bit better as if Argentina was using this semi as a practice match for the Final as no opponent will ever them a free run. However, they did profit the defensive errors Canada couldn’t capitalise at their own end where Argentina successfully found the net on both occasions by Alvarez and Messi before the clock ticks down ahead of full-time & Argentina are now step closer towards hopefully winning their record 16th title. At the moment, Argentina currently have 15 titles which is tied with potential finalists Uruguay who might be there to spoil their championship-winning celebrations come Sunday & maybe be the most successful team in Copa America history – if Uruguay can beat Colombia in the other semi tomorrow. Regardless of what happens, Argentina wouldn’t mind to come up against anyone whether if it’s Uruguay or Colombia as long as they can get the job done with goals to win them yet another trophy.

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Craig Bellamy has just made up his mind and he will be moving back closer to home in Wales where he will be replacing Rob Page with the national team job there. It will his be first big job as No.1 having been through a few backroom coaching stints such as Anderlecht in Belgium’s Pro League & most recently with Burnley in England whose side will be returning to the Championship for the new season. The timing is looking right now at 45 when he first couldn’t take over the Oxford United job back then while he was not selected for the previous Wales head coach vacancy at the time that all goes back to 2018 but sure he’s learned a lot from someone who’s been there and done that by winning many games and silverware in the past.

Plus, he is someone who is attack minded based on his previous coaching experiences including stints with the Cardiff City and Anderlecht youth teams and also willing to adapt to the modern game off the back of his playing days as a forward in spite of his managerial inexperience. Although it’s not exactly domestic/club level, but at least he will managing with pride for the heart of his country where he’s been there and done that many times as a player while getting to spend more time with family. Not only that, he will have the best squad available to him on occasions throughout the year in the hope of leading Wales towards another World Cup run in 2026 and a return to the Euros come 2028 – even though it will be in the UK/Ireland.

It’s been a wild last 2-3 months when Vincent Kompany left Burnley for Bayern Munich with Craig taking temporary charge of the club before Scott Parker replaced the Belgian for the full-time head coach position a few days ago and even though Scott wanted to keep him as one of his No.2 assistants, Craig wants to still test himself as the leading man in the dugout someday and that time begins now with Wales. Yes, it’s going to be a blow for Scott who wants to keep him around so he can help him get Burnley go straight back to the Premier League after he two promotions there with Fulham and Bournemouth. But there’s always another decent No.2 to replace Craig soon enough if possible as we wish Craig all the best with Wales as a head coach.

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With Scott Parker now in charge at Burnley for however long that might be depending on his performances this season in the EFL Championship, what does it mean for ex-Wales forward and seasoned first-team coach Craig Bellamy? He’s been at the club long enough having rejected the chance to follow Vincent Kompany following his move to Bayern Munich in Germany’s Bundesliga league last month after being around his corner for a couple of years in Belgium on top of coaching the Anderlecht youth U-21 team. Although he did take a year off back home for some time back in 2021-22 due to a toll on his mental health before he came back once Kompany moved to England a year later with Burnley following its straight relegation from the Premier League last time around at Championship level. According to some reports earlier this week, he is expected to stick around rather than being let go as one of Parker’s assistant coaches alongside Henrik Jensen – even though he is still on the radar when it comes to Wales’s head coaching position. It’s still up for grabs until at least September for their next set of matches after Rob Page was gone a few months back having failed to help them qualify for the Euros via Play-Offs v Poland.

At age 44/45 now, he would’ve at least liked to have one senior head coaching job under his belt when he was unsuccessful 1-2 times several years ago all within 2018 – such as the previous Wales Head Coach position to Ryan Giggs while he thought he was going to take over the Oxford United job in League 1 (now a Championship side via Play-Offs) but then that club had a change of owners at the time and he didn’t agree with the way the owner wanted to go in the end. Not even being the acting head coach for a while would count when Burnley needed to move on uninterrupted like taking charge of pre-season training.

If he was to take over the Wales head coach job at last, then good for him. He will bring a lot of Welshness alongside some excellent coaching experience that he studied and taught across Belgium and England’s top 2 leagues into the squad where he’s been there & done that so many times as a player – which will translate well for these players who have plenty of International caps between them while some will benefit from his coaching methods for those who are new into the setup.

Not only that, he will always be at home for the most part with his family in the heart of Wales while getting the chance to lead them Internationally on a few occasions throughout the year including training sessions to cover as well. They have some unfinished business such as qualifying for the World Cup again in 2026 before he might get the chance to lead them for the home next Euros tournament in 2028 across the UK and Ireland depending on the next Euros qualification process as they will either have to go through it manually or win the automatic berth since it’s been hosted by several different UK & Irish nations.

