World Cup semifinalist Morocco recruit France U21 player Diop to start qualifying for 2026 edition

World Cup semifinalist Morocco recruit France U21 player Diop to start qualifying for 2026 edition
World Cup semifinalist Morocco recruit France U21 player Diop to start qualifying for 2026 edition

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Real Madrid, Bayern qualify for Champions League last 16; Man United stunned by Copenhagen

PARIS: Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were among the clubs to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League with two group games to spare on Wednesday, while Manchester United’s poor form continued as they slipped to a stunning 4-3 defeat against FC Copenhagen.

Last season’s runners-up Inter Milan and Real Sociedad also secured their tickets for the knockout phase, joining holders Manchester City and RB Leipzig in advancing to the last 16.

Madrid, the record 14-time European champions, made sure of their progress from Group C with a 3-0 home win over Braga after surviving an injury setback just before kickoff.

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga pulled out hurt in the warm-up, but his replacement Andriy Lunin excelled by saving Alvaro Djalo’s sixth-minute penalty.

With Jude Bellingham rested, Brahim Diaz gave Real a 27th-minute lead before Brazilian duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo both scored in the second half.

Napoli are poised to go through from the group alongside Real despite being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Union Berlin.

Matteo Politano put Napoli ahead late in the first half but David Datro Fofana, on loan from Chelsea, equalized soon after the restart.

The result allowed Union to end a 12-game losing run but they cannot now qualify for the last 16.

Their Bundesliga rivals Bayern qualified with a 2-1 victory at home to Galatasaray, their 17th consecutive win in the Champions League group stage.

Thomas Tuchel’s side saw Galatasaray have a goal disallowed for offside before Harry Kane headed in the opener with just 10 minutes left.

Kane then added another, his 19th goal already for Bayern in just 15 appearances, before Cedric Bakambu pulled one back in stoppage time for Galatasaray.

“He’s a phenomenon and we’re proud that he’s playing in the team,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer told broadcaster DAZN of Kane.

Galatasaray still stand every chance of going through from Group A after United lost in a remarkable game in Denmark.

Erik ten Hag’s team appeared to be cruising thanks to two goals in the first half an hour by their Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund.

Yet they suffered a blow when Marcus Rashford was controversially sent off in the 42nd minute for a foul on Elias Jelert, and Copenhagen took full advantage to haul themselves level by the break.

Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back before Diogo Goncalves equalized from the spot in the ninth minute of stoppage time.

Still United got back in front via a Bruno Fernandes penalty midway through the second half, but Lukas Lerager made it 3-3 seven minutes from time and Roony Bardghji, the 17-year-old Kuwait-born Swedish Under-21 international, got Copenhagen’s winner in the 87th minute.

Ten Hag’s team have now lost three of their four Champions League matches this season and have been beaten in nine of their 17 games in all competitions.

“I think first we played very good until the red card. The red card changed everything. Then it becomes a different game,” Ten Hag told broadcaster TNT Sports.

“I saw lots of positives, but in the end we lose some focus. It’s hard when you play so long with 10 men.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal are on the brink of progressing from Group B after a 2-0 home win over Sevilla, in which Bukayo Saka set up Leandro Trossard for the opener in the first half, and then added the second after the break.

“I’m really happy with the performance from the team. They showed aggression and commitment,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta told TNT Sports.

The Gunners are four points ahead of both Lens and PSV Eindhoven, with the Dutch side boosting their own hopes by beating the French side 1-0 thanks to Luuk de Jong’s early header.

Lens had substitute Morgan Guilavogui sent off late on.

In Group D, Inter secured their progress with a 1-0 win away to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, a game settled by a late Lautaro Martinez penalty.

That result also allowed Real Sociedad to qualify after their earlier 3-1 defeat of Portuguese giants Benfica, who have lost all four matches in the group.

Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyarzabal and Ander Barrenetxea all scored in the first 21 minutes for the hosts, before Brais Mendez hit the post with a penalty. Rafa Silva pulled one back for Benfica.

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