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Verratti dazzles to make Italy the team to fear in the last 16

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Well, that was tense. Kind of. On a gruelling afternoon in Rome Wales qualified for the last 16 of Euro 2020. Thanks to the vagaries of the format they did so through a shifting fog of almost-drama, a whirl of semi-excitement, as Group A did its best to conjure some genuine final-round tension out of Uefa’s self-own of a 24-team Euros.

Not that anyone in red cared. It is now two out of two for Wales: two European Championships and two knockout-stage runs, a wonderful achievement for this high-craft, brilliantly likable generation of players and for the caretaker manager, Robert Page.

Italy were always out of reach here. But Wales showed wonderful defensive concentration to contain the outstanding team of these group stages and remained within a shanked Gareth Bale volley of levelling the score. They will be daunting opponents at the sharp end of this tournament.

Beyond that three things were clear in Rome. First, this is not a drill. Roberto Mancini’s thrillingly intense Azzurri are the real thing. Italy press and move so well, a collection of synchronised parts all over the pitch. But they also have a kind of rage about them. At times this Italy team looks like it wants to gnaw your arm off. To discomfit your full-backs with a neat, super-slick interchange along an overloaded inside channel. But gnaw your arm off while they’re doing it.

They are also in a rare luminous period. Victory here meant Mancini’s iteration have equalled Italy’s 30-game unbeaten run set almost a century ago. On 35 minutes they went past 1,000 without conceding a goal.

Watching this game you wondered where this might end. Will Italy ever concede a goal again? Does this have to happen? Who says? Then there was Marco Verratti, one of the more understated velvet-touch world-class footballers around, who dominated this game by stealth as he so often does. Mancini made eight changes for this game, a revolution that felt less significant given the sense of unity in this group. Change the parts, change the players – you still have the same mixed and flowing substance that is Mancini’s Italy.

Challenges

The key audition for the challenges to come was the return of Verratti after injury for his 41st cap. He is an odd Italy player, a one-time prodigy, darling of the academies, who has spent almost all of his mature career in Paris. Aged 28 now, and straight back into the groove in Rome, he provides another, deeper gear in this system.

There was something a little Pax Romana about the opening exchanges, as Wales fell back into a deep red double bolt. But Verratti was already picking away at the hinges. He danced and dawdled and twinkled about, a footballer who is totally unafraid in possession, with a way of waving his foot over the top of the ball, like a street magician daring you to follow the coin under the cup.

It was Verratti’s clever free-kick on 38 minutes that made the game’s only goal. First he went down under a nudge in a tempting spot on the right. Verratti took the free-kick, whipping in a smart low cross as Wales prepared for the expected aerial barrage. Matteo Pessina was ready, snaking across the front of the defence and tickling the ball on its way beyond Danny Ward’s flailing hand.

And Verratti was everywhere in this game. By the end he had touched the ball 136 times, completed 94 per cent of his passes, created the goal, had shots, dribbles, tackles, headers, and driven the entire show from his roving, twirling semi-free role at the heart of the midfield.

Daunting test

Mancini may or may not retain his busy artistry for the more daunting tests to come. But this team now has a wonderful note of variation.

Finally, we saw the in-built failure of this format in the round of final fixtures. Why play so many games to get rid of so few teams? It is sad to see those shivers of genuine sporting cut and thrust passed up, the robust competition you could have had if the top two were the only two going through here.

Perhaps all four teams could qualify next time, or groups be divvied into a series of exhibitions: “classic rivalries”, hard-running east Europeans, a Legends Group where Michael Owen and Dean Saunders duke it out in seven-minute quarters.

The point of course is revenue – more product, more pull with the politicians so desperate to see their nations part of the marketing beano.

Money doesn’t ruin everything in sport. But it is, we can be sure, doing its best.

The outcome was correct in any case. Wales progress with confidence and huge credit. The only sad note was Ethan Ampadu’s red card for stepping on Federico Bernardeschi’s toe, correct under the Uefa guidelines, but still annoyingly soft for an everyday kind of collision.

– Guardian

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Social Democrats activists consider deferring request on leadership contest

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A group of Social Democrats activists who want to see a leadership election in the party is looking at deferring their request to consider such a contest until after a new general secretary is appointed to the party.

A draft letter to the party’s national executive, signed by two councillors and 14 others, seeking the leadership contest emerged on Friday evening.

The letter, which has not been sent to party authorities, requested the national executive meet to hold a vote to call a leadership election.

It pays tribute to the party’s current co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall, who it states “have done exceptional work”, but adds that “it is now time to move to the next stage”.

The party released a statement later the same evening saying its TDs are “united behind co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall”. This statement was shared on Twitter by all six of the party’s Dáil Deputies.