But having been out and about for so long where the shipped has sailed when it comes to being the No.1 in a coaching side while currently living around the North of England in Manchester, continuing to be second in charge would be best for him since Parker needs him whom they know each other well from his playing days at West Ham back in 2007-2009. Now he might not be with Kompany anymore when the Belgian is now in Germany but at least he will be working with someone – who shares the same attacking football philosophies including some Belgium Pro League combined experiences too – which they’ve done it many times before on their own, although Parker’s one was short-lived with Club Brugge though for 67 days.

If he was to move again, then it will have to be somewhere within the UK unless Parker gets sacked again at Turf Moor unexpectedly and he will finally be No.1 there. Other than that, the choice is his to take whichever way it might be. But having experienced some mental toll after being away from the UK, it seems he will rather stay at Turf Moor as No.2 to Parker to help support for himself and his family – see Mark Hudson for reference when he was sacked at clubs every now and then when his family was really worried about him not being able to continue to work when Football moves so fast with coaching nowadays.

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Colombia absolutely too good on what has been an excellent team showing that ended Panama’s good run up until the Quarter-Finals with a 5-0 win just now as they will either take on Uruguay or Brazil for the 2nd Copa America semi-final match on 10am Thursday morning at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. So that leaves Canada now as the only North American team in the running alongside three other South American sides including their semi opponents Argentina which is going to be incredibly difficult since they’re the current champs. However, they have the team spirit to hopefully give them a tough time having made excellent progress over the last few years – even with Jesse Marsch in charge now who is doing well.

All good things has to end at some point unfortunately when Panama had a great group stage campaign such as wins against the USA and Bolivia off the back of a deep CONCACAF Gold Cup run to the Final last year (Finished 2nd to Mexico with a 1-0 loss) despite losing to Uruguay in the opening match. This is a team Panama should be proud of as there’s unfinished business ahead that would make them stronger as one of the North American teams out there alongside Canada, Mexico and the USA like qualifying for the 2nd time since 2018 to compete in the next World Cup in two years time across North America as well as another excellent next Gold Cup and Copa America showing if possible would be their next two targets. For now, it’s been a disappointing end when they so vulnerable defensively for the most part. Although they did had some ball on occasions with a bit more progress later on where 1- 2 goals could’ve been theirs, but then the match was already over way before full-time.

Meanwhile, Colombians including the some of its huge supporters groups all over the US have been partying all match to see them advance into the semi-finals yet again & this time it won’t be a semis rematch after all unless they make it into the Final with Argentina in it. They were simply destructive mainly in attack with so much possession to put themselves ahead of the game including an excellent 3-0 first-half performance. Yes, things might have slowed things down a bit as the game goes on but they were still way comfortable up front despite some improved Panama ball before a few changes off the bench helped Colombia finished off the match on a high including their 5th and final goal off a successful quick penalty kick past the keeper & into the net. Whatever that is, Colombia needs their full strong support worldwide in the hope of advancing to their 3rd Copa America Final and the last time they’ve done it was back in 2001 with the one and only triumph v Mexico 1-0 at home.

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What a day it has been this morning through the first of the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship Quarter-Finals that went through the very end across Germany where the hosts were beaten by Spain 2-1 in Stuggart even though they’ve kept the game going for a bit longer while France defeated Portugal via penalties in Hamburg when no score was settled for both sides through 90 mins of normal time and 30 mins of extra time. Now that the first semi-final match is set to go on Wednesday morning between Spain v France, all eyes on 2021 runner-up England if they can get the job done tomorrow morning v Switzerland with a hint of a formation change by going with a back three defensive strategy before we will find out soon enough whether or not if Turkey’s fairy tale run will continue going into the semis at the same time v the Netherlands,

Heartbreak from the hosts who did the best they can to keep the match going having responded well to Spain’s 2nd half lead with a few attempts to try and get the job done towards goal. Yes, great to see Bayer Lekekusen forward Florian Wirtz who gave his country a lifeline off a clean strike through the middle – having his side held back Spain’s early celebration a bit longer ahead of extra time. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the match they wanted to finish off when the keeper should’ve saved that header which turned out to be Spain’s 2nd goal as it could’ve gone onto penalties to try & boot Spain out of the tournament. Then another series of hit and misses in the last few minutes despite being given three minutes more than the added 2nd extra time period have clearly summed up their disappointment from the last eight on home soil as the next time Germany will seek their next European crown will be 2028 in the UK/Ireland – 32 years from their one & only title back in 1996.

