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Messi and Ronaldo: The view from home

Argentina vs. Portugal
 By Simon Curtis

Portugal pain against France replaced by determination to overcome Albania

Mathieu Valbuena managed to score the only goal of the match as France defeated Portugal 1-0.
Cristiano Ronaldo struggled up front without support. Are Portugal in need of a youth injection?

Portugal's 10th consecutive defeat to France -- a run of unpleasantness that now dates back to the mid 1970s -- was not the ideal preparation for what has now become a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania in Elbasan on Monday.

With that match in mind, it was expected that new coach Fernando Santos might experiment in the 1-0 friendly defeat against the French on Friday, with some of Portugal's old guard beginning to fade and an exciting new generation emerging to stake its claim for a place...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Cristiano Ronaldo maintains lead over Lionel Messi in English baby names

The ESPN FC team discuss Lionel Messi's role at Barcelona and speculate as to whether or not he is being overworked by the Spanish side.

Lionel Messi may lead Cristiano Ronaldo in Ballon d'Or honours, but the Real Madrid star is firmly ahead of his rival in one category.

In England and Wales, more babies are consistently named "Ronaldo" than "Messi," according to the Office for National Statistics.

Last year saw 11 babies named Ronaldo while only four were named for Barcelona's little magician.

Ronaldo's numbers peaked at 21 babies in 2007 and 2008, but declined sharply after he left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009.


Portugal's Beach Soccer World Cup triumph shines light on emerging sport

Portugal's victory was their second World Cup triumph in beach soccer history, and one earned on home sands.

"If you told me three years ago that Portugal would be Beach Soccer World Champions in 2015, I'd have said you're taking the mickey."

That was the first reaction of coach Mario Narciso yesterday, who had just seen the host nation beat Tahiti 5-3 to lift the trophy for the second time in the history of the sport.

For Portugal it was the perfect end to a thrilling tournament, made all the sweeter owing to the shock failure to qualify for the previous World Cup, in 2013. It also explained Narciso's...

ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo behind Diego Godin for most minutes played

Diego Godin must continue his superb form for Atletico if Uruguay is to contend for top honors this summer.
Diego Godin celebrates after scoring for Atletico Madrid against Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.

There's been a lot of football played over the past two years, and one player leads the way in minutes played by some considerable distance. This player has effectively played over four more games than any other. 

He has led his team to La Liga glory, to the verge of ultimate European glory and has taken over the captaincy of his country.

But while he plays in Spain, he isn't one of the biggest stars of the world game at Barcelona or Real Madrid. 

In first place is Atletico Madrid...

John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Lessons from the European U21 Championships as Sweden won it all

With the Euro U21 Championship complete and Sweden crowned as champions, John Brewin looked back at the final itself and a couple of key lessons from the tournament at large.

1. Battling Swedes deny golden generation

The Prague night sky filled with Swedish exultation once goalkeeper Patrik Carlgren saved William Carvalho's penalty, the 10th of Tuesday night's shoot-out. U21 Championship glory is Sweden's first ever junior tournament win, and one achieved against heavy odds.

Portugal's tear-soaked...

John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Gulf in class leaves England adrift of Portugal in Under-21 opener

If this was the England of the future, then it looked disturbingly like those of the past. Already, the under-21 team's chances of progressing beyond the group stages of the European Championship lie in serious doubt.

As at the senior level, a distinct gap in technique between England and their Portuguese opponents proved the difference. The young Englishmen were driven to the type of distraction that befell their older brothers during major tournament exits in 2000, 2004 and 2006. Once Portugal...