UEFA Player of the Year: Van Dijk, Messi, Ronaldo on shortlist, as Lyon trio vie for women’s award

Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk is on the shortlist for UEFA’s Player of the Year award for the 2018/2019 season.

He is joined on the list by Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo.

Van Dijk, 28, was instrumental in helping Liverpool win the Champions League, while Messi scored 36 goals in 34 games as Barcelona won La Liga. Ronaldo helped Juventus to an eighth successive league title by scoring 21 goals.

England’s Lucy Bronze is on the women’s award shortlist, along with her Lyon teammates Ada Hegerberg and Amandine Henry. The trio helped the club win the Women’s Champions League as well as the domestic league and cup.

Hegerberg scored 20 goals in 20 appearances last season and became the first female player to score a hat trick in a Women’s Champions League final.

Hegerberg was the first recipient of the women’s Ballon d’Or last year.

The winners will be named during the group stage draw for the Champions League in Monaco on Thursday, August 29.

First woman named as referee in men’s UEFA showpiece

Stephanie Frappart will become the first woman to referee a major men’s match organised by UEFA, when she takes charge of the Liverpool v Chelsea Super Cup clash in Istanbul on Aug. 14.

Frapper, 35-year-old refereed the recent Women’s World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands in her native France.

She has previously worked in the men’s League 1 in the country and is in the pool of French referees for the coming season.

“I have said on many occasions that the potential for women’s football has no limits.

“I am delighted that Stephanie Frappart has been appointed to officiate at this year’s UEFA Super Cup along with assistant referees, Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O’Neal,’’ said Aleksander Ceferin, President of the European governing body.

UEFA Referee Chief, Roberto Rosetti, said Frappart `fully deserves’ the opportunity of officiating the Super Cup. (Dpa/NAN)

Former UEFA President Lennart Johansson dies aged 89

 Lennart Johansson, a Swede who presided over European soccer for 17 years as its Champions League turned into a global commercial juggernaut, has died after a short illness aged 89, Sweden’s Football Association said on Wednesday.

Johansson, president of European football association UEFA from 1990 to 2007, was a driving force behind the formation of the Champions League, giving the continent’s championship a new identity and a huge revenue stream for big clubs.

“Swedish football is in mourning,” the Swedish FA said in a statement.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said Johansson would be remembered as the architect of the Champions League.

“World football will be always be grateful to him for all he has achieved for the beautiful game,” Ceferin said in a statement.

Johansson ran against Swiss Sepp Blatter to head football’s world governing body FIFA in an acrimonious vote in 1998 but lost. Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, is serving a six-year ban from football for unethical conduct.

The men remained rivals. The Swedish FA quoted Johannson as saying: “It is my 20-year fight with Blatter that people like.”

Johansson took over the top job in European football at a turbulent time when money from television coverage was flooding into the sport and players gained complete freedom to move between countries and clubs in Europe.

“It was not a given that UEFA would be successful in meeting all these dramatic changes,” the Swedish FA said.

“The Champions League became an enormous success, but Lennart Johansson’s other major achievement was finding a fragile balance between the big clubs’ demands and the needs of the broader football family.”

Johansson was a lifelong supporter and honorary president of Stockholm club AIK. (Reuters/NAN)

VAR to be used in Nations League finals week, says UEFA

Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be used at this week’s UEFA Nations League finals in Portugal, Europe’s soccer governing body UEFA said on Monday.

VAR, which allows incidents to be reviewed with the help of video replays, was used at last year’s World Cup in Russia.

VAR was also used in the 2018/2019 Champions League knockout stages and will also be part of the English Premier League from next season.

UEFA briefed the coaches of Nations League semi-finalists Portugal, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands about VAR in April and England manager Gareth Southgate has welcomed its use in the competition.

“You’ll never get a system that is 100% fail-safe but the key decisions that are clear and obvious have been rectified,” Southgate said.

“My feeling… is that in the main the big decisions have been right. The main criticisms of VAR are the amount of time it takes for decisions to be reviewed and that fans inside the stadium are left in the dark while the referee looks at replays on the sidelines. Netherlands coach Ronaldo Koeman said the system still had room for improvement.

“VAR is a good help to make football fairer and most of the mistakes will be corrected. That of course is a good thing,” Koeman said.

“We must realize, however, that discussions will continue to exist, because you can often interpret actions in multiple ways. I am in favour of the VAR tackling the big, obvious issues only, rather than to search endlessly for potential errors.

”England face the Netherlands in the Nations League semi-finals on June 6, a day after hosts Portugal play Switzerland in the first semi-final.(Reuters/NAN)

UEFA justifies PSG penalty kick decision in VAR explanation

European football ruling body UEFA on Friday gave an explanation about the reference to video technology to decide on the Presnel Kimpembe handball incident on Wednesday.

UEFA said the incident which led to Manchester United’s extraordinary 3-1 victory over Paris St-Germain (PSG) in the 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League was “a serious missed incident’’.

The competition organisers released a statement on their website detailing the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) after the system played a decisive role during the week’s last-16 second-leg games.

The most debated decision saw PSG defender Kimpembe penalised for deflecting a shot from Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot with his arm.

It prompted a review which led to Marcus Rashford scoring a penalty kick in stoppage time to complete one of the most remarkable comebacks in the competition’s history.

“The VAR, after checking various different angles available to him, recommended to the referee an on-field review following the penalty area incident,” UEFA said in a statement.

“Following the on-field review, the referee confirmed that the distance that the ball travelled was not short and the impact could therefore not be unexpected.

“The defender’s arm was not close to the body, which made the defender’s body bigger thus resulting in the ball being stopped from travelling in the direction of the goal. The referee, therefore, awarded a penalty kick.”

FC Porto also benefited from two decisions that were subject to VAR reviews in their 3-1 win over AS Roma after extra time.

The Portuguese side were awarded a penalty kick in the 117th minute for a holding offence by Alessandro Florenzi on Fernando.

UEFA said the referee confirmed to the VAR that he had not seen the incident.

He asked for images to be prepared to allow him to conduct an on-field review, which resulted in him awarding the spot kick.

AS Roma then had an appeal in the opposite area turned down when Patrik Schick was felled by Moussa Marega.

UEFA said this had been witnessed by the referee and deemed not to be a foul.

“A VAR check was conducted, and the various images were studied carefully by the VAR, who did not find any clear evidence,” it said.

Dasun Tadic’s strike in Ajax Amsterdam’s 4-1 win over Real Madrid was also reviewed by VAR as the ball looked to have gone out of play in the build-up.

UEFA, however, said there was no conclusive evidence that the whole ball had crossed the line when the video was studied.(Reuters/NAN)