Meanwhile, Spain did so well to put themselves ahead straight after half-time through a brilliant straight line strike off Dani Olmo when the first half didn’t go their way when it comes to the possession. They had a few scares at times every time the Germans tried to get the job done like that poor goal kick before Wirtz at least levelled the scoreboard that led to another 30 minutes of play at extra time. But they’re glad to wrap up the game with a huge sigh of relief thanks to a brilliant header by Mikel Merino when the opposition keeper hesitated to save the ball before it led to the Spaniards regaining the lead for their 2nd goal just in time for his side’s own keeper to stop Germany from slipping away towards the very final full-time whistle at the 126th minute. Now they will be in the semis yet again in the hope of advancing into the Final since 2012 when they did well last time out v Italy in Ukraine & if Spain can go all the way, then this could be their record 4th title in the Euros history.

Looking at the other Quarter-Final match, France were relieved to get away with Portgual’s endless shooting attempts with some excellent saves alongside the solid defensive work they’ve put in that didn’t make it into goal all night long whereas Portugal would be very frustrated on what has been a painful end to the tournament following a scoreless first 120 mins that could’ve been their night like scoring 2-3 goals to wrap up early instead of walking away empty handed. Yes, France might not have found the opportunities they desired up front off the back of a strong Portugal ball. But they did however win this game via penalties when a mis-timed Joao Felix penalty shootout attempt went their way through the woodwork before Theo Hernandez scored the 5th and final winning penalty goal that sent France into the semis now v Spain. It looks like France has made Portugal pay when they broke their hearts back in the 2016 Final on home soil 1-0 at Stade De France as Portugal’s poor hit and misses ultimately gave them the exit boot while France is chasing their 3rd Euros crown in 25 years now since 2000.

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July 4 may have taken place today in the US but that doesn’t mean soccer can’t be played without them when Copa America began the knockout stages in the first of the four Quarter-Finals at the same time between Argentina v Ecuador at NRG Stadium in Texas. It was almost a quiet game for a start when Argentina took the early lead off a successful in the first 45 minutes where they led 1-0 before Ecuador gave themselves a lifeline that held them back a bit longer thanks to substitute left winger Keven Rodriguez just minutes towards the end of normal time (90 mins) as this match isn’t over just yet.

Although both teams were unable to break the equaliser over the next extra half-hour, but at the end of the day, one winner has to advance into the semis while the other will have to pack their bags back home early. The winner belongs to Argentina following a 4-2 penalty win where their supporters went wild while they got the share with the Americans on their birthday as a whole nation. Now Argentina’s US tour continues to New Jersey now at MetLife Stadium in five days time (Wednesday 10AM AEST) – the home of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Final as it will either be Venezuela or Canada now in Quarter-Final match No.2 where one of them will go on to take on Argentina come tomorrow 10 AM also within Texas but this time at AT&T Stadium.

Heartbreak for Ecuador where they were so fortunate enough to keep the game alive until the very end but there were a few missed opportunities that could’ve seen them advance into the semis instead of the Argentineans. Yes, they weren’t bad to get the ball rolling but it was simply their poor executions that came back to bit them such as that back-to-back mis-timed shots on goal including that early 2nd half penalty before more & more of these hit and misses made it so easy for Argentina to put the ball away from the in-goal at the sudden death shootout – which ultimately confirmed their elimination from the last 8 yet again over their last 3 out of 4 campaigns. It would’ve been about three decades now since their last semi-final there on home soil back in 1993 if they did win v Argentina as Ecuador will have to try again next time for the next Copa America in 2028.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Argentina with the brilliant win after they escaped the threat of Ecuador unscathed via penalties. Great to hear they’ve got the lead early while trying to hold out until at least the end of normal time (90 mins or 100 mins you would like to call it these days) for the win but then those plans were held back by Ecuador last minute when Argentina could’ve done better to cash in on the opposition’s hit and miss attempts such as scoring 2-0 or 3-0 in order to give themselves a bit of an early mark ahead of the semis. But they’ve did well however to bring this game to a close where Argentina was always good to in penalties like we’ve seen in the past – such as their 3rd World Cup trophy after a long 36 years (1986) wait two years ago v 2 x champions France in Qatar. Now with Lionel Messi sticking around for a bit longer following his post-World Cup triumph pledge, let’s see if Argentina will go one step closer once again to try & defend their crown from 2021 for the record 16th time as this next contest wouldn’t be that difficult either way en route to the Final.

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