One of the councillors who signed the draft letter, Kildare representative Chris Pender, responded with his own social media post saying: “Anyone who’s read the letter will know it states we don’t have an issue with the leaders, but we believe in the democratic right to vote for that/those leaders.

“A leadership contest would give members the opportunity to show support for the current leaders, if that’s what they want.”

Cllr Cat O’Driscoll, who sits on Dublin City Council, was the other public representative who signed the draft letter.

Motivations

Sources insisted the motivations behind seeking a contest include giving the Social Democrats’ membership a say in who leads the party, as well as an issue of timing. They say with no general election expected imminently, it would give the next leader time to prepare.

It was also revealed on Friday that Brian Sheehan, a former director of the Yes Equality campaign, is to step down from his role as Social Democrats general secretary in early September. The decision is not connected with the call for a leadership election and those behind the draft letter were unaware of Mr Sheehan’s decision to leave the job.

However, it has prompted a rethink of the request for a leadership contest.

The Irish Times understands the activists are considering a new version of the letter that takes Mr Sheehan’s departure into account and would not seek a discussion about a leadership contest until after his successor is in place and has had some time in the job. A source suggested the approach with any new letter would be “a bit more cautious”.

On Monday, a party spokeswoman ruled out any contest for the leadership, either before or after the appointment of a new general secretary.

“The rules of the party state any leader must be a TD and all of our TDs are united in their support for the party leadership. The general secretary position is entirely unrelated to the party leadership,” she said.

Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall have jointly led the Social Democrats since its establishment in 2015.


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Instagrammer captures abandoned Welsh property in series of eerie photographs

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Who would live in a house like this? Instagrammer photographs abandoned Welsh property – complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday, dishes still in the sink and a newspaper dating back to 1956

  • Photographs reveal the rooms have been untouched for decades and house opened bottle of Champagne  
  • Discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales 
  • Kyle said: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory’ 
  • ***Do YOU know who lived in the abandoned house? Contact izzy.nikolic@mailonline.co.uk*** 

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An abandoned Welsh house has been captured in a series of eerie photographs complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday and dishes still in the sink.  

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx.’  

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. 

A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up and dishes still in the sink.

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: 'Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can't be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx'

Pictured: A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx’

The property has been dubbed 'Granddad's abandoned house' after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property 

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex (pictured) while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

Mr Urbex said: 'I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn't too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open'

Mr Urbex said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open’

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales.

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home.’

He said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open.

‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many.

‘The porch area had been trashed, however the seating still remained intact and of course the champagne bottle for his 90th birthday still left on the fireplace.

He added: 'Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many'

Dishes are left undone in the sink in the kitchen

He added: ‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house. He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was’

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone's 'dream family home'

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home’

Mr Urbex added: 'Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind'

Mr Urbex added: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind’

‘I found it quite sad really given all the memories just left to be forgotten about. As well as the house there was a caravan hidden at the back in all the overgrowth which had more memories inside, old books and so on.

‘I managed to uncover an old bike in the shed which looked like it had been there quite a while.

‘Alongside all of these findings I came across a newspaper dated from November 3 1956.’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house.

He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was.

‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind.’

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Foley to bring school reopening plan to Cabinet on Tuesday

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Minister for Education Norma Foley says she has every confidence schools will reopen fully from late August and early September.

Ms Foley said there was ongoing engagement between her department and public health officials on the matter but all schools were set to reopen.

Strong mitigation measures would be in place in schools to ensure that they would continue to be controlled environments, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Monday.

Covid-19 infection rates among children were at their highest when children were not at school and public health experts had pointed out “on a consistent basis to schools being a very significantly controlled environment”.

The safe operation of the Leaving Certificate exams and enhanced summer camps indicated that the safe operation of education could be maintained, she said.

A plan would be put in place to allow schools to “draw down” CO2 monitors and the Minister said she was confident there would be enough monitors for all schools by the start of the new school year.

In relation to Covid-19 vaccines for children, Ms Foley said the “expertise” lay with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) from which her department would take guidance.

“I have received confirmation that the 16 to 18-year-old cohort should be in a position for online registration in the coming days, and I have been advised that the 15-year-olds cohort are still being considered by NIAC and there has been no definitive timeline given,” she added.

Ms Foley will bring a plan to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining enhanced public information campaigns, the outcome of antigen testing pilots, and the purchase of C02 monitors to assist in ventilating classrooms.

Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place.

Government sources were adamant on Sunday that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns among public-health officials that the wave could grow following the reopening of indoor dining today, before peaking in September.

“Schools will reopen,” a senior Coalition source said.

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