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EURO 2016

FOOTBALL

Ouch! Spain suffers shock defeat to Georgia (ranked 137)

European champions Spain suffered a shock first defeat since March 2015 losing 1-0 at home to Georgia in their final warm-up friendly before Euro 2016 in Madrid on Tuesday.

Ouch! Spain suffers shock defeat to Georgia (ranked 137)
A Spanish fan shedding a tear. File Photo: AFP

Georgia, ranked 137 in the world, hadn't won a game since defeating minnows Gibraltar in Euro qualifying in October.   

However, they defended resolutely and took full advantage of their one real attack when Tornike Okriashvili tapped home at the far post six minutes before half-time.

Spain begin their quest for a third consecutive European Championship against the Czech Republic on June 13th in Toulouse. 

“We have to accept it and lift ourselves for what is to come,” said Spain boss Vicente del Bosque.

“This result shouldn't make us in any way face the Euros with a sense of fear.”

Del Bosque had named a stronger side than in Spain's comfortable wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina and South Korea in the past week with the Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid contingent returning after their duties in the Champions League final.

The hosts were camped in the Georgia half for almost the entire match, but paid for a lack of creativity in breaking down the visitors' mass ranks of defence and were caught out on the counter-attack just before the break.  

Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez impressed early on as he made his international debut and from his cross Aritz Aduriz was inches away from opening the scoring with a bullet header that flew just wide.

Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara struck the post from outside the box as Spain continued to press.  

However, they were caught out when captain for the evening Sergio Ramos was slow to react to Jordi Alba's pass to spring a Georgia break from which Valeri Kazaishvili's low cross was turned home by Okriashvili.

Del Bosque reacted by making four changes at the break with Barcelona's Andres Iniesta among those introduced.  

David Silva then replaced Vazquez on the hour mark and the hosts created far more with their two principal playmakers on the field.  

Iniesta and Nolito fired just wide before Jordi Alba mishit his effort from close range straight into the midriff of substitute Georgian goalkeeper Roini Kvaskhvadze.

Yet, despite seven minutes of stoppage time being added on by Icelandic referee Vilhjalmur Thorarinsson, Spain's search for an equaliser petered out as they suffered defeat for the first time in 12 matches.

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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