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FOOTBALL

Ramos sets Spain caps record but Norwegians spoil party

Sergio Ramos broke the Spanish international appearances record in Oslo on Saturday as he won his 168th cap in a 1-1 draw against Norway.

Ramos sets Spain caps record but Norwegians spoil party
Photo: AFP

The Spain captain was named in the starting line-up in Oslo for the Euro 2020 qualifier by coach Robert Moreno, 14 years since making his debut in a 3-0 friendly win over China.

Joshua King's 94th-minute penalty snatched Norway a 1-1 draw with Spain in the match, as the three-time champions were made to wait to qualify for Euro 2020.

Victory would have booked Moreno's Spain a spot at next year's finals, to be played at 12 venues across Europe, if Romania had failed to beat the Faroe Islands or Malta had beaten Sweden.

But those results did not transpire, and Spain will need to beat the Swedes in Solna on Tuesday to be sure of qualification with two games to spare.

Norway are still right in contention to finish in the top two and qualify after extending their unbeaten run to six qualifiers, sitting four points behind Sweden ahead of matches against Romania, the Faroes and Malta.

Spain started strongly and almost took the lead inside the first minute as home goalkeeper Rune Jarstein kept out Mikel Oyarzabal's effort.

But Norway, without injured teenage striker Erling Braut Haaland, grew into the contest before King’s dramatic late intervention.

“All that is personal is a little secondary,” said Ramos after the game.

“I would have happily traded this 168th cap for a victory. It was not the case. But this record is a great reward after so many years and it's a great source of huge pride.

“I am emotional every time I put on this shirt. That will not change and I hope to continue doing so for many years.”

Ramos is now only eight caps short of the European record held by Italian stopper Gianluigi Buffon (176) and 16 adrift of Egyptian Ahmed Hassan's world record of 184.

The 33-year-old was part of the Spain sides which lifted the 2010 WorldCup, Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 titles.

He took over the Spain captaincy in 2016 after goalkeeper Casillas' final match.

The centre-back equalled Casillas' previous record of 167 games last month.

READ ALSO: Women's football match draws record crowd in Madrid

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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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