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Three sporting figures in the spotlight this weekend

Sports Mole singles out three figures from the world of football who will be in the spotlight this weekend.

Club football may be taking a back seat during the summer months, but there is still plenty to get excited about at international level. Here, Sports Mole picks out three figures who will be in the spotlight over the coming days.


1. Mark Sampson

With England Under-21s inevitably falling at the first hurdle yet again at a major tournament, all attention now turns to the Three Lionesses who are left flying the flag for a dispirited nation. An opening-game defeat to France hardly set pulses racing, but Mark Sampson's charges soon turned around their fortunes with back-to-back group-stage wins over Mexico and Colombia to progress through to the knockout rounds.

England's head coach Mark Sampson walks on the field at the Moncton Stadium on June 8, 2015© Getty Images

So far so good, then, yet England Women had never previously won a fixture at this stage of the tournament. That all changed last Monday when goals from Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze helped conjure up some more of that willpower to succeed in order to turn a one-goal deficit into a 2-1 win over Norway.

As many as two million viewers tuned in across Britain to watch that round-of-16 triumph, which is likely to be matched in the early hours of tomorrow morning when a mammoth clash against Canada awaits. The pressure is very much on the hosts to prevail, and it comes as little surprise to see them head into the match as favourites. That could all play into England's hand, however, as the women's side - led by Sampson - look to write their names in the history books.


2. Ramon Diaz

Brazil will see this evening's Copa America quarter-final clash against Paraguay as a chance to gain revenge from four years ago, when Los Guaraníes knocked them out of the competition at this very stage. A lot has changed since then, of course, particularly for Brazil who have had to attempt to revamp the squad over the past 11 months following humiliation on home soil at the World Cup.

Paraguay's midfielder Victor Caceres celebrates after scoring a goal during the international friendly football match France vs Paraguay, on June 01, 2014© Getty Images

As things stand, three of the four semi-finalists have been confirmed; Chile, Peru and Argentina all doing enough to book their spots in what is shaping up to be a thrilling conclusion to the South American bonanza. All the talk heading into tonight's showdown is about what Brazil we will see - the one that put together an 11-game winning run under Dunga or one that struggled in games against Colombia and Peru during this summer's tournament.

Meanwhile, Paraguay will quietly go about their business, aiming to pull off a repeat of the performance which saw them prevail in La Plata in the 2011 edition on their way to reaching the final. The White and Reds have made it to the knockout stages in seven of the last eight tournaments, but only once - four years ago - have they advanced any further. Again, the lack of pressure on them, combined with the weight of a nation bearing down on a Neymar-less Brazil, could make this one an interesting spectacle.


3. Horst Hrubesch

It may seem as though, at this moment in time, there is no stopping the German juggernaut. Champions of the world at senior level, well on course to matching that feat at Under-21 level in the European Championship, and also into the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup in Canada. For a country that prides itself on efficiency, they aren't half doing a good job at claiming a clean sweep of the major honours.

Germany's forward Kevin Volland controls the ball during the 2013 UEFA U-21 Championship group B football match between Germany and Spain in the coastal city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, on June 9, 2013© Getty Images

Somewhat surprisingly, though, Germany's youngsters had not managed to qualify for the Olympic Games since back in 1988. By reaching the final for of the Euros, that slight anomaly in a long-running list of achievements has been rectified somewhat. A place at Rio 2016 secured, now Horst Hrubesch's men can concentrate on overcoming first Portugal and then either Denmark or Sweden en route to lifting another major crown.

Hrubesch has made no secret of the fact that managing a side at the Olympic Games, an event not traditionally embraced by the footballing world, is a childhood dream of his. The 64-year-old, who has overlooked the development of German youngster since 2000, can now tick off that long-term ambition. Before then, the likes of Emre Can, Max Meyer and Kevin Volland each have a chance to join the class of 2009 in winning UEFA's elite competition.


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Former Brazilian football player Dunga attends the closing ceremony prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, 2014